Last Friday (19 July), Professor Shigehiko Kaneko of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Tokyo gave a public lecture at the Riverside Museum entitled ‘Yozo YAMAO of the Choshu Five: an apprentice at a Glasgow shipyard who became the Father of Japan’s Engineering’.
The lecture focussed on the historical links between Glasgow and the establishment of Japan’s Engineering Education, beginning with the arrival of The Choshu Five: Five men from Yamaguchi Prefecture (then Chosu) who were smuggled in to the UK from Japan, and who played an integral part in the modernisation of Japan.
Among them was Yozo Yamao, the first in a long line of Japanese pioneers who would come to the UK for further study and to gain hands-on experience; he studied in London before coming to Glasgow in 1866, where he took classes in shipbuilding at Anderson College (modern day University of Strathclyde) and worked as an apprentice at Napier Shipyard. On his return to Japan, Yamao served in the Meiji Government, and helped establish the Imperial College of Engineering (the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo).
Another of the Choshu Five, Itō Hirobumi (later to become the first prime-minister of Japan) also approached Macquorn Rankine, Regius Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at the Unievrsity of Glasgow (1855 – 1872), for his recommendation as to who would be a suitable candidate for the post of Principal and Professor of Engineering at the new Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo. Macquorn Rankine’s recommendation was his former student Henry Dyer, and the rest is history as they say.
It was very interesting to hear about the past, present and future of the University of Tokyo, and heartening to know that there is a will to carry out further academic research collaboratively between both countries on these historical links.
More information on the lecture that co-organised by the Embassy of Japan in the UK and Japan Desk Scotland can be found here, and an overview of the International Story’s Japan project so far can be found here.