The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa
Fukuzawa (Yukichi)
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901) was a leading figure in the cultural revolution that transformed Japan from an isolated feudal nation into a full-fledged player in the modern world.
  2. He translated a wide range of Western works and adapted them to Japanese needs, inventing a colorful prose style close to the vernacular. He also authored many books, which were critical in introducing the powerful but alien culture of the West to the Japanese. Only by adopting the strengths and virtues of the West, he argued, could Japan maintain its independence despite the "disease" of foreign relations.
  3. Dictated by Fukuzawa in 1897, this autobiography offers a vivid portrait of the intellectual's life story and a rare look inside the formation of a new Japan. Starting with his childhood in a small castle town as a member of the lower samurai class, Fukuzawa recounts in great detail his adventures as a student learning Dutch, as a traveler bound for America, and as a participant in the tumultuous politics of the pre-Restoration era.
  4. Particularly notable is Fukuzawa's ability to view the new Japan from both the perspective of the West and that of the old Japan in which he had been raised. While a strong advocate for the new civilization, he was always aware of its roots in the old.

Book Comment
  • Columbia University Press; Revised edition (2 Feb. 2007).
  • Revised translation by Eiichi Kiyooka.
  • Foreword & afterword by Albert M. Craig.

"Craig (Albert M.) - The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa: Foreword"

Source: Fukuzawa (Yukichi) - Autobiography

  • The preface by Albert M. Craig points out the difference in the Japanese polity that Commodore Perry saw between two visits (1853 and 1876). We’re evidently supposed to know who Commodore Perry was, and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t.
  • So: see Wikipedia: Matthew C. Perry.
  • This goes some way to explain the US interest in Japan.

"Fukuzawa (Yukichi) - The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa"

Source: Fukuzawa (Yukichi) - Autobiography


In-Page Footnotes ("Fukuzawa (Yukichi) - The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa")

Footnote 2:
  • The book I had my eyes on is History of Japan by J.G. Caiger.
  • The Amazon Book Description of which is:-
    1. A classic of Japanese history, this book is still the preeminent work on the history of Japan.
    2. Newly revised and updated, A History of Japan is a single-volume, complete history of the nation of Japan. Starting in ancient Japan during its early pre-history period A History of Japan covers every important aspect of history and culture through feudal Japan to the post-cold War period and collapse of the bubble Economy in the early 1990's. Recent findings shed additional light on the origins of Japanese civilization and the birth of Japanese culture.
    3. Also included is an in-depth analysis of the Japanese religion, Japanese arts, Japanese culture and the Japanese People from the 6th century B.C.E. to the present. This contemporary classic, now updated and revised, continues to be an essential text in Japanese studies. Classic illustrations and unique pictures are dispersed throughout the book.
    4. A History of Japan, Revised Edition includes:
      • Archaic Japan — including Yamato, the creation of a unified state, the Nana Period, and the Heian period.
      • Medieval Japan — including rule by the military houses, the failure of Ashikaga Rule, Buddhism, and the Kamakura and Muroachi periods.
      • Early Modern Japan — including Japanese feudalism, administration under the Tokugawa, and society and culture in early modern Japan.
      • Modern Japan — including The Meiji Era and policies for modernization, from consensus to crisis (1912-1937), and solutions through force.
    5. This contemporary classic continues to be a central book in Japanese studies and is an vital addition to the collection of any student or enthusiast of Japanese history, Japanese culture, or the Japanese Language.

"Craig (Albert M.) - The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa: Afterword. Fukuzawa Yukichi: The Philosphical Foundations of Meiji Nationalism"

Source: Fukuzawa (Yukichi) - Autobiography

  • I initially found this piece rather dull, but eventually found it quite enlightening.
  • While I've no great interest in precisely what Fukuzawa believed, nor in his political philosophy, this Afterword contextualises the struggles of the Japanese of the Meiji era as they tried to find an underpinning for their emerging state that took some of the good of feudalism and Confucianism and merged it with Western knowledge.
  • The focus on the Emperor seems to have been an attempt to shift Japan from its own world fragmented into warring domains into a unified nation ready to defend itself against - and ultimately take on - the outside world.

"Craig (Albert M.) - The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa: Appendix I - Chronological Table"

Source: Fukuzawa (Yukichi) - Autobiography

  • This is really useful, as the Autobiography itself hops around in time. It’s also a good resume and seems to provide extra information – both as far as events in Japanese history are concerned, together with Fukuzawa’s publications.
  • It’s also tied in to international events, which are rather random and idiosyncratic.

"Fukuzawa (Yukichi) - The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa: Appendix II - The Encouragement of Learning: The First Essay, 1872"

Source: Fukuzawa (Yukichi) - Autobiography

  1. This is a sensible – and pleasingly brief – piece with a useful introduction by the Translator, Eiichi Kiyooka.
  2. It’s on exhortatory piece, rather than a philosophical work. It’d be interesting to know the Western influences on it.
  3. Fukuzawa assumes that we are all equal by nature, but are held back either by feudalism (or other stratified regimes) or by lack of education. I’m not sure whether this is an empirical claim, or an ethical stance. In any case, he argues that anyone in any position in society has a duty to be worthy of that position by shaping up and educating themselves.
  4. The education he’s after is practical – especially in the sciences and the practical arts (commerce, war, …). I think his view of a “liberal arts” education – especially if focused on the traditional Chinese learning – is very much a spare time kind of occupation for those so inclined.
  5. He encourages all to “learn their letters”, and mentions that there are 47 of them. Two (or three) important issues here:-
    1. This must refer to Hiragana. Does this mean that – to encourage literacy – he was proposing the abandonment of Kanji?
    2. What about Katakana – when was this script devised? Would it have been needed for transliterating Chinese? Otherwise, there would have been no languages to transliterate until involvement with the Dutch traders (and Portuguese missionaries).
    3. There are now only 46 basic Hiragana. Is the 47th related to the “lost sound” mentioned here: Aeon: Video - The lost sound1?

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
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  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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