It is said that heaven does not create one man above or below another man. Any existing distinction between the wise and the stupid, between the rich and the poor, comes down to a matter of education. - The Encouragement of Learning, 1872

Robbery and murder are the worst of human crimes; but in the West there are robbers and murderers. There are those who form cliques to vie for the reins of power and who, when deprived of that power, decry the injustice of it all. Even worse, international diplomacy is really based on the art of deception. Surveying the situation as a whole, all we can say is that there is a general prevalence of good over bad, but we can hardly call the situation perfect. When, several thousand years hence, the levels of knowledge and virtue of the peoples of the world will have made great progress (to the point of becoming utopian), the present condition of the nations of the West will surely seem a pitifully primitive stage. Seen in this light, civilization is an open-ended process. We cannot be satisfied with the present level of attainment of the West. - An Outline of Civilization Theory, 1874

Once the wind of Western civilization blows to the East, every blade of grass and every tree in the East follow what the Western wind brings... We do not have time to wait for the en­lightenment of our neighbors so that we can work together toward the development of Asia. It is better for us to leave the ranks of Asian na­tions and cast our lot with civilized nations of the West. - Escaping from Asia, 1885

Japanese scholar, born into a low-ranking samurai family in Osaka in 1835. His father died shortly after his own birth, so he and his brother and four sisters lived with his mother, working odd jobs to stay alive. Once his family had saved up enough money, he entered a school of Dutch studies at the age of 14, his first formal education. He excelled in his studies.

In 1853, shortly after Commodore Matthew Perry staged the opening of Japan, Fukuzawa's brother, who had taken his father's position, asked Fukuzawa to travel to Nagasaki, where the Dutch colony at Deshima was located, and learn Dutch in order to study European cannon designs. Fukuzawa accepted the offer and set out for Nagasaki, but upon arrival discovered that the Japanese scholars there really didn't know much more than he did.

Fukuzawa planned to travel to Edo and continue his studies there, but on a stopover in Osaka, his brother persuaded him to stay in Osaka and enroll at the Tekijuku school, run by physician and Dutch scholar Ogata Koan. Fukuzawa ended up staying at Tekijuku for three years, and became fully proficient in Dutch. In 1858, he was appointed official Dutch teacher of his family's domain, Nakatsu, and was sent to Edo to teach the family's vassals there.

The following year, Japan opened up three of its ports to American and European ships, and Fukuzawa, intrigued with Western civilization, traveled to Kanagawa to see them. When he arrived, he discovered that virtually all of the European merchants there were speaking English, not Dutch. He subsequently began to study English, but at that time, English-Japanese interpreters were rare and dictionaries nonexistent, so his studies were slow.

Then, the bakufu in Edo decided to send envoys of the shogun to the United States, and Fukuzawa enthusiastically volunteered his services to Admiral Kimura Yoshitake, the leader of the expedition. Kimura's ship arrived in San Francisco in 1860, and the delegation stayed in the city for a month, during which time Fukuzawa had himself photographed with an American girl (one of the most famous photographs in Japanese history), and also found a Webster's Dictionary, from which he began to seriously study the English language.

Fukuzawa became an official translator for the bakufu upon his return, got married, and continued his fascination with everything Western. In 1867, he returned to America, this time visiting Washington and New York as part of a team of negotiators. After that trip, he visited Europe, again as part of a negotiation team, and published the first volume of his famous work Seiyo Jijo, "The West."

Back in Japan, Fukuzawa founded his own school in 1867, which would evolve into what is now Keio University. At the time, the shogun was falling from power, and the Meiji Restoration was beginning to ferment. Many samurai were opposed to everything associated with the shogun, and everything associated with "the barbarians." While the revolution took place, Fukuzawa kept himself and his students well-hidden inside the walls of Keio. In 1868, after the shogun fell, the new governors asked Fukuzawa to join them: he declined, and never went to work for the Japanese government again.

Instead, he kept teaching at Keio, and between 1872 and 1876 completed his masterpiece, Gakumon no susume ("The Encouragement of Learning"). In it, he grouped education into two broad categories: simple reading and arithmetic in one, and the sciences in the other. He wrote that while the Japanese school system had so far done an excellent job of teaching the former, they had never even begun to teach the latter. He subsequently molded Keio University to teach what Japanese schools were unable to teach, and by 1890 had imported a sizable gaijin faculty. Gakumon no susume was also one of the first books written in the modern form of Japanese, with both kanji and kana: Fukuzawa wanted to bring education to the masses, and part of that idea was bringing language and the written word to the masses.

His other major work, Bunmeiron no gairyaku in 1874, was a more philosophical piece intended for Japanese intellectuals. The book, which literally translates to "Outline of Civilization Theory," was in many ways an attempt to contrast the teachings of Socrates and Confucius in their definitions of virtue and knowledge, and in a greater sense, an attempt to determine how to "civilize" Japan and turn it into a Western power. Fukuzawa argued that Confucianism, which dominated Japanese education at the time, had kept the Japanese from developing the same "public wisdom" as Europeans had. He believed that modernization alone would not build Japan into a great power: they would have to change the way they thought, as well.

By 1876, Keio was in trouble. The old feudal system was being abolished, and Fukuzawa's students, most of whom were samurai themselves, lost their stipends and were forced to drop out. In 1878, the school's enrollment was down to 200 students, and an exasperated Fukuzawa was forced to ask his faculty to take a 70% pay cut until the economy improved. Four years later, in 1881, the school was again filled, this time with 500 commoners; Keio University's graduates were now among the elites promulgating the country's first constitution.

With the first Diet, Fukuzawa announced that he would start a newspaper called Jiji Shimpo, and he printed the first issue in March of 1882. Jiji Shimpo was his literary outlet until his death in 1901, and he filled its pages with all forms of news and social commentary. His most unpopular articles from this period were his tracts on Asia, and specifically China and Korea, exemplified by the third quote above. Fukuzawa believed that Asians in China and Korea would have to modernize themselves exactly as Japan had, and that Japan would only stand to lose by allying with them. Many saw this as racism on Fukuzawa's part, and a chilling foreshadowing of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Fukuzawa's contributions to Japanese society were so great that he now appears on the 10,000 yen note. He died in 1901.

Primary source: http://www.ibe.unesco.org/International/Publications/Thinkers/ThinkersPdf/fukuzawe.pdf

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