Synopses & Reviews
Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901) was a leading figure in the cultural revolution that transformed Japan from an isolated feudal nation into a full-fledged player in the modern world. He translated a wide range of Western works and adapted them to Japanese needs, inventing a colorful prose style close to the vernacular. He also authored many books, which were critical in introducing the powerful but alien culture of the West to the Japanese. Only by adopting the strengths and virtues of the West, he argued, could Japan maintain its independence despite the disease of foreign relations.
Dictated by Fukuzawa in 1897, this autobiography offers a vivid portrait of the intellectual's life story and a rare look inside the formation of a new Japan. Starting with his childhood in a small castle town as a member of the lower samurai class, Fukuzawa recounts in great detail his adventures as a student learning Dutch, as a traveler bound for America, and as a participant in the tumultuous politics of the pre-Restoration era. Particularly notable is Fukuzawa's ability to view the new Japan from both the perspective of the West and that of the old Japan in which he had been raised. While a strong advocate for the new civilization, he was always aware of its roots in the old.
Here is the autobiography of a remarkable man. Yukichi Fukuzawa's life covered the 66 years between 1835 and 1901, a period which comprised greater and more extraordinary changes than any other in the history of Japan. In his country's swift transformation from an isolated feudal state to a full-fledged member of the modern world, Fukuzawa played a leading role: he was the educator of the new Japan, the man who above all others explained to his countrymen the ideas behind the dazzling material evidence of Western civilization.
Dictated by Fukuzawa in 1897, this book vividly relates his story, from his childhood as a member of the lower samurai class in a small, caste-bound village. His escape from the hopeless destiny decreed by his social position, his adventures as a student of Dutch (the language of the only Westerners allowed in Japan), his travels aboard the first Japanese ship to sail to America -- all prepared Fukuzawa to write Seiyo Jijo (Things Western), the book which made him famous. His special perspective on Japan's tempestuous 19th century gives Fukuzawa's life story added fascination.