When Nitobe Inazō became principal of the First Higher School (Ichikoō) in the fall of 1906, he was immediately perplexed by the customs and rituals of his students. Here on the campus of Japan's most prestigious university preparatory school was an isolated community of students immersed in a subculture that seemed totally unrestricted by the mores of civilized twentieth-century society. There was a “rustic barbarism” in the students' daily behavior as they swaggered around the campus in worn-out uniforms and battered geta, bellowing out incoherent lyrics of “dormitory songs.” No one thought twice about using a sleeve for a handkerchief, or making “dormitory rain” from the second-story windows of the residence halls (instead of using the appropriate ground-floor facilities.) At night, some students might be seen stripped down to their underpants and dancing wildly around open bonfires, while others were strolling aimlessly through the grove in front of the dormitory, intoning lines from Hamlet or The Sorrows of Young Werther. For Nitobe—the Christian theologian, the international diplomat, the impeccably well-dressed and wellmannered gentleman—the first sight of the Ichikō students was something of a shock. How strange it was that those young men destined to become the leaders of an emerging world power should be conducting themselves in a way that seemed, on the surface at least, to be in proud defiance of the codes of civic responsibility and social acceptability.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.