1 Historic links between the UK and Japan The links between UK universities and Japan go back a very long way, to 1863 – when the first Japanese travelled abroad for a university education and came to UCL. Ever since that time the UK has maintained strong collaborative links with Japan. The London research centre of the Eisai Pharmaceutical Company is located in the heart of the UCL campus. At the time of its establishment in 1993, it was the largest single Japanese investment in a British university.
SLIDE: the Japan monument at UCL In a quiet courtyard at the heart of UCL stands an austere, polished, black granite monument. On it are engraved the names of former Japanese students, all now long dead. But this imposing stone block is no gloomy memorial; it celebrates the fact that in the 1860s UCL welcomed a number of Japanese men as students, first from the Choshu clan, and then from the Satsuma clan, and it is these men whose names are engraved on the monument. Founded in 1826, UCL was from the start avowedly modernizing, and established the modern university curriculum. It was entirely apt therefore that these Japanese pioneers should have come to UCL, for they were seeking to embrace and understand modernity in all its forms, in order to enrich their homeland. SLIDE: The first Japanese students It was in 1863, that five Japanese men, all noblemen of the Choshu clan arrived in London, and enrolled to study Chemistry at UCL, thus marking the first formal contact between UCL and Japan. These were the very first Japanese to study in any university outside Japan. Being the ‘first’ is always noteworthy, but given the turbulent history of Japan at this period, their story is even more interesting. Mid-19th century Japan was a feudal state, functioning under a policy of political and cultural isolation termed sakoku (literally ‘closed country’) that had been established as far back as 1639. The policy included a prohibition on the study of foreign books, and any attempt to
2 leave the country was counted a capital crime. In 1863 the British Royal Navy sailed into the port city of Kagoshima, capital of the Satsuma clan, and opened fire. The bombardment decimated the population and left the city in ruins. It was precisely in this year that our five young men from the Choshu clan decided to risk capital punishment and make the journey to Britain to learn about the customs and technology of the nation that could produce such powerful ships and weapons. In due course these intrepid Japanese made secret contact with a British trading firm at Yokohama, Jardine, Matheson & Co., from whom the Choshu clan purchased ammunition, and, disguised as English sailors, set sail on one of the company’s ships bound for Shanghai, China. From there the group embarked on the 4 month voyage via the Cape to Southampton.
SLIDE: Williamson The Japanese students were enrolled at UCL, under the supervision of Alexander Williamson, Professor of Chemistry, at whose house they lived in during their stay in England. Williamson had what were – and remain today - very modern ideas of respecting cultural differences. For him, the greater the cultural difference between individuals or nations, the more advanced their civilizations. Williamson stressed the need for “union of difference” by understanding and admiring such cultures; this, Williamson asserted, was the proper mission of education. In many other respects too Williamson was admirably qualified to exercise a beneficial influence on the band of earnest young enquirers who were put in his charge. He combined strength and decision of character with sound judgment and kindness, and his standard of personal conduct and honour was uniformly high. His familiarity with the life of France and Germany, and with many of the leading men of these countries, gave him a broad outlook and a freedom from insular prejudices. The students made amazingly rapid progress with the English language, and quickly acquired a sound knowledge of British industry and commerce, a knowledge which they were soon to apply with such success to the development of their own country. They had, in addition, the advantage of coming under the motherly influence of Mrs. Williamson, who made them feel members of the family and did everything in her power to make their stay in England a happy one, as well as assisting in their English-language tuition.
3 In March 1864, news reached UCL that the head of the Choshu clan had entered open hostilities against western vessels passing through the Strait of Shimonoski. Believing that the Choshu leader was unaware of the superiority of European arms, Itō Hirobumi and Inoue Kaoru decided to return home in the hope of averting catastrophe, but to no avail, and Choshu forces were eventually defeated. At home in Japan, both men were perceived as advocates for the West, and thus traitorous. They lived in danger of their lives from repeated assassination attempts by reactionary elements of their clan, Despite such pressures, they maintained their own views and by 1868 they had already begun to acquire high reputations as statesmen and leaders of progress. The name of Itō in particular has been connected with nearly every aspect of statecraft in the history of modern Japan. He became one of the leading figures in the period of the Meiji Restoration in 1866, which saw the end of Shogun rule and the full restoration of the Emperor’s powers. His drafting of a new constitution effectively marked the birth of the new Japan. He was Secretary of State for Internal Affairs (1878-80), then the First Prime Minister of Meiji Japan, a post which he held four times between 1885 and 1901. Inoue, Itō’s life-long close friend, held many high ministerial posts and gave direction to the development of Japan’s commerce and finance variously as Under Secretary of State for Financial Affairs, and both Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The three clan members who were left behind continued their studies in Britain for some time longer. Endo Kinsuke returned to Japan in 1866 and obtained a post in the Customs Office. He always suffered from ill-health, and for this reason was not able to engage in an active political career. However, he did become director of the Mint Bureau in Osaka, and is also fondly remembered for creating there the famous Sakura Avenue of cherry trees. Yamao Yozo did not enrol at UCL, and lived with the Williamson family as a student– servant (gakuboku) because of lack of additional funds from his domain. However, he began specialist studies in mining and railway engineering, and after leaving UCL he enrolled at Anderson's College, Glasgow (1866), a forerunner of Strathclyde University, and worked as an apprentice in the Glasgow shipyards. On his return to Japan in 1868 he rapidly rose to become Secretary of State in the Ministry of Industries and was instrumental in laying the structural framework for Japan's technological revolution, introducing a system of technological training which proved to be eminently successful. He was also active in setting
4 up a government-funded system of education for the blind and the deaf, this last as a result of his experience of the sign language he saw being used in the Glasgow Shipyards Inoue Maoru also lived with the Williamsons as a student servant. He finished academic study at UCL with a Certificate of Honour in geology in 1866â€“67, but he too had also developed an interest in mining and railway engineering. Following his return to Japan in 1868 he was to be the founder and first President of the Japanese railway system, becoming Chief Commissioner of Railways and Mines. It is no exaggeration to say that these five men enabled the transformation of Japan,which rose from an isolated, feudal state to become within only 40 years one of the worldâ€™s foremost technological powers. The legacy of these men remains strong today, not least because the relationships and matrimonial links that developed among their families provided the context for the formation of the Sumitomo Corporation and of Mitsui & Co, which are among the most prestigious of modern-day Japanâ€™s industrial giants.
1865: the arrival of the Satsuma students at UCL Slide: Shimazu Nariakira Already in 1856 the Daimyo or ruler of Satsuma, Shimazu Nariakira, an enterprising and progressive leader, had laid plans to send a number of young men to study abroad, and in 1865, under the rule of his successor Shimazu Hisamitsu, the plans were put into action. 14 young men enrolled in the Shipping School in the port city of Kagoshima, the capital of the clan. There they lived for two months, under assumed names in order to escape the vigilance of Japanese Government agents, and eventually, and on the pretext of visiting off-shore islands, they joined a ship bound for Southampton, and UCL. A memorial in Kagoshima City commemorates their departure: SLIDE: Satsuma monument, Kagoshima Like the Choshu students, the Satsuma students were taken out of London to see new industrial process at work. Besides giving the students personal tuition in science, mathematics and other subjects, Williamson sent them to various industrial centres to study at first-hand railway engineering, mining, ship-building, surveying, iron smelting and other industries. When they returned to Japan, all contributed significantly to the modernization of their
5 country: •
One introduced Western technology to mining and another introduced western agricultural technology to Japan
Another helped to reform the Japanese educational system and was the first Head of the Tokyo Kaisei College, which later became the University of Tokyo
Another became head of the Japanese Naval Academy
Yet another returned to Japan as an advocate of freedom of religion, secular education, equal rights for women (except for voting), international law, and (most drastically), the abandonment of the Japanese language in favour of English. He established the Shoho Koshujo (Japan's first commercial college), the predecessor of Hitotsubashi University. He was recruited by Itō Hirobumi to join the first Cabinet as Minister of Education and continued in the same post under the Kuroda administration.
Others were made Resident Ministers in Denmark, France, Holland, Portugal & the USA
Yet another founded the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and the Osaka Stock Exchange, establishing Osaka as a modem commercial centre. He also created several major joint stock companies involved in international trade, commerce and shipping, which he operated simultaneously
Another founded the museum which later became the Tokyo Museum, modelled on the Victoria and Albert Museum, of which he became the Head in 1875, and Japan's first Director of Museums, before suddenly giving up all his public appointments to become Chief Priest of the Miidera Temple in Shiga Prefecture.
Alexander Williamson took a keen interest in the later work of all these pioneers in the development of modern Japan. Many of them kept up a regular correspondence with him and Mrs. Williamson which lasted until the end of their lives, and even continued into the next generation. As we now see, the outcome of these first contacts between some of the most forward-looking Japanese and the most progressive centre of learning in mid-19th-century England was spectacular.
UCL and Japanese University Education
6 With the rise of ItĹ? and his colleagues to positions of influence, following the Meiji Restoration, Western sciences were systematically transplanted into Japan. The selection of scientists for posts in Japan was a matter requiring careful judgement and foresight, and the Japanese government entrusted this vital task to Williamson; through him, a number of bright young British scientists were invited by the Japanese government to undertake the planning of a new scientific education. The rapid and healthy development of modern science and university education in Japan was, in a large measure, due to the efforts of such men, hand-picked by Williamson â€“ who instilled in them all his passionate belief in the importance of collaboration and the union of difference.
Slide: haiku on the monument Let us return for a moment to that quiet courtyard at UCL and its imposing stone monument. On one side is written a haiku that perhaps best captures the character of the friendship that exists between the UK and Japan in education, science and business, a friendship that can be a model for university-business collaborations in our complex globalised 21st century as it was for the young Samurai noblemen and their hosts and mentors in the UK in the 19th century.
When distant minds come together cherry-trees blossom
10-1 michael worton ucl session 3-1 notes