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

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