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The Rise of Statistical Thinking in Meiji Japan

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Chapter Summary

Hayami Akira refers to the high level of interest in the science of statistics on the part of intellectuals, mainly associated with the Meirokusha, including Fukuzawa Yukichi, Sugi Kōji, Tsuda Mamichi, Katō Hiroyuki, and Mitsukuri Rinshō. The earliest introduction of European-style statistical tables to Japan was the publication in 1860 of Bankoku seihyo, translated into Japanese by Okamoto Hakukei and edited by Fukuzawa Yukichi. This was the beginning of a flood of publications, spanning the late Tokugawa period and the first that translated or introduced Western statistical methods and data. The rise of statistics as a science in the early Meiji period was of course connected to the intense interest the new Meiji government had in what Benedict Anderson has called "the census as the grammar of nationalism": in other words, the quantitative grasp and control of the population, land, resources and armed forces appropriate to a modern, unified nation-state.

Keywords: European-style statistical tables; Hayami Akira; Japan; Meiji period; Sugi Kōji; Tsuda Mamichi



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