In this Japanese name, the family name is Fukuzawa.

Fukuzawa Yukichi (福澤 諭吉?, January 10, 1835 – February 3, 1901) was a Japanese author, writer, teacher, translator, entrepreneur and political theorist who founded Keio University. His ideas about government and social institutions made a lasting impression on a rapidly changing Japan during the Meiji Era. He is regarded as one of the founders of modern Japan.

Early life


Monument of NAKATSU-Han warehouse and FUKUZAWA YUKICHI birthplace, at Hotarumachi, Fukushimaku, Osaka City, Japan.

Fukuzawa Yukichi was born into an impoverished low-ranking samurai family of the Okudaira Clan of Nakatsu in 1835. His family was poor following the early death of his father. At the age of 14, Fukuzawa entered a school of Dutch studies (rangaku). In 1853, shortly after Commodore Matthew C. Perry's arrival in Japan, Fukuzawa's brother (the family patriarch) asked Fukuzawa to travel to Nagasaki, where the Dutch colony at Dejima was located. He instructed Fukuzawa to learn Dutch so that he might study European cannon designs and gunnery.

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Sailors of the Kanrin Maru, members of the Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860). Fukuzawa Yukichi sits on the right.

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Fukuzawa Yukichi with Theodora Alice in San Francisco, 1860.

Although Fukuzawa did travel to Nagasaki, his stay was brief as he quickly began to outshine his host in Nagasaki, Okudaira Iki. Okudaira planned to get rid of Fukuzawa by writing a letter saying that Fukuzawa's mother was ill. Seeing through the fake letter Fukuzawa planned to travel to Edo and continue his studies there because he knew he would not be able to in his home domain, Nakatsu, but upon his return to Osaka, his brother persuaded him to stay and enroll at the Tekijuku school run by physician and rangaku scholar Ogata Kōan. Fukuzawa studied at Tekijuku for three years and became fully proficient in the Dutch language. 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 rather than Dutch. He then began to study English, but at that time, English-Japanese interpreters were rare and dictionaries nonexistent, so his studies were slow.

In 1869, the Shogunate sent the first diplomatic mission to the United States. Fukuzawa volunteered his services to Admiral Kimura Yoshitake. Kimura's ship, the Kanrin Maru, arrived in San Francisco, California in 1860. The delegation stayed in the city for a month, during which time Fukuzawa had himself photographed with an American girl, and also found a Webster's Dictionary, from which he began serious study of the English language.

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Fukuzawa Yukichi was a member of the Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860). (Washington shipyard).

Upon his return in 1860, Fukuzawa became an official translator for the Tokugawa bakufu. Shortly thereafter he brought out his first publication, an English-Japanese dictionary which he called "Kaei Tsūgo" (translated from a Chinese-English dictionary) which was a beginning for his series of later books. In 1862, he visited Europe as one of the two English translators in bakufu's 40-man embassy, the First Japanese Embassy to Europe. During its year in Europe, the Embassy conducted negotiations with France, England, Holland, Prussia, and finally Russia. In Russia, the embassy unsuccessfully negotiated for the southern end of Sakhalin (in Japanese Karafuto).

The information collected during these travels resulted in his famous work Seiyō Jijō (西洋事情, "Things western"), which he published in ten volumes in 1867, 1868 and 1870. The books describe western culture and institutions in simple, easy to understand terms, and they became immediate best-sellers. Fukuzawa was soon regarded as the foremost expert on all things western, leading him to conclude that his mission in life was to educate his countrymen in new ways of thinking in order to enable Japan to resist European imperialism.

In 1868 he changed the name of the school he had established to teach Dutch to Keio Gijuku, and from then on devoted all his time to education. While Keiō's initial identity was that of a private school of Western studies (Keio-gijuku), it expanded and established its first university faculty in 1890. Under the name Keio University, it became a leader in Japanese higher education.


Fukuzawa's writings may have been the foremost of the Meiji period. Between 1872 and 1876, he published 17 volumes of Gakumon no Susume ("An Encouragement of Learning" or more idiomatically "On Studying"). In these texts, Fukuzawa outlines the importance of understanding the principle of equality of opportunity and that study was the key to greatness. He was an avid supporter of education and believed in a firm mental foundation through education and studiousness. His famous textbook Sekai Kunizukushi ("All the countries of the world, for children written in verse") became a best seller and used as an official school textbook.

In the volumes of Gakumon no Susume, influenced by Elements of Moral Science (1835, 1856 ed.) by Brown University President Francis Wayland, Fukuzawa advocated his most lasting principle, "national independence through personal independence." Through personal independence, an individual does not have to depend on the strength of another. With such a self-determining social morality, Fukuzawa hoped to instill a sense of personal strength among the people of Japan, and through that personal strength, build a nation to rival all others. His understanding was that western society had become powerful relative to other countries at the time because western countries fostered education, individualism (independence), competition and exchange of ideas.

Fukuzawa also published many influential essays and critical works. A particularly prominent example is Bunmeiron no Gairyaku ("An Outline of a Theory of Civilization") published in 1875, in which he details his own theory of civilization. It was influenced by Histoire de la civilisation en Europe (1828; Eng. trans in 1846) by François Guizot. According to Fukuzawa, civilization is relative to time and circumstance, as well in comparison. For example, at the time China was relatively civilized in comparison to some African colonies, and European nations were the most civilized of all. Colleagues in the Meirokusha intellectual society shared many of Fukuzawa's views, which he published in his contributions to Meiroku Zasshi (Meiji Six Magazine), a scholarly journal he helped publish. In his books and journals, he often wrote about the word "civilization" and what it meant. He advocated a move toward "civilization", by which he meant material and spiritual well-being, which elevated human life to a "higher plane". Because material and spiritual well-being corresponded to knowledge and "virtue," to "move toward civilization" was to advance and pursue knowledge and virtue themselves. He contended that people could find the answer to their life or their present situation from "civilization", and furthermore that the difference between the weak and the powerful and large and small was just a matter of difference between their knowledge and education. He also argued that Japan shouldn't import guns and materials. Instead it should support the acquisition of knowledge, which would eventually take care of the material necessities. He also talked of the Japanese concept of being practical or pragmatic (実学, jitsugaku), and the building of things that are basic and useful to other people. In short, to Fukuzawa, "civilization" essentially meant the furthering of knowledge and education.


Fukuzawa was later criticized as a supporter of Japanese imperialism because of his essay "Datsu-A Ron" ("Good-bye Asia") published in 1885, as well as for his support of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895). Yet, "Datsu-A Ron" was actually a response to a failed attempt by Koreans to organize an effective reform faction, an attempt he had supported.[citation needed] The essay was published as a withdrawal of his support. Nevertheless the assistance provided to radical Koreans during this era was never intended to lead to complete independence for the peninsula, but on the contrary sought to bring Korea under ever greater Japanese influence. This was amply demonstrated by the power-plays undertaken in Korea by both Koreans supported by Fukuzawa and the Imperial Japanese Army during the First Sino-Japanese War.

According to Fukuzawa Yukichi no Shinjitsu ("The Truth of Fukuzawa Yukichi", 2004, ISBN 4-16-660394-9) by Yō Hirayama, this view is a misunderstanding due to the influence of Mikiaki Ishikawa, who was the author of a biography of Fukuzawa (1932) and the editor of his Complete Works (1925–1926 and 1933–1934). According to Hirayama, Ishikawa inserted anonymous editorials into the Complete Works, and inserted historically inaccurate material into his biography. In fact, says Hirayama, Fukuzawa did criticize the Chinese and Korean governments but he did not discriminate against the Chinese and Korean people. Discriminatory statements attributed to Fukuzawa, he says, were actually due to Ishikawa.

The material in Fukuzawa Yukichi Complete Works (1958-1964) volumes 1 to 7 must be distinguished from that in volumes 8 to 16. Volumes 1 to 7 contain signed works, but the Jiji Shinpō editorials in volumes 8 to 16 are almost all unsigned works chosen by Ishikawa. Six of the editorials in volume 16 were written six months after Fukuzawa's death, and of course cannot have been written by Fukuzawa.



Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris, 1862.

Fukuzawa's most important contribution to the reformation effort, though, came in the form of a newspaper called Jiji Shinpo (時事新報, "Current Events"), which he started in 1882, after being prompted by Inoue Kaoru, Okuma Shigenobu, and Ito Hirobumi to establish a strong influence among the people through publishing. All agreed the government should take the form of a national assembly, and as reforms began, Fukuzawa, whose fame was already unquestionable, began production of Jiji Shinpo, which received wide circulation, encouraging the people to enlighten themselves and to adopt a moderate political attitude towards the change that was being engineered within the social and political structures of Japan. He translated many books and journals into Japanese on a wide variety of subjects, including chemistry, the arts, military and society, and published many books (in multiple volumes) and journals himself describing western society, his own philosophy and change, etc.

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Fukuzawa appears on the 10,000 yen banknote engraved by Oshikiri Katsuzō.

Fukuzawa's ideas about individual strength and his knowledge of western political theory, as presented in his writings, were instrumental in motivating the Japanese people to embrace change. He may well have been one of the most influential personalities in the modernization of Japan and one of the most progressive thinkers in Japan. He is regarded as one of the leaders of the Meiji Restoration. Fukuzawa never accepted a government position, and remained a private citizen all of his life. By the time of his death, he was revered as one of the founders of modern Japan. All of his work was written and was released at a critical juncture in the Japanese society and uncertainty for the Japanese people about their future after the signing of the Unequal treaties, their realization in the weakness of the Japanese government at the time (Tokugawa Shogunate) and its inability to repel the American and European influence. It should also be noted that there were bands of samurai that forcefully opposed the Americans and Europeans and their friends through murder and destruction. Fukuzawa was in danger of his life as a samurai group killed one of his colleagues for advocating policies like those of Fukuzawa. Fukuzawa wrote at a time when the Japanese people were undecided on whether they should be bitter about the American and European forced treaties and imperialism, or to understand the West and move forward. Fukuzawa greatly aided the ultimate success of the pro-modernization forces.

Fukuzawa appears on the current 10,000-yen banknote and has been compared to Benjamin Franklin in the United States, interestingly since Franklin appears on the similarly-valued $100 bill. Although all other figures appearing on Japanese banknotes changed when the recent redesign was released, Fukuzawa remained on the 10,000-yen note.

As a marketing gimmick, Fukuzawa's portrait from the 10,000-yen note is currently being used on the packaging of a weight-loss product marketed primarily to Spanish-speaking customers as "Te Chino del Dr. Ming" (Chinese Tea of Dr. Ming).[citation needed]

Yukichi Fukuzawa's former residence in the city of Nakatsu in Ōita Prefecture is a Nationally Designated Cultural Asset. The house and the Yukichi Fukuzawa Memorial Hall are the major tourist attractions of this city.


Further reading

  • Japan: A Documentary History
  • Pride and Independence: Fukuzawa Yukichi and the Spirit of the Meiji Restoration
  • Fukuzawa biography at UNESCO (PDF)
  • The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa. NY: Columbia University Press, 1966. Revised translation by Eiichi Kiyooka, with a foreword by Carmen Blacker.
  • The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa. (Paperback) Columbia University Press, 2007. Revised translation by Eiichi Kiyooka, with a foreword by Albert M. Craig. ISBN 0-231-13987-X
  • Albert M. Craig, Civilization and Enlightenment: The Early Thought of Fukuzawa Yukichi, (Hardcover) Harvard University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-674-03108-1
  • Tamaki, Norio. Yukichi Fukuzawa, 1835-1901: The Spirit of Enterprise in Modern Japan. (Paperback) Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. ISBN 0-333-80121-0

See also

External links

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