Minamoto Tomoari (源伴存)

Tomoari MINAMOTO (1792 to 1859) was a scholar of herbalism and natural history, and a han-i (an Edo-period doctor working at a public clinic) of the Kishu Domain in the late Edo period. He called himself Suizan, Suidake, Shitoen, etc. and his common name was Jubei. Also he called himself Tomoari KURODA, Suizan KURODA, Jubei KURODA, etc. He authored "Washu Yoshino-gun Gunzanki," "Komeiroku" and other natural history books.


Tomoari MINAMOTO was born a son of Jubei, a lower ranked feudal retainer in present Wakayama City in 1792. He excelled academically from an early age and learned Japanese classical literature and Kagaku (Uta Poem Study) from Ohira MOTOORI, and herbalism from Todo OHARA who was a scholar of herbalism in the Domain and a high-caliber disciple of Ranzan ONO. Like his father, his social status was the karoku (hereditary stipend) of 20 koku, but his scholarship was recognized by Harutomi TOKUGAWA, the lord of the domain at that time, and he assumed the position of a han-i and the manager of the Domain's herb farm situated beside the Kino-kawa River.

Being a manager of the herb farm, he got spare time for studying, but with small salary of 20 koku, he could not easily buy books, nor go on a trip for study. Under such a circumstance of Tomoari, it was Chobei SAIKAYA, a merchant from Wakayama (Wakayama Prefecture) who extended financial assistance to him. Chobei is known as a kajin (waka poet) who was called Choho YASUDA, and was a benefactor who often served as a patron (a supporter) of scholars.

Also, Tomoari himself was just a local scholar, but he had some cultural exchanges with Chinsaburo YAMAMOTO who was famed as one of herbalism scholars in Kyoto after the death of Ranzan. Chinsaburo was a son of Boyo YAMAMOTO who was a noted scholar of herbalism, and there was a huge collection of books on herbalism in YAMAMOTO's house. Chinsaburo was impressed with "Shitoen Kosho (Ko-shu)," authored by Tomoari, the only book that was published while he was alive and the two had some cultural exchanges with each other since then. Through this cultural exchanges, he could see a wide variety of literature on herbalism.

Being blessed with such an understanding feudal lord, being supported by such a good patron, and exchanging with insightful predecessors greatly influenced the perfection of Tomoari's learning.

Tomoari authored so many writings as more than 25 books, about 290 volumes by fully taking advantage of his own field works and of extensively reading old and contemporary literature, but the essence of his accomplishments is natural history rather than herbalism. In 1822 he went to Mt. Haku in Kaga Province, travelled around Hokuetsu and climbed Mt. Tateyama to do collection and investigation. According to Tojiro YAMAGUCHI's critical biography, it is stated that he extended his travel 'from Koshin in the East to Bocho in the west', but its evidence has not been confirmed and the places where Tomoari visited for sure are Hokuetsu including Mt. Hakusan and Mt. Tateyama, Kii Province where his own domain existed, and various other provinces such as Yamato Province, Kawachi Province, and Izumi Province only in Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara).

After thatTomoari continued collection and investigation in Kii Peninsula centering around the land of his own domain, and made a lot of achievement. His representative work, "Washu Yoshino-gun Gunzan-ki" is one of the outcomes. In 1859 Tomoari died away from his home while conducting investigation in Kumano region, and was buried at the hongu (main shrine) in that place (Hongu-cho, Tanabe City).


The characteristics of Tomoari's literary works are that he focused on a certain area and he tried to clarify its topography. As the results of this he authored "Hakusan Somoku-shi," "Hokuetsu Kicho," "Kinan Rokugun-shi," "Kumano Bussan Shoshi," "Noyama Somoku Tsushi," and "Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki," which was Tomoari's representative literary work. Especially in Kii Province he made extensive investigation and among its results there are "Suizoku-shi" which seems to be the first aquatic fauna in Japan and a pictorial book on conchology, "Sanzen Kai Zu." His represetative literary works, "Kumano Busan Shoshi" and "Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki" are results of such efforts. "Washu Yoshinogun Gunzanki" describes in detail the geography, folk culture, and nature around Mt. Omine andMt. Odaigahara and along Totsu-kawa River and Kitayama-gawa River, and its contents are accurate and precise. In addition, in the field of herbalism there are "Komoku Chuso"and "Komokugai Imyoso" and in the field of meibutsu-gaku (study of names and characteristics of objects) there are "Komei-roku"which consists of a total of 85 volumes and "Shitoen Kosho"; and from these we can see Tomoari's scholarship.

As stated above, Tomoari not only liked field works throughout his life, but also he extensively read a wide variety of literature. It is worth writing that especially in utilization of Chinese and Japanese classics and in authenticity based on it, he demonstrated incomparably more quality/quantity and expertness than not only Ranzan but also other scholars of hebalism. Also what characterizes Tomoari's natural historian accomplishments are his taxonomic classification technique used for creating not only sketches but also the specimens as the records of the areas where investigation was made. These specimens were passed to Ryunosuke HOTTA of Osaka who was Tomoari's pupil, and later they were donated by a descendant of HOTTA to the Osaka Municipal Museum of Natural History. These specimens are not reviewed from modern taxonomy, but can be important material for studying flora in the Kii Mountain Range.

History of study

Tomoari left great accomplishments as mentioned above, but he published only one book during his lifetime. His biological child did not follow in their father's footsteps, but fell into straitened circumstances after Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures) and died in an accident, and his family lineage ceased to exist in 1905. Tomoari had two Monjin Students, Ryunosuke HOTTA and Shutaro KURIYAMA, but KURIYAMA's achievements are very little known today. HOTTA remained within an amateur dilettante as a scholar of herbalism and natural history. For these reasons, Tomoari had not only been forgotten from the end of Edo period to the early Meiji period, but also even treated as a different person depeding on his real name or common name even after World War II.

It was quite coincident that Tomoari was rediscovered, which was started by Sakari SHISHIDO, a booklover of Tokyo who happened to acquire the draft of "Suizokushi" at a second-hand bookstore. It was found only that the author's name was 'Tomoari MINAMOTO of Kii Domain, and it was unknown who he was; and, only after SHISHIDO showed it to HOTTA, its historical trail was made known. Later Yoshio TANAKA learned this, and recommended SHISHIDO to have "Suizokushi" published in 1884. TANAKA also made an effort to publish "Komeiroku" and had it published from 1885 to 1890. On the occasion of the publication of "Komeiroku," Mitsutaro SHIRAI contributed waka (Japanese poetry) and Kumagusu MINAKATA contributed a comment praising Tomoari's scholarship.

As a result of these he was ranked Jugoi (Junior Fifth Rank) in 1928 and his biography by Tojiro YAMAGUCHI was published in 1933; however he was evaluated only as a scholar of herbalism. Also, his graveyard became one of cultural properties (historic sites) designated by Prefecture in 1965.

His re-evaluation as a scholar of natural history was greatly thanks to the achievements by Masuzo UENO or various studies after 1970s. The details about Tomoari himself are included in Tojiro YAMAGUCHI's literary work (1933) before the War, UENO's various writings, and furthermore SUGIMOTO's writings (1985 to 2006). There are a number of studies on his writings, and major articles and books are gathered in Nara Prefecture History Editing Committee (1990: 190), Mise (1998: 71-279) and so on.