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.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Hannah Riddell

Hannah Riddell
By Ryo Isono


Do you know leprosy? This is the one of infectious and skin diseases. In Meiji period, people considered leprosy to be a fatal disease, because there were no medicines for it. Moreover, this disease has bad effects to a patient’s skin and face. That’s why patients of this disease suffered from disease and discrimination because of their terrible looks and because there were no ways to treat it. However one woman who came from foreign country, England, contributed to help Japanese sufferers. This woman was Hannah Riddell.

Personal History

Riddell was born in London as ordinary family. When she was 20 years old, she established a private school with her mother to make money. At first, the management of school was good and she taught all subjects to students even though she was still twenty, but her mother died in 1886. After that the situation of management gradually went bad. Three years after death of her mother, her father also passed away, and moreover the school was bankrupted. Because of this she had no job, so she became missionary who belonged to one organization, CMS (Church Missionary Society).

When she was 35, she came to Kumamoto in Japan as a missionary. Then, five missionaries were sent to Japan and she was oldest woman of all of them. She saw patients of leprosy there for the first time. She was surprised at such terrible situation for patients. She had been interested in making new organization and was good at making relationship with people of upper class, so she decided to try to establish a hospital called Kaishun hospital for patients of leprosy. However she suffered from financial problem because England couldn't send monetary aid because of the Russo‐Japanese War. 

Nonetheless, she succeeded to change situation for the better thanks to a lot of gifts of money and support by upper class people such as Okuma and Shibusawa. She was fond of noble culture and upper class people, so she was able to get help from people who had power in Japan. Owing to this relationship with upper class, she got a chance to spread her idea by making speech in front of upper class and imperial family. She devoted her life to care for lepers.

Summary of discussion

I asked two discussion questions to my group member.

First question was “If you got a disease like leprosy, what do you think and do?” Most members said they wouldn’t want to be alive, if they had leprosy.

Second question was “If you were in her position, do you think you could behave like her and why?. Some of them said “Of course, I would do same thing like her”, and one of them also answered “if I were in strong position, I would help lepers, but in case I were ordinary person, I couldn’t.”. These answers made me know her greatness.


I could learn new thing about hidden Japanese history through this presentation because I have never heard and seen the name of her and leprosy in class of high school and junior high school. I also didn’t know many people suffered from leprosy at that time. I feel it would be difficult for me to help other people by devoting my life to them, so she is a great person for me.


“Hannah Riddell”, (n.d.). In Wikipedia, accessed January, 2015

Social welfare service corporation Riddell Right Home HP, (n.d.). Riddell joshi [Ms Riddell], accessed January 2015

Guido Verbeck

Guido Verbeck
By Kana Takaku


Do you know the man who triggered the Iwakura Mission being sent to Europe and America? The members of Iwakura Mission flourished in various fields, and they contributed to Japanese cultural enlightenment after they returned from the countries in which they studied. It means that the Iwakura Mission was very important event of Japan. The man’s name is Guido Verbeck, and he was Dutch political adviser, educator, missionary and o-yatoi-gaikokujin [hired foreign expert - Ed].

Life of Verbeck

Guido Verbeck was born in Zeist, Netherlands in Moravian family in 1830. He commuted to Moravian school and studied Dutch, German, French and English. When he was young, he was influenced by Karl Gutzlaff, who was a missionary in China, about working in foreign country as missionary. He hoped to be engineer, so he studied at the Polytechnic Institute of Utrecht. When he was in U.S. to work at foundry, he almost died from cholera and he swore to become a missionary if he recovered. He recovered from it, so he became missionary and went to Japan in 1859.

When he arrived at Japan, he said “ I have not ever seen a view this beautiful in Europe or America.” At that time, Christianity was prohibited, so he opened the school and Okuma Shigenobu took his class from 1861-1862. He had many students; there were more than 100 at his school. Okuma took his individual English class and he reminisced about Verbeck’s class, saying that he influenced him about Christianity.

In 1869, he became o-yatoi-gaikokujin and went to Tokyo to work on making a good rule and education at Daigaku-Nankou. 1868, he advised Okuma on Japanese modernization, and Okuma translated it and gave it to Prince Iwakura. Iwakura decided to send Japanese people to Europe. Verbeck also got a prize “Order of the Rising Sun”, which was given to people who did a good thing for Japan.

Summary of discussion

My discussion question was

1 What do you think about his experience in many countries?

2 His class influenced many people: is it good?

My group members told that going other countries is good because he may get knowledge and know about cultures. But some people thought the fact that he influenced people was not good, because he may have told them about Christianity secretly. All members thought he was great person.


I think he was great person, because he gave chance to study foreign languages to Japanese people and he helped Japan to develop. Through this project, I learned that he had close connections with Japan and it is important to know about people who did a good thing for Japan like him.


“Guido Verbeck”, (n.d.). In Wikipedia, accessed December, 2014 from

Edoardo Chiossone

Saigo Takamori, by Chiossone
By Chihiro Ishii

Edoardo Chiossone was a painter from Italy. He was also a woodblock artist. His name is not famous in Japan. However his works are popular even though over 100 years have passed since he died.

The Meiji Emperor, by Chiossone
These are Chiossone’s famous works. He drew Meiji Emperor’s and Saigo Takamori’s portraits. Although Chiossone had never met Saigo Takamori and there were no pictures of Saigo, he drew his portrait with the advice from Tokuno Ryosuke, Saigo’s compatriot.

Also, Chiossone helped manufacture of paper money in Japan as one of the hired foreigners. Japan established the way to make paper money themselves.

Edoardo Chiossone
In 1833, Chiossone was born in Genoa, Italy. His family were printers and bookbinders. He entered an art academy in Liguria when he was 14 years old. He learned about sculpture of copperplate print. After his graduation, he became a professor in this art academy. He was strongly interested in manufacture of paper money, so he got a job in Italian National Bank, and later, he transferred to Dondorf-Naumann Company.

Dondorf-Naumann Company was a large company of printing in Germany. In Japan, they had no mass production method of making paper money in this period. Therefore, Japanese government ordered Dondorf-Naumann Company to make Japanese new paper money. Dondorf-Naumann Company printed Meiji-Tsuho and sent it to Japan.

Meiji-Tsuho banknote made by
Dondorf-Naumann company
However, it was not easy for Japan to order much paper money to foreign countries. In this period, the main way of transportation was shipping. The shipping charges were expensive. Also there were a lot of dangers on the way, for example, sinking or pirates. Japan had several difficulties ordering paper money from Germany. To avoid these problems, Japanese government decided to hire foreign experts and establish the technical methods to make paper money themselves.

In 1875, Chiossone came to Japan as a hired foreigner. Okuma Shigenobu invited him. Chiossone introduced several kinds of methods, ways of drawing, and printing. Also, he drew new Japanese paper money design. Japan succeeded in the mass production of paper money. In addition, Chiossone’s work was detailed, so it was impossible to make counterfeit bills.

Chiossone painted not only Japanese paper money, but some portraits. According to above-mentioned explanation, Chiossone drew the portraits of famous people like Meiji Emperor, Saigo Takamori and Kimura Masujiro. He also drew more than 500 national bonds, stamps and securities. A lot of Japanese young people were taught many kinds of artistic techniques by Chiossone.

In 1891, he retired his job in Japan and received 3000 yen as his retirement money. He didn’t go back to his mother country. In his later years, he bought and collected a lot of Japanese art objects. He was interested in Japanese arts. In 1898, Chiossone died in Kouji-machi, Tokyo. After his death, his house was made into a museum.

The techniques which Chiossone introduced to Japan proved to be useful. Even though over 100 years has passed since he died, these artistic techniques help making contemporary bills. Chiossone contributed to Japanese development greatly.

He was one of Oyatoi-Gaikokujin, hired foreigners. In my opinion, Chiossone was also one of the most familiar foreigners to Japan. The reason why he has died in Japan, didn’t go back to his mother country. Also he loved and collected Japanese arts. Therefore, he contributed Japanese great development. He was one of the heroes in this period.

Reference List

Donatella Failla/January 11th, 2013/Connecting Europe and Meiji Japan : Edoardo Chiossone and Japanese Art/International House of Japan

Hired Foreigners in Meiji period

Ernest Fenellosa

Ernest Fenellosa
By Chihiro Akie


Do you like Japanese arts? I bet perhaps most Japanese people will say “not really”. For Japanese people, art is not familiar at all. In my opinion, most museums in Japan are costly so we cannot visit easily if we are not interested in arts. However we still have many historical Japanese arts because some people tried to protect them and hand them down to posterity. I want to introduce one of those people. That person is Ernest Fenellosa.

About Ernest Fenellosa

Ernest Francisco Fenellosa was born in Massachusetts, America in 1853. He studied philosophy and sociology at Harvard College, where he graduated at the top of the class. At the time, he got interested in art so he entered the art school of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. When he was 25, his father Manuel Francisco Ciriaco Fenellosa committed suicide because he could not adapt to his circumstances. According to Christianity, suicide is sin. That is why Ernest needed a new place. Fortunately, he found the information that Tokyo University was recruiting professors. After that he moved to Japan and started working as a professor of philosophy. At the same time, he was attracted by Japanese art. He started studying Japanese art. He found the fact that Japanese people did not respect their art at all which was shocking and disappointing for him. Then he decided to protect Japanese art and tell it to the World. He protected some statues of Buddha and Buddhist images.


My discussion questions were “Have you ever been to museum?” and “Which do you like better, Japanese art or Western art?”

The first one question was because I wanted to know how much my members were familiar with art. I was surprised because two people said they have never been there. I guess that many people think art is not worth paying to view.

I expected the answer for the second one that my members would say Western art is better. However everyone answered Japanese one is more attractive which was surprising for me.


According to this project, I learned how Japan obtained cooperation from many foreigners. Today we get inspiration from other countries, which is great thing. However I realized that we hardly explain about Japan. We need to focus on Japanese culture. Because if people pay attention to it, then it will be protected and respected. I hope that Japanese people get more interested in Japanese culture. I want to thank Mr. Fenellosa.

“Ernest Fenellosa”, (n.d.). In Wikipedia, accessed June, 2015 from

Meijinooyatoigaikokujin, (n.d.) Ernest Francisco Fenellosa no kozai [The merits and demerits of Ernest Francisco Fenellosa] accessed June, 2015 from

James Curtis Hepburn

James Curtis Hepburn
by Sayuri Hama


Hepburn is famous for Romaji [romanization; a way to write Japanese in the Latin alphabet - Ed] in Japan, but do you really believe that Romaji was invented by Hepburn? In fact, it is not true. I’m going to write about that later.


Hepburn was born in America. His father was a lawyer, and his mother believed in Christianity. Thanks to smart parents, he was good at studying. He entered a college at 16 years old. He majored in medical and learned the Bible, which made him be interested in Christianity. After graduation from the college, he married Kurara who was Christian. Hepburn spent most his life in other countries to propagate Christianity with his wife.

Life in China for 5 years

Hepburn and his wife moved to China in spite of his parents’ objections. In China, they had many difficulties. At first, they faced a handicap in language. What is worse, Kurara had a miscarriage and next baby died soon after the birth. In addition, Hepburn and Kurara suffered from Malaria. They had to go back to America for treatment. Then Hepburn started a medical office and succeeded in it. He got a good reputation; however, he decided to leave America again to Japan for propagation.

Life in Japan for 33 years

Hepburn and Kurara arrived at Kanagawa prefecture. It took about 6 months to come to Japan. What surprised Hepburn at first was Japanese appearance. Men had a sword and a topknot. According to his diary, Japanese people were full of curiosity about foreign culture because Japan was closed for a long time. He tried to propagate Christianity but there was a serious problem. Christianity was illegal at the time. He once gave up doing that and opened a medical office. He learned Japanese through the work. His hospital became the most famous one in Kanto area. He got reputation also in Japan, but he wasn't satisfied with that because his purpose was propagation of Christianity. 

He decided to study Japanese but there was no dictionary in Japan at the time so he started to make a dictionary. Hepburn started to prepare a dictionary. He mastered vocabularies, grammar, and idioms. But there were other problem. Japan didn't have the technology to print millions of words or make suitable paper. So Hepburn asked Chinese factory to do that. Finally he completed making dictionary 7 years after he came to Japan. He built a church and the members reached 200, so after all he achieved his goal to propagate Christianity.


Japanese people think that Romaji was invented by Hepburn. Actually Romaji was made by Portuguese long before Hepburn used it for the first time in dictionary. He was just the person who put it into practice.


Anonymous, (n.d.). Kanagawa no ijin, nihon no ijin [A great man in Kanagawa and Japan]. Retrieved January 20, 2015 from

Alexander von Siebold

Alexander von Siebold
By Yuka Shiratori


Do you know about foreigners who worked for Japanese government in Meiji Japan? They are called foreign specialists in government employ (in Japanese, Oyatoi-gaikokujin). Alexander von Siebold is one of them and he worked as an interpreter. He studied Japanese so hard after he came to Japan, and he succeeded as a Japanese-English interpreter even though his mother language was German.

His life

Siebold was born in Leyden, Netherlands in 1846. He came to Japan for the first time when he was 12 years old. This opportunity was created by his father.

His father, Philip Franz von Siebold is famous for the “Narutaki-juku” [a medical school - Ed] and the Siebold incident, in which he tried to bring the map of Japan overseas, although it was illegal at that time. He was deported from Japan and he couldn't come to Japan for about 30 years.

When Alexander’s father became able to come to Japan, because the deportation was lifted, Alexander came to Japan with his father.

He studied Japanese so hard for about a year, and then he started to work as an interpreter when he was 15 years old. At that time, he was a student-interpreter and assisted British consul. He was not familiar with the job at first, but he kept making efforts to learn Japanese.

From 1870, he was sent to Europe and accomplished many achievements. The arrangement for Japan’s participation in the Vienna World Expo of 1873 was one of his great achievements. He had already been and experienced the 1867 World Fair in Paris. To add to this result, he also worked for Japanese students in London, and negotiated about the bill print.

He became official interpreter for the Ministry of Finance in 1875. From that time he translated the official documents and the laws which related to the Ministry of Finance. His job of supporting the Japanese politics had continued. For example, in 1881, to assist Inoue Kaoru, he went to Germany and negotiated with the German government over treaty revisions.

He contributed to Japanese politics and society for over 40 years, his work was recognized and he was awarded the order of the Sacred Treasure in 1910. There are six grades and he was awarded the 2nd class.


I asked two questions at the discussion.

What do you think about his father’s decision (decided his son would be an interpreter)?

Most of members said that it was not bad for him because he finally succeeded as an interpreter. To think of the difficulty of getting good job, it was a valuable opportunity that should not be missed for him. One more reason is that he could chose his work or future, because his father passed away after leaving Alexander in Japan and went back to the country.

What do you think about foreigners who work for Japan (or Japanese people)?

Considering the reason to come Japan, we felt that most foreigners love Japan and had hoped to visit Japan.

Another viewpoint is that of Japanese people. Before Meiji era, Japan had no chance to learn from other countries, so foreigners who visited Japan were like teachers for Japanese at that time. They taught the foreign culture or customs, and these experiences were important and necessary for Japan.


Alexander’s experiences of Japan were not intended but I think that working in Japan for Japanese government was good for him. As I mentioned in the discussion part, working for Japanese government was precious chance for him to learn about Japan, including the language.

I recognized that Japan learned many things from foreign countries and tried to adopt them into Japanese society. It is said that there is a less Japanese atmosphere these days rather than past Japanese society, but my opinion became slightly different from this. I think that Japan always tries to get new and useful information and tries to adjust it to Japan, and this also should be seen as one of Japanese merits.

After all, I noticed that I could ask the discussion questions that were related to his effort to learn foreign languages. Actually, he studied so hard to master the foreign language. I think Japanese is difficult but he roughly mastered it for only a year. It was such a surprising fact for me.


Kreiner, J. (1998) Tokugawa Japan at dusk Japan which was seen by Siebold and his sons

"Alexander von Siebold", (n.d.). In Wikipedia, retrieved on January 26th 2015 from

"Alexander von Siebold" (Japanese page), (n.d.). In Wikipedia Japan, retrieved on January 26th 2015 from

Georges Ferdinand Bigot

Image 1: Une partie de peche
By Hitomi Takano


Do you know this picture (1)? –Yes. Then, do you know about Bigot? -Probably, the answer is ‘No.’. Georges Ferdinand Bigot is a famous French painter who drew a lot of pictures about Japan. His drawings have historic value, and they are included in a history textbook in Japan. That’s why many people might know his works, even if they don’t know Bigot.

Personal history

Bigot was born in Paris. His father was a government official, and his mother was a famous artist. Under the influence of his mother, Bigot was interested in pictures since he was small. When he was 12 years old, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts and studied art until 1876. After he quit his study, he began to work as an illustrator. His work went well, and he gradually became famous. However, when he went to Exposition Universelle de Paris, he was attracted by Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints - Ed), and also by Japan, and finally decided to go to Japan. First, he came to Japan as a oyatoi gaikokujin (a hired foreign expert - Ed), and earned money by teaching art at school. After his employment contract as a oyatoi gaikokujin expired, he began work as a News painter. He reported many disasters with his paintings, and earned a lot of money. Using his salary, he began to publish the comic magazine called TÔBAÉ. In this magazine, he drew a lot of satirical drawings, and created new style of cartoon. He lived in Japan for about 17 years, and came back to France in 1899.

Georges Ferdinand Bigot
Summary of discussion

We discussed two points of Bigot’s accomplishments:

1. If he had been born in different time, Bigot should have decided to settle down in Japan.

-Do you agree or disagree with this opinion?

2. He loved Japan so much, drew a lot about Japanese culture, and also married Japanese woman.

-Why do you think Bigot continued to criticize Japan in his publication?

At first, I asked why Bigot chose to go back to France. In my opinion, Bigot would have stayed in Japan if he was born now. At that time, Japan was gradually becoming more chaotic. For foreigners in Japan, it was extremely dangerous to continue staying in Japan. Many group members agreed with me. In addition, one group member said that if he was born now, he would not become famous. I strongly agree with this opinion. It was fortunate that he was born in the late 19th century because this time period made him famous.

The second question was about Bigot’s character. Through his life, Bigot kept criticizing Japan in his works. However, he also left a lot of episodes to make people think that he loved Japan. Which is his real opinion? In my group, almost all members mentioned that Bigot loved Japan, and because of that, he wanted Japan to grow up more by continuing to point out weak points and problems. I also agree with my group members. If he really hated Japan, I think, he would have not continued staying in Japan for 17 years.

Reflection on person and project

Before this project, I knew Bigot’s works in the same way as majority of people, but did not know well about Bigot. However, while I checked him, I became interested in Bigot. I think Bigot is a Japanophile. He loved Japan so much that he tried to settle down in Japan. However, he didn't do that, and came back to France. This was because he had a lot of difficulties staying in Japan. While he was living in Japan, Japan had two wars, the Sino-Japanese war and the Russo-Japanese war. In this period, foreigners in Japan were sometimes treated badly. Bigot was afraid of Japanese militarism. In addition, he did not get along well with Kuroda Seiki, an authority on the Japanese art. From these facts, he decided to go back to France.

Bigot’s works are important historical materials to know the common customs at that time. They are not only satirical drawings, but also drawings of Japanese daily life. He brought Western style of cartoon to Japan, and also criticized Japanese society with foreigner’s eyes.

I think that it is his misfortune to have been born at this time. If Bigot had been born in different time, maybe his life might have changed.


“Georges Ferdinand Bigot”. (n.d.). In Wikipedia, accessed December 2014:

Shimizu, I. 2001. Bigot ga mita Nihonjin [Japanese people as seen by Bigot]. Tokyo: Kodansha

Shimizu, I. 2006. Bigot ga mita Meiji Nippon [Meiji Japan as seen by Bigot]. Tokyo: Kodansha