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Fukuzawa, Yukichi (1835–1901)

Article by Nishikawa Shunsaku

Yukichi FukuzawaIn Japan, one can see a portrait of Fukuzawa Yukichi on every 10,000-yen note. This is official recognition of his dedication to the cause of introducing Western institutions and thought into Japan. Some people, however, may wonder why such a man wears traditional Japanese robes. Although there are a number of pictures of Fukuzawa, only a few are in Western attire. It seems that this reflects his basic stance: he always emphasized the spiritual revolution rather than thespurious imitation of things Western.

Fukuzawa first learned Dutch and later changed to English studies; he visited the United States twice and travelled through Europe for almost a year before the Meiji Restoration (1868). On these journeys he was able to perceive the basic ‘stones and pillars’ of modern society developing in the West. There he also conceived his manifest destiny-education and journalism.Soon after his second voyage he began to set up his school, Keio-gijuku, which was to produce many talented graduates in business, industry and politics.

Fukuzawa published numerous pamphlets and textbooks that were used in the emerging modern schools and were also welcomed by a variety of other types of reader. The great attractionof these writings was not only that the topics were new, but that the style was revolutionary in itssimplicity. The Japanese people were able to learn much about the forthcoming civilization from theso-called ‘Fukuzawa books’.

Fukuzawa also wrote many books and articles for scholars. These were mostly published by the university press or through the newspaper, Jiji-shimpo [Times], that he launched in 1882. From that time on, Fukuzawa wrote numerous articles and satires on various contemporary issues, such as politics, international relations, economic and financial problems, educational policy,women’s rights and a moral code.

His main theme may be summarized in one word-‘independence’-since he believed thatpersonal and national independence was the real foundation of modern society in the West. In orderto achieve this self-independence, Fukuzawa advocated Western, or practical and scientific,learning, instead of the traditional studies of the Chinese classics. The more educated the peoplebecame, the better their national independence could be asserted, with a corresponding increase inpublic virtue and social morality.

Although Fukuzawa apparently learned much from Western thinkers, he was not blindly attached to Western civilization. He was well aware of its flaws, but realized that Westerncivilization was technologically superior to the Japanese situation, and he concluded that theJapanese people could use it as a model. He seemed, however, to have anticipated the difficultiesthat arose in revolutionizing the minds of his countrymen.

Boyhood and student days

Fukuzawa was born in Osaka in 1835. This was a period that had been preceded by two centuries of isolation from the rest of the world and was to be followed nineteen years later by the opening up of Japan. The governing bodies of the Shogunate and the 260 domains which had held power2 for so long had not been able to adjust to the profound changes taking place in society. They were trying desperately to tackle the chronic suffering brought about by the budget deficit by means of political and economic changes.

Fukuzawa’s family lived in Osaka, at that time the trading centre of Japan. His father worked as a low-level treasury officer representing his home domain of Nakatsu (a province in the northern part of the island of Kyushu). His class in society was that of samurai, but of low rank with a modest hereditary position. The job did not appeal to Fukuzawa’s father, but he remained loyally in service until his sudden death at the age of 44, barely eighteen months after the birth ofFukuzawa.

The widowed mother returned to Nakatsu to bring up her two sons and three daughters. Their allowance reduced them to poverty, and they were obliged to supplement their income with casual paid work in the home. Fukuzawa himself repaired sandals and did other odd jobs. There was no money to send him to school until he was 14, ten years after the usual starting age. Elementary education at the time was divided between one type of school for mal e children of samurai, and another for children of commoners.3 Sons of samurai, aged 5-7, learned the Chinese classics from either their father or some relative and masters of neo-Confucian learning, who often ran private classes or schools. Secondary and/or higher education was provided either inprivate schools or in the domanial school. Since the mid-eighteenth century, most of the largedomains had inaugurated domanial schools. The domain of Nakatsu had it own school, but entry was restricted, the rank of the student’s family being an important factor. The son of a low-ranking samurai, even if he were the eldest, did not qualify for enrolment in the domanial school.

The learning available inside an isolated Japan was limited by government decree, but to imagine Japan as totally cut off would be to oversimplify. Since the sixteenth century, Westerners had visited Japan, but from the early 1640s had been barred entry. On the small man-made island of Dejima, only Dutch traders were allowed to stay. This contact with the outside world was tightly controlled by the Shogun and special permission was required for merchants, interpreters and the military to go to Dejima. Nonetheless, Western knowledge, especially medical and natural science, somehow filtered through the Shogun’s barriers and was diffused throughout the country. Eighty years before Fukuzawa’s time, several Japanese physicians had pioneered the translation of the Dutch version of J.A. Kulumus’ Tabulae anatomicae (Ontleedkundige tafelen).4 The commodity of Western learning was in limited supply, strictly controlled and sometimes constituted a dangerfor its students, but it existed nevertheless.When Fukuzawa attended school he soon revealed his ability. While he excelled inside theclassroom, outside his low rank left him vulnerable. When playing with his upper-samuraiclassmates, the lower-ranking Fukuzawa was the brunt of their arrogance. Class divisions were stillstrict enough to prohibit marriages between the two groups. Even as a young man Fukuzawa wasaware of and deeply resented the inequality of the system.5

The arrival of the United States fleet in the summer of 1853 sent a profound shock throughout the country-to samurai and commoner alike. For Fukuzawa it meant that he was asked by his brother (who had inherited his father’s position) to go to Nagasaki to learn Dutch inorder to master Western gunnery. The elder brother wished to give Fukuzawa a unique opportunity and expected him to render a service to his lord in the future. Fukuzawa accepted his suggestion with no real understanding of what Dutch was or what threat was represented from the outside-he was, however, most anxious to leave his home town.

They left for Nagasaki one month before the Treaty of Peace and Amity between Japan and the United States. Fukuzawa became a servant/student to the councillor of Nakatsu’s heir, who was there for the same purpose. As he was hardly able to learn the alphabet there, he was transferred to the ‘master’ of gunnery who really did not understand Dutch very well. Although there was no vast progress in Dutch studies in Nagasaki, the councillor’s son was jealous of Fukuzawa. He fabricated a story that Fukuzawa’s mother was ill in Nakatsu, showed him a falsified letter, and suggested that Fukuzawa return home. Fukuzawa discovered the false hoodbut decided to leave Nagasaki anyway. Having no money, he forged the signature of an official and charged his expenses to the domanial warehouse in Osaka. Instead of heading for home, he went to Edo (now Tokyo), 1,000 kilometers to the north, to continue his studies.

The boat trip across the Inland Sea took two weeks owing to the numerous stops. En route, Fukuzawa disembarked and walked through the night to reach the Osaka domanial warehouse where his brother, Sannosuke, was stationed. He persuaded Fukuzawa to stay and enrolin a Dutch-language school at Tekijuku, which was run by a physician, Ogata Koan (1810-63). The school did not teach medicine exclusively; rather Ogata was successful in distributing vaccines inJapan and educating many young men like Fukuzawa who would later participate in the building ofthe modern nation.6

During Fukuzawa’s three-year stay at Tekijuku, both he and his older brother fell ill and were sent back to Nakatsu to recover. But Sannosuke died and Fukuzawa succeeded him in performing guard duty at the castle, since he had no experience as a treasurer to take over his father’s old job. He begged his mother to let him return again to study at Tekijuku and subsequently received official permission to do so. In the next year, Fukuzawa became the top student at the school and his auto biographyrecalls fond memories of his schooldays.7 It is worth mentioning that, with his colleagues, hestudied mainly physics, chemistry and physiology, and copied and translated a Dutch book on theart of fort-building.

The move to the capital and the world

In the autumn of 1858, Fukuzawa was appointed teacher of Dutch to the vassals of the domain of Nakatsu. The course was to be held in the second domanial house of Edo. This time Fukuzawa travelled on foot to Edo with ‘real money’ and a servant. This ‘servant’ was actually his colleague who wished to go to Edo and who later completed the translation of a statistical table giving figures about all nations.8

July 1859 marked the opening of three ports in Japan according to terms of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, signed in the previous year with the United States and some European nations. Soon after the opening, Fukuzawa went to visit Kanagawa (now Yokohama) and was disappointed to find that he could not read the signs or make himself understood. English was the language of the port city. He then decided to learn English, but his progress was slow since he could find neither a good teacher nor a good dictionary.

Within the terms of the Treaty the Shogunate decided to dispatch envoys to the United States. Fukuzawa immediately volunteered his services to Admiral Kimura Yoshitake (1830-1901).After thirty-seven days at sea on a voyage marked by consecutive storms, they reached SanFrancisco in the spring of 1860. During his one-month stay, Fukuzawa’s most significantacquisitions were a Webster’s dictionary and a photograph of himself with the photographer’sdaughter. This dictionary, recommended by the interpreter, John Manjiro,9 is deemed to have beenFukuzawa’s intellectual weapon in understanding modern civilization.

After his return, Fukuzawa was employed in the foreign affairs office of the Shogunate translating diplomatic documents. The next year he married Okin, the daughter of an upper-rank samurai from his home domain. Once again, in 1867, Fukuzawa was able to go to the United States. This time the mission visited Washington and New York to negotiate on the unsettled purchase of a warship from the United States’ Government. Fukuzawa’s real aim was to acquiretextbooks for students who were forced to copy their texts by hand. He bought as many books aspossible within his budget.

Fukuzawa’s most important voyage was with the mission to Europe, whose assignment was to negotiate the postponement of additional port openings and an adjustment of the exchange rate. It failed on both accounts, but travelled through France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Russia and Portugal. Fukuzawa, acting as translator, observed many new things and institutions such as hospitals, arsenals, mines and schools. Based on what he saw and read in the year-long tour, Fukuzawa published the first volume of Seiyo jijo [‘Things western’, or ‘Theconditions of the west’],10 which described his immediate discoveries. It became a national bestseller.Fukuzawa realized that technical progress had contributed to the prosperity he had witnessed in Europe. He began to believe that revolutionary changes in people’s knowledge and thinking were a fundamental requirement for similar progress in Japan. While in London, he sent a letter to his friend at home stating that the most urgent thing to do was to educate talented young people rather than to purchase machinery and armaments. He decided to postpone the writing ofthe second volume of Seiyo jijo and instead translated J.H. Burton’s Political economy. In this 1867 book, to which he gave the title The outside volume, the ‘corner-stones and main pillars’, theintangible social network constituting civilized society was discussed.11 It was indeed anintroduction to ‘the condition of the West’. After his return to Japan, Fukuzawa began to set up his own school. The number ofstudents grew rapidly to 100 by 1867. His duties with the Shogunate were only six days a month,so he was apparently able to use the other days for reading, writing and teaching. The popularity ofhis accounts of Western life indicated an interest and tolerance of the outside world. Other groups,however, wanted to expel the ‘barbarians’, together with any Japanese scholars interested inWestern studies. The fanatic joi ronin (breakaway groups of samurai who wanted to expelforeigners) were apt to murder those who represented Western ideals. People like Fukuzawa wereat risk. In fact, Omura (see footnote 5) was killed by them in 1869.

The encouragement of learning

Amid the sounds of gunfire from a battle only a few kilometers from Keio-gijuku12 Fukuzawa continued his lectures on political economy as usual.13 It was 4 July 1868 and the Restoration forces were challenging the tottering Tokugawa regime. Fukuzawa told his students, reduced from 100 to 18 on that day, ‘Whatever happens in the country, whatever warfare harasses our land, we will never relinquish our hold on Western learning. As long as this school of ours stands, Japanremains a civilized nation of the world’.14

These words explain clearly what Fukuzawa had in mind-Western learning and education. Soon after the defeat of the Tokugawa forces in Edo, the new authorities asked Fukuzawa to jointhe government service. He declined the offer and never became a partisan of the new government, which gave him much more freedom in judging and writing about the course of both parties. In the years that followed, he devoted himself exclusively either to teaching at Keio or helping initiate modern schools elsewhere. He also translated and/or wrote pamphlets about the West and elementary textbooks on a surprisingly wide variety of subjects such as physics, geography, militaryarts, the British Parliament and international relations.Among his books, Gakumon no susume [An encouragement of learning]15 is the most celebrated. It was originally a series of essays written and published between 1872 and 1876. The first essay, which was an enormous success, was the manifestation of Fukuzawa’s thesis to thegeneral public. The opening lines read: ‘It is said that heaven does not create one man above orbelow another man. Any existing distinction between the wise and the stupid, between the rich andthe poor, comes down to a matter of education.’16

What is important here is Fukuzawa’s concept of ‘education’-the ‘practical learning thatis closer to ordinary human needs’17 or, in a word, jitsugaku. In his opinion it consisted first of learning the forty-seven Japanese kana letters, methods of accounting and the abacus, the way touse weights and measures, and then such subjects as geography, physics, history, economics and ethics.

The subjects in the first group had been taught in the terakoya, which literally means ‘the temple school’. Its connection with Buddhism had been gradually relinquished since the seventeenth century, and in the next century it became a primary school for commoners’ children and daughters of samurai, particularly those of low rank. The teachers were people such as poor samurai, village headman or Shinto priests. Buddhist teachers were rather scarce in the eighteenth century. The terakoya mushroomed in the first half of the nineteenth century. Fukuzawa was awareof this, so apparently he put more stress on the subjects in the second group which could be taughtin a modern school.18 He felt that these areas had been well developed in the West but not in theEast. He bitterly criticized the traditional Japanese school curriculum, emphasizing ancient textsand the enjoyment and writing of poetry, as providing impractical pursuits. He argued that Westerneducation was necessary and urged boys and girls who had just learned kana letters to consult translated textbooks and, at a more advanced stage, to read a Western language. In his school herelied on Western authors, and by 1890 had hired foreign teachers. Fukuzawa felt that jitsugaku could contribute to personal independence, but that ‘freedom and independence refer not only to the private self, but to the nation as well’.19 Fukuzawa alsobelieved that these elements were a human right and concluded: Each individual man and each individual country, according to the principles of natural reason, is free from bondage. Consequently, if there is some threat that might infringe upon a country’s freedom, then that country should nothesitate even to take up arms against all the countries of the world.20 It can be understood from this why he even translated military manuals. Fukuzawa’s style in ‘An Encouragement of Learning’ and in other textbooks and manualswas completely new to Japan. In the past, books had been written in a Chinese script withcharacters difficult for ordinary people to understand. The new style was colloquial andcomprehensible even for the less educated. In the face of the general opinion that the Japaneselanguage did not lend itself to oratory, he started public speaking and conducted open debates. Hewas a prime exponent of the art of public speaking in the presence of skeptics and built a meetinghall at Keio where he, his fellows and students held many gatherings and debating contests. This small hall, the Enzetsukan, still stands on the campus at Mita.21 The theory of civilizationIn a letter to one of his friends, dated 23 February 1874, Fukuzawa wrote: I don’t think I’ll take on any more translations. This year I’m going to read and work without worrying about the hundreds of miscellaneous things. My health is getting better, and my knowledge will be exhausted unless I study more. I shall spend about a year on my studies.22

This was in anticipation of reading the references23 and drafting his magnum opus, Bunmeiron nogairyaku [An outline of a theory of civilization], which appeared the following year.24 Unlike the other works by Fukuzawa, which were mainly for public enlightenment, thisbook was intended for Japanese intellectuals. At that time they were divided into several camps-some were very enthusiastic about introducing an ideal Western model of civilization, while otherswere reluctant about or even opposed to modern values and principles. Presumably, Fukuzawa wanted to clarify the argument and to persuade them to present a common front in favour ofmodernity. Fukuzawa was a prolific writer and able to produce an enormous quantity of work, but ittook an exceptional amount of time and toil to finish this book. The manuscripts, which arepreserved today, show that they were subject to revision again and again. The style was scholarly,hence not easy to read, eloquent and presenting all points of view. Nonetheless, his main objectiveis crystal clear: self-sufficiency and national independence. ‘Civilization’ was both the outcome andthe means to independence.

What then was ‘civilization’?In its broad sense, civilization means not only comfort in daily necessities but also the refining of knowledge and thecultivation of virtue so as to elevate human life to a higher plane. […] [Thus] it refers to the attainment of bothmaterial well-being and the elevation of the human spirit, [but] since what produces man’s well-being and refinementis knowledge and virtue, civilization ultimately means the progress of man’s knowledge and virtue.25

Fukuzawa took great care to explain the distinction between knowledge and virtue. He defined virtue as morality, and knowledge as intelligence, and deliberately adds that in English they are termed respectively ‘morals’ and ‘intellect’. These definitions were specified so as to avoid any association with neo-Confucian concepts. Fukuzawa’s philosophy represents a break with traditional thinking.

Traditional Japanese teaching appreciated both private virtue and benevolent rule as imparted by the Chinese classics. In this case, the philosophy was concerned mainly with governing-the man of virtue, usually the king or emperor, ruling benevolently over his people and land due to his personal competence and virtue. The people, on the other hand, were uneducatedand depended on the ruler. Most Japanese scholars, in both official and private academies, taughtyoung people how to read, but they did not encourage any original thought or novel ideas. The courses had nothing to do with political economy: such subjects were considered either ‘vulgar’ orinappropriate for the young. Teaching in terakoya was assuredly practical, but not very scientific. Knowledge gained there at best only contributed to personal intellect and profit.

Buddhism in Japan had lost its authority and function in the previous centuries. Buddhists had become mere subjects of the political authority, namely the Tokugawa Shogunate. Thus, not only neo-Confucian scholars and Buddhists but also commoners and samurai depended on their hereditary positions. Most of them were indifferent to public matters. They were ruled, credulous and blindly faithful to the ruler upon whom all the power was vested. Fukuzawa remarked that this was the most outstandingly negative feature of Japanese civilization.

In Fukuzawa’s thinking, virtue and knowledge could each be divided into two parts, private and public. He was convinced that man had an innate integrity and potential talent. While it was quite possible to acquire knowledge in school, it was impossible to make a person use his privatevirtue publicly. Looking at history, he saw that the ruled had their virtue bottled up inside them sothat it could rarely surface-at best, only within the family unit. Private knowledge, on the otherhand, could be diffused into society more easily and then transformed into public wisdom. People had begun to recognize empirical laws and science, not only natural but also moral (or social)science. ‘In Western civilization,’ Fukuzawa wrote, ‘the social fabric includes various theories thathave developed side by side, have drawn closer to one another, and finally united into onecivilization-in the process giving birth to freedom and independence.’26 While Japanese thinking had been concentrating on the impossible task of creating public virtue, the West had expanded public wisdom, that is why he revered Western learning and criticized neo-Confucian teaching in his country.

In this regard, Japanese civilization apparently lagged behind the West. According to the theory of human development proceeding in stages, Japan (along with China) was placed in the semi-civilized stage.27 Although ‘advanced’ and ‘backward’ are relative terms, the distance between East and West was assuredly great. It was impossible, in Fukuzawa’s thinking, to be able to catch up with the leaders simply by purchasing modern arms, machinery and external structures, since civilization meant the development of the inner spirit, namely the virtue and knowledge, of theentire nation. Thus it follows that ‘Civilization [is] Our Goal’.28 In the final chapter of ‘An outline of a theory of civilization’, Fukuzawa turns again to theproblem of ‘national independence’ which was a serious concern for all Japanese intellectuals. Japan, he believed, was in reality only a small Far-eastern country at that time, and hence did notrequire the support of great military power.29 He concludes: Moreover, the argument for national polity, for Christianity, and for Confucianism […] are also insufficient to bolsterpeople’s hearts. What, then, will? I say there is one thing: namely, to establish our goal and advance toward civilization[…] The way in which to preserve this independence cannot be sought anywhere except in civilization.30

Hard years, 1877-81

The number of students at Keio-gijuku, which had climbed back to more than 300 between 1871 and 1876, again began to decline, in part because of the unsettled domestic scene. As most of the students were samurai, a decision by the government in 1871 to abolish domains and reduce the hereditary privileges and stipends of the lords and vassals also affected the amount of money that could be spent on education. In five years, this process of confiscation was completed. The shizoku (former samurai and their families) were given a compensating debenture, the amount of which was modest compared with that given to the kazoku (aristocrats) and the higher-ranking shizoku. The majority of shizoku-the medium and lower ranks-were not satisfied with the arrangement. Only Fukuzawa was pleased to declare himself a commoner (heimin) and declined any compensation. During this period, Fukuzawa’s students, most of whom were samurai, had been obliged toleave the school because of their lost privileges, the war and worsening poverty due to inflation. Those who came from Satsuma returned to join the rebellion there and were either killed or wounded. In dire financial straits, Fukuzawa supplemented the school’s budget with his personalincome and also asked for loans from the government and private sources. No one, however, waswilling to lend the Keio-gijuku any money and some suggested that it should be dissolved. His fellow teachers responded by voluntarily accepting a reduction of their salary by two-thirds. Subsequently, the number of students gradually recovered from a low of 200 in 1878 to as many as 500 in 1881. Interestingly, the ratio of commoners enrolled grew from a third to more than a halfby 1875. Fukuzawa later conjectured that this was due to the post-war inflation that raised the wealthy farmers’ income sufficiently to send their sons to Keio-gijuku.31

As the government was heavily dependent on fixed land taxes for its revenue, it was alsosuffering financial deficits. As a measure to reduce expenditure, it decided to sell governmentfactories and enterprises. When it was announced that these properties had been sold off atincredibly low prices, civil rights leaders criticized the government severely. A rumour appeared inthe press that Fukuzawa, with the financial help of Iwasaki Yataro (1835-85) of the Mitsubishi Corporation, was urging a coup d’état by Okuma. In a counter move, Ito Hirobumi (1841-1901)purged Okuma from the cabinet. The real reason for this political drama was a struggle for controlover input on legislation for the future constitution. The man who was able to exercise this controlwas expected to be the de facto prime-minister. Several Keio graduates who had worked under Okuma had suggested a constitutional monarchy on the British model, while the Ito grouppreferred the Prussian type. This group was responding to, and afraid of, Fukuzawa and the Keioschool, since Fukuzawa himself often expressed active support for Okuma’s policies.

Criticisms and appreciation

After the political victory, Ito suspended the constitution and the opening of the Diet for ten years,and cancelled the sale of government properties. Before their split, Ito, Okuma and other membersof the government had arranged with Fukuzawa to start a newspaper to help promote the earlyopening of the Diet, but this too was shelved. Fukuzawa decided to proceed alone and launched Jiji-shimpo on 1 March 1882. In the inauguration article, he declared that this quality newspaper would remain impartial and independent.

From that time onward most of Fukuzawa’s writings appeared in Jiji-shimpo, not only serious articles but also satire. He addressed all contemporary issues-politics, domestic and international issues, political economy, education and educational policy, the moral code, particularly women’s rights, and so forth. These articles and parodies fill nearly half of the twenty two volumes of his Collected Works.32

In a broad overview of his works, it can be seen that Fukuzawa was proceeding in a straight line towards individual and national independence. Yet, even in the 1870s, there was some controversy over his discussions on moral issues concerning loyalty, money and so forth.33 Moreover, serious criticisms and comments have recently been levelled at his articles from the 1880s and afterwards. Such criticism has raised serious doubts as to Fukuzawa’s real intentions orhis real personality. So strong has been the reaction against his articles about Asia that it has nearlyobscured the impact of his less controversial articles-for instance, the ones about women’sequality-and placed Fukuzawa in the very category that he was supposed to be opposed to.

One such article, and perhaps the most disputed, is ‘Datsu-a-ron’ [On departure fromAsia], written in 1885. Fukuzawa states:

Our immediate policy, therefore, should be to lose no time in waiting for the enlightenment of our neighbouring countries [Korea and China] in order to join them in developing Asia, but rather to depart from their ranks and castour lot with the civilized countries of the West […] We should deal with them exactly as the Westerners do.34

Readers today react strongly to this passage. Yet such a statement can be more fully understood ifit is seen in its proper context. Fukuzawa’s seemingly aggressive stance reflects the changinginternational relations in East Asia during those years. Moreover, Fukuzawa’s concern with Koreahad its own history. Fukuzawa had been acquainted with the Korean reformists, Pak Yong-hyo and Kim Okkyun,since 1881. Kim had particularly close contacts with Fukuzawa35 as he came to Japan threetimes between 1882 and 1884, receiving much advice and every assistance from Fukuzawa duringhis stay (each one lasting several months). Fukuzawa recommended that talented young menshould be educated, that the people should be enlightened through a ‘newspaper’, and that Korean sovereignty and independence from China should be emphasized.

Thus, in the first instance, Kim sent a group of young students to Keio-gijuku, to the military academy and to other Japanese schools. Secondly, the newspaper, or more properly speaking, a governmental bulletin, was published three times a month beginning in November 1883 through the efforts of Kakugoro Inoue (1859-1938), who was dispatched by Fukuzawa in December 1882 and appointed project adviser by the king. The third objective, however, wasextremely difficult to achieve; following the 1882 anti-Japanese revolt by the Korean army, China had declared her suzerainty and exercised a firm grip over the Korean court.

Fukuzawa’s expectation for Korean progress faded as Korean dependence upon China grew. ‘Traditions’ were obviously the lifelong enemy of Fukuzawa; in such a hopeless situation, hesaw a parting of the ways-Japan choosing change, with Korea and China resisting it. A more sympathetic view of Fukuzawa’s suggestion of turning away from Asia can be sustained with theknowledge that, for several years, his efforts were directed at aiding enlightenment and reform in9Korea. Fukuzawa’s articles on Korea after 1881 were numerous, but always emphasizing itssovereignty and national independence. On the contrary, in ‘On departure from Asia’, he criticized Chinese imperialism and decided not to give China any special consideration simply on the groundsthat it was a neighbouring country.

Fukuzawa’s concern for women is apparent in his main writings, now collected in Fukuzawa Yukichi on japanese women.36 From today’s perspective his position on women’s rightsseems somewhat restrained. No one can deny that he was the only Meiji thinker who tirelesslyargued for women’s equality. In addition to several earlier articles, he wrote much in the late 1880son the subject.37 His focus was directed to where the biggest problem lay in Japan: women’s rightsin the home, the growth of their independence there, and eliminating the subjection of women tomen in society.

Fukuzawa criticized the customary ill conduct of men towards women, and condemned theremaining vestiges of polygamy. Both, he argued, were the most uncivilized customs of Japanesesociety. He claimed fundamental equality for women and equal ownership of the family property. He wrote:

Therefore, to teach them [women] at least an outline of economics and law is the first requirement after giving them ageneral education. Figuratively speaking, it will be like providing the women of civilized society with a pocket daggerfor self-protection.

Some recent comments concerning his arguments on women suggest that Fukuzawa held toonarrow a view. For example, he never suggested public activism for women, he mainly encouraged middle-class women compared to those of the lower classes, he did not touch on the issue ofwomen in the labour force (most of whom worked in wretched conditions) and, lastly, he did not condemn the prostitution of poor girls or their migration overseas, since he regarded it as preferableto starvation. Despite the limitations of Fukuzawa’s definition of equality of women, consideringtheir position, his arguments were appreciated by women at the time, as is shown by the followingletter passed anonymously by a lady to Mrs. Fukuzawa at the time of his funeral:Every time I read Sensei’s articles on Japanese women in Jiji-shimpo, I feel grateful that he is our real friend. Indeed,it is our deep sorrow to lose Sensei now […] With my tears, I sincerely hope that Sensei’s desires shall permeate our country for ever.39

To sum up, in his time Fukuzawa was a ‘teacher’ of not only boys and girls in schools but also of Japanese men and women, and this may still be considered the case today.


1. In this article, Japanese personal names are written in the conventional Japanese order: the family name is put first and the given name second.

2. Nishikawa Shunsaku (Japan) Professor of economics at the Fukuzawa Memorial Centre for Modern Japanese Studies, Keio University, and at the Faculty of Business and Commerce. Author of Growth history of Japanese economy (1985), Fukuzawa Yukichi and the three successors (1985, in Japanese) and several articles on the history of the Japanese economy.

3. The education of commoners is discussed in a subsequent section ‘The encouragement of learning’. R.P.Dore, Education in Tokugawa Japan (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965) is an excellent study on theeducation of both samurai and commoners at that time.

4. J.A. Kulumus, Ontleedkundige tafelen [Anatomical Charts] (translated by G. Dicten), Amsterdam, DeJansoons van Waesberg, 1734.

5. Fukuzawa gave a first-hand account of the rank structure of samurai society in ‘Kyuhanjo’ [Conditions in an Old Feudal Clan] (translated by Carmen Blacker), Monumenta Nipponica (Tokyo, Sophia University),vol. IX, no. 1, 1953. The terms ‘feudal’ and ‘clan’ are not entirely appropriate-the Tokugawa regime wasin very many ways different from European feudalism. Fukuzawa emphasized in 1890 that the term10‘feudal(-ism)’ is a poor translation describing the ancien régime in Japan. In the field of contemporaryJapanese studies, the term ‘domain’ is used for ‘clan’. In the text, this terminology has been followed.

6. For example, Omura Masujiro (1828-69), the son of a commoner physician, learned Dutch at Tekijuku,then mastered military studies, and became the first Minister of the Army after the Restoration.

7. The autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa (Fukuo jiden), Chapter IV, translated by E. Kiyooka, New York,Columbia University, 1966 (an enlarged version is now available from Hokuseido Press, Tokyo).

8. P.A. de Jong, Statistische tafel van alle landen der aarde, Arnhem, 1854.

9. A Japanese fisherman (1827-98) rescued by an American whaling ship, who returned home after workingon the boat for nine years.

10. American and British scholars, Blacker, Craig and others, prefer the translation ‘Conditions in the West’ to ‘Things Western’.

11. More exactly the first part discussing ‘social economy’ was translated. The original (anonymous) book waspublished in the series of popular books entitled ‘Chambers’ Educational Course’ (Edinburgh, 1852). Isuppose Fukuzawa purchased it in London in 1862. The author, a famous Scottish writer (1809-81), wasidentified by Albert M. Craig several years ago. The quotation in the text comes from the Foreword of the‘Outside Volume’.

12. By April 1868, the school, located at nearby Mita, had no name. The convention at the time was to picksome favourite characters out of Chinese classics, but Fukuzawa simply utilized the name of the current era, Keio. It is ironic, however, that the name of the era is, even today, taken traditionally from the Chinese classics. Gijuku may imply ‘public’ school or ‘college’, and the whole property was transferred from Fukuzawa to a corporation. The school moved to the Mita campus in 1871.

13. The textbook was Elements of political economy (Boston, 1837), many copies of which Fukuzawa hadpurchased in New York or Washington in 1867. The author of the book was an American clergyman, F.Wayland (1796-1865), who was President of Brown University. He published another college textbook onmoral science that Fukuzawa used in the following year (1869).

14. The autobiography […], op. cit., p. 211.

15. An encouragement of learning, trans. by D.A. Dilworth and U. Hirano, Tokyo, Sophia University, 1969.

16. Ibid., p. 1.

17. Ibid., p. 2.

18. In fact, he referred to Jitsugo-kyo, a famous beginners’ textbook in terakoya, on the opening page of the firstessay of An encouragement of learning. For more information on terakoya, see Dore, op. cit.

19. An encouragement of learning, op. cit., p. 3.

20. Ibid., p. 5.

21. His selected speeches and addresses are translated in W.H. Oxford, The speeches of Fukuzawa, Tokyo,Hokuseido Press, 1973; pictures of the Enzetsukan are included in that book.

22. Letter to Shoda Heigoro, Collected works, vol. 17, p. 163 (in Japanese).

23. He read Buckle and Guizot on European civilization, J.S. Mill, Consideration on representative governmentand other writings, as well as notable Japanese historians. As far as Chinese history is concerned, he hadlearned enough in spite of his short schooling (see The autobiography[…], op. cit., p. 8).

24. An outline of a theory of civilization, trans. by D.A. Dilworth and G.C. Hurst, Tokyo, Sophia University,1973.

25. Ibid., p. 35.

26. Ibid., p. 37, 135.

27. Fukuzawa had already encountered the stage theory in J.H. Burton’s Political economy, p. 6-7, in which thethree stages are labelled ‘barbarous and/or primitive’, ‘semi-civilized’ and ‘civilized’.

28. The title of Chapter 2.29. An outline of a theory of civilization, p. 193.

30. Ibid., p. 193. These arguments are critically examined in the chapter. Three arguments listed have not muchrelevance to religion but may be called reactionary nationalistic, Westernized and conservative neo-Confucian, respectively.

31. ‘Keio-gijuku kiji’ [A Short History of Keio-gijuku], written by him, and published in a fund-raising bulletin.No Keio fellow other than Fukuzawa noticed such a change in the composition of students.

32. Fukuzawa Yukichi zenshu [The Collected Works of Fukuzawa Yukichi], Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1958-64(in Japanese, 22 vols.).

33. For example the sixth and seventh essays caused a heated controversy. Fukuzawa’s rejoinder is given in theAppendix to An encouragement of learning.

34. The article was published in Jiji-shimpo, 16 March 1885. The translation by Sinh Vinh is given inFukuzawa Yukichi nenkan [Annals], vol. 11, Mita, Tokyo, Fukuzawa Yukichi kyokai, 1984.11

35. For more details about Kim Ok-kyun and his close relationship with Fukuzawa, see Hwang K., The Koreanreform movement of the 1880s, Cambridge, MA, Schenkman, 1978, p. 78-92.

36. Kiyooka E. (ed. and trans.), Fukuzawa Yukichi on Japanese women, University of Tokyo Press, 1988.Kiyooka also edited and translated Fukuzawa Yukichi on education, also published by the University ofTokyo Press, 1985.

37. Fukuzawa had been very much concerned with women’s rights since the mid-1870s-see Kiyooka,Fukuzawa Yukichi on Japanese women, op. cit., p. 174. About that time he also read J.S. Mill, Thesubjection of women (New York, Appleton & Co., 1870), and mentioned the book in the fifteen essays of Anencouragement of learning.

38. Kiyooka, Fukuzawa Yukichi on Japanese women, op. cit., p. 223.

39. ‘Fukuzawa Sensei aito-roku’ [Condolences to Our Mentor Fukuzawa], Keio-gijuku gakuho [Review],no. 39, May 1901, p. 27 (reprinted by Misuzo shobo, Tokyo, 1987). Sensei is a conventional honorific for ateacher in Japan, but the anonymous lady and the Keio alumni used it with the special connotation of ‘ourMentor’.

Works by Fukuzawa

Fukuzawa was a very prolific and all-round writer, and his complete works have been assembled in Fukuzawa Yukichizenshu [The collected works of Yukichi Fukuzawa], 21 vols. + one additional vol., Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1958-64.

His point of view on education is scattered throughout many of the above-mentioned volumes. Fortunately,however, the most significant writings about education have been selected and translated into English by hisgrandson, Emeritus Professor Kiyooka Eiichi in Fukuzawa Yukichi on education, Tokyo, University of Tokyo Press,1985. This volume contains more than thirty of his articles, speeches and chapters on education.

The following book manifests his thinking on education at the onset of modernization in Japan and exists inan English translation: An encouragement of learning, trans. by D.A. Dilworth and U. Hirano, Tokyo, Sophia University, 1969.

Works about Fukuzawa

Makino K. Meiji keimo-ki kyoiku no kenkyu: Fukuzawa Yukichi ni okeru nihon kindai kokka no keisei to kyoiku[Studies of education in the period of Meiji enlightenment: nation building and education by YukichiFukuzawa]. Tokyo, Ochanomizu shobo, 1968.

Yasukawa J. Nihon kindai kyoiku no shiso kozo [A critical study of Fukuzawa’s thinking about education]. Tokyo,Shinhyoron sha, 1970.

Nakane K. Fukuzawa Yukichi ni okeru hattatsu to kyoiku [Human development and education in Fukuzawa’sthinking]. Fukuzawa Yukichi nenkan [Annals of the Fukuzawa institute], vol. 10, 1983.

Yamazumi M. Kaisetsu [Commentaries]. In: Fukuzawa Yukichi senshu [Selected works of Fukuzawa Yukichi].vol. 3. Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1980.

–. Kaisetsu [Commentaries]. In: Fukuzawa Yukichi kyoiku ronshu [Fukuzawa’s writings on education: aselection]. Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1991.

Copyright notice

This text was originally published in: Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education (UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIII, no. 3/4, 1993, p. 493-506.

Reproduced with permission. For a PDF version of the article, use:

Picture source: Wikimedia. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License


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