Whale Oil Pesticide: Natural History, Animal Resources, and Agriculture in Early Modern Japan

  • Jakobina ArchEmail author
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 40)


Ōkura Nagatsune, a prolific agricultural writer in nineteenth-century Japan, devoted an entire treatise to the promotion of whale oil as an insecticide for rice crops. This treatise is an example of how agricultural improvement efforts in early modern Japan depended on the practical understanding of animals and plants developed by scholars of Japanese natural history (honzōgaku). In the Tokugawa period, what are today seen as distinct disciplines and types of scholarship were highly interconnected. Furthermore, the push to optimize agricultural production was closely linked to the expansion of the resource base into new areas, including Japanese coastal waters. Ōkura’s text is an instructional manual intended to promote rationalized agriculture, but by including natural history descriptions of the whales from which the insecticidal oil was extracted, it also demonstrates some of the ways that the less apparently practical areas of natural history were a necessary part of agricultural improvement.


Insecticides Japanese agriculture Japanese natural history Nagatsune Ōkura Whaling Whale oil 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Whitman CollegeWalla WallaUSA

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