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The History of Modern Japanese Education

Constructing the National School System, 1872-1890

Benjamin Duke

Publication Year: 2009

The History of Modern Japanese Education is the first analysis in any Western language of the creation of the Japanese national school system based primarily on Japanese-language documents, a major step forward in the scholarship on this important subject. So fresh and thorough, it is likely to be the definitive resource on the topic of the Japanese national school system for many decades to come.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

List of Tables

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

Among the many individuals who greatly assisted me in collecting and analyzing the massive amount of material necessary for this book, I want to especially acknowledge Dr. Yoshiie Sadao who teaches the history of Japanese education at the distinguished Keio University. He graciously devoted countless numbers of hours over a ten-year period with me at the National Diet Library and at his home...

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Introduction: The Aims of Education for Modern Japan

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pp. 1-7

Japanese historians invariably designate the beginning of modernism in their country with the restoration of imperial rule in 1868, which ended the 250-year era of the feudal Tokugawa regime. Japanese educational historians, by contrast, date the beginning of the modern era in education with the issuance in 1872 of the Gakusei, literally the “education plan.” Since the Gakusei was specifically designed...

Part I: The Feudal Foundation of Modern Japanese Education

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Chapter 1: Education of the Samurai in Tokugawa Schools: NIsshinkan

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pp. 11-27

The movement for educational modernization that followed the 1868 Meiji Restoration did not begin in an educational vacuum. It emerged from a formidable foundation of schools designed to educate the hereditary samurai class, 5 percent of the population, which ruled Japan during the Tokugawa era.1 A significant majority of those who planned and implemented the epic transformation from feudal to mod-...

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Chapter 2: Education of the Samurai in the West: London University and Rutgers College, 1863-1868

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pp. 28-46

Among the samurai youth of feudal Japan, a limited number had the opportunity to study in the West. Two stand out for their contributions to the construction of the first national public school system. Originating from the most powerful clans that led the Restoration movement, Satsuma and Chōshū, Itō Hirobumi and Mori Arinori launched their careers as members of covert student missions to the West during the...

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Chapter 3: The Meiji Restoration: Reemergence of Tokugawa Schools, 1868–1871

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pp. 47-58

With the overthrow of the Tokugawa government in 1868, the Meiji Restoration marks the beginning of the modern era in Japanese history. The Restoration does not, however, mark the beginning of the modern era in Japanese education. During the initial three-year period after the Restoration, education for the ruling samurai classes took preference over education for the masses, as it did in the...

Part II: The First Decade of Modern Education, 1870s: The American Model

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Chapter 4: The Gakusei: The First National Plan for Education, 1 8 72

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pp. 61-76

Educational historians traditionally attribute the beginning of modern education in Japan to the Gakusei, the First National Plan for Education, issued on August 8, 1872.1 Implemented from April 1873, five years after the Meiji Restoration, the Gakusei is the most significant historical document in the annals of Japanese education. 2 The one Japanese who more than any other laid the foundation for, and...

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Chapter 5: The Iwakura Mission: A Survey of Western Education, 1 8 72–1873

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pp. 77-96

On November 12, 1871, amid befitting pomp and circumstance, a high-powered delegation of government officials left Yokohama on board the U.S.S. America bound for Washington, D.C., the first major destination.1 Led by Iwakura Tomomi, titular head of government, the Iwakura Mission departed on a two-year survey of modern societies in the United States and Europe. The huge delegation of fifty...

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Chapter 6: The Modern Education of Japanese Girls: Georgetown, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, 1872

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pp. 97-111

The year 1872 marks the dawn of the modern era in the history of education for Japanese women. During that year, just four years after the Meiji Restoration, two seeds were planted that gradually blossomed into movements that eroded centuries of feudal attitudes toward female education. The first stems from the nation’s initial attempt to implement a national school system, the Gakusei of...

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Chapter 7: The Modern Japanese Teacher: The San Francisco Method, 1872–1873

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pp. 112-129

The year 1872 marked the beginning of teacher training in modern Japan. Through an unusual set of circumstances, an obscure elementary school teacher from San Francisco made one of the most decisive contributions to Japanese education. Marion McDonnel Scott was given the responsibility by the Ministry of Education in 1872 to set the curriculum, determine the textbooks, and develop the teaching...

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Chapter 8: Implementing the First National Plan for Education: The American Model, Phase I, 1873–1875

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pp. 130-159

With the proclamation of the Gakusei, the First National Plan for Education, on August 3, 1872, the Ministry of Education faced an enormous challenge.1 It was charged with implementing a truly ambitious plan at the opening of the following school year in April 1873. The responsibility for enforcing the primary provision, which called for an elementary school in every community to accommodate every...

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Chapter 9: Rural Resistance to Modern Education: The Japanese Peasant, 1873–1876

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pp. 160-171

When the First National Plan for Education, designed to serve every Japanese child of elementary school age, became offi cial in 1873, 80 percent of the population consisted of peasant farmers. Many lived in isolated rural communities in mountainous areas where every member of the family was brought into the rice growing process at planting and harvesting time. Young children were not exempt.

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Chapter 10: The Imperial University of Engineering: The Scottish Model, 1873–1882

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pp. 172-181

The main focus in modern Japanese education during the early Meiji period was elementary education, and the Ministry of Education concentrated its resources primarily at that level from 1873. But meanwhile, major educational developments were taking place independently of the ministry. Among them, one of the most important was an institution that trained the first corps of Japanese engineers, who...

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Chapter 11: Pestalozzi to Japan: Switzerland to New York to Tokyo, 1875–1878

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pp. 182-197

Until 1875, three years after the First National Plan for Education was launched, the primary method for introducing modern ideas from the West depended upon foreign specialists classified as oyatoi gaikokujin, hired foreigners, as a necessary stopgap measure to be revised as soon as feasible. The government made a critical decision in 1875 that set a new policy in motion. In contrast to hiring foreigners to...

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Chapter 12: Scientific Agriculture and Puritan Christianity on the Japanese Frontier: The Massachusetts Model, 1876–1877

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pp. 198-218

In 1876, while Takamine Hideo and Isawa Shūji were in America studying the latest methods in teacher education, the Japanese government set in motion a project to introduce modern agricultural education from America. Dr. William Clark, president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in Amherst, was employed to open a college of agriculture in the northern island of Hokkaido. He was destined...

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Chapter 13: The Philadelphia Centennial: The American Model Revisited, 1876

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pp. 219-229

In 1876 Tanaka Fujimaro, director of the Ministry of Education, made his second trip to the United States to attend the Philadelphia Centennial celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of American independence. David Murray, his senior advisor from America, was also sent by the Japanese government to attend the event. During his first trip in 1871–1872, Tanaka had traveled to America as a junior...

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Chapter 14: The Second National Plan for Education: The American Model, Phase II, 1877–1879

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pp. 230-253

When Tanaka Fujimaro, director of the Ministry of Education, and David Murray, his senior American advisor, returned to Japan in January 1877 from the Philadelphia Exposition, they intensified their efforts to modernize Japanese education. After spending six months in the United States visiting schools, intermittently attending the international educational conference held in conjunction with the...

Part III: The Second Decade of Modern Education, 1880s: Reaction against the Western Model

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Chapter 15: “The Imperial Will on Education”: Morals versus Science Education, 1879–1880

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pp. 257-283

In the spring of 1879, Tanaka Fujimaro’s grand design to modernize Japanese education on the American model hung in the balance. In spite of widespread opposition from the Imperial Household, conservative government leaders, and senior Ministry of Education officials, it was carefully structured to respond to the political, economic, and social complexities of the nation about to enter the second...

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Chapter 16: The Third National Plan for Education: The Reverse Course, 1880–1885

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pp. 284-313

When Tanaka Fujmaro, head of the Ministry of Education since 1873, was unceremoniously transferred to the Ministry of Justice in early 1880, the way was cleared for the second decade of educational modernization in the Meiji era. It was launched with a rapid succession of conservative educational reforms. They demonstrated that Motoda Nagazane had triumphed over Itō Hirobumi, and that his...

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Chapter 17: Education for the State: The German Model, 1886–1889

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pp. 314-347

During the last half of the 1880s, the system of Japanese education in place since 1873 underwent another period of major reforms. It began with a meeting that took place in Paris in September 1882 between the future minister of education, Mori Arinori, and the future prime minister, Itō Hirobumi. A new interpretation of the purpose for modern Japanese education emerged from that historic meeting: the...

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Chapter 18: The Imperial Rescript on Education: Western Science and Eastern Morality for the Twentieth Century, 1890

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pp. 348-369

Know ye, Our subjects: Our Imperial Ancestors have founded Our Empire on a basis broad and everlasting, and had deeply and firmly implanted virtue. Our subjects ever united in loyalty and filial piety from generation to generation illustrated the beauty thereof. This is the glory of the fundamental character of Our Empire, and herein lies the source of Our education.


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pp. 371-406


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pp. 407-416

About the Author

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pp. 417

E-ISBN-13: 9780813546483
E-ISBN-10: 0813546486
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813544038
Print-ISBN-10: 0813544033

Page Count: 434
Illustrations: 28 photographs, 1 table
Publication Year: 2009