Japanese students to retrace influential forefathers

A group of 19 Japanese students arrived in Aberdeen today (Friday 24 July) to commemorate the arrival of the Satsuma Students from Kagoshima to the UK 150 years ago.

The Lord Provost of Aberdeen George Adam welcomed the young people who range from 13-21 years-of-age from Kagoshima to the Granite City at 2.30pm in the St Nicholas Room, at the Town House.

In 1863, Kagoshima was bombarded by the British Royal Navy in retaliation for what became known as the 'Namamugi Incident 'in which a British merchant, Charles Lennox Richardson, was killed by a Satsuma retainer while out riding near the village of Namamugi near Yokohama. A fleet of Royal Navy vessels arrived in Kagoshima and made it clear to the rulers of Satsuma that if the Japanese would like to take part on the world stage they would have to learn from technologically advanced Europe. As a result, Satsuma acted independently from the Shogunate and decided to send Satsuma students abroad.

The majority of the group of 19 Satsuma Students were students and teachers from Kaiseijo - Satsuma's brand new college of Western Studies (established in 1864) which was attended by the most brilliant young men of Satsuma's samurai elite.

The Satsuma Students set sail on the morning of 17 April 1865 on The Australian, a small steamship provided by Thomas Blake Glover, a Scottish merchant in Nagasaki, from Hashima for Hong Kong on the start of the journey to the United Kingdom. The journey was kept secret from the Japanese authorities as foreign travel was banned at that time. They arrived in Southampton on 21 June later that year and were bound for study at the University College London.

Nagasawa Kanae, who at 13 was the youngest student in the group, was too young to study with the others at university so he came to Aberdeen and lived with Thomas Blake Glover's family in the Bridge of Don area of the city. He studied at the Old Aberdeen Gymnasium, a private school for boys where Thomas Blake Glover and his brothers had attended in their day.

Nagasawa Kanae went on to become a pioneering settler in California developing wine production in the state and became known as the 'Grape King'.

Miss Anne Cruickshank bought the buildings and playing fields of the Old Aberdeen Gymnasium, in 1898 and presented them to the University to establish a botanic garden which is now the Cruickshank Botanic Garden.

The Satsuma Students lived in the UK, some for just a year, others for as long as ten. As a result of their studies, they became a part of the story of the creation of a new Japan and a significant part of Kagoshima's rich cultural history along with national heroes from Kagoshima. They include;

The 19 students are remembered on the Japan Monument in University College London. The inscription on the side of the monument reads:

Harubaru to kokoro tsudoite hana sakaru

'When distant minds come together, cherries blossom'

The Lord Provost said: "Thomas Blake Glover came from the North-east of Scotland and became one of the most influential and instrumental people in the development of Japan in that period in history.

"His legacy lives on and it is wonderful that these students feel such a connection to our city that they have travelled so far to be with us for this historic anniversary."

This evening the visitors from Kagoshima will enjoy a cultural exchange with Scottish and Japanese performers at a civic reception in the Town House.

Tomorrow (Saturday 25 July) the students will visit the Thomas Blake Glover exhibit at Aberdeen Maritime Museum followed by a visit to the Cruickshank Botanic Garden.

A major drive to showcase the North-east of Scotland's links with Thomas Blake Glover was launched last month (June). A booklet has been published explaining Glover's life story and how he became so instrumental in shaping Japan. A Glover Trail which highlights his extensive family connections across the North-east has been established Scotland and a permanent exhibition has opened at Aberdeen Maritime Museum showing the story of his life in Japan.

To view the booklet online click on:http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/web/files/LocalHistory/thomas_blake_glover_leaflet.pdf