The Smithsonian Meteorological Project and Hokkaido, Japan


  • Kae Takarabe Chubu University


Japan, Hokkaido, instrumental meteorology, international exchange


The focus of this paper is to explore the integration of the American Smithsonian Meteorological Observation System into Hokkaido, Japan; a topic that appears to have been neglected in previous studies. In so doing, it will offer a new perspective on nineteenth-century Japanese instrumental meteorology arguing that, currently, the history of meteorology in Japan has tended - wrongly - to be described as a centre (Tokyo) to periphery model. Using the example of Hokkaido – an area that the Japanese government were keen to develop economically - we can see how alternative meteorological channels operated in stark contrast to this model. Hokkaido’s meteorological network grew directly from input from American scientists and homegrown talent, many of whom were involved in the Smithsonian’s International Exchange Service and independent of Tokyo. Through this detailed case-study; it quickly becomes apparent that the development of scientific knowledge in Japan was more complex than the centre/periphery model allows and deeply embedded within global exchanges and enterprises.