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Camels

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The pair of camels which came to Japan in the 1820s, as depicted c. 1824 by Maruyama Ôshin, adopted grandson of Maruyama Ôkyo. Joe and Etsuko Price Collection.
  • Japanese: 駱駝 (rakuda)

Camels are not found in Japan outside of zoos or other special circumstances. Native to China since roughly the 3rd century BCE,[1] and to North Africa in other varieties, camels were brought to Japan on several occasions, in very small numbers, as special gifts to the shogun during the Edo period.

The first known instance of a camel ever entering Japan took place in 1647, when one was brought to Nagasaki by the Dutch East India Company. The Tokugawa shogunate attempted to obtain a new camel in 1793, but ultimately abandoned the endeavor, finding it too expensive or otherwise difficult. The Dutch brought another pair of camels in 1821, parading them up to Edo. As with elephants in this period, however, such occasions were exceedingly rare, and the creatures sadly never lasted very long, likely due in large part to the climate, and the inability of the Japanese (or, perhaps, even the Dutch) authorities to feed and otherwise care for them properly.

References

  1. Albert Craig, The Heritage of Chinese Civilization, Third Edition, Prentice Hall (2011), 12.
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