This is Ichiro Fudai. We’ve never met. But Ichiro has become a research partner after 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, like Scidmore, an advocate for international peace. Late in life he worked for the League of Nations in Geneva, where Eliza spent her final years. She socialized often with Dr. Nitobe and his American-born wife, Mary.
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 and Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts. After learning about Eliza’s friendship with Dr. Nitobe, Ichiro visited a local museum honoring Nitobe and sent me some background materials.
A manager for the city of Hanamaki, Ichiro is a history buff. Our online communication led to his help investigating another important link in Scidmore’s life.
In September 1896 she published an 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, so he began doing some research about the disaster in local archives. Thanks to his sleuthing, I’ve been able to fill in some critical details. Ichiro will certainly get an acknowledgment in my book. I hope we’ll have a chance to meet one day so I can thank him personally for his contribution.