World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Fukuzawa Yukichi

Fukuzawa Yukichi
Fukuzawa Yukichi
Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris, 1862.
Born January 10 1835 (1835-01-10)
Nakatsu, Oita, Japan
Died Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. (aged 66)
Tokyo, Japan
Other names 子圍, 三十一谷人

Fukuzawa Yukichi (福澤 諭吉, January 10, 1835 – February 3, 1901) was a Japanese author, writer, teacher, translator, entrepreneur and journalist who founded Keio University, the newspaper Jiji-Shinpō and the Institute for Study of Infectious Diseases. He was an early Japanese civil rights activist and liberal ideologist. 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. He is called a Japanese Voltaire.


  • Early life 1
  • Political movements 2
  • Works 3
    • English-Japanese dictionary 3.1
    • All the countries of the world, for children written in verse 3.2
    • An Encouragement of Learning 3.3
    • An Outline of a Theory of Civilization 3.4
  • Criticism 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Bibliography 6
    • Original Japanese Books 6.1
    • English translations 6.2
  • Notes 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life

Monument of NAKATSU-Han warehouse and FUKUZAWA YUKICHI birthplace, at Hotaru-machi, Fukushima-ku, Osaka City, Japan

Fukuzawa Yukichi was born into an impoverished low-ranking samurai family of the Okudaira Clan of Nakatsu (now Ōita, Kyushu) in 1835. His family lived in Osaka, the main trading center for Japan at the time.[1] His family was poor following the early death of his father, who was also a Confucian scholar. At the age of 5 he started Han learning, and by the time he turned 14 had studied major writings such as the Analects, Tao Te Ching, Zuo Zhuan and Zhuanguzi. Fukuzawa was greatly influenced by his lifelong teacher, Shōzan Shiraishi, who was a scholar of Confucianism and Han learning. When he turned 19 in 1854, shortly after Commodore Matthew C. Perry's arrival in Japan, Fukuzawa's brother (the family patriarch) asked Yukichi to travel to Nagasaki, where the Dutch colony at Dejima was located, in order to enter a school of Dutch studies (rangaku). He instructed Yukichi to learn Dutch so that he might study European cannon designs and gunnery.

Sailors of the Kanrin Maru, members of the Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860). Fukuzawa Yukichi sits on the right.
Fukuzawa Yukichi (posing with the photographer's daughter) 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 1859, 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.

Political movements

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, the Netherlands, 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-Gijuku University, it became a leader in Japanese higher education.

In 1901, Fukuzawa Yukichi was buried at Zenpuku-ji, in the Azabu area of Tokyo. Alumni of Keio-Gijuku University hold a ceremony there every year on February 3.


Fukuzawa's writings may have been the foremost of the Edo period and Meiji period.

English-Japanese dictionary

In 1860, he published English-Japanese dictionary ("Zōtei Kaei Tsūgo"). It was his first publication. He bought English-Chinese dictionary ("Kaei Tsūgo") in San Francisco in 1860. He translated it to Japanese and he added the Japanese translations to the original textbook. In his book, he invented the new Japanese characters VU () to represent the pronunciation of VU and VA () to represent the pronunciation of VA. For example, the name Beethoven is written by ベートーェン in Japanese now.

All the countries of the world, for children written in verse

His famous textbook Sekai Kunizukushi ("All the countries of the world, for children written in verse", 1869) became a best seller and was used as an official school textbook. His inspiration for writing the books came when he tried to teach world geography to his sons. At the time there were no textbooks on the subject, so he decided to write one himself. He started by buying a few Japanese geography books for children, named Miyakoji ("City roads") and Edo hōgaku ("Tokyo maps"), and practiced reading them aloud. He then wrote Sekai Kunizukushi in six volumes in the same lyrical style. The first volume covered Asian countries, the second volume detailed African countries, European countries were discussed in the third, South American countries in the fourth, and North American countries and Australia in the fifth. Finally, the sixth volume was an appendix that gave an introduction to world geography.

An Encouragement of Learning

First print of "An Encouragement of Learning" (1872), written by Fukuzawa Yukichi and Obata Tokujirō.

Between 1872 and 1876, he published 17 volumes of Gakumon no Susume ( 学問のすすめ, "An Encouragement of Learning" or more idiomatically "On Studying"[2]). 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. 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.

An Outline of a Theory of Civilization

First print of An Outline of a Theory of Civilization (1875).

Fukuzawa published many influential essays and critical works. A particularly prominent example is Bunmeiron no Gairyaku ( 文明論之概略, "An Outline of a Theory of Civilization"[3]) 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 and History of Civilization in England (1872-1873, 2nd London ed.) by Henry Thomas Buckle. 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." Furthermore, the difference between the weak and the powerful and large and small was just a matter of difference between their knowledge and education.

He argued that Japan should not import guns and materials. Instead it should support the acquisition of knowledge, which would eventually take care of the material necessities. He 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 an essay "Datsu-A Ron" ("Escape from Asia") published in 1885 and posthumously attributed to him, 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. The essay was published as a withdrawal of his support.

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.


Fukuzawa Yukichi
(Kinsei Meishi Shashin. Vol.2. )

Fukuzawa's most important contribution to the reformation effort, though, came in the form of a newspaper called Jiji Shinpō (時事新報, "Current Events"), which he started in 1882, after being prompted by Inoue Kaoru, Ōkuma Shigenobu, and Itō Hirobumi to establish a strong influence among the people, and in particular to transmit to the public the government's views on the projected 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.

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

Fukuzawa was one of the most influential people ever that helped Japan modernize into the country it is today. He never accepted any high position and remained a normal Japanese citizen for his whole 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. 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.

Yukichi Fukuzawa's former residence in the city of Nakatsu in Ōita Prefecture

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.[4]

Yukichi Fukuzawa was a firm believer that Western education surpassed Japan's. However, he did not like the idea of parliamentary debates. As early as 1860, Yukichi Fukuzawa traveled to Europe and the United States. He believed that the problem in Japan was the undervalued mathematics and science. Also, these suffered from a "lack of the idea of independence." The Japanese conservatives were not happy about Fukuzawa's view of Western education. Since he was a family friend of conservatives, he took their stand to heart. Fukuzawa admitted that he went a little too far.[5]

One words sums up his entire theme and that is "independence." Yukichi Fukuzawa believed that national independence was the framework to society in the West. However, to achieve this independence, as well as personal independence, Fukuzawa advocated Western learning. He believed that public virtue would increase as people became more educated.[1]


Original Japanese Books

  1. English-Japanese dictionary (Zōtei Kaei Tsūgo, 1860)
  2. Things western (Seiyō Jijō, 1866, 1868 and 1870)
  3. Rifle instruction book (Raijyū Sōhō, 1867)
  4. Guide to travel in the western world (Seiyō Tabiannai, 1867)
  5. Our eleven treaty countries (Jyōyaku Jyūichi-kokki, 1867)
  6. Western ways of living: food, clothes, housing (Seiyō Isyokujyū, 1867)
  7. Handbook for soldiers (Heishi Kaicyū Binran, 1868)
  8. Illustrated book of physical sciences (Kinmō Kyūri Zukai, 1868)
  9. Outline of the western art of war (Yōhei Meikan, 1869)
  10. Pocket almanac of the world (Shōcyū Bankoku-Ichiran, 1869)
  11. English parliament (Eikoku Gijiindan, 1869)
  12. Sino-British diplomatic relations (Shin-ei Kosai-shimatsu, 1869)
  13. All the countries of the world, for children written in verse (Sekai Kunizukushi, 1869)
  14. Daily lesson for children (Hibi no Oshie, 1871) - These books were written for Fukuzawa's first son Ichitarō and second son Sutejirō.
  15. Book of reading and penmanship for children (Keimō Tenarai-no-Fumi, 1871)
  16. Encouragement of learning (Gakumon no Susume, 1872–1876)
  17. Junior book of ethics with many tales from western lands (Dōmō Oshie-Gusa, 1872)
  18. Deformed girl (Katawa Musume, 1872)
  19. Explanation of the new calendar (Kaireki-Ben, 1873)
  20. Bookkeeping (Chōai-no-Hō, 1873)
  21. Maps of Japan for children (Nihon Chizu Sōshi, 1873)
  22. Elementary reader for children (Moji-no-Oshie, 1873)
  23. How to hold a conference (Kaigi-Ben, 1874)
  24. An Outline of a Theory of Civilization (Bunmeiron no Gairyaku, 1875)
  25. Independence of the scholar's mind (Gakusya Anshinron, 1876)
  26. On decentralization of power, advocating less centralized government in Japan (Bunkenron, 1877)
  27. Popular economics (Minkan Keizairoku, 1877)
  28. Collected essays of Fukuzawa (Fukuzawa Bunsyū, 1878)
  29. On currency (Tsūkaron, 1878)
  30. Popular discourse on people's rights (Tsūzoku Minkenron, 1878)
  31. Popular discourse on national rights (Tsūzoku Kokkenron, 1878)
  32. Transition of people's way of thinking (Minjyō Ittushin, 1879)
  33. On national diet (Kokkairon, 1879)
  34. Commentary on the current problems (Jiji Shōgen, 1881)
  35. On general trends of the times (Jiji Taiseiron, 1882)
  36. On the imperial household (Teishitsuron, 1882)
  37. On armament (Heiron, 1882)
  38. On moral training (Tokuiku-Ikan, 1882)
  39. On the independence of learning (Gakumon-no Dokuritsu, 1883)
  40. On the national conscription (Zenkoku Cyōheiron, 1884)
  41. Popular discourse on foreign diplomacy (Tsūzoku Gaikōron, 1884)
  42. On Japanese womanhood (Nihon Fujinron, 1885)
  43. On men's moral life (Shijin Syoseiron, 1885)
  44. On moral conduct (Hinkōron, 1885)
  45. On association of men and women (Nannyo Kosairon, 1886)
  46. On Japanese manhood (Nihon Nanshiron, 1888)
  47. On reverence for the Emperor (Sonnōron, 1888)
  48. Future of the Diet; Origin of the difficulty in the Diet; Word on the public security; On land tax (Kokkai-no Zento; Kokkai Nankyoku-no Yurai; Chian-Syōgen; Chisoron, 1892)
  49. On business (Jitsugyōron, 1893)
  50. One hundred discourses of Fukuzawa (Fukuō Hyakuwa, 1897)
  51. Foreword to the collected works of Fukuzawa (Fukuzawa Zensyū Cyogen, 1897)
  52. Fukuzawa sensei's talk on the worldly life (Fukuzawa Sensei Ukiyodan, 1898)
  53. Discourses of study for success (Syūgyō Rittishihen, 1898)
  54. Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi (Fukuō Jiden, 1899)
  55. Reproof of "the essential learning for women"; New essential learning for women (Onnadaigaku Hyōron; Shin-Onnadaigaku, 1899)
  56. More discourses of Fukuzawa (Fukuō Hyakuyowa, 1901)
  57. Commentary on the national problems of 1877; Spirit of manly defiance (Meiji Jyūnen Teicyū Kōron; Yasegaman-no Setsu, 1901)

English translations

  • The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, Revised translation by  
  • The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, Revised translation by  
  • The Thought of Fukuzawa series, (Paperback) Keio University Press
    • vol.1 An Outline of a Theory of Civilization. 2008. Translation by David A. Dilworth, G. Cameron Hurst, III. ISBN 978-4-7664-1560-5
    • vol.2 An Encouragement of Learning. 2012. Translation by David A. Dilworth. ISBN 978-4-7664-1684-8
    • vol.3 The Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi. 201?. (forthcoming)
    • vol.4 Essays on Family and Women. 201?. Revised translation and with an introduction by Helen Ballhatchet. (forthcoming)


  1. ^ a b Nishikawa (1993)
  2. ^ Dilworth(2012)
  3. ^ Dilworth&Hurst(2008)
  4. ^ Adas&Stearns&Schwartz(1993), p. 36.
  5. ^ Adas&Stearns&Schwartz(1993), p. 37.

See also


  • (Archive) - French version (Archive)  

Further reading

  • Tamaki, Norio (2001), Yukichi Fukuzawa, 1835-1901: The Spirit of Enterprise in Modern Japan (Hardcover ed.), United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan,  
  • (French) Lefebvre, Isabelle. "La révolution chez Fukuzawa et la notion de jitsugaku Fukuzawa Yukichi sous le regard de Maruyama Masao" (Archive). Cipango. 19 | 2012 : Le Japon et le fait colonial II. p. 79-91.
  • (French) Maruyama, Masao (丸山真雄). "Introduction aux recherches philosophiques de Fukuzawa Yukichi" (Archive). Cipango. 19 | 2012 : Le Japon et le fait colonial II. p. 191-217. Translated from Japanese by Isabelle Lefebvre.
    • (Japanese) Original version: Maruyama, Masao. "Fukuzawa ni okeru jitsugaku no tenkai. Fukuzawa Yukichi no tetsugaku kenkyū josetsu" (福沢に於ける「実学」の展開、福沢諭吉の哲学研究序説), March 1947, in Maruyama Masao shū (丸山真雄集), vol. xvi, Tōkyō, Iwanami Shoten, (1997), 2004, p. 108-131.

External links

  • Fukuzawa, Yukichi | Portraits of Modern Japanese Historical Figures (National Diet Library)
  • "Encouragement for Learning" (Gakumon no Susume) by Fukuzawa Yukichi (Part One, English Translation)
  • E-texts of Fukuzawa's works at Aozora Bunko (Japanese)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.