Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835–1901) is quite possibly the best-known, most widely studied, and most frequently quoted writer of the early Meiji period. More of his writings have been translated into English than those of any other nonliterary Meiji writer. So much attention is given to Fukuzawa that he often appears as the Meiji intellectual. One recent textbook describes him as nothing less than “the most influential man in Meiji Japan outside government service.” In another description he is portrayed as “one of the most remarkable” of men, one of that small number of men who move history through their own personal power, and “the man who above all others” explained Western material and spiritual culture to Meiji Japanese. Overall, scholars have been only slightly more reticent in describing Fukuzawa's importance than he himself was. In his own view, the reforms undertaken in the early Meiji period were influenced by himself to such a degree that it was appropriate to say “If I did not chiefly initiate them, I think I may have been indirectly influential in bringing them about.”

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