This project showcases student project work from Japan and the World, a modern Japanese history course offered at Kanda University of International Studies. It focuses on important themes and individuals from the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-26) periods, when Japan was beginning to open to the world after centuries of government-enforced isolation.

All submissions are researched, whether in English or Japanese, and references provided. Comments responding to and exploring ideas, suggesting connections or further reading, are most welcome. As entries are written by non-native English speakers, please refrain from non-constructive comments about language use.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Women then and now

By Yuria Ono 

I was really impressed by the lives of the women of former days when I took a class about that. It was quite different from now. I thought I wouldn’t be able to stand it, if I were in the time. After Meiji civil law was enforced [1898], women did not have just rights. So, I decided to focus on the women in modern time. I've divided my essay into three parts. First, I will write about women in the family, and then, will focus on women in society. Finally, I will explain about movements conducted by women.

First is about the family. Most people got married with partners who were chosen by their parents at that time. The government required women to be “Ryo-Sai Ken-Bo” (良妻賢母). “Ryo” means good, “Sai” a housewife, ”Ken” clever or smart, “Bo” a mother. This idiom consisting of 4 kanji means an idealistic woman who is a good wife and at the same time a good mother. They had to support their husbands, who shouldered responsibility for “Fukoku-Kyohei” (富国強兵) [Editor’s note: “Rich country, strong army”] and bringing up their sons to be steady men because they were successors. Actually, women were the possession of men and tools to have babies. They did not have the right to own property or to inherit. They were doing housework all day, every day. Many husbands had not only wives but lovers. It was not illegal, but when married women did that, they were punished. Thus, the inequality was clear (Kenji, H, 2010). 

In the later part of the Meiji era, getting married for love became ideal way because of the influence of romanticism. Tokoku Kitamura claimed desperately the importance of serious love. Until then, it had been natural to get married to a partner who one knew little about. So, many people were impressed by the new idea. Nowadays getting married for love is common and omiai is not. Omiai is marriage where a person called a go –between introduces a prospective couple. Actually, my parents did omiai because their parents prized Japanese custom so deeply. But I don’t want to do it, because being a partner with a person I don’t know well must lead to a bad relationship.

Second is about women in the society. Before Meiji restoration, almost all of the women worked in their house as wives. However, hair dressers, midwives, washer women and maids were also possible occupations (Koukyu, A. & Noumaru, S., 2000). After the restoration, the ranges of the occupations expanded gradually. For example, teachers, nurses, pharmacists, reporters and so on opened up. During Russo-Japanese war, most of the women worked as nurses. However, it was not permitted to participate in politics yet. I strongly wish to work in society. Now, we have equal opportunities to take interviews for jobs. Moreover, we tend to not adhere to fixed ideas. As evidence, the number of female flight attendants, nurses, doctors, police and even presidents are increasing.

Third is about movements. According to Wikipedia, in order to be free, women started to take action. In 1869, Shinichiro Tsuda submitted a proposal to abolish for women trade. In 1871, five girls went to study abroad to America. Moreover, in 1873, the right of wives to sue for divorce was announced. After that, the government permitted the right to vote for women. The chance was created by a lady called Kita Kusunose. First, she insisted to Kochi prefecture authorities, where she lived, that women who held property should have the right to vote. However, the prefecture refused her requirement. And next, she insisted it to the Department of the Interior. Finally, the right was approved in 1880 [in some prefectures - editor]. Later also, women’s liberation movement was continued by activists like Raicho Hiratsuka. Now we have the right to vote. Everyone over 20 years old can vote freely. However, many young people don’t vote. If many people knew about this history, the number of people who went to vote would increase.

In conclusion, by this research, I knew about the miserable time of women and felt fortunate because I was born in liberated time. Despite this, nowadays some women still insist that they are discriminated against. We have to remember the awful time for women and the people who made efforts to support women’s freedom. From now, I want to use and appreciate my rights fully.


・Shuhei, K & Iturou, K. (1985). 家族の時代. The time of family. Bunkyo city, Tokyo: Gogatu Company.

・Kenji, H. (2010). 家族と格差の戦後史.The war history of the family and gap. Chiyoda city, Tokyo: Aoyumi Company.

・Koukyu, A. & Noumaru, S. (2000). 日本近現代女性史. Japanese women modern history. Bunkyo city, Tokyo: Huyou publishing.

Oyama Sutematu

By Yui Fukatsu
Oyama Sutematsu
Oyama Sutematsu

Oyama Sutematsu is the lady who tried to change Japanese education because she was really interested in American life style. I chose her because I am interested in why she is not famous in Japan. This essay is focused on her back ground, her life in foreign country and her contribution to Japan’s education.

At first, I will introduce about her background. She was born on March 16th, in 1860. Her name was Saki. Her father was so rich because he was the leader of Aizu-han which was located around modern-day Fukushima. For this reason, Saki was also rich and her childhood was wealthy. However, her life’s turning point came with the Aizu war which was fought between Aizu and the government, which Aizu lost. Then, Saki entered French family as foster child because Aizu people suffered from poverty and stavation, so Saki’s family thought they could not bring her up. In 1871, Kuroda Kiyotaka wanted some men and women to go to America because women and man are equal in America. Then Saki decided to go to America because one of this project’s students was Saki’s brother Kenjiro, and she related to European lifestyle in her new family.

Next, I will talk about her life in America. She changed her name to Sutematsu. At the same time, Tsuda Umeko, who became famous for contributing Japanese education, went to America, too. I will explain about her at last part. After arriving in United States, Sutematsu grew up with the Bacon family. There she met their daughter, Alice Bacon, and they became best friends. Four years later, Sutematsu could speak English perfectly, so she entered local high school and Vassar College which is famous in America. She was so excellent and beautiful. She was first Japanese person who graduated from a US University. Then, she entered nursing school and studied a year and became interested in International Red Cross. Her dream was to establish Japanese Red Cross and advance Japanese girls’ education. Her study in United States was 11 years.

At last, I want to focus on her obsession after coming back to Japan. First of all, she really felt cramped because her lifestyle was very Americanised in terms of thinking, acting and so on. She could not write or read Kanji. In this era, there was no job for people like Sutematsu. However, when she was 23 years old she got married Oyama Iwao. Meanwhile, Meiji government made Rokumeikan for social purposes, completing it in 1883 [Editor’s note: Rokumeikan was a large Western-style building built to accommodate foreign dignitaries.It became controversial for holding extravagant banquets and balls aimed to impress visitors with Japan’s sophistication and development]. Japanese people tried to know Western culture. In this place which was to become a controversial symbol of Westernisation, many foreigners laughed at Japanese because they danced and wore clothes like clowns. However, Sutematsu was just a good Japanese person who naturally adapted to foreign culture. People called Sutematsu “The flower of Rokumeikan”.

In Sino-Japanese war and Russo-Japanese war, her husband, Oyama, became a leader. She supported him by collecting money and taking care of veterans as a nurse. In addition, she tried to send letters to American Newspaper Company to claim that Japan’s financial difficulty. This action made American people support Japan. Also, her dream was to be a teacher and establish Japanese girl’s education. She could not relate to education because her husband worked at government. However, she didn’t give up. In this point, I will explain about Tsuda Ume as I said. She was student who went and lived America same time as Sutematsu. She studied a lot and she changed her name to Tsuda Umeko. She established a school, Jyoshi Eikakujyuku, with Alice Bacon and Sutematsu and so on. This school became bigger and bigger, and now, it is one of the biggest universities, known as Tsuda Juku University. They made an ideal school for Japanese girls. Finally, Sutematsu died because of Spanish influenza when she was 58 years old.

In conclusion, Sutematsu’s life in The United States made her dream, then her dream made Japanese girl’s education and the basis of Japanese nursing. I can say that I can study in school because of her. Especially, I was interested in her efforts. She studied a lot and she also made Japanese woman’s dream. I think her name is not so famous but we have to know her life and her dream, especially for women. In addition, I was really wonder why she is not famous in Japan. I think this is because Tsuda Umeko is more famous than Sutematsu, perhaps because her activities cannot be summarized in just one word. For example, Tsuda studied abroad and established university. However, Sutematsu did many things like nursing, studying abroad, explaining Red Cross in Japan, becoming famous in Rokumeikan, and establishing a university. She did many, small things. I want many Japanese people to know about her.


Kuno, A. (1993). “Rokumeikan no kifujin –nihon hatu no jyoshi ryugakusei [the lady of Rokumeikan- the first girl exchange student]. 1993/05. Tokyo: Chuo Koron-sha

“Tuda umeko”.(2013)- Wikipedia. Retrieved 2013.07.22 from

“Ooyama sutematsu”. (2013)- Wikipedia 2013.07.22

Yoshida Shoin

By Yoshiki Takanashi
Yoshida Shoin
Yoshida Shoin

Do you know the person who tried to sneak into the Perry’s Black Ship, the first ship which came to open Japan to the world? It is Yoshida Shoin who tried to change Japan in the Edo and Meiji era. He is known as a samurai, thinker, educator and community scholar. Generally he is said to be the spiritual leader of the Meiji Restoration. The information from textbook in school is not at all about him. His essence is far away from people we see in the textbook. If I explain his character in one word, crazy is only word which matches him. He did crazy things which usually people do not. I will describe him how great and crazy he was in the view of his background, personality and what we can learn from him.

He was born in Hagi in the Choshu region of Japan as Sugi Yurinosuke. He studied at Shokasonjuku, which is a cram school that his uncle opened. In 1982, he planned to travel to the north-east (Tohoku region) with his friends and to keep the promise of departure, he left the Choshu clan without getting any permission from them. After arriving at Edo, he was accused of a crime and lost his rank of samurai and relations between him and his family. In 1853, when Perry came to Uraga, his mind was heading to go abroad. After that, Russian warship came and he and his friend tried to sneak into the ship but they could not succeed because the warship left earlier than the schedule because of the war. They did the same thing to Perry’s Black Ship but were told to go back because if Perry brought them to U.S it would have been illegal. Their baggage were on the boat which they used to sneak into the Black Ship and the boat was already floated somewhere so they thought they would be caught easily. Therefore, they surrendered not to humiliate themselves. They were sent to prison but a few years later, Shoin was released from the prison and opened Shoukason-juku, the same name as his old school, and educated many talented people.

As I mentioned in the beginning of essay, he was a crazy person. From his totally unexpected action, we can read some of his character. By the way, he was a believer of Youmeigaku which is consciousness that we should not just obey the power but act with responsibility. I will explain this Youmeigaku more specifically and simply by using their precept. First, even if an action is illegal, it is just if you thought it is just. Second, if you did not act what you studied, it means learning is for nothing. Third, every human has moral fiber inborn so as long as you follow it, your action is just. These are his consciousness and also he left a quote which shows his personality. The best quote showing his character is, “if you set an aim, you have to start from the day you set it” (Yoshida Shoin). From his actions such as sneaking into warship and leaving Choshu clan without permission, he completely put into practice this quote. From these elements, we can say he is direct and active.

What we should learn from him is his ability to take action and accomplish a purpose. However, the teller has often spruced up history. Some people say he is dangerous and I think this is true. In fact, he tried to assassinate some people who he thought were wrong. There is doubt about whether he tried to assassinate Perry. His justice is not justice for all people which means he was just evil for the Bakufu government. Whether he is right or not, his way of living is something we can respect because he did it for the country not for himself.

In conclusion, I wrote some criticism of him but he receives recognition from many people and his way of life is admirable. For instance, his action surprised Perry but he felt admiration for Shoin. There is less necessity now for people like him because of change of age but thanks to people who changed or tried to change Japan, what we have today is result of their effort and great success.


Hiruta, R. Yoshida Shoin sonohito wo miru (Look at Yoshida Shoin). Retrieved on 17/07/2013 from

Quotes of Yoshida Shoin. (9/10/2011). Retrieved on 17/07/2013 from

Yoshida Shoin (10/7/2013). Retrieved on 15/07/2013 from

Yosshi (8/8/2012). Yoshida Shoin ha tadano terorisuto ni suginai (Yoshida Shoin was a just a terrorist). Retrieved on 17/07/2013 from

Morgan O-Yuki (Yuki Kato)

By Yasuyo Katsumata
Morgan O-Yuki
Morgan O-Yuki

Have you heard of Morgan O-Yuki? The reason that I was going to write about Morgan O-Yuki is because I was interested in geisha. Geisha are Japanese female entertainers who perform traditional Japanese music and dances at exclusive parties. The geisha date back about 400 years. Morgan O-Yuki was not just a Japanese geisha. She is the best woman who married to a wealthy man on modern history.

At first, I will introduce about her background. Yuki was born in Kyoto in 1881 (Sumi Kosakai, 1984). She became a geisha at the age of 14 years old. Particularly, she was superior in singing and dancing, and flipping the Chinese fiddle. Everybody called her Yuki of the Chinese fiddle. When she was 17 years old, she met Toshisuke Kawaue who was an elite university student. They loved each other. But his parents were strongly opposed to his marrying a geisha. Yuki broke up with her lover. One day, one American came to Japan. His name is George Dennison Morgan. She met him, and her Yuki’s life was dramatically changed.

Next, what were human relationships between Yuki and Morgan? He was a son of the American great financier J. P. Morgan. He went out on the town at night in Shimbashi and Tokyo. He became a celebrity in the polite society and came over to Kyoto at last. Morgan met Yuki at the time, and it was love at first sight. He continued going to meet her. And he decided that he wanted to marry her and paid 40,000 yen. Today, 40,000 yen amounts to a hundred million yen. Finally, she also made up her mind that they would spend their lives together. After that they held a wedding ceremony in Yokohama and left for New York. Her reputation was good in the United States and she became a famous woman. After 10 years of marriage, he has died of a heart attack in Spain in 1915. That was a very sad affair. Due to that Yuki inherited a large fortune and contributed all their property to charity. When World War II broke out in 1938, she came back to Japan. After she returned, she was beaten up by public opinion and was seen as a woman who had been blinded by greed. In 1963 she died at 82 years old.

In my opinion, it is rare for a Japanese geisha to have internationally married in the Meiji era. Her life was the subject of the musical "Morgan O-yuki" in 1959 (Sumi Kosakai, 1984). It is a very fascinating musical. After she died, I think Morgan O-Yuki is still loved and respected by many people here in Japan. I long to get an international marriage. It is not so easy to get internationally married. For example, language and Culture are fundamental problems of international marriage. So, she was in a very tough situation. Morgan O-Yuki had a very strong mind.

In conclusion, there are a lot of memorial days in Japan. What day is it in January 20? It is said to be 'a day of the marriage to a wealthy man' on that day. The origin seems to be the day when their wedding ceremony was held. Not many people know about that. Her life was unstable and she was criticized by the world. I think it was the bitterest experience of her life. However, they truly loved each other. If nothing else, at least this is certain. For her, love was more important than money. Even the richest man like Morgan can’t buy true love. I guess she lived a happy life with him, and Morgan O-Yuki is one of the famous women in Japanese history.

Reference List

Morgan O-Yuki(モルガンお雪)Sumi Kosakai, Publishing company: Syueisha, in 1984


Kaientai (海援隊)

By Takahiro Aoyagi

During the Edo period (1603-1868), there was no one who ever imagined that Satsuma Domain and Choshu Domain would join hands in order to overthrow the Tokugawa Government. It is well known that these two domains had been in an unfavorable relationship for long time. However, when it came to the tense political situation, they finally compromised and formed Satcho Alliance against people’s view in 1866. It is not extraordinary to say that this was the moment the overthrow of the government truly started. Nevertheless, it would have been impossible to reach this state if Kaientai had not helped them get together in a lot of ways.

Kaientai was an organization led by Ryoma Sakamoto, who was a low class samurai from Tosa Domain, which mainly spent itself in commercial activity. In Japanese, the name of this organization means “the company which supports Japan over the ocean.” and it is not hard to imagine from its meaning that they already had foresight of importance of overseas despite the period of isolation policy in Japan. Some studies suggest that this was the first stock company in Japan, but it is still argued whether it is true or not. Anyway, there was no such thing in this era, thus, this foundation of a company was very new to people and this was when Ryoma Sakamoto gradually became known by entire country. Ryoma Sakamoto initially predicted the necessity of knowledge and technology from overseas so the company mainly traded firearms, especially a lot of guns, with foreign companies. Besides, it was looking for some naval ship to possess, which only the government had at that age, in order to spread their range of work. No one believed they could get it because naval ship was like an unbelievable item of foreign technology that most ordinary people had never seen, but finally they fulfilled their dream and got some old ships by their profit made through trade. In the end, they literally became the company which could support Japan over the ocean.

Kaientai was an influential political organization as well as one of the first stock companies of Japan. Ryoma Sakamoto was a loyal supporter of the Emperor who used to belong to Tosa Domain, however, he had already left his domain behind when he started this company. That is why he was not under the control of his domain and started looking for a way to compromise between Satsuma and Choshu. Since he was independent, the organization was mainly constructed by non-party people who had left their domain called “Roshi (浪士)”, and a lot of them spent their life working towards the Satcho Alliance. Needless to say, there were many troubles and difficulties during this process. After many efforts by each domain and Kaientai, the Satcho Alliance was concluded through Takamori Saigo from Satsuma, Takayoshi Kido from Choshu and Ryoma Sakamoto from Kaientai at Kyoto in 1866.

After the conclusion of Satcho Alliance, the company still kept supporting the alliance by providing firearms they got from trade for upcoming battle against the government. They not only provided the arms, but also fought against the government with their naval ship in second conquest of Choshu. As a result, Choshu beat the government in the end and the restoration of government to the crown called “Taiseihokan (大政奉還)” occurred in 1867. In this year, one of the biggest goals Kaientai set out was ultimately fulfilled, but meanwhile a shocking tragedy happened. Ryoma Sakamoto, the leader of the company, was killed on November 15th in 1887. This news shook up whole organization and it was broken up within a year. After breaking up, Yataro Iwasaki, who was in charge of accounting of the company, reconstructed the organization. It is widely known that he finally founded one of biggest company in Japan called “Mitsubishi”, based on Kaientai.

Today, Japanese people might learn about Satsuma, Choshu or overthrow of the government in history class, however, there is no specific explanation about Kaientai or Ryoma Sakamoto who devoted their life to the Meiji Restoration. It is a shame they hardly catch light behind a textbook in spite of their contribution. This is a small part of the problem, therefore, I suggest way of education in history class change from memorizing style to discussion style so that people can develop their thinking skills with “how” or “why” than “when” or “where”. We have to keep in mind that our life today is based on many victims and commitments in the past. Kaientai was one of them which supported the Satcho Alliance until overthrow of the government by mainly providing them with firearms. At the same time, they instilled a concept of company in Japan as one of the first commercial organizations. Over 100 years from the Edo period, their will and foundation are still living in Japan today.


Bakumatsuishin Dictionary. (2006, December 23). Retrieved July 24, 2013, from

Imperial system in modern Japan

By So Yamauchi
The Meiji Emperor
The Meiji Emperor

According to the oldest Japanese books “Kojiki”, or 古事記, the “Chronicles of Japan”, or 日本書紀, Japanese imperial system began in B.C 660. Following after the first emperor Jimmu, the present emperor is 125th in the history of the imperial family. In Japanese history the position of the emperor has been always changed because of temporary rulers. That is, it cannot be right things to regard emperor as strongest power in this country. This essay will focus on the status of Meiji emperor by comparing with present emperor. In order to examine the difference between Meiji emperor and present emperor, this essay will look over the status of these two emperors and compare these two men.

Firstly, how much power did the Meiji emperor have? According to Sasaki, an emeritus professor at University of Kyoto, Meiji emperor was trained when he was young by Meiji government not to interfere in political march for modernization, the Meiji restoration. This was because the former emperor Koumei, father of Meiji emperor, sometimes showed his political opinion (Sasaki, 2005). Compared with Koumei, the political presence of Meiji emperor was very limited. However, this did not mean he did not do any political activity. Sasaki mentions that the Meiji emperor was used by Meiji government to promote unification for new Japan. It is obvious that Koumei had physical power on Japanese politics even though he had appeared in public just twice, but the portrait of Meiji emperor was widely distributed throughout the country. This is evidence that Meiji emperor was used politically to promote Meiji restoration without having political power.

Secondly, I will discuss the status or position of present emperor. According to the contemporary Japanese constitution article 1, “The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power” (Imperial Household Agency, n.d.). The constitution clearly defines the emperor as a symbol of the State and it also set a restraint of activity for the emperor. In short, similar to the Meiji emperor, the present emperor has no power to remark politically.

Thirdly, let us compare Meiji emperor with present emperor. As this essay has examined in second and third paragraphs, there are some similarities between two emperors. Firstly, both emperors have/ had no power politically. The Meiji emperor had no power to make decisions but he was literally final decision maker. It can be said that Meiji emperor was used just like as a symbol of the new Japan, new government and new country. Secondly, as a symbol of the State both emperors often appear in front of the nation. This emperor’s activity is sometimes used for political reasons, so although the emperor has no political power in present constitution spiritually Japanese people still pay great sense of respect for the emperor.

In conclusion, Japanese emperor has been sort of symbol of the State even in the Meiji era when the constitution defined that the emperor had sovereignty. As a result of that, there are no particular differences between Meiji emperor and present emperor in terms of their being the symbol of the State.


Sasaki, S. (2005). Bakumatsu no Tennou・Meiji no Tennou. [The Emperor at the End of Shogunate Government and Meiji Era]. Tokyo: Koudansha.

Imperial Household Agency. (n.d.). Tennou. [The Emperor]. Retrieved July 25, 2013, from Imperial Household Agency web site:

Takeda, T. (2011). Kojiki. [Kojiki]. Tokyo, Gakken.

The Meiji Emperor

By Shu Inoue
The Meiji Emperor
The Meiji Emperor

In Japanese constitution, it said Japanese emperor is a symbol of Japan. Actually present emperor does not have political power and the command of the army. However, in Meiji period emperor had a right to control the country. At that time, the emperor was symbol and leader of Japan.

Firstly, I will write about “Tenno history”. In Japanese myths found in the “Kojiki” and “Nihonshoki”, written in Nara period, two ancient gods Izanami and Izanagi created Japan. They made Japanese islands, ocean and also the many gods. They created a lot of gods from their body. Their tenth-generation descendant ‘Kanyamato-iwarebiko’ (神日本磐余彦) became the Jinmu emperor. The history of the Japanese empire started from him. He is one of the characters in Japanese myth. According to the tradition, he was born in Japanese god’s family and he died when he was 126 years old. He ascended on February 11th, 660 B.C. In Meiji period, the day was defined as National Foundation Day of Japan.

After the Jinmu emperor, the imperial family was Japanese monarch and the actual leaders of Japan. However, samurai influence was on the rise after Kamakura period. They ruled over Japan and finally Tokugawa family unified Japan in Edo period. Real political power passed to the samurai completely.

In 1853, Perry, who was an American sailor visited Uraga, Japan with four worships. Japan was forced to open country. At that time Sonno joi thought (respect emperor and expel foreigners) was spreading in Japan. Especially, the leading members were from Kyushu. They strived to overthrow the Bakufu government led by the Tokugawa family. Finally, in 1867 Bakufu was overthrown, and political power was returned to the imperial family again.

Secondly, in Meiji period, the societal role of Japanese Empire was changed; the emperor became ruler of Japan and created modern Japan.

In 1868, Meiji emperor ascended and Meiji period started. Meiji Tenno was 112nd emperor of Japan. He was born in 1852. His personal name was Mutsuhito. He liked waka poetry (和歌) and left 93,000 poems. In early Meiji period, Japanese government searched new style of Japanese society, so Japanese government deified Meiji Emperor to create new strong Japan that is centering on Meiji Emperor. Also they adopted an idea of Shinto as a form of nation. The idea of Shinto was used in many fields (for example, politics and culture) during Meiji period.

In Meiji period, Meiji emperor was leader of modern Japan and symbol of Japan. Meiji emperor and new government established many modern systems in Japan. In 1882, he set the army as emperor’s army and was head of the army. Before parliamentary system was started, he set a cabinet system, the organization system of cities, towns and villages and a bureaucracy. In 1889, Japanese constitution was published. During China-Japan war and Russia-Japan war he led the war in the field. At that time Japan’s policy was to increase the wealth and military. Japan concluded an alliance with England. Japan aimed to be equal with western countries.

In 1912, Meiji Emperor died of diabetes. He was 59 years old. Meiji Jingu shrine was built to the spirit of Meiji emperor.


Meiji Jingu. (n.d.). About Meiji Emperor. Retrieved July 24th from

(n.d.). Japanese myth; Kojiki Retrieved July 24th from
Hashizume Daisaburo (2013). 世界は宗教で動いている.Kobunsha

Isabella Bird

By Shiori Iikura
Isabella Bird
Isabella Bird

Isabella Bird was famous as a traveler and writer. She went to many countries including Japan, and then wrote about her traveling. She was a really honest person; she told the reader what she really saw in other countries in her books. She was the only person who did like this in this period.

She was born in Boroughbridge in 1831 on the 15th of November, and grew up in Tattenhall, Cheshire. She was not well as a child and had many diseases throughout her life. Her real desire was going many countries. In 1854, her father gave her some money for going to America to visit her relatives. It was a first time for her to travel to another country. She was really excited. She stayed there until her money ran out. “The Englishwoman in America”, which is written about this her first journey, was published in 1856. I think this first travel made her active to travel to other countries.

She didn't want to stay in Britain, because it always seemed to make her sick and feel not good. In addition, her mother died there in 1868. She wanted to leave there, and finally she left Britain in 1872. She went to Australia and Hawaii first. She wrote about her stay in Australia and Hawaii in her second book which was published 3 years later.

In 1878, she came to Japan, and looked around with translator Tsurukichi Ito. In Nikko, she saw many beautiful view and nature. She was really impressed by them. She also went to many places like mountain, river and water falls which she liked. She said about Japan in “Unbeaten Tracks in Japan”. “It was the safest place for woman. We don’t have to worry when we walk around. There are no countries like this.” she said. However she said about not only place but also people. She said “Japanese people have yellow skin, small eyes, and hard hair.” She thought that a standard of Japanese people’s morality is quite low. She had two different opinions about Japanese good aspects and bad aspects.

As I said at the beginning, she was really honest person. That's why she said about Japanese people like that. But I think that perhaps there was too much expression about image of Japanese people.

She went to not only Japan nut also China, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. Around this time, her sister died because of typhoid. She was very sad and depressed. After this happened, she started to study medicine and decided to travel as a missionary. When she was nearly 60 years old, she went to India as a missionary. She traveled in Persia, Kurdistan and Turkey. She traveled British soldier traveling between Baghdad and Tehran. I was impressed that she changed her mind to travel as a missionary after her siste'’s death. Also, even though she was nearly 60 years old, she still continued to try new things.

After these travels, she became the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society. She was elected to membership of Royal Photographic Society in 1897. In this year, she went to her great final travel to Yangtze and Han which are in China and Korea. She still traveled to Morocco after that. Then she died in Edinburgh within a few months of her return in 1904 when she was 73 years old. Actually she was still planning to travel China, but she died before that.

She loved travelling to various countries, especially Asia. Even though she got sick easily, she didn't stop travelling. She was a really honest person, and that is why she always told us real things about place, view and people in her books.

I think her background is interesting. She was sickly child, but she didn't give up what she wanted. She traveled to many countries and wrote about that honestly. I was surprised when I read about her at first, because she said about Japanese or other negative things like that. But sometimes it is important. We can know real things by that. She was one of interesting people in this period. Knowing her background made me want to read her books.


イザベラ・バード(Isabella Bird) Wikipedia(n.d.) Retrieved on 6/27/2013 from

Isabella Bird Wikipedia (n.d.) Retrieved 6/27/2013 from

Alice Mabel Bacon (1858-1918)

By Satsuki Konno
Alice Mabel Bacon
Alice Mabel Bacon

Can you guess the woman who correctly analyzed Japanese girls and women? Her name is Alice Mabel Bacon. She was an American writer, women’s educator and foreign advisor.

First I would like to introduce her background. When she was 14 years old, Mori Arinori chose her father’s home to host Oyama Sutematsu, who was one of the people who established Gakushuin Women’s School. These girls were like sisters and taught each other their cultures.

In 1888, Bacon was invited to Japan by Oyama Sutematsu to teach English at Gakushuin Women’s School. She went back to America after a year. When she was 42 years old, she was invited to Japan again to help establish the Tokyo Women’s Normal School (Ochanomizu University). In addition, she taught English at this school and Women’s English School (Tsudajuku University (

Second, let me explain about one of her famous books. The title is “Japanese Girls and Women”. It was written about Japanese girls and women in upper class, middle class and lower class at Meiji period. I think this book is important and easy for people all over the world to study Japan because her analyses are very clear. In addition, this is recommended to foreigners as the book which is the most suitable teaching material for learning about Japan.

I will introduce one chapter (“Wife and Mother”) from her book because Bacon wrote the differences and similarities between women in upper class and in lower class / America and Japan.

During the Meiji Period, American society had the individualism, so it was difficult for Americans to understand the Japanese custom in which women received pressure from husband’s family (Bacon, 1891, p77 [p72]). In the next two paragraphs, I would like to talk about the life of women as a wife and mother.

As a wife

In upper class, wives are treated as the person in charge of housework, so they have to render husband a service and built a happy home. If husband lives selfishly, nobody criticizes them. However, if family meets with a misfortune because of husband’s failure, wife is criticized because she should compensate for husband’s weak points. Husband and wife are unequal. “In all things the husband goes first, the wife second” (Bacon, 1891, p79 [p75]). For example, when husband drops his folding fan or handkerchief, wife should pick up it. Bacon (1891, p79-80 [p75-76]) said an ineffectual person serves an able person as servant serves his/her master. In other words, wives depend on their husband. However it doesn’t mean that they are unhappy because they proud of their duties which they handle the housework and bring their child.

On the other hand, Bacon 1891 said:
“The difference between the women of the lower and those of higher classes, in the matter of equality with their husbands, is quiet noticeable. The wife of the peasant or merchant is much nearer to her husband’s level than is the wife if the emperor. Apparently each step in the social scale is a little higher for the man than it is for the women, and lifts him a little father above his wife.” (p92 [p90-91])

In lower class, husband and wife work in the field together, carry same loads and these women are related to the production directly. It makes men and women’s rank become close. Differently from the upper class, strong men protect weak women. This point is similar to American society.

This paragraph is about women’s life as a wife. I want to be in lower class because I want to work with husband and understand each other’s feeling. In addition, depending on husband would make me tired.

Next, I will explain about the women’s life as a mother. Actually, there are no differences between women in upper class and lower class / America and Japan.

As a mother

Women in upper class and the lower class / America and Japan love their children and devote their life to children. Only mother has the responsibility for bringing up children, so father cannot related to disciplines of them. However, mother teaches children that their father is more dignified in the family. I can understand women’s feeling. If I will be a mother, I would like to bring up my children like this.

In conclusion, although Bacon was not Japanese, she analyzed Japanese women at Meiji Period. The reason why could she do this is that she was influenced by Oyama Sutematsu who was her best friend and made effort to women’s education with her. When they were young, they spent all of time together, and when they grew up, Sutematsu invited Bacon to Japan to establish schools for women. For writing “Japanese Girls and Women”, Sutematsu was very important to Bacon.

Reference list

Bacon, A.M. (2001). 明治日本の女たち[Japanese Girls and Women] (revised edition). Boston / Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company

About her background

*Alice Mabel Bacon-Wikipedia, accessed July 13, 2013


Natsume Soseki

By Satoshi Ui
Natsume Soseki
Natsume Soseki

Soseki (known as Soseki Natsume) was born on 9th of February 1867 and passed away on the 9th of December 1916 at the age of 49. His real name was Kinnosuke (金之助). He had several jobs. He worked as a novelist, critic, and an English literature. But he is mainly famous for writing many novels. For example, his debut work “I am a Cat” (吾輩は猫である) in 1905, then “Botchan” (坊ちゃん) and “Londontou” (倫敦塔), became popular in magazines. He is also famous for being printed on the old 1000 yen bill. During his life, he did not just have a happy life but also was affected by mental problems and many diseases that gave hard time on his jobs.

Firstly, since he was an infant he had tough times in his childhood. His father had a very strong political power, but his family had many problems. For example, his grandpa was addicted to alcoholic and their wealth was slipping into danger but, later on his father strived to fix the problem. Also, his mother bore many children, and Soseki was born as an unwanted child and sent as an adopted child to many houses. However eventually he settled back to his parents’ home. This is when he began to be sick through his life, which had a big effect on his novels that he is going to write in the future.

Secondly, in his university life, he met a man name Masaoka Shiki (14th of October 1867 - 19th of September 1902, at the age of 34) who was famous for writing Chinese poems and haiku. This is when he started to study the haiku and changed his name to “Soseki”. Actually, this name was one of Shiki's pen names but he yield it to Soseki. This is when Shiki guided Soseki into the literature world. After graduating from Teikoku University, as a career he went to some schools and taught as a professor. Later on he decided to go study abroad in the U.K. After 2 years of studying abroad, he wrote his famous maiden work “I am a Cat” in the magazine named “Hototogisu”. After this good literature fame, he announced the new novels one after another.

Thirdly, in the year of 1907, he resigned teaching at school and found a job at the Asahi Newspaper (朝日新聞). From this moment, Soseki began to step toward to a professional author. In the same year of June he started to serialize the work “Gubizinsou” (虞美人草) on part of the newspaper. But, while writing the story he started suffering from “stomach ulcer”. This is when his nightmare began. After he finished the series of “Gubizinsou”, he worked on several novels until the last one “Meian” (明暗), that he could not complete. But, during his job he suffered from the stomach ulcer and nervous breakdown several times. He also broke some promises with the doctor about his health, for example, eating the jam that he loved or a lot of oily food.

Finally, I will explain about his great legacy and conclusion. Because of his complicated childhood, his thoughts and ideas were different from others. This happened to change his life. In the literature congress, he is famous for creating original Japanese words. For example, the word for “various” in Japanese came out “iroiro” (色々) which means “many colors” if you translate it directly. Also, this is very famous as a romantic sentences that he translated “I love you” into “Tsukiga-kireidesune” (月が綺麗ですね), which means that you are beautiful as a moon. By these examples, you can see that he is a talented person for creating new words. He is also famous for writing himself in his novels. He sometimes described the diseases and the situation that he was in to the readers too. These kinds of techniques are used a lot in the novels that are read in the present day. It makes us have attention and interest in a lot of books.


Wikipedia-Natume Soseki

Retrieved on 23/07/2013

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Natsume Soseki

By Saki Rokuhara
Natsume Soseki on the old 1,000 yen note
Natsume Soseki on the old 1,000 yen note

Natsume Soseki was a famed Japanese novelist of the Meiji Era (1868–1912). He became the portrait on the thousand-yen note in old days. Therefore there would not be anyone who does not know him in Japan. He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat, and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. My image of Soseki is that he could speak English well, he had an excellent record and he is the famous writer. However the reality is a little less positive. He grew up in an unhappy environment. I am interested in his life though his surroundings. That is why this essay focuses on three points of his life: his background, people who were around him and what he has contributed to modern society.

First, Soseki was born Natsume Kinosuke in Edo in 1867. However he had a difficult childhood. He was sixth child and unwanted by his family. His mother was 40 years old and his father was 53 so it was late in their lives (Books and writers, 2008). He was sent to live with a childless couple from 1868 to 1877, but they divorced so he returned to his home. His mother died when he was 14, and his eldest brothers died in 1887. In 1893 he became an English teacher but he was worried about many things, including his disease, and English literature as learned by Japanese. Therefore in 1895 he resigned as teacher in Tokyo and he went to different school in Ehime where he continued teaching.

Second, I will talk about people who were around him. Natsume Soseki and Masaoka Shiki were classmates in their cram school. They met in 1889 and they were influenced by each other. Tohoku University Library (2003) said that “In May 1889 Soseki contributed a critical essay to a collection of Shiki's compositions. It is reasonable to suggest that their parting was foreseeable for them from the outset: it is said that Shiki was diagnosed as being tuberculosis of the lungs during this period and realized he had "only ten years" to live.” That is why I think they formed a close friendship. Shiki taught Haiku to Soseki. They were the same age but Shiki was conceited so he treated Soseki like a younger brother (Hoshimiruhiro, 2010). It was Shiki Masaoka who acted as a middleman for Soseki to become a novelist. However Shiki was already dead when Soseki started writing novels. Shiki died in September 1902 during Soseki's stay in England (Tohoku University Library 2003).

Finally, Soseki published many books and he made speeches. Tohoku University Library (2003) said that “Influenced by Shiki, Soseki composed Chinese poems and haikus. Later, encouraged by Kyoshi Takahama, one of a disciple of Shiki, Soseki published I am a Cat in Hototogisu, a magazine started by Shiki.” Soseki gave a famous speech to students at Gakushuin school in 1914. This speech was called My Individualism. He talked about his experience of growing up in the early Meiji era. He argued that it was important for everybody to find their individual identity, but also to respect other people’s individualism as well. Books and writers (2008) says that “In 'My Individualism', a speech delivered to the students of the Gakushuin, an elite academy, he said: "... a nationalist morality comes out a very poor second when compared with an individualistic morality. Nations have always been most punctilious over the niceties of diplomatic language, but not so with the morality of their actions."

In conclusion, I think Natsume Soseki was probably quite good at communication in the sense of his language skill and understanding of people. However maybe he was a high achiever. That is why he was unhappy in spite of the fact he could speak English by going abroad. Moreover the background of his speech is Japanese who were learning about English literature. Could Japanese understand English literature? If a British judgment was different from one's own judgment as a Japanese person, could you insist on your opinion? (Shirolog, 2007). I think this speech is very important even now.


Books and writers, (2008), Natsume Soseki, Retrieved 20 July 2013, from

Hoshimiruhito, (2010), Shiki to Soseki, Retrieved 25 July 2013, from

Shirolog, (2007), My individualism, Retrieved 25 July 2013, from

Tohoku University Library, (2003), Natsume Soseki Library, Retrieved 24 July 2013, from

Nitobe Inazo

By Osamu Kuroki

Nitobe Inazo
Nitobe Inazo

In this essay, I’m going to write about how Nitobe Inazo is depicted by some writers who specialize in him. Nitobe Inazo is known as one of the most intelligent Japanese agronomists, educators and philosophers. However, I was wondering which subject he wanted to learn the most before he died. Nitobe Inazo had contributed to the society as a bureau chief of the League of Nations since he experienced overseas life during Meiji era. Also, he is a symbol of 5,000 yen bill in the Japanese bank and his famous work, Bushido: The soul of Japan is still read today. According to Kikuto Matsushita, a professor of Nitobe Inazo, Bushido is proper manners of morals that samurais should obey, which is taken over from a feudalistic idea of samurais in the past. Actually, this moral is deeply related to religion so it seems how Nitobe Inazo could have accomplished the spirits as Bushido for samurais through his background. I will focus on his youth until he became agronomist, educator and philosopher.

According to a part of the complete works of Nitobe Inazo, Reminiscences of Childhood, Nitobe Inazo was born in a southern domain in 1862 and his parents taught him samurai soul and morals early, before he went to school to learn common education. For Nitobe Inazo, in the first school, Tsukiji International English School, he was an excellent student regarding mainly English and other subjects so his father took him to Tokyo International School which changed his life. In Tokyo International School, Nitobe Inazo would meet two important people. Kanzo Uchimura and Kingo Miyabe motivated and inspired him a lot because the three people wree not only friendly rivals, but also close friends from Tokyo International School and Sapporo Agriculture School generation. Among current eminent scholars like Kikuto Matsushita, they are called Sapporo Torio – The Sapporo Trio. It is said that their personalities were quite different. Kanzo Uchimura was good at studying so the whole average score on each test was always top from Tokyo International School. He succeeded in expanding the significance of religion between Japan and overseas during Meiji era. Kingo Miyabe followed Kanzo Uchimura for the whole average score on each test. He contributed to Meiji society as a botanist. Both were very clever and influential. Compared to them, although Nitobe Inazo’s whole average on each test was not so high, his ability was remarkable for English, agriculture and religion. He was always top in those subjects. When Nitobe was interested in something keenly, he made efforts a lot.

Actually, the reason why he wanted to go abroad was to learn and join the Quakers. Although it is said that Nitobe Inazo was inspired to decide to go abroad by William Smith Clark, who famously said 少年よ大志を抱け [Editor's note: “Boys, Be Ambitious!”], actually it was another person, Mr. Marrion M. Scott at the Tokyo International School, that changed his mind into the idea of internationalism first. According to the complete works of Nitobe Inazo, Wayland’s Moral Science, nobody appears more in the past and future than Mr. Scott, who put into his mind the love for studies. We found how much Nitobe Inazo respected him. Nitobe Inazo learned his future contribution from Mr. Scott and two rivals, Kanzo Uchimura and Kingo Miyabe a lot.

While he was abroad in America after he graduated from Sapporo Agriculture School, he thoroughly studied about Japanese inner spirit at Johns Hopkins University. He learned overseas spirits by joining Quaker and it was said overseas culture and spirits would be modern and new so he reflected on himself and Japan. Nitobe Inazo remembered what Mr. Scott said to him, which was that Japan would not evolve in development of religion overseas. After that, he wrote Bushido during his time at Johns Hopkins. Although he became famous as an agronomist, educator and philosopher, through those subjects, what he wanted to do may have been to expand the importance of spirits and manners of morals from Quaker and Bushido directly to people through his position and works.


松下菊人 (1987) 国際人 新渡戸稲造 published by Mitsumi Printing Corporation, Tokyo, Japan p. 3-22, p. 46-59, p. 206-230

鈴木範久 (2007) 新渡戸稲造全集 published by Iwaba Bookstore, Tokyo, Japan p. 25-130

大田愛人 (2006) 「武士道」を読む published by Heibon Corporation, Tokyo, Japan p. 13-26, 55-78

Yoshida Shoin

By Masato Takahashi
Yoshida Shoin
Yoshida Shoin

There were many people in Japan who were fascinated by foreign countries, and Yoshida Shoin was one of them. He was known as a samurai of Choshu domain, educator of Ito Hirobumi (the first prime minister of Japan and the philosophical leader of Japan in the Meiji restoration), plus as the one of the people who tried to change Japan. Compared to other people, he was quite unique and had only his way to think differently from ordinary people, which made him remarkable. Many people might wonder whether Yoshida Shoin was great or just crazy, thus in this paper, his story will be introduced in terms of his early life with a reason why he began to be interested in foreign countries, characteristic and actions.

Yoshida Shoin was born on September 20th, 1830 as second son of a modest-ranking samurai family in Choshu region. When he was 11 years old, his talent of military studies was improved in Shokason-zyuku cram school, and he was admired by Takachiika Mouri who was a leader of Choshu Domain at that time. However after First Anglo-Chinese war in 1850, he was overwhelmed by the strength of western countries and felt strongly that Japan needed to learn the military studies of western countries. For this, he started to be fascinated by western countries.

Yoshida Shoin was a quite extraordinary-thinking man because he was never afraid of any penalty and neither cared about it in order to achieve his purpose. Here are some examples of his story. In 1852, he and his friend, Teizou Miyabe, a samurai of Kumamoto domain planned to travel Tohoku area in the north east of Japan, but on this travel Shoin quit being a samurai of Choshu domain and abandoned his status not to be late for the travel day, and at last, after this travel which is called ‘Tohoku yu-gaku’, he was penalized. Moreover, in 1854 when Matthew Calbraith Perry came to Japan in second time in order to make a treaty with Japan, Yoshida tried to get in Perry’s ship to ask for passage overseas in secret, but his wish was denied and he was arrested. As these things show, he was quite crazy and did not think of the result after his action.

Yoshida Shoin tried to do many things which were quite crazy, for example as mentioned in the previous paragraph, his trip to Tohoku area or making contact with Matthew Perry. In addition to these actions, there were many other actions, for instance in 1853 he planned but failed to get in a Russian war ship of Jevfimij Vasil'jevich Putjatin to study abroad, because he had been very impressed with western countries’ power when Matthew Perry came to Japan for the first time. Moreover, in 1858, after USA and Japan made ‘Treaty of Amity and Commerce’ without permission from an emperor, he got furious, thought that the biggest obstacle of Japan was its own government and decided to beat Japanese government. However he was arrested again and ended up being executed when he was 30 years old.

In conclusion, seemingly Yoshida Shoin was just crazy and there might not be any specific purpose to do such crazy actions as introduced before, however it is also true that he cared about Japan more than anything and truly loved it. As an educator, he raised Ito Hirobumi and Takasugi Shinsaku who left great feats in Japan, as a revolutionary he dedicated himself to studying western countries and conducted crazy deeds and never was afraid of being punished to improve Japan. In history, there were many people who tried to make changes for their country by knowledge from western countries, and Yoshida Shoin was just one of them. When he died, he left this remark “吾れ今 国の為に死す 死して 君臣に背かず 悠々たり 天地の事 鑑照 明神にあり” which means “I’ll die for my country. Even after I die, I appreciate everything to my lord and my parents, plus I never betray myself and what I’ve done. The world is immortal and broad. Oh, God, please prove that what I’ve done was right” (Yoshida He always did his best to bring changes to Japan because of his love for Japan which might be little unique, therefore he was truly one of great patriots of Japan.


吉田 松陰.com (Yoshida Shoin. com). 
Retrieved from

Sutematsu Oyama

By Marina Kuki

Sutematsu Oyama
Sutematsu Oyama

The person of my final project is Sutematsu Yamakawa (Oyama). She was famous as the first returnee from the United States of America and took a baccalaureate. When she was 12 years old, she studied in America at government expense as the first female Japanese international student in 1871. She lived there for 11 years. Furthermore, she tried to change Japanese women systems for her life. When I was a high school student, I studied her in the class of Japanese history. However, at that time, I knew only her background. In this class, I got a chance to learn about Japanese women who went abroad. Of these women, I was very interested in her experience, accomplishments in Japan and how she changed Japanese society, so I chose this person.

Firstly, according to Kuno (1993), Sutematsu could get the chance to work by marrying. In this era, unmarried women ranked low in Japanese society. If women were highly educated with a brilliant mind, they could not take a job inevitably. Sutematsu was also the one of them. She realized that Japanese way of thinking when she looked for a job. She was smart, but she was rejected by many companies. She did not like this unfair system, but she more felt sad that she could not contribute to the Japan because of being an unmarried woman. Therefore, she chose a marriage to get a helpful job for Japanese society. The reason why she persisted in working for Japan was that she studied abroad at government expense. She wanted to express her thanks to the Japanese. In 1883, she got married to Iwao Oyama. He was a Japanese field marshal in the Imperial Japanese army, so she could have an opportunity to work in a variety of fields. She played an active part not only in the political world but also the educational world.

Secondly, according to Kuno (1993), Sutematsu spread nursing schools in Japan. At that time, Japanese nursing system was not developed. She was very surprised that men took care of patients when she visited a hospital. She also learned about the nursing in New Haven for two years, so she thought that nurse was a suitable job for women, because women could handle it carefully. She decided to train girls and women at nursing schools. Unfortunately, Japan did not have money to build this school at that time, so she started a charity bazaar. However, the charitable work did not spread in Japan. Japanese did not have the custom of working to collect money for other people. In particular, high ranked people thought that money was a mean thing that was used by merchants. For this reason, many Japanese were surprised that noble women sold goods at a charity bazaar. It was held for three days. About 12,000 people took part in this bazaar, and she could collect much higher proceeds from the bazaar than she had expected. The proceeds went to the Yushi Kyoritsu Tokyo Hospital, now the Jikei University Hospital. After that, she continued to be interested in the training of Japanese nurses, and she explained that nurses were respected in American society. Therefore, she could spread nursing system in Japan.

Finally, according to Kuno (1993), Sutematsu took the lead in changing Japanese woman's society by her experience in America. She tried to increase the scholastic ability of Japanese women and make an environment where women could study English or other subjects. When Umeko Tsuda was founded the Women's Institute for English Studies (Joshi Eigaku-juku), Sutematsu cooperated with her. Moreover, she asked Alice Mabel Bacon to teach English to Japanese women students in Japan. Umeko was also one of the returnees from America, and Umeko was close to Sutematsu. Bacon was the host family’s daughter when Sutematsu went abroad to study, and Bacon was her best friend. They trusted each other, and they had the same aim to improve women’s education. A few years later, their school became very popular gradually, and first graduates became English teachers in Japan. Now, that university has produced many scholars. Therefore, their action led to the women’s social progress in the present time. Most Japanese girls and women could get an opportunity to go to school or work.

In conclusion, Sutematsu achieved a lot of success in her life. She continued to make an effort to improve Japanese women's education system and change Japanese women's society. Furthermore, she was always thinking about Japan and she worked for Japanese. As a result, Japanese women got an environment that they could study or work, and the state of Japanese women was improved.

Reference list

Kuno, Akiko. (1993). ‘鹿鳴館の貴婦人 大山捨松-日本初の女子留学生-’ (‘Unexpected Destinations’). Tokyo, Chukoron-Shinsha.

Georges Ferdinand Bigot

By Kumiko Omura

Georges Ferdinand Bigot is a French cartoonist and illustrator born in 1860. A picture below is very famous for one of Bigot’s cartoons, gyofu no ri. It is depicted well in the cartoon that Japan and China competed for domination of Korea, and Russia watched carefully to usurp Korea. This cartoon explains the relationships among Japan, China and Russia in the Sino-Japanese War which occurred in 1894. Most Japanese will have seen it in text books at least once.

Bigot's famous cartoon depicting relations between Japan, China, Russia and Korea

Bigot was born in France and encouraged into art by his mother, and he was accepted by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris at the age of 12. However, he quit school when he was 16 years old to earn a living for his family, and he began to contribute illustrations to newspapers and magazines. In 1878, he visited Paris International Exposition and knew Japan through the exhibition. It motivated him to have strong interest in Japan. Finally, he arrived at Yokohama at the age of 22. In 1882, there was a foreign settlement in Yokohama, but he never lived there because he wanted to draw Japanese daily life outside the settlement. He was hired as an oyatoi gaikokujin and taught watercolor painting at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy for 2 years. Oyatoi gaikokujin is a foreigner hired officially by Japanese government from the end of Edo Era through Meiji Era to advance Japanese modernization.

Bigot published his own magazine TOBAE while he stayed at Japan. TOBAE was a satirical cartoon magazine targeting Japanese politicians, and its readers were mostly foreigners living in the settlement. It was TOBAE in which gyofu no ri, mentioned before, appeared. TOBAE was first published in 1887 and continued until 1889, in the midst of the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement. This was a campaign to request establishment of a national assembly legislature from 1874 through 1890 in Japan. Bigot aimed to criticize politics and Japanese society through TOBAE and claimed what they should be (2006, Shimizu, p.g. 38-39). He sent TOBAE to newspaper publishing companies, magazine publishing companies and journalists to try to influence them. Chomin Nakae, who was a leading figure of the campaign, helped him to caption cartoons in TOBAE. On 11th February 1889, the Constitution of the Great Empire of Japan was promulgated, and then the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement came to an end (2006, Shimizu, p.g. 132). This constitution was enforced until Japan lost the Second World War. After that, he mainly played up the treaty revision in TOBAE. He stated that it was too early for Japan to revise treaties because Japanese legal code had not been completed yet (2006, Shimizu, p.g. 143).

In 1894 at the age of 27, Bigot followed Japanese military as a special correspondent of British newspaper The Graphic and went to the front of the Sino-Japanese War. This event led his career as a news painter and shifted his theme to the Far East Asia situation. His paintings from the field had things that the mass media hardly took up. After the Sino-Japanese War, readers of his magazines decreased because they feared the abolition of foreigner settlement and returned back to their countries. He also decided to go back to France a month before the treaty revision realized., at the age of 32.

It was after the Second World War that Bigot's cartoons became widely known to Japanese people. Bigot came to Japan longing for Japanese ukiyoe and really loved Japan, especially Japanese masses. He left many drawings of Japanese masses, and began to depict people in the middle and higher classes when he published TOBAE. At that time, it was difficult for foreigners staying at Japan and masses to see the lives of people in the upper class. He reported their life to foreigners and masses through his drawings. He totally recorded Japanese people and society in the end of 19th century on drawings as a cartoonist, an artist or a journalist. Bigot’s works helped Japanese in Meiji to fill the gap between classes from the point of view of a foreigner, and gave foreigners in the settlement chance to know better Japanese lives from masses to the higher class. His cartoons are very precious and helpful for us today to visually know Japanese life in Meiji Era when was short of visual materials, too (2006, Shimizu, p.g. 11-12).


Simizu, I. (2006). Bigo ga Mita Meiji Nippon [Bigot and Japan in Meiji]. Tokyo: Ko-dan sha

Shintaro’s all about Satcho Alliance

By Kotaro Miura

Shintaro Nakaoka
Shintaro Nakaoka

Shintaro Nakaoka (1838, May 6-1867, December 12)

I strongly remember Shintaro Nakaoka as a hero despite my poor knowledge of Japanese history. He is famous as the person who made a connection between Satsuma domain and Choshu domain [editor's note: these two domains were instrumental in overthrowing the feudal government (bakufu) and bringing about the Meiji Restoration of 1868]. This big event is called “Satcho Alliance” and it has greatly affected Japanese history. I used to think a hero of Satcho Alliance is only Ryoma Sakamoto but this person also made an effort as well as Sakamoto did. The Satcho Alliance strongly connected to the “Meiji Restoration”.

For this report I’m going to write about Nakaoka and how he brought about Satcho Alliance.

History & Personality

Nakaoka was born in Tosa domain as a son of village headman in 1838. He especially learned Chinese classics and fencing in his childhood. His father intended to make Shintaro become a village headman so that Shintaro could get high education. In 1858 his father was sick and Shintaro took over the family job. He was always considering how villagers could live comfortably. The place where he lived and was in charge of was not good for agriculture. It was difficult to grow farm produce, thus villager were suffering from hunger. He sold his own place to make money and he bought some potatoes for villager. I think this episode shows exactly who he is. He has never forgotten his villagers and he always thought of quality of their lives. 

As a public spirited person and Zuizan Takechi

When Nakaoka was 23 years old he decided to join the party that was founded by Zuizan Takechi, who was Nakaoka’s teacher of fencing and keen to change Japan as soon as possible. Joining Takechi’s party was beginning of Nakaoka’s history of public-spiritedness. The party’s name was “Tosa-Kinnoutou”. At that time the “Sonno-Jyoui” movement was gradually becoming famous in Japan, especially in Choshu domain. “Sonno-Jyoui” means “Revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians”. Zuizan had same opinion with that. In Tosa-Kinnoutou there were over 200 people, including Ryouma Sakamoto. Zuizan plotted an assassination to change the policy of Tosa domain and it succeeded. He killed a high-ranking person in the Tosa domain.


Basically Satsuma and Choshu domains had power in Japanese politics, but their opinions were different. Satsuma stood by government side that was about to open country and have relationships with other countries. On the other hand, Choshu wanted to make the government step down. They seemed like fire and oil and that's why they had a fight in July 1864. After this war both of them fell into awful predicament because of the government. The government didn't work in the way that Satsuma and Choshu expected. Even though they had fought in the past, their complaints about politics became agreement. Then Nakaoka and Sakamoto stood up for making relationship between two domains. They thought if it’s possible to make Satcho-Alliance they could kick the government away and complete Sonno-Jyoui. They wanted to bring power back from government to the emperor. Actually they had their own trade company, “Kameyama-Syachu”. They tried to make connection between the two domains using trade. Satsuma was good at producing weapons and Choshu had huge rice fields. Nakaoka and Sakamoto made every effort to persuade people on both sides.

It wasn't easy to get people who were against Satcho Alliance to assent but they have never given up. In 1866 the head of both domains had an assembly and finally they assented to Satcho Alliance.



Web site for Shintaro Nakaoka


The Meiji Emperor

The Meiji Emperor

(Mutsuhito 睦仁)

(November 3rd 1852- July 30th 1912)

By Konatsu Yasui

The Meiji Emperor
The Meiji Emperor
Do you know the person who changed Japan a lot in the Meiji period? He was the 122nd emperor of Japan, The Meiji Emperor. According to the traditional order of session, he reigned from February 3rd 1867 until his death in July 30th 1912. He succeeded to the throne at the young age of 16 years old. He was the father of modern Japan. He was educated as a normal court noble, however, he had a new point of view and a thought for Japan. Therefore, it is said that he affected to the Meiji period itself. I am going to talk about “The Charter Oath” and his effect on Japan.

In 1868, March 22nd, The Charter Oath, a five important point statement of the new government, was issued. He issued this oath which represented the new country and declared to be a “constitutional country” and did not want Japan to be an autocratic country. He made a solemn promise through the oath with god. Therefore, the oath power was made stronger.

Here is The Charter Oath;

1) Deliberate assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by public discussion.

2) All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state.

3) The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall each be allowed to pursue his own calling so that there may be no discontent.

4) Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based on the just laws of nature.

5) Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule. (Emperor of Japan, 2004)

In this oath, he was represented as a “leader” of Japan, not a dictator. Actually, before the oath was issued he said “If I am lazy emperor, Japan will decline and be reduced to starvation. All responsibility is mine. Therefore, I never forget the fact that all emperors did so far then I govern Japan.” He did not try to change Japan to everything new, but mixed up new and good old customs.

After WWII, the Showa Emperor spoke about the war to Japan then he quoted The Charter Oath. The Showa Emperor must have thought Japanese should remember the Meiji spirit from the oath and rebuild Japan together.

He contributed to develop Japan a lot. In particular, westernization and exchange between Japan and other countries evolved rapidly. At last, Japan was one of powers all around world at the end of Meiji period.

On the other hand, he loved to be western too much. He was often seen wearing Western clothes and riding a horse around Edo. It was one of the effects that led to Japan's modernisation. However, his mind changed after he met a person who is still famous in today’s Japan. The person is Saigo Takamori. He came up to Edo to carry out the abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures, then became an imperial guard. Saigo had a strong belief in “Revere heaven, love people”. This had a strong effect on the Emperor. After that, he reflected on his too strong westernization then he recommended learning “Japanese mind” for each Japanese people. To learn Japanese mind makes us people who can be active all over the world. The thinking is important for today’s Japan too.

The Meiji Emperor had big effect to develop modern Japan. In my opinion, he was the most active and unique emperor ever because his new statements were really different compared with other periods. It worked at this period, but now it does not work well. However, I like his opinion to learn other countries culture which makes our country develop and learn. I introduce his most famous quotation here:
よもの海 みなはらからと思ふ世に など波風のたちさわぐらむ
I wonder why there is trouble, even though all the countries overseas in all directions are considered to be brothers and sisters in this world (Meiji Shrine n.d.)

He really wanted Japan to be a peaceful country. That is why he tried to mix western and Japanese spirit together. He changed Japan a lot and made it one of the most powerful countries in the world. The quotation shows his real mind, “Let’s unite all countries like family” I guess.


Meiji Shrine. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2013, from

蛭田 亨 [Ebita Toru]. (n.d.). 
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The Meiji Emperor –Mutshuhito-. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2013 from

The things The Meiji emperor left. (2012). Retrieved July 23, 2013 from

西川 誠 [Nishikawa Makoto]. (2011). 天皇の歴史07巻 明治天皇の大日本帝国[The History of Emperor 07 The Meiji emperor and Japan]. Tokyo: 講談社 [Kodan Press]

Keene, D. (2004). Emperor of Japan. Tokyo: 雄松堂書店 [Osyoudo Press]

Isabella Bird and her stay in Japan

By Kanako Kawai
Isabella Bird
Isabella Bird

If you had the opportunity to travel around the world, where would you want to go? An English explorer, Isabella Bird traveled around the world for almost her whole life to treat her illness. On her journey, she met lots of people and had various experiences. For example, she climbed Rocky Mountain, experienced Ainu tribe culture in Japan, and became the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society. Also, she published some books, which if you read them, perhaps you will notice she has really strong opinion, and has different views for observing. In this paper, I will first mention her early life, and next describe her journey particularly in Japan, and finally conclude what she contributed to the later society.

Isabella Bird, who was born in the English county of Yorkshire in 1831, was well-known among people as she traveled all over the world. In her early age, she was a sickly child and spent her entire life struggling with various diseases. She mentions that she began to have health troubles at least six different times during her six-month stay in Hawaii. Although she had several diseases, she was really active, and her desire was to travel around the world. In 1854, she was allowed to travel to America with £100, and the trip inspired her to travel other countries like Australia, China, Japan or anywhere she interested in. Surprisingly, during her journey, she never got ill. 

When she landed in Japan, she first realized that it was really hard to find her way around. Because there are no names on the streets but just numbers on maps without sequence, she was confused a lot. Moreover, there were no Europeans on the way to go. Therefore, she had trouble with lots of people because of the language problem, so she finally hired a young Japanese man to be her translator, and they traveled together to Hokkaido. On the way to Hokkaido, in her observation of the urban area, Yokohama and Tokyo, she was really frank. She said “Yokohama does not improve on further acquaintance. It has a dead-alive look” (Simkin, 1997), and “In Tokyo, the houses were mean, poor, shabby, often even squalid, the smells were bad and the people looked ugly, shabby, poor…” (Lucier, 2008). However, she was not always so critical. Meli (2008) says “Indeed, she is struck by the beauty of the landscape she travels through on her way to Nikko.” Also, she mentions that the hospitality and generosity of the Japanese people were respectable, and in fact, some people say that these features and characteristics remain intact. Probably most travelers agree with her opinion.

When she arrived in Hokkaido, she experienced culture of The Ainu tribe which is non-Japanese, and inhabitants of the islands. Their culture is distinct from Japanese. For example, they used their own language, had own culture, and believed in a particular religion. Actually, her observation of the tribe is particularly valuable. As she experienced Ainu culture, she describes them as “complete savages”, although she did not mean this completely negatively. Indeed, she had a great respect for them and their customs. She actually spent a lot of time investigating their culture and customs, and she found their social customs and spiritual beliefs “simple”. For example, she was curious about their thoughts of the possibility of life after death. First of all, she had no idea whether life after death existed or not, but she says “Although the future…does not occupy any place in their thoughts, and they can hardly be said to believe in the immortality of the soul,… their fear of ghosts shows that they recognize a distinction between body and spirit.” This means even if we have died, our spirit is still alive, and there is another life as a ghost. Like this, she gradually began to understand their culture and customs, and wrote everything she saw and experienced on her travelogue.

To conclude, she contributed to the later society as she tells us that she “writes the truth as sees it” (Honjo, 2001). This is one of her famous sayings, and she said she wrote everything truthfully on her travelogue. Thanks to her, now we can see what exactly happened, and the real situations of Japan in the era. However, there is one problem with her observation. As she observed Japan, she wrote her travelogue just on her self-reflection. There might be different concept of what she saw from other people. Even so, knowing the real lives of every different class which may not told by any text in schools is important, and her journey and experiences definitely made the later society reconsider the history. Bird gives us an opportunity to know the importance of studying every little piece of history because they all eventually fade away.


Honjo, Y. (2001 December), "Bird's eye view of early Japan", The International Herald Tribune-Asahi Shimbun, Pg. 23. 

Lucier, A. (2008, September), “Lady Isabella Bird in Japan”, Wuthering expectations. Retrieved on 17/07/2013 from

Meli, M. (2008 November), “The “Savage” and “Gentle” Race: Isabella Bird on the Ainu”, Jairo. Retrieved on 16/07/2013 from

Simkin, J.(1997), “Isabella Bird”, Spartacus.schoolnet. Retrieved on 16/07/2013 from