Todai-Yale Initiative: The 5th Yamakawa Kenjiro Memorial Lecture Japanese Students Abroad and the Building of America’s First Japanese Library Collection, 1869-1878

Date and time: April 30, 2015 (Thu.), 15:30-17:00
Venue: Historiographical Institute Conference Room
On the 1st floor, beneath Fukutake Hall
Language: English and Japanese

Speaker: Prof. William Fleming, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Yale University

Abstract: Beginning in the fall of 1869, eight Japanese students set off for the West from the tiny Sadowara Domain in southeastern Kyushu. Overshadowed by more famous peers from other domains, these students have been largely forgotten and their lives abroad are an untold story. But they played an important role in the establishment of Japanese studies in the United States. While two of the students continued on to Europe, the other six remained in the U.S. and soon formed a close relationship with Yale’s librarian, the philologist Addison Van Name. The students inspired Van Name to study the Japanese language, and within a year he was offering America’s first college course in the subject. By the mid-1870s, all of the Sadowara students had returned to Japan, where their subsequent careers constituted a microcosm of the paradox and transformation of the early Meiji period. Van Name maintained contact with several of the students even after their return, and through this long-distance relationship he was able to build America’s first significant Japanese research library: a 3,000-volume collection that still survives today.

Organizer: Todai-Yale Initiative
Co-Organizer: Historiographical Institute The University of Tokyo
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