"Japanese Students at Cambridge University in the Meiji Era, 1868-1912: Pioneers for the Modernization of Japan" - A Translation from a Japanese Original

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University professor sheds new light on Japan's modernization in the Meiji era (1868-1912).

Cambridge University graduate, university professor in Japan and expatriate author Ian Ruxton (48) has recently published an English translation of a book by Noboru Koyama, librarian of the Cambridge University Library in charge of the Japanese and Korean collections.

“When I first read the book in Japanese I realized it was an important work and one which demanded to be translated,” explains Professor Ruxton. “This story is simply unknown outside Japan, and it goes a long way to explaining how Japan managed to modernize so rapidly in the 19th century after the Black Ships of U.S. Commodore Perry came calling in 1853. It was no longer necessary or sensible to rely on translations of Dutch texts. The best way was for young Japanese to be sent to leading universities such as Cambridge and others in Europe and the U.S.A.”

The key personality in the book is Kikuchi Dairoku (1855-1917) who first came to England as the youngest member of a group sent by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Kikuchi was just eleven years old when he got his first taste of British education at University College School in London. He visited Britain again to enter and attend Cambridge, and twice thereafter to give lectures on Japanese education.

After Kikuchi came such important figures as Suematsu Kencho(1855-1920), the first translator of the Genji Monogatari and later a statesman who explained Japan’s case to Europe during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), and Inagaki Manjiro (1861-1908) who became Japan’s first diplomatic representative in Siam and wrote pioneering works on the history and importance of the Pacific Rim before his premature death in 1908.

Kikuchi later became a Minister of Education and was influential in establishing the system in Japan of government review of text books which continues somewhat controversially to this day.

This book is available online from amazon.com and affiliates amazon.co.jp and amazon.co.uk . It was first published in September 2004 by Lulu Press, Inc. .For further details see http://www.dhs.kyutech.ac.jp/~ruxton/hatenkou.html

Some reviews:

On amazon.com

1) Recommended for anyone interested in our very small world, February 23, 2005

This wonderful translation of a Japanese classic, reinforces the importance of connection and understanding between cultures. Especially important as our world continues to shrink, acknowledging the skills and accomplishments of another without diminishing our own, is a diplomatic skill too rare in today's cross cultural politics. A scholarly work written and translated with a most human voice.

Mary Sigrist USA/Ireland

2) An Engaging Read!, January 7, 2005

Reviewer: Aurorawolf

This well-written, well-researched book speaks with authority and belongs on bookshelves the world over. The education of Kikuchi Dairoku and the other Japanese students at Cambridge University, as related by Noboru Koyama, is informative and insightful, and bridges a gap in my knowledge of Japanese education and culture of that era. Ian Ruxton's translation is masterful, rendering the text easily understood by this westerner who could never have read the Japanese version, but who is now able to appreciate this historical account. These two writers enhance each other's work; I appreciate accuracy and clarity in writing, and believe others will also enjoy this book.

3) “As a language teacher, I can appreciate the time spent on translating this old literary giant, Ian has made this difficult subject open to the masses in a way that even those with limited interest in the subject can read and appreciate. It is well written originally, well translated, and Ian has displayed exceptional talent in his field. I was impressed with the ease of which the reader is drawn in and becomes interested.”    Angela Hooper

On lulu.com

1) Academic Yet Readable

Printed history can often be prosaic, especially when presented as a translated treatise. Ian Ruxton has skilfully avoided any hint of academic posturing or preciousness. His translation is lively and informative, and the scope, although vast, is always accessible. The premise that Japanese modernization was significantly influenced by overseas study is supported throughout the text. Ian obviously understands both his subject and the role of the translator, and the many hours needed to produce this valuable and informative text is reflected in the clear prose style. I admire people who know what they're doing and who do it with skill. Ian Ruxton is one of these people.” Mark McKirdy

2) Japanologists, Buy This Book

Ian Ruxton is a first class researcher and writer who has put his heart and soul into this book. No self-respecting Japanologist should be without it. I should add, however, that not only scholars but also anyone interested in the Meiji Era in Japan or Anglo-Japanese relations will enjoy it, too. Great job, Ian, and best of luck in future projects, as well.” Robert Norris

3) “On the surface, this book could be said to be aimed at a specialist market, as it centres on Japanese students studying at Cambridge in the days of the British Empire. This was with the ironic view of the prevention of Western Imperialism stretching to their shores, and the adapting and embracing of many inherent values, to strengthen their own empire. So, yes, it is specialist in this sense, but the way the introduction and the contents have been written and explained…makes it a very interesting and very informative read for all who can show at least a little concentration of something 'a little on the heavy side'. As a bonus, because of the data-intensive contents, interesting snippets such as the different reigns and even much of the Japanese Calendar is here…you will be impressed by an absolutely staggering start, devoid of over-heavy grammar which accompanies many similar tomes.” John Haines


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