A ‘Pen Pal’ History Buff in Japan

Ichiro Fudai at home in Hanamaki, Japan

This is Ichiro Fudai. We’ve never met. But Ichiro and I have corresponded online since he learned about my book project on Eliza Scidmore through a TV program that aired during my research trip to Japan in 2013. Ichiro contacted me about a connection in his hometown of Hanamaki.

Ichiro, who has visited the United States and has excellent command of English, lives in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture. A close friend of Eliza Scidmore late in life, Dr. Inazo Nitobe, hailed from there.

Trained as an agronomist, Dr. Nitobe became a statesman and worked for the League of Nations in Geneva. That’s where Eliza spent her final years. She socialized with Nitobe and his American-born wife, Mary.

Inazo Nitobe became famous in the West for his book Bushido: The Soul of Japan. Analogous to a code of chivalry, bushido was the way of the samurai, emphasizing traits like loyalty, discipline, and honor. Published in 1899, the book became hugely popular and influenced people like Teddy Roosevelt.

A manager for the city of Hanamaki, Ichiro is a history buff who wrote to inform me about a local museum on Nitobe.


This photo appeared in “National Geographic” in September 1896, with an article by Eliza Scidmore on a deadly tsunami along the Sanriku coast of northeastern Japan.

Another ink to the area: In September 1896 Eliza published and article in National Geographic on a horrific tsunami that occurred the previous June off the Sanriku coast of northeastern Japan. It killed 23,000 people and wiped out entire villages.

The tsunami occurred not far from where Ichiro lives.







Filed under Biography, Eliza Scidmore, Japan, National Geographic, Research

2 Responses to A ‘Pen Pal’ History Buff in Japan

  1. Eiko Fukuda

    Inazo Nitobe was, like my great-grandfather Torajiro Watase, a graduate of the Sapporo Agricultural College (Hokkaido University – where there is a bust of him on the campus) and likely studied under science professors sent over from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He was Japan’s pre-eminent western educator in the 20th century — and was the president of my other’s alma mater, Tokyo Christian Women’s College before World War II — no doubt influenced by his American Quaker wife in his concern for girls’ education.

    In addition to Bushido, he wrote a book called “Jinsei Dokuhon” (A Primer of Life) which perhaps should be translated. I will read it and let you know!

    Best Regards,


    PS Would you be so kind as to put me in touch with your pen pal? My paternal grandmother – who was schooled by Baptists in Sendai (Morioka Prefecture, next to Iwate) – did relief work during the great tsunami he writes about!

    • Hi, Eiko.
      I’ll send along Ichiro Fudai’s email address offline. He’ll probably love hearing from you, as he’s quite an enthusiastic sleuth of local history.

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