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A Short Sketch of My Life
(Transcribed by Lavanya Attavane and Evan Feldman )


July 14th, 1874

My dear teacher,

I send you a shirt sketch of my life which you requested us to write. It may not be so interesting, for I wrote it (quiet) as I experienced, without any addition but you will see from this how I received the previous education although there may be great many mistakes in English and writing.

Ever yours, truly

K. Haraguchi.


A Short Sketch of My Life

I was born in Hizen in the year 1853. At the age of five I begun to read and write the Chinese characters and I was allowed to play with various kinds of toys, such as to fly a kite, two hours a day; and the next year I begun the fencing, riding horses, and shooting the bow, continuing the study of Chinese. The last was, however, the principal task at that time, so I was in a school every day from 8 to 12 A.M. The method of studying Chinese is somewhat different from what we do in English school. First we learn how to read the book; after this, the teacher explains the meaning of the whole book and when this is completed each scholar begins to recite. At the time of the recitation all the scholars congregate in the room and when all the scholars are in their proper seats the teacher comes in, and some one of the scholars commences the reading and explanation of a few pages. When he has finished the explanation others begin to ask several questions on the subject and if all his answers be correct the next one reads the subsequent part of the book, but if his opinion be different from others they begin to argue with each other on the subject and finally the teacher judges which is correct and he who is right receives a good mark, hence it sometimes happens that they get angry and begin to fight with each other. In this way I was studying the Chinese and Japanese histories, poetries, etc.

At the time, there were no one, in my province, who studied any foreign language, except physicians who were sent to Nagasaki to study the Dutch language. So it was the general opinion among us that the foreigners knew nothing more than we, Japanese, did, except the Physiology and Anatomy.

At the age of nine I was appointed as attendant of the lord of my province and my business was to attend him every day, sitting at his side with his long sword when at the event, and at his private room I had to read the book with him, as he was of the same age as I, and to ride, to fence, whenever he wished to. I was often told by some old officers that I should sometimes to fail intentionally at these exercises, so that the lord might always be victorious; but as I disliked to do such thing I was fencing and reading as much as I could, so he was always inferior to me and at last I was blamed by something else, the origin of which I supposed to have come from the above causes. After two weeks, however, I was recalled and received the same office as before.

In this way I spend three years, when there was a little revolution in the school system and it was agreed that the government should select some number of students and send them to other districts where the Chinese study was better improved, so I and two others were appointed to go to Nagasaki where we found more suitable teachers and we changed our (?-0099 Haraguchi p. 3) to Higo. In Higo we found several good Chinese teachers and we greatly improved in the studies of history and poetry. At the end of three years I was called back and after an examination I was appointed as friend and teacher of my lord. Afterward, I and one other student were sent to visit all the provinces in Kiushiu to see how the educational system was established in other provinces, how was the general impression about the foreigners. When I returned from the journey the lord was ready to start to Tokio and allowed me to accompany him. I was exceedingly glad to see Tokio but at each time I met foreigners in Nagasaki or Yokohama I was thinking how to drive them away. As I met several men who were of the same opinion as mine, we were continually talking about the long bearded fellow. When my lord returned I was at liberty to do what I wished to, whether remain in Tokio or go to Osaka, but as I had never been in Osaka before, I preferred to go there. After finding a good teacher there, I entered his private school where I met two or three scholars who asserted the necessity of studying foreign languages and sciences. As I was of quite different opinion from theirs we were continually quarrelling about the foreigners but because my party was in majority we were always victorious. It was our opinion that there is no necessity of establishing commercial intercourse with foreign people, for we had everything necessary for food, clothing, and for all other purposes, so we did not desire any exchange with other nations; and by these intercourses we should lose all our valuable things and get a little of useless articles in their stead, hence the only question was how to drive them away.

At the end of one year I was called back as there was a great revolution in the province and the lord was abolished and he became Chiji or a temporary ruler of the province. At this time Chiji was called to Tokio but as he was suffered from some disease, my father was appointed the substitute for him and I was also allowed to accompany my father, so I got to Tokio, the second time. As my object was to enter Seido, the largest Chinese school in Tokio I went there as soon as I arrived and after a little more than one year I was in the graduated class, so I was obliged to teach some of the lower classes. But I was not willing to teach I was about to leave the school and go to some other; at this time I found some advantage of studying foreign languages although I had no inclination to begin it myself.

When my father proposed to return home leaving me in Tokio, he told me ‘I am very glad that you have already got the perfect knowledge of Chinese, so you are somewhat distinguished even in Seido, the largest school in Tokio and it may not be necessary for you to continue the study the but I think it would be necessary for you to study the language of some of the Western nations, as well as the interesting sciences which we have never had before. If you do so you have now a good imperial school Nanko in Tokio, where you can study either English French or German, you wish to. I was not, at all, willing to begin the study of any of these sciences, but as I could not disobey my father, moreover the study was found to be somewhat beneficial to me I determined myself to begin and entered Nanko where I have studied several interesting sciences and am still continuing the learning.

When I commenced the study of English all my friends who are in the province hated me and no one communicated me with letters although before this time they were sending them to me without intervals. At present, however, they seem to have discovered the necessity of study and many of them restored the communication with me.

K. Haraguchi.