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Unformatted text preview: he Tokugawa shogunate in its Office for Barbarian Studies, established in 1855 after the arrival of Perry. Hence, the Meirokusha had as
its legacy the venerable tradition of Dutch Studies begun nearly a century and a half earlier in Japan.
The leading figure in the Meirokusha, and indeed the most popular
and widely read intellectual of the Meiji period, was Fukuzawa Yukichi
(1835–1901). Fukuzawa was a low-ranking, but personally ambitious and
opportunistic, samurai who began the study of Western gunnery and the
Dutch language as a youth under the patronage of his feudal domain.
Later, when Fukuzawa visited Yokohama shortly after the signing of the Encounter with the West 243 Harris treaty in 1858 and observed the newly arrived foreigners at first
hand, he learned a sad fact that was to cause anguish for all students of
Dutch Studies: Dutch was practically useless as a medium for dealing
with most Westerners. Fukuzawa, we are told, switched the very next day
to the study of English; and, two years later, in 1860, he was selected to
accompany the Tokugawa shogunate’s first mission to the United States
in what was also the first transoceanic voyage of a Japanese-manned ship.
Fukuzawa made two other trips abroad, in 1861 and 1867. In between he published Conditions in the Western World (Seiyò Jijò), a book
that established him as one of the foremost interpreters of the West.
Fukuzawa was more of a popularizer than a pure intellectual, and as
such he made a far greater impact on the people of his time. It is no
exaggeration to say that he, more than any other single individual, influenced the minds of a generation of Japanese in the early, formative years
of the modern era. His most successful book, An Encouragement of Learning (Gakamon no Susume), written between 1872 and 1876, eventually
sold nearly 3.5 million copies. The opening paragraph sets the tone for
It is said that heaven does not create one man above or below another man.
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13