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150th Anniversary Symposium: “Rutgers Meets Japan:Foreign Teachers, Missionaries, and Overseas Students in the Early Meiji Era”

March 5 (Fri), 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm EST

[March 6 (Sat) 9:00 am – noon JAPAN time]


In 1867 Taro Kusakabe (1845-70), a young samurai from Fukui, Japan, began studying at Rutgers College. Several years later, his former tutor and Rutgers alumnus William Elliot Griffis (1843-1928) left for Japan to teach, first in Fukui and later in Tokyo. The year 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of two landmark events in the history of the Rutgers-Japan relationship: the untimely death of Kusakabe only months before his graduation and his friend Griffis’s departure to Japan. This conference is held to commemorate and celebrate the special friendship between Rutgers and Japan. It will illuminate the roles of students, teachers, and missionaries, particularly those from Rutgers and the Dutch Reformed Church, in the modernization of Japan in the late nineteenth century. It also aims to shed new light to the nature of early cultural contacts between the United States and Japan and the diverse perspectives through which the encounter was remembered and told. RU-meets-Japan_program

View A Recording of the Conference

View A Recording of Fernanda Perrone’s “Griffis’ Fukui Legacy”
(A Lecture at Griffis’ Fukui @150, A Virtual Symposium in Fukui)

Slide Show:









Welcome Remarks: Prof. Matt Matsuda, Academic Dean of the Honors College, Rutgers University

Opening Remarks: Mr. Kenju Murakami, Director of Japan Information Center, Consulate-General of Japan in New York

The W. E. Griffis Collection at Rutgers University: Dr. Fernanda Perrone, Archivist at Special Collections and University Archives, New Brunswick Libraries

The Fukui-Rutgers Connection: Prof. Ryuichi Hosoya, Faculty of Global and Community Studies, University of Fukui


Professor Hamish Ion, Royal Military College of Canada
Topic: “The Rutgers Connection: Missionaries, Christian Oyatoi and Early Meiji Japan”
Discussant: Professor Joseph Henning (Rochester Institute of Technology)

Professor John Van Sant, University of Alabama, Birmingham
Topic: “The Japanese Class of 1870 at Rutgers”
Discussant: Professor Nathan Jérémie-Brink (New Brunswick Theological Seminary)

Professor Rui Kohiyama, Tokyo Woman’s Christian University
Topic: “Were Wives Better Educated, Charms of Geisha Would Wane”: The Dutch Reformed Church and Its Contribution to Women’s Education in Meiji Japan”
Discussant: Professor Satoru Saito (Rutgers University)

Closing Remarks: Prof. Paul Schalow, Chair, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, Rutgers University

Convener: Prof. Haruko Wakabayashi, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, Rutgers University



Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC)
Northeast Asia Council for the Association for Asian Studies (NEAC)
School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, Rutgers University
Rutgers Global


“Japan that Griffis Saw: Prints and Photographs from Meiji Japan”
Class of 1937 Study Gallery, Zimmerli Art Museum

“Rutgers Meets Japan: Early Encounters” (Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar Website, Spring 2020)

Rutgers Meets Japan Facebook Page