My ‘Pen Pal’ Research Partner in Japan

This is Ichiro Fudai. We’ve never met — in person.

Ichiro Fudai at home in Hanamaki, Japan

Ichiro Fudai at home in Hanamaki, Japan

But Ichiro has become a research collaborator in Japan, after he found out about my book project on Eliza Scidmore and discovered an important 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. That’s the home region of a man who became a close friend of Eliza Scidmore late in life, Dr. Inazo Nitobe.

Trained as an agronomist, Dr. Nitobe became a statesman and, like Eliza 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.

One of Dr. Nitobe’s greatest legacies was 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 in the West and influenced people such as Teddy Roosevelt and Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the Boy Scouts.

The samurai followed a strict code of conduct that came to be known as bushidō, or “Way of the Warrior-Knight.”  Loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry, it stressed virtues like frugality, loyalty, honor, wisdom and the martial arts.

An 1899 book by Nitobe Inazō, titled Bushido: The Soul of Japan, was influential in introducing the concept to the West.

– See more at: http://www.agreatblooming.com/eliza-scidmore-photos-and-samurai-statesmen/#sthash.RXD7aYiD.dpuf

The samurai followed a strict code of conduct that came to be known as bushidō, or “Way of the Warrior-Knight.”  Loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry, it stressed virtues like frugality, loyalty, honor, wisdom and the martial arts.

An 1899 book by Nitobe Inazō, titled Bushido: The Soul of Japan, was influential in introducing the concept to the West.

– See more at: http://www.agreatblooming.com/eliza-scidmore-photos-and-samurai-statesmen/#sthash.RXD7aYiD.dpuf

After learning about Eliza’s friendship with Dr. Nitobe, Ichiro visited a local museum honoring Dr. Nitobe and sent me some background materials.

Ichiro, who works as a manager for the city of Hanamaki, is a history buff. Our online communications led to his help investigating another important link in Eliza Scidmore’s life.

japan-tsunami-aftermath-615

This news photo appeared in “National Geographic”in September 1896, accompanying an article by Eliza Scidmore on a deadly tsunami that struck the Sanriku coast of northeastern Japan that June.

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.

I wrote about that in earlier posts. Yet I was curious about how Eliza Scidmore might have traveled there after the disaster since the logistics were difficult. Then, research I did in Japan last year led me to conclude she didn’t do on-site reporting. Instead, it seems she based much of her article on reports in the Japan Weekly Mail and other local English-language newspapers that I read at the Yokohama Archives of History.

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, we’ve been able to identify the Japanese news photographers who took the photos that appeared with Eliza’s article in National Geographic.

The Japanese keep meticulous census records and registries at the local level. That explains how officials in 1896 were able to report pretty accurately how many people were killed and how many homes and boats were destroyed by the tsunami.

Ichiro checked local registries for the names of all the people who visited the area after the 1896 tsunami. There’s no sign of Eliza Scidmore having been there.

 

 

 

2 Comments

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

2 Responses to My ‘Pen Pal’ Research Partner 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,

    Eiko

    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. I found his help indispensable on the matter of Eliza Scidmore’s report on the area’s tsunami for National Geographic in 1896. It’s quite remarkable he originally found me through this website — and that he’s been fabulously helpful to my research even though we’ve never met!
      I’m hoping I’ll find more about Scidmore’s relationship with the Nitobes, as I know they were close and even vacationed together in Nice, I believe, after WWI. A couple of postcards have turned up, and there are references to Mary Nitobe at Scidmore’s death. Besides the ties with Mary Nitobe and influence of Quakerism, Scidmore and Nitobe were both passionate advocates for international peace.
      Diana

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