Esprit de Kwansei Gakuin

Yoshioka Memorial Hall        July 10, 2017

"Esprit de Kwansei Gakuin"

A Student from Matsuyama

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When a baseball team was formed at Kwansei Gakuin, Principal S. H. Wainright of the Academic Department provided the equipment and volunteered as a hitter during fielding practice. He attended the games not only to root for the team but also to keep an eye on the players. The students started fights easily and often argued with the umpire.

In September 1897, Kanzo Hata transferred from Ehime Middle School in Matsuyama to Kwansei Gakuin. Before Hata left Matsuyama, Kinnosuke Natsume had begun to teach in the Middle School, but later he became a highly regarded novelist under the nom de plume Soseki Natsume. Natsume wrote Botchan in 1906, based on his personal experiences as a new teacher in Matsuyama, and the book is still widely read in Japan. Hata said that he was familiar with most of the episodes it described.

Before coming to Kwansei Gakuin, Hata had already played baseball, and once in Kobe, he gained some recognition as the first pitcher to throw a curveball. It happened in 1898 in a game against Kenko Gijiku Anglican School (the present-day St. Michael’s International School). Kiichi Kanzaki, one of his teammates and the fifth president of Kwansei Gakuin from 1940 to 1950, described the play: “The Kenko team could not hit Hata’s ball. They thought the speed of his pitched ball was too slow and tried to make a slow swing. A player watching the game behind home plate finally realized that Hata had thrown a curveball and got upset.”

Regarding school work, Hata had enjoyed studying mathematics in Matsuyama. The Ehime Middle School had a very good math teacher, who went by the nickname “Porcupine” in Botchan. At Kwansei Gakuin, the teaching style was completely different, however, and Hata lost interest in the subject. Instead, he became attracted to more philosophical inquiries and began to think deeply about the reason he had come into the world.

Eventually, Hata became an English teacher at Kwansei Gakuin and also ran the tennis club. The club lost matches against Kobe Commercial College twice in succession despite good technical skill, so Hata came up with a club motto, “Noble Stubbornness,” to strengthen the spirit of the players. The words come from the poem “To my Honoured Kinsman,” by the seventeenth-century English poet John Dryden: “Patriots in peace assert the people’s right / With noble stubbornness resisting might.” The phrase has since become the motto for the Kwansei Gakuin University Athletic Association.

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(July 2017)


[Special thanks to Camilla Blakeley for editorial assistance in English.]

A Birthday Resignation

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May 26, 2017, is the 140th birthday of C. J. L. Bates, the fourth president of Kwansei Gakuin. He was born at a small village named L’Orignal in Ontario, Canada.

On his last birthday at Kwansei Gakuin, in 1940, at the age of sixty-three, Bates wrote the letter of resignation he would tender the following day. The day before his birthday, he had written in his diary, “O God grant us guidance that we may be able to come through this delicate situation without injury to the spiritual life of the school. Show me what to do day by day and moment by moment that I may not fail to act aright at the proper time.” The genesis of his decision to resign from the presidency can be found in his graduation address of the previous year, in March 1939. His words stirred some controversy, making it evident that Japanese members of the Board believed the school should have a Japanese president. Bates’s distress was apparent for months in his diary.

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The Board received his letter of resignation and a meeting of the K. G. Executive was held in camera on June 17. After some discussion, it was decided that under the national and international circumstances of the time, it would be wise to accept the resignation. Upon hearing the news from W. K. Matthews, an American missionary, Bates wrote, “It has been a great privilege. I have served in this position for twenty years and the time has come to give it up. I had hoped to continue until 1942 but now is the time. We can blame it on Hitler if we need a [scape]goat.”

Bates left Japan from the port of Kobe on December 30. A car arrived at the missionary house to convey the former president and Mrs. Bates to the port. Before making a journey, however, the Bateses drove through the campus from the main entrance and around the central lawn in order to see every inch of Kwansei Gakuin one last time. As the car moved slowly past each building, faculty, staff, and students came out in front to say good-by or make a last bow.

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(April 2017)


[Special thanks to Camilla Blakeley for editorial assistance in English.]

Lorne Crescent and the Crescent Cottage

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C. J. L. Bates, later the fourth president of Kwansei Gakuin, studied at McGill University in Montreal from 1894 to 1897. In those days, the city was the commercial capital of Canada, and ships from all over the world docked at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to discharge their cargoes there.

Kwansei Gakuin Archives holds several books that Bates used as a student. In one entitled Ancient History for Colleges and High Schools: Part I, The Eastern Nations and Greece, his name and address are inscribed: “C. J. L. Bates / Sept. 22, 1894 / 1st year Arts / 21 Lorne Crescent / Montreal.” The little street is situated immediately north of the university campus. That Bates lived on a crescent, rather than more typical “rue,” or road, feels serendipitous, as a crescent moon is the symbol of Kwansei Gakuin. The address therefore seems like the first sign of Bates’s later strong ties with the school.

Charles de Mestral, a grandson of Bates, now lives in Montreal. He turned to Sylvie Grondin, archivist at the National Library and Archives of Quebec, to discover more about the history of Lorne Crescent. Between 1890 and 1909, the highest number on the crescent was 21, so Bates lived at the extreme end of the small street. In 1894, the property was owned by William Edward Doran. Charles took several photographs of the house at the corner of Aylmer Street and Lorne Crescent, concluding, “It is reasonable to suppose that the side door, on Lorne Crescent, corresponds to the address 21 Lorne Crescent of those days. The side door in the photo is now obviously new. In those days, the round top of the doorway may have contained a decorative stained-glass window, now unfortunately no longer there.”

After serving as school president for twenty years, Bates resigned from Kwansei Gakuin in 1940 and returned to Canada. He bought a small house in Toronto and called it Crescent Cottage, clearly as a reminder of Kwansei Gakuin. A cherry tree, one of the trees given to Canada by the Japanese government, was planted in the garden.

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(February 2017)


[Special thanks to Camilla Blakeley for editorial assistance in English.]

The Age of Pioneers, Commercial College

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At Kwansei Gakuin, the College Department, Literary and Commercial, was established in 1912. Soon, the students of the Commercial College organized the Commercial Club in order to practice what they learned in class and to deepen their friendships. The first meeting was held on February 23, 1913, and Kichitaro Muramatsu, the first chair of the Kobe YMCA, gave a lecture. From then on, lectures were offered occasionally at the club.

In November 1915, Asako Hirooka (1849-1919), who was instrumental in the foundation of Daido Life Insurance Company and the Japan Women’s University, was invited to speak. (The NHK’s serial television drama based on her life – Asa ga Kita, meaning Asako, the morning has come – aired from September 2015 to April 2016 and garnered a high audience rating.)

No written record of Asako Hirooka’s lecture survives, but in the Kwansei Gakuin Archives is a good photograph showing her in the front row, with Hatsune Yoshioka, the wife of President Yoshikuni Yoshioka, on her right, and Hattie Bates, the wife of Dean C. J. L. Bates, on her left. As Kwansei Gakuin was a boys’ school at that time, a photograph showing a woman is a rare find – let alone one of three women.

The pioneering activities of the Commercial Club did not stop at the lecture series. During the summer holidays in 1913, students visited teachers’ houses to collect funds for the Consumer’s Cooperative Association. And the students were themselves entrepreneurial. Wearing Western clothes, they worked as salesclerks, selling ink and pen, so successfully that they soon had to hire an employee. In those days there were no shops around the campus, only farms. The school’s farming neighbors were famous for their Kumochi white radishes, and on both sides of Kami-Tsutsui Street, later the site of a shopping quarter, were sorghum and eggplant fields.

In February 1915, the Commercial Club published the periodical Shoko. The first issue opened with an address by Dean Bates entitled “Our College Motto, Mastery for Service.” These words, which he proposed for the College Department, became the motto for Kwansei Gakuin as a whole.

These outstanding activities were all initiated by the pioneers of the Commercial College. The first class started with 36 students. Four years later, 12 pioneers went out into the world.

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(October 2016)


[Special thanks to Camilla Blakeley for editorial assistance in English.]

“U Boj, U Boj” by Kwansei Gakuin Glee Club

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The Kwansei Gakuin Glee Club has the oldest history in Japan, and no recital ends without singing “U Boj, U Boj.” When this special song was brought to the school by the Czechoslovak army in September 1919, the campus was at Harada-no-mori, present-day Nada-ku, Kobe. After fighting in one place after another in Siberia, the army came to Kobe to make repairs to one of its ships. The Glee Club members formed a friendly relationship with the army’s choral group and obtained four music scores, including “U Boj, U Boi.” Since then, this song has been sung only by Kwansei Gakuin in Japan. The Glee Club understood that the song title meant “to fight in battle” in spite of having no information about the lyrics, or even the language in which they were written.

In September 1965, the KG Glee Club was invited to the first International University Choral Festival in New York. At a reception luncheon at the Hilton Hotel, a group of students from Latin America started singing. Following suit, KG members began to sing “U Boj, U Boj.” Then, something astonishing occurred. Some students from Skopje University, in Macedonia, then part of Yugoslavia, stood and joined the singing. It was a dramatic moment for the KG Glee Club to find out that “U Boj, U Boj,” which the Japan had thought of as a Czech song for almost fifty years, was actually from a well-known opera in Yugoslavia. There is an expression regarding Yugoslavia’s diversity: seven borders, six republics, five ethnicities, four languages, three religions, two alphabets, and one federation. It turned out that “U Boj, U Boj” was from Croatia, also part of Yugoslavia.

At the Kwansei Gakuin Glee Club Festival in September 2008, Dr. Dorago Štambuk, the Croatian ambassador to Japan, stood on stage with students and alumni of the Glee Club to sing “U Boj, U Boj” with them. In October 2012, Ms Mira Martinec, Dr. Štambuk’s successor, was invited to a recital in Tokyo by Shingetsu-kai, the Glee Club OB chorus group. She was so moved by their rendition of “U Boj, U Boj” that she gave them a standing ovation. I have privately asked each ambassador how well these groups pronounced the Croatian lyrics. Both answered me with a big smile. “Perfect!”

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(July 2016)


[Special thanks to Camilla Blakeley for editorial assistance in English.]

The Commercial School in Osaka and W. R. Lambuth

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The New Orleans Christian Advocate was published for the Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Mississippi Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The periodical teaches us about the early activities of the Japan mission of the church, because the Lambuth family often wrote to the editor. J. W. Lambuth belonged to the Mississippi Conference and was the father of W. R. Lambuth, who founded Kwansei Gakuin in 1889.

In 1887, W. R. Lambuth was living at Foreign Settlement No. 47, in Kobe. He taught for four hours a day in Osaka and had a further two hours of work at home in the evening. It took him two hours each day to make the round trip. He wrote an interesting article entitled “Seven Doors” for issue no. 1622 of the Christian Advocate, which appeared on September 1st that year. In it he outlined seven urgent requests he had received from Japanese people. The sixth came from Osaka: “I have been requested to furnish a teacher for three schools in Osaka, twenty miles from Kobe, to teach elementary English two hours each day. Salary, ninety yen a month. A Japanese residence provided, and also a house for chapel.” One of the three schools was a commercial school, as Lambuth notes: “The trustees of this school (the commercial school) are said to be some of the most enterprising men in Japan. Chinese (the Mandarin dialect) is taught daily, in view of prospective commercial relations with China.”

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In April 2015, Yutaka Taira visited Kwansei Gakuin Archives hoping to see a book on his school’s history. He was from Daisho Gakuen High School, which is located in Toyonaka, Osaka, and still has a commercial course. Our visitor remarked to me that when the school was founded in 1887, an advertisement had been placed in the Asashi Shimbun newspaper on August 30th and 31st. In it was the name Lambuth, listed among teachers applying for positions. Taira wondered whether this Lambuth, an American medical doctor, was in fact the founder of Kwansei Gakuin. The same advertisement also contained the name of a Chinese-language teacher. Taira’s question reminded me of the teaching opening mentioned in the article by W. R. Lambuth, 129 years before, as our founder was himself a medical missionary.

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(April 2016)


[Special thanks to Camilla Blakeley for editorial assistance in English.]