150th anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Choshu Five’ in the UK

- 150th anniversary of UK-Japan academic interaction -

The ‘Choshu Five’ were members of the Choshu clan in western Japan who secretly left the country during the turbulent times toward the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. These five departed from Yokohama in May 1863 and arrived in the UK that November. This year, 2013, thus marks the 150th anniversary of their journey.

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.

The Choshu Five

It is no exaggeration to say that the arrival in the UK of the ‘Choshu Five’ was a springboard for the emergence of modern Japan. At the same time, it marked the beginning of wide-ranging grassroots interchange between the UK and Japan and of 150 years of productive and mutually-beneficial academic interaction.  Celebrating this milestone gives us an excellent opportunity to contemplate the value of our bilateral ties and to consider how to take them to the next level.

Various events have been arranged in both the UK and Japan to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of the ‘Choshu Five’. Listed below are the events arranged so far. Please note that some events will be invitation-only.

Events in the UK

13 June
The Japan Foundation London will host a free public seminar exploring the history of exchange between Japan and the UK in the area of mint. Yoshiake Shinhara, President of the Japan Mint, will look at the UK's contribution to the establishment of the Japan Mint and the close ties that developed between Japan and the UK in the area of mint in the late 19th century. For more details click here.

25 & 26 June
The film Choshu Five (2006; directed by Sho Igarashi) will be screened once at the Embassy of Japan on Tuesday 25 June and once at University College London on Wednesday 26 June (click on the links for details of how to book your seat).

28 June & 1 July
Imperial College London will hold a UK-Japan Workshop on Mathematical and Computational Modelling of Disease Dynamics at their South Kensington campus on 28 June (10am-5pm) and 1 July (9:30am - 2pm).

2 July
A monument to Professor Alexander Williamson FRS and his wife Catherine, who took care of a number of young Japanese students including the ‘Choshu Five’, will be unveiled at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. It celebrates the kindness and warmth with which the couple treated the students as well as Prof Williamson's academic prowess. The ceremony will be organised by Three Wheel Temple.

3 July

UCL, where the ‘Choshu Five’ and other young Japanese studied, will host a ceremony and reception to commemorate 150 years of academic interaction between the UK and Japan.

10 July

There will be a reception and lecture on deaf education at UCL on Wednesday 10 July as part of the XIth Conference on Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research (TISLR). Guest speakers Dr SUEMORI Akio, Chief Researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan, and Mr Peter Jackson, chief of the British Deaf History Society and the Institute of British Sign Language, will talk about deaf education in both Japan and the UK. For more details click here.

19 July
A seminar entitled ‘Yozo Yamao:an apprentice at a Glasgow shipyard who became the Father of Japan's Engineering' will be held at the Riverside Museum, Glasgow, as part of the Japan Matters Public Lecture Series. It is organised by Japan Desk Scotland, with cooperation from the Glasgow Museum. For more details click here. You can now find a report of this lecture here.

15 August
Public seminar: William Gowland: the Father of Japanese Archaeology. The Japan Foundation will hold this free seminar to introduce some of the key findings of the Gowland Collection survey while also exploring the considerable contribution Gowland made to archaeology in Japan. Booking is essential. For more details click here.

16 August
Public seminar: Oyatoi Gaikokujin and the Modenisation of Japan. This free seminar, also organised by the Japan Foundation, explores the impact of oyatoi-gaikokujin from the UK who went to Japan during the Meiji era. Booking is essential. For more details click here.

Various Dates
A series of symposia and seminars under the umbrella of academic links between Japan and the UK, organised by UCL and other universities, will take place at various locations in the UK.

Events in Japan

12 May
Professor John White (Former Pro-provost of UCL) and Professor Kemmyo Sato (Three Wheels Temple) will deliver a lecture about the Choshu Five in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

20 - 30 June

A series of organ concerts featuring the British organist Thomas Trotter and the Japanese group Sound of Peace will take place in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kagoshima Prefecture, Tokyo and Yokohama to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of academic and cultural interaction between Japan and the UK. The concerts are being organised by Ms Mari Kodama.

26 September
The British Council will hold a symposium entitled "Following in the footsteps of the Choshu Five’ - Developing the next generation of leaders". This symposium will refer to the remarkable history of the Choshu Five as we seek to define the kind of leadership required by modern society and suggest how we can work together across sectors to create the social systems required to produce the next generation of leaders. For more details click here.