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Feb 04, 2020 – May 17, 2020 / Class of 1937 Study Gallery

Toshu Shogetsu, Arrival of American Ships: Picture of a Gathering of Feudal Retainers, color woodcut, 1889 (Gift of Herbert D. and Ruth Schimmel) 1986.0280.001-003 Photo Peter Jacobs
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 marks 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 exhibition of Japanese prints and photographs from the late 19th century, just around the time that Griffis had landed, examines the period of rapid growth and transformation following the country’s opening to the West in 1854. It includes color woodcuts portraying foreigners, industrialization, and Western-style architecture, and political and military celebrations that not only depict a changing Japan, but also reveal the ways the Japanese viewed Western people and civilization. Also on display is a selection of photographs from an album owned by George William Knox (1853-1912), an American teacher and missionary to Japan who, like Griffis, made significant contributions to the modernization of Japanese education.

View Student Essays and Prints:

I. The Black Ships Arrive!

II. Depiction of Foreigners

III. New Technology and Architecture

IV. Reformed Government and Military

V. The Meiji Constitution


This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Professor Haruko Wakabayashi, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. Professor Wakabayashi’s Spring 2020 Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar, Rutgers Meets Japan: Revisiting Early U.S.-Japan Encounters, explores Rutgers’ role in this crucial moment in the early relationship between these two countries.

The Class of 1937 Study Gallery serves the research and curricular needs of the Rutgers community through exhibitions, organized by faculty and museum curators, in support of academic courses.