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  • Japanese: 明礬 (myouban)

Alum is a material used for a variety of purposes. During the Edo period, it was a major import from Southeast Asia, via China and Ryûkyû, and was prominent among the goods given as gifts or tribute from the Sô clan lords of Tsushima han to the king of Korea. It is used in the brewing of saké to make the liquor more easily transportable, and was mixed with hide glue, to produce dôsa, with which book covers were burnished to protect them from damage.

A shogunate clearinghouse, or kaisho, was established in 1758 to oversee the sale and distribution of alum throughout the realm. Offices in Edo, Sakai, Kyoto, and Osaka bought up all the alum in the domestic market, and organized its resale. In 1782, an additional office was opened in Nagasaki, where shogunal officials could then manage the import and distribution of alum coming in from Chinese merchants, and from Ryûkyû.


  • John Whitney Hall, Tanuma Okitsugu (1719-1788): Forerunner of Modern Japan, Harvard University Press (1955), 78.
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