The first Japanese scientist to come to Uzbekistan on horseback‌‌

Baron Nishi Tokujiro (1847 – 1912), who was apparently the first Japanese who visited the territory of present-day Uzbekistan, a well-known diplomat, and in recent years a member of the Privy Council under the Emperor was born in the Satsuma Principality (now Kagoshima Prefecture).

In his youth, he wanted to learn foreign languages but his dream did not come true because of the hostilities taking place in the country. Nishi was especially attracted to the study of Russian language, so in 1870 he traveled to St. Petersburg and enrolled in the St. Petersburg University. After graduating from the university in 1876, he worked in “Petersburgskiye Vedomosti” newspaper for a short time, after which in that same year he received his first diplomatic appointment to France.

In 1877 – 1880 Nishi becomes Charge d'Affaires of the Japanese Empire in Russia. Most of all he wanted to get to the Ili region, which just became part of Russia seceded from China. Nishi traveled by train from St. Petersburg to Samara and Orenburg, and from there by horseback to Central Asia. First, he came to Tashkent where he met with Governor-General K. Kaufman, then visited Samarkand, Bukhara (where meeting with the Emir took place), Kokand, Margilan, and returned to Tashkent. Then, having received the long awaited permission to visit Ili, he went from Tashkent to Shymkent, Pishkek (now Bishkek) and finally reached the Ili region, the city of Gulja (now Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China). 

From there he returned to Tokyo through Beijing. In total, he spent 2 months in Central Asia and left “Notes on traveling through Central Asia”, which he published in 1886.

You can learn more about the topic in the book-album "Cultural legacy of Central Asia in Japanese Museums" (volume XX) in the series "Cultural Legacy of Uzbekistan in the World Collections".

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