The five young men studied at University College London. After returning to Japan, they all contributed in their various ways to the modernisation of their country. The ‘Choshu Five’ included Hirobumi Ito, who became Japan’s first Prime Minister and is otherwise known as ‘the Father of the Japanese Constitution’ and ‘the Father of parliamentary government in Japan’. The other men were Kaoru Inoue, who became Japan’s first Foreign Minister and has been called ‘the Father of modern Japanese diplomacy’, Yozo Yamao (‘the Father of Japanese engineering’), Masaru Inoue (‘the Father of Japanese railways’) and Kinsuke Endo (‘the Father of the modern Japanese mint’).
In addition, in 1865, a group of 19 students from the Satsuma clan including Tomoatsu Godai and Arinori Mori arrived at UCL. The Satsuma group also had significant influence on the modernisation of Japan.
The Choshu and Satsuma students’ overseas stay initiated academic interaction between Japan and the UK as well as between Japan and Europe. These groups were followed by many other Japanese students in successive years, supported by the Edo Shogunate Government and then the new Meiji Government. The knowledge, experiences and ideas that they brought to Japan were central in creating a new prosperous and modern nation, and this sharing of knowledge and ideas continues today.