Historic Connections With Japan

Brown University has had a multi-faceted and mutually beneficial relationship with Japan for over a century, going back to the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Brown enjoys a setting that is rich in history. A friendship garden in Providence’s historic Roger William Park celebrates the good will shared by the Japanese and Americans. Each year in Newport, Rhode Island, the Japan-American Society of Rhode Island (of which Brown is a founding member) hosts the Black Ships Festival to celebrate the continuing friendship of the two nations. A similar celebration is held each year in Shimoda, Japan, Newport’s sister city.

In 1994, Brown celebrated the 100th Anniversary the graduation of the first student from Japan, Julius Kumpei Matsumoto, who earned a Master of Arts degree in 1894, just a few years after the University began to offer graduate courses. Matsumoto later became a member of the Japanese parliament and remembered Brown with a gift to the University library of his books and journals. His brother, Matsuzo Matsumoto, was a member of the undergraduate class of 1894.

Akio Morita, co-founder and chairman of the Sony Corporation, was the recipient of the Independent Award given by the Brown Club of New York in the spring of 1992. The award, first given in 1985, was established to recognize personal accomplishment and the spirit of independence and self-reliance, which is characteristic of Brown graduates.

In 1924, Brown awarded an honorary degree to Masanao Hanihara, Japanese ambassador to the United States, which did much to establish good feeling between Japan and the United States, which had suffered from the Japanese immigration restriction act, and indirectly led to the admission several years later of Asian American student John F. Aiso ’31. Honorary degrees were also awarded to Japanese scholars Dr. Inazo Nitobe, President of the Imperial College of Tokyo and later Undersecretary-general of the League of Nations, and Dr. Hideyo Noguchi, a distinguished Japanese physician and researcher.

During 1911 and 1912, an international exchange of lecturers between Japan and the United States was undertaken at the instigation of Hamilton Holt, editor of the Independent, and under the supervision of President Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia. The six universities involved in the exchange were Brown, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Virginia, Illinois, and Minnesota.

Dr. Inazo Nitobe, professor at the Imperial University of Tokyo, arrived at Brown in October 1911 to begin his lecture tour, the object of which was the interpretation of his country’s culture and people to Americans. He remained for four weeks, delivering public lectures in Sayles Hall every Monday and Thursday, speaking before local organizations, and meeting informally with the faculty and students. Dr. Nitobe was awarded an honorary degree in 1912.

Brown’s fourth President, Francis Wayland, served from 1827 to 1855. Widely renowned as an educator and administrator, Dr. Wayland had an early and enduring influence on Japanese higher education in the late 19th century, particularly at Keio University. Textbooks by Dr. Wayland and by Brown Professor of Classics Albert Harkness were brought to Japan in the 1860s by Keio founder Yukichi Fukuzawa and became a fundamental part of the Keio curriculum. It is said that Fukuzawa read from Dr. Wayland's Elements of Political Economy on the day of the Battle of Ueno, as guns boomed and smoke rose in the distance. Fukuzawa subsequently translated some of Wayland’s work in his book, Seiko Jiao. Keio University still celebrates “Francis Wayland Day” each May with a convocation and scholarly activities.