Nantôshi is a volume about the Ryûkyû Islands and its people. Written in 1719 by Arai Hakuseki in kanbun, the volume later circulated quite widely and became one of the chief sources of knowledge about Ryûkyû in Edo period Japan. It may be the first text to employ the term "Okinawa" (沖縄).
The text was likely written in large part out of a desire to expand knowledge about Ryûkyû in preparation for the possibility of some foreign relations crisis that would require such knowledge. The content was based chiefly on a combination of Hakuseki's in-person conversations with Ryukyuan envoys in 1710 and 1714, and extensive research in historical texts; Hakuseki makes direct reference within the text to more than 25 sources, including the Book of Sui, the Book of Later Han, the Record of Wu, the Book of Tang, the Shoku Nihongi, Nihon Shoki, Engishiki, Azuma kagami, Ryûkyû Shintô ki, and Shǐ liúqiú lù.
No original version in Hakuseki's own hand is known to survive; however, a manuscript copy in the Sakamaki-Hawley Collection at the University of Hawaii Library, in two volumes, bears several of Hakuseki's seals and is believed to be quite close to the original. It is divided into two volumes, with 38 chô (帳) in the first, or "upper" 上, volume, and 20 chô in the second, or "lower" 下 volume.
The collection begins with maps of the Ryûkyû Islands (Ryûkyû-koku zenzu and Ryûkyû kakutô zu), an introduction or preface (Nantôshi sôjo), and a table of contents (Nantôshi mokuroku), before entering into the main sections of the text. The maps cover an area all the way from Yamakawa and Bônotsu on the Kyushu "mainland" down to the southernmost of the Ryukyus - Yonaguni and Hateruma Islands. Sea routes connecting many of the islands are marked in red, and the names of villages and districts are given in great detail.
The first of the two volumes consists of discussions of Ryûkyû's geography, and of the lineage or genealogy of the Ryukyuan kings. The second volume consists of sections on government offices; rituals and punishments; the royal court; literature and arts; goods and products; clothing; and folk customs.
Nantôshi was published alongside a number of other works in a woodblock-printed book entitled Kan'utei sôsho (甘雨亭叢書), and circulated widely throughout the remainder of the Edo period, being reprinted in modern type in the modern period as well.
- Yokoyama Manabu 横山学, Ryûkyû koku shisetsu torai no kenkyû 琉球国使節渡来の研究, Tokyo: Yoshikawa kôbunkan (1987), 128-131.