Esprit de Kwansei Gakuin

Yoshioka Memorial Hall        October 29, 2018

"Esprit de Kwansei Gakuin"

An Audience with the Emperor Showa

In the autumn of 1959, C. J. L. Bates, a former president of Kwansei Gakuin, visited Japan with his second son to attend the school’s 70th anniversary ceremony. It was his first time in the country in nineteen years. After the festivities were over, he went to Tokyo to take part in a centennial celebration making the beginning of Protestant Christian missions in Japan. While there he was given a private audience with the Emperor.

Showa Tenno Jitsuroku (The Authentic Record of Emperor Showa) records the November 4 meeting: The Emperor granted an audience to Cornelius John Lighthall Bates, the honorary president of Kwansei Gakuin, in the reception room. Mr. Bates was born in Canada, and devoted himself to private schools in Japan from when he first arrived in 1911 [correctly 1902]. He has also taken good care of Japanese people living in Canada. This time, he visited Japan to attend the 70th anniversary of the founding of Kwansei Gakuin.

Bates visited the Imperial Palace with W. F. Bull, the Canadian ambassador to Japan, who had met Bates at Haneda Airport upon his arrival. Bull and Bates had been asked to come to the palace in ordinary business suits, but it was a big surprise to Bates find the Emperor similarly attired. Bates noted, “The Emperor was most kind. He shook hands with Mr. Bull, then with me and motioned to us to be seated. Then he said to me, ‘I have been told that you spent many years in education work with my young people. I wish to thank you for your service.’ His majesty is one of the most sincere, unostentatious persons I have ever met. No pretence, no airs whatever.”

Bates had served as the president of Kwansei Gakuin for 20 years before the Pacific War. He attended the funeral of the Emperor Taisho in 1927 and received portraits of the Emperor and Empress in 1937. Bates noted in his diary that the Emperor was the center of life of Japan and that loyalty to him was the country’s greatest unifying force. He seemed to draw a parallel between the feelings of the Japanese people for the Emperor and that of Christians who put God at the center of life.

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(October 2018)


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

Kwansei Gakuin Finds Fame in a Novel

The novel Omoide no ki (Footprints in the Snow), by Roka (Kenjiro) Tokutomi, was published in 1901 and has taught many readers about Kwansei Gakuin. Kazuo Kitoku, who entered Kwansei Gakuin Theological School in 1910, recalled that the book introduced him to the school. Toyohiko Kagawa, a Christian reformer, noted that he had become aware and fond of Kwansei Gakuin by reading the same novel.

This long narrative was published in serial form in the Kokumin Shimbun, a newspaper that had been started by the author’s brother, Soho Tokutomi. It is the story of Shintaro Kikuchi, born into an old family in the countryside, and it traces his path to independence from his mother’s expectations. After the bankruptcy of the family business and his father’s death, Kikuchi leaves home to attend Kwansei Gakuin in Kobe. There he meets a teacher, Kametaro Kan, whose influence helps him to find his life course.

In the novel, Kan has a good command of English and often bests American missionaries in staff discussions. The character is modeled on an actual person, Genta Suzuki, who taught English at Kwansei Gakuin from 1894 and was the chief editor of the Kahoku Simpo newspaper in Sendai at the time of the novel’s publication. (Sendai also features in the narrative, as Tokutomi makes the head of Kwansei Gakuin a feudal retainer from Sendai Domain.)

Suzuki came to Kobe with the Lambuths from Shanghai in 1886, at the beginning of the Japan Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He became its first convert and went to the United States to study. Seven years later, he retuned Japan having made the decision to devote his life to mission work and teaching in Kobe. His teaching life at Kwansei Gakuin lasted less than three years, however, just as Kan’s does in the novel. According to Suzuki, his resignation aroused suspicion and hurt his American friends’ feelings.

It is said that Footprints in the Snow is semiautobiographical. Though Tokutomi himself studied at Doshisha in Kyoto, however, his protagonist attends Kwansei Gakuin (referred to as Kansei College in the English translation). What did the author intend by selecting a different school? We cannot know, but it was a happy choice for readers.

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(July 2018)


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

Special Invitation: The Centennial of the Founding of Latvia

When Latvia proclaimed its independence from Russia on November 18, 1918, Kwansei Gakuin was located at its original site of Harada-no-mori and a young Latvian named Ian Ozolin (Jānis Ozoliņš) taught English at the College Department (Literary and Commercial). In May 1920, he began working as a diplomatic and consular agent of the Republic of Latvia to Japan at the request of Latvian government in Siberia and the Urals.

As the representative of the provisional government of Latvia, he contributed an article on his country to the Japan Advertiser, drawing an immediate response from Russia. The Russian vice consul in Kobe wrote a letter to the Hyogo prefectural governor, asking if Ozolin had been officially authorized by the Japanese government to represent Latvia as diplomatic and consular agent. The governor in turn inquired at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and received the following answer: “The Imperial Japanese Government has never approved his status.” Japan had not yet recognized Latvia’s independence.

Ozolin, however, had a strong desire to make his home-land widely known and continued to write to the press. In January 1921, he wrote to the Japan Weekly Chronicle, “Let me point out, for the benefit of readers that may not be acquainted with the facts, that, of all the ‘border States’ sometime forcibly annexed to the Russian Empire and now liberated, Latvia is the most conservative as it is also the most nationalistic.” He continued, “All this goes far to show how improbable, not to say impossible, is a Communistic upheaval in Latvia.” He ended his article with a warning, “Let me express my surprise at seeing the valuable space of the Chronicle thrown open to malicious canards manufactured by a syndicate of Russian imperialists now on [a] vegetarian diet in the pleasant city of Paris.”

In the classroom at Kwansei Gakuin, Ozolin likewise encouraged his students to take a principled stand: “The young should consider themselves especially fortunate at this moment in the world’s history, because it is they that are particularly invited to build up the new world.”

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(April 2018)


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

Student and Teacher

“My Higher Commercial School certificate (March 1940), on which President C. J. L. Bates’s name appears, is very special. Here it is.” Akira Saito, soon to be one hundred, showed it to me proudly. His pleasure at the memento is not unique. In 1957, Bates, then eighty, remarked, “Over 7,000 young men, graduates of Kwansei Gakuin, have my name on their graduation diplomas. Many of them write from time to time and thus help to preserve the intimate relation of respect and affection that exists between students and teachers in the Orient.”

On July 4, 1940, Bates’s resignation was accepted by the school’s Board of Directors. Representatives of the Students’ Union responded with distress, rushing into the President’s office to tell Bates that they would visit the directors’ homes to protest. The whole student body then met and swore allegiance to Bates. Shuzo Yasueda, a third-year student in the Higher Commercial School, wrote a letter in English to President Bates, asking him, “Please remain in your present position for us.” Surprisingly, he received a personal reply.

The beautifully handwritten letter became a life-long treasure to the student, and some fifteen years ago, he showed it to me.

“Thank you very much for your kind letter,” Bates wrote. “I appreciate the love of my students more than anything in the world. You are all my dear children whom I love as my own sons.”

The letter ended with prayer: “Let us pray to God, who has guided Kwansei Gakuin through fifty years, to send the right man to lead our beloved school in His name in the future as in the past. I have always tried to remember that God is the real Head of Kwansei Gakuin and that I was His servant. Let us never forget that and all will be well.”

Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(February 2018)


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

Friendship with the Flying Scotsman

At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Scottish athlete Eric Liddell won the gold medal in the 400 metres. Liddell was a friend of Mitsukame Kawabe, a young Japanese man who later became the first principal of Kwansei Gakuin Senior High School. Kawabe’s book Senriyama no Koe (Voices from Senriyama), published posthumously in 1971, records the details of their friendship.

Kawabe graduated from Kwansei Gakuin Literary College in 1919 and studied at the University of Edinburgh from 1923 to 1924. There he met Liddell, who was studying pure science, and they rented adjacent rooms in the same boarding house. Liddell, born to missionaries in Tianjin, China, captained the university rugby team and was a heroic figure around Edinburgh.

One day in 1923, Liddell told Kawabe that he had been selected to run the 100 metres for Great Britain at the Olympics the following year. Kawabe began to help Liddell with his training routines, drawing on his own experience as a sprinter. Kawabe’s stopwatch sometimes showed a world record, but that was a secret between just two people.

The following spring, however, Liddell decided to withdraw from the race because he knew it would be held on a Sunday. Kawabe urged him, “If you run and win on Sunday, you can show God’s Glory,” but Liddell was devout and Kawabe could not change his mind.

In June, Liddell offered to fill a vacancy on the team to run the 400 metres, which was to be held on a weekday. For the next two months, Kawabe and Liddell put all their energies into preparing for the games. Kawabe went to Paris with Liddell and continued to take good care of him. Contrary to expectations, Liddell qualified for the race, and asked Kawabe to pray for him.

With the race under way, Liddell led for the first 200 metres. Kawabe knew very well that Liddell could not keep up such speed, but he prayed wholeheartedly for the runner. Amazingly, Liddell held on, continuing to run at sprinting speed for the last 100 metres and taking the gold medal with a new world record of 47.6 seconds. Kawabe wrote in his book, “I believe in the power of faith, the blessing of God, and the miracle of spiritual power.”


Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin Archives(October 2017)


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

A Student from Matsuyama

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.”

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.]