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.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Fukuzawa Yukichi

By Kaede Uchiyama
Fukuzawa Yukichi on the 10,000 yen note
Fukuzawa Yukichi on the 10,000 yen note

Do you know how the person who is printed on paper money is chosen? In Japan, the person on paper money should have great achievements, be well-known, and be the person who can represent Japan (Kinan, 2004). In 1835, Fukuzawa Yukichi, who is printed on 10,000 yen note, was born as the youngest son of a poor lower samurai of the Nakatsu Clan in Osaka. After his father passed away, he went back to Nakatsu and became a disciple of Tsuneto Shiroishi, and then he went to Osaka to study about Western things in Dutch language (Fukuzawa Yukichi (b), 2013). He was a Japanese author, educator, publisher, Enlightenment writer, and he founded Keio-Gijuku university which is one of the famous universities in Japan. He is one of the influential people in Meiji era because he created up-to-date Japan through his experiences in Western countries.

Firstly, I am going to focus on Fukuzawa Yukichi’s first mission to America. In 1860, he was sent to America as one of the members of a diplomatic mission. He was really surprised at difference between Japan and the United States. In America, he bought a Chinese-English dictionary, Kaei Tsugo, and brought it back to Japan. After he came back, he started to translate it into Japanese. Based on Kaei Tsugo, Fukuzawa published Zotei Kaei Tsugo, which is Japanese-English dictionary, and it was his first publication (Fukuzawa Yukichi(c), 2013). I think his English-Japanese dictionary was very important to Japan because many people thought Dutch was more important than English during the sakoku (closed country) period, so there were few English-Japanese dictionaries at that time. However, Fukuzawa Yukichi realized the necessity and importance of English through his experiences. I think he is one of the leaders of the encouragement of English education in Japan.

Secondly, I am going to focus on Fukuzawa Yukichi’s publications. He went to the United States and Europe three times as one of the Shogunate mission members, so he wrote many books about Western culture based on his experiences in foreign countries such as “Gakumon no susume” (Encouragement of Learning), “Seiyo jijo” (Conditions in the West), and “Bunmeiron no gairyaku” (An Outline of a Theory of Civilization) (Fukuzawa Yukichi (b), 2013). “Seiyo jijo” (Conditions in the West), which introduced many aspects of Western life, history, and ideas, became extremely popular. He clearly described them, so ordinary people, who do not have knowledge about Western view, were able to understand easily (Fukuzawa Yukichi (a), 2013). Japan was not an open country for a long time, so ordinary people did not know about foreign countries. However, I think his simple books helped Japanese citizens understand new opinions from Western countries.

Finally, I am going to consider Fukuzawa Yukichi’s focus on the inner spirit. He believed that education, individualism, and national independence were the power of Western countries, so he introduced them through his writings (Fukuzawa Yukichi (c), 2013). In addition, his ideas helped to civilize and modernize Japan. I think he created foundation of current Japanese system because, for example, he asserted that everyone should have a chance to get education equally, and we are able to get education equally today, so I think that his belief must have affected modern society. Despite the great job he did supporting Japan, he never accepted any high position, and he stayed an ordinary citizen in his whole lifetime.

In conclusion, Fukuzawa Yukichi was an important person who impacted on Japan because he introduced Western things which were not familiar at that time to Japanese through his experiences in foreign countries and his books, and helped Japan become modern and civilized country. I had never thought about why he appears on paper money before now, but I was able to understand through this final project.


Fukuzawa Yukichi(a). (2013). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 24 July, 2013, from

Fukuzawa Yukichi(b). (2013), Modern Japanese Historical Figures. Retrieved 24 July, 2013, from

Fukuzawa Yukichi(c). (2013). Wikipedia. Retrieved 24 July, 2013, from

Kinan, H. (2004). Life Planning. Retrieved 24 July, 2013, from