Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


Japanese exploration of Central Asia: The Ōtani expeditions and their British connections

Imre Galambosa1 c1 and Kitsudō Kōichia2 c2

a1 IDP, British Library

a2 Ryūkoku University, Japan


The Archives of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) include a small lot of material relating to the three expeditions to western China organized and financed by Count Ōtani Kozui (1902–14), with the aim of exploring Buddhist sites. Ōtani also recognized the significance of promoting their results outside of Japan and integrating them into the international academic community, primarily Britain. Since his collection was later dispersed, the material in the RGS Archives provides valuable information on the expeditions and clarifies the context for some of the discoveries. In addition, it evidences traces of the interaction between Japanese and British scholarly circles, as an example of the complex international network of scholarship on Central Asia in the early part of the twentieth century. It also shows the efforts invested by the Japanese side in trying to have their results acknowledged as being equal to those of Western explorers.


  • Japanese exploration;
  • Central Asia;
  • Aurel Stein;
  • Ōtani Kozui;
  • Royal Geographical Society