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JAPAN THROUGH WESTERN EYES:
Manuscript Records of Traders, Travellers, Missionaries and Diplomats, 1853-1941

Part 2: Journals and Student Essays
Part 3: Correspondence and Scrapbooks
Part 4: Collected Papers of Brown, Perry and others
Part 5:
Writings by Griffis

Publisher's Note


"Griffis stands as an intellectual landmark in the history of the early scholarship on Japan, not only by his writing and speaking, but by his collecting as well. Scholars of early Japanese - U S interaction visit the Griffis Collection regularly to consult and cull information on missionaries such as Brown, Hepburn, and Verbeck, the yatoi, and on Japanese in the United States. It is a rich trove of information on much of Meiji and Taisho Japan, and shows Griffis to be one of America's leading and first 'Old Japan Hands'."
David Heinlein in 'The New Brunswick-Japan Connection: A History'
(taken from The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries, Vol LII, No 2, December 1990)

The William Elliot Griffis Collection at the Alexander Library, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is an outstanding source for the study of Japan - US relations, Western perspectives on Japan and Japan's views of the West.

As well as documenting Griffis's own lifelong involvement with Japan as an author, educator and a yatoi, it gains added importance as a result of the material collected by Griffis documenting contacts with Japan from 1853 through to 1928.

After Commodore Perry's visits to Japan in 1853 and 1854 which ended the policy of seclusion, interaction between Japan and America grew steadily. In 1868 the Emperor Meiji in the Charter Oath declaration called on the Japanese to seek knowledge from around the world. Many young scholars went abroad and New Brunswick was probably second only to London in attracting Japanese students.

Both as a student at Rutgers College (graduating in 1869) and as a teacher at the local Grammar School, William Elliot Griffis (1843-1928) met and was profoundly influenced by the large influx of Japanese students in New Brunswick between 1866 and 1870. As a result of these contacts and through the intermediary of Guido Verbeck-a pioneer missionary in Japan - Griffis signed a contract in 1870 to teach science in Fukui.

Griffis was one of the first oyatoi gaikokujin, or foreign employees of the Japanese government. After nearly a year in Fukui working at the behest of Matsudaira Shungaku, the forward-looking leader of the domain of Echizen, Griffis was called to Tokyo to help establish the first official schools along Western lines. From 1872 to 1874 he taught at the Kaisei Gekko, the forerunner of the present Tokyo University and travelled widely as a freelance worker, meeting missionaries, educators and other yatoi as well as with the élite of the Meiji government. Griffis maintained a series of detailed journals recording his experiences and also retained his correspondence and papers relating to his teaching in Japan. He also became an assiduous collector of materials relating to US-Japanese relations, including original manuscript materials relevant to Millard Fillimore, Matthew Perry, Guido Verbeck, James Ballagh, J C Hepburn and Samuel Robbins Brown. These sources all form part of the Griffis Collection.

In 1872 he was joined by his sister, Margaret Clark Griffis, who obtained a position teaching in a newly formed school for girls (the Tokyo Government Girl's school, later to become the Peeresses' School). Her papers are also included in the Griffis Collection.

After returning to the United States in 1874, Griffis embarked on a career writing and lecturing on Japan and related subjects. His 1876 volume The Mikado's Empire was for decades the authoritative reference in the West on Japanese culture and history and Griffis was regarded as America's foremost interpreter of Japanese culture. He also published important works on Korea, such as Korea: the Hermit Nation in 1882. In 1926 he returned to Japan to receive the Order of the Rising Sun. He died in 1928.

The William Elliot Griffis Collection forms Parts 2-5 of our ongoing series, Japan Through Western Eyes. It fully reflects his life and interests and provides valuable insights into the political, commercial and cultural history of Japan.

Part 2 covers both Griffis's own journals, 1859-1928, and a series of essays written by Griffis's students at Kaisei Gekko. There are 31 journals in total. The first seven cover his involvement in the Civil War and his own educational experiences. Volume 8 records his journey to Japan via Omaha and San Francisco and also includes important records of the classes that he taught in Japan, those attending, their comments and contributions. There are also notes on Japanese subjects such as historic sites, legends and religion. Volumes 9-12 also cover his experiences in Japan and are a hybrid between diaries (recording his travels, meetings, classes and reading) and commonplace books (storing nuggets of information that he gleaned on subjects as diverse as the tea ceremony, necrology, sugar-milling and yatoi).

The Student Essays are one of the highlights of the collection. The 319 essays were written in English for Griffis by his students at the Kaisei Gekko in Tokyo and date from 1872 to 1874. They are organized by topic in 20 subseries and cover:

- Ainos Fans
- Art
- Autobiography (the students describe their own background and upbringing)
- Burial Customs
- Children's Play
- Cultural Miscellany (from Japanese Paper and Castle Gates to the Differences between the minds of Woman and Man)
- Dreams
- Fairy Tales and Other Stories
- Foreigners - first impressions of
- Geography
- Historical Styles
- Household Superstitions
- Journal Entries
- Kakke (beri-beri)
- Marriage
- Money
- Shop Signs, Street Shows and Characters
- Sin
- Theatre

These original manuscript essays provide a valuable quarry for information on Japanese life and culture, written in English but from a Japanese perspective. The essays on "Foreigners" show how cultural stereotypes existed on all sides and were a major stumbling block in developing close relations.

Part 3 covers the extensive correspondence files and Griffis's scrapbooks. The correspondence is especially rich and lays bare the entire network of contacts that Griffis built up in Japan, Korea and China and his full range of interests. Consisting primarily of letters to Griffis, it features letters by: Amenomori Nobushige, Ando Taro, James Ballagh, Edward Warren Clark, Deguchi Yonekichi, Harada Tasuku, Hayashi Uta, Imadate Tosui, Prince Ito, Prince Iwakura, Iyesato Tokugawa, Katsu Kaishu, Karl Kawakami, Viscount Kuroda Nagaatsu, Matsudaira Yatsutaka, J Low, Edward Morse, Nitobe Inazo, Fred Pearson, Matthew Perry, Baron Shibusawa, Shidehara Kijuro, Arthur Stanford, Takahashi Korekujo, Tanaka Akamaro, Charles Tyler, Uyeda Yoshitake, Guido Verbeck, Booker T Washington, Wing Yung, Wu Ning Nang, Martin Wyckoff, Yokoi Tokino and Yun Ye Cha. Primarily written in English, these letters show that Griffis maintained contact with many of his students. Many of them travelled to, or worked in, America, and many rose to eminent positions. These letters are a valuable record of their experiences.

The scrapbooks are among the most curious and fascinating sources in the Griffis Collection. Typical of nineteenth century practice, they are bound volumes into which have been pasted all types of materials, most especially newspaper and journal clippings, correspondence, photographs, ephemera and memorabilia. All 30 volumes dealing with Japan, China and Korea, Japanese-American relations, Griffis's writings, lectures and his family have been filmed in their entirety. Owing to the highly acidic paper of the original volumes, these scrapbooks have long been closed to researchers. Now they can be consulted via this microform edition. Four volumes describe his college life at Rutgers and his contact with its Japanese students. The Fukui Scrapbook starts with letters from Ferris, Pruyn, Reiley, Verbeck, Wyckoff and Daimyo Matsudaira welcoming him to Japan and outlining the life that awaited him. There are also records of his travels in Japan and his work as an educator. The Souvenir of Shidzuooka and the 1872-1874 scrapbook provide numerous photographs of the buildings in which he worked, the students who attended and the local scenery. The Tokio Scrapbook contains copies of articles by Griffis and others in publications such as the Japan Gazette, The Illustrated Christian Weekly, Christian Work and the New England Journal of Educators, as well as letters from Hepburn, Yoshida Kiyoneri and Mary Pruyn.

Later scrapbooks serve as quarries for and records of his books on The Mikado's Empire, Sullivan's Expedition, Japanese Fairy World, Korea, the Hermit Nation and other subjects. They include all manner of materials ranging from useful articles that he had clipped from the Japanese and American press, correspondence with publishers and readers, financial statements and reviews. There are also two scrapbooks devoted to M C Perry and including nearly 200 letters concerning Commodore Perry and the opening up of Japan to the West in 1853. Finally there are two family scrapbooks and two volumes containing articles and reviews by Griffis on Japan, China and other subjects.

Part 4 covers collections made by Griffis including:

- Guido Verbeck transcribed oral account of Verbeck's career
- John Mason Ferris recording early contacts between Ferris and the first ryugakusei
- Albert S Ashmead, holograph autobiographical account of the doctor and missionary and his experiences in Japan
- Biographical sketches of leading figures in Japan including Kido Koin, Yokoi Shonan, Bishop C M Williams, Hashimoto Sanai, and Ryokichi Yatabe and essays on Japanese history, literature, industry and business
- Colin Alexander McBean, manuscript autobiographical account by the engineer and surveyor
- Kawakami Isamu, typescript essay on Japan in the aftermath of the Washington Disarmament Conference
- James Balagh, a memoir recounting his early career in Japan
- Silas Bent, three scrapbooks, including lecture notes and correspondence
- Samuel Robbins Brown, a memoir of Brown's life in Japan, a translation of Visions and Opinions of Matzdaira Shinngaku, and Brown's travel journal recounting a visit to Niigata
- Richard Henry Brunton, original manuscripts of several of Brunton's works on Japan, including Pioneer Engineering in Japan
- T Harada, Two folders containing letters to Harada and photographs
- A Miyamori, Typescript of Representative Tales of Japan
- Amenomori, Nobushige, Original manuscript of War and the Japanese Women
- Nishimura Shinji, Five comedies of Ancient Japan (translation)

The Papers of Margaret Clark Griffis describing her experiences teaching girls in Japan (and including a group of Student Essays that she commissioned) are also contained in this part, together with many rare pamphlets and articles on Asia collected by Griffis.

We also take this opportunity to include six manuscript journals recording Commodore Perry's momentous expedition of 1853-1854 which opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate for trade with US ships and ended Japan's policy of isolation. These are taken from the general collections of Rutgers University Library and include the official flag journal (kept by Flag Lieutenant's John Contee and Silas Bent), Commodore Perry's Journal, two volumes of O H Perry's Journal, Records of Official Conversations with Japanese Officers, and a Narrative of a Journey of Exploration into the interior of the great Loo-Choo Island.

Part 5
covers writings by Griffis. It includes newspaper and magazine articles, pamphlets, records of lectures and books. These include his lives of Brown, Hepburn, Perry, Verbeck and others and his accounts of the history and culture of China, Japan and Korea. Social and Cultural Historians will find much of interest in his descriptions of common pastimes, myths and fairy tales. There is also much on indigenous religions, their confrontation with Christianity, and on the uses of gunboat diplomacy. Many of these are now extremely rare.

This guide is based on the Catalogue of the William Eliot Griffis Collection (MC1015) prepared by Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. We are indebted to Ruth Simmons and Wendell Piez for their work. The Scope and Content Note, Biographical Note and Chronology and Arrangement Note that follow are based directly on their catalogue. Our listing is also drawn from the Catalogue, but has been organised to reflect the contents of the microfilm collection which was arranged into sections as described above, rather than the physical organisation of the archive which includes additional material that was unsuitable for filming.

The William Elliot Griffis Collection will be a great asset to scholars exploring topics such as the contribution of the yatoi to the modernization of Japan; Japanese views of the West, 1850-1875; Japanese culture and society, 1850-1900; pioneer doctors, educators, engineers and missionaries in Japan, 1850-1875; Japanese in the United States; and Western views of Japan, Korea and China.

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