Popular Science Monthly/Volume 80/March 1912/The Imperial Universities of Japan

1542594Popular Science Monthly Volume 80 March 1912 — The Imperial Universities of Japan1912Harry Foster Bain




THE public school system in Japan, as in the United States, is capped by the university. In keeping, however, with the highly centralized government of the former country, the university is controlled and supported by the imperial government, whereas in America the support of higher education has been left so far to the individual states. The imperial government now maintains two fully organized universities; one at Tokyo, and a second at Kyoto; and is organizing two more; one in the south at Fukuoka, Kyushu, and the other in the north at Sapporo, Hokkaido. At Fukuoka, medical and engineering schools have been established and others are to be added. At Sapporo only an agricultural station and an agricultural college, which go back to early American influences, are as yet in being, though the plan contemplates ultimately a complete university. In addition to these imperial schools there are important institutions of university rank endowed and supported by private initiative, and in this as in other particulars the situation shows similarities to that in the United States. Among these non-governmental schools Waseda and Keio are the largest and best known. What is said here relates exclusively to the Imperial Universities of Tokyo and Kyoto, limitations of time having prevented my visiting the others.

With the beginning of the new era in 1868, Japan faced the problem of organizing a new system of education, as well as of government, war and industry. Previously there had been no general system of public instruction, and in this, as in many other particulars, the work was essentially one of construction rather than re-construction. It would be a grave mistake, however, to consider the Japanese of the pre-Meiji eras as uneducated. While not familiar with Western learning, they were far from unlearned, and in the sense of having had their mental powers developed many of the gentlemen of old Japan were highly educated. This was especially true of the younger sons of the daimyos who, forbidden by the social system to marry or hope for headship in their own houses, were driven to the exercise of arms and rigorous study of the Chinese classics, each hoping to attract attention and be adopted as heir in another house. Failing in this, many opened private schools. In these, and other institutions whose origin is too diverse to permit review here, a severe drill in the Chinese language and literature and in Oriental philosophy, gave to the pupils a mental training not greatly dissimilar to that which our own grandfathers received from the study of "Greek, Latin and Philosophy," in the early American colleges. When studying the rapid progress of Japan in the acquirement of western science, it is more nearly correct to think of men with B.A. and M.A. degrees derived from the study of Greek, taking to engineering, than to think of a wholly uneducated people suddenly turned loose to browse in the whole field of knowledge. Indeed, in the later days of the Shogunate, Western knowledge had already begun to penetrate the hidden country. Books brought in by the Dutch and translated into Japanese, by scholars working as did our own when first deciphering the hieroglyphics of Egypt, had a large influence if small circulation. Soon after the visit of Commodore Perry, the Shogun established in 1857 an institution for the translation of foreign books, which by easy transition became first a school of foreign languages and finally a component part of the present Tokyo Imperial University. Similarly the medical school of the university had its roots in the Seiyo Igakujo, established under the Shoguns. In the early years of the Meiji era there was a bewildering succession of organizations and reorganizations in the higher educational institutions as in other branches of the public service, but with the issuance of Imperial Ordinance No. 3 (March 1, 1886), providing for the organization of imperial universities, the institution in Tokyo took essentially its present form. In 1890 an existing agricultural college there was consolidated with the faculties of law, medicine, engineering, literature and science already organized. In 1897, with the establishment of the sister institution at Kyoto, the name was changed from Teikoku Daigaku, or Imperial University, to its present form, the prefix Tokyo being added to indicate the place of its establishment.

The imperial ordinance already mentioned is a remarkable document, warranting careful attention from educators. It evidences a close study of existing universities and their fitness to the needs of the people in both Europe and America, and a nice critical sense in the selection of those features best suited to conditions in Japan. In it, as throughout contemporary Japanese institutions, there is at the same time the germ of new things, for Japan is far from being content to adapt, and purposes to originate as well. The object of the imperial universities is stated to be "the teaching of such arts and sciences as are required for the purposes of the state, and the prosecution of original research in such arts and sciences." This article foreshadowed concisely and accurately what has become the essential characteristics of the great universities that have been established under the ordinance. Essentially the schools were to be, and are, sources of information rather than devices for mental training. They had for their field all knowledge "required for the purposes of the state" and were to be frankly utilitarian branches of the government. This, however, was not to be, and has not been, interpreted in any narrow spirit since—and in this America may well take a lesson—research as well as instruction was to be regarded as equally the function of the university. Emphasizing the latter point, the second article provides that "Each imperial university shall consist of a university hall and colleges; the university hall being established for the purpose of original research, and the colleges for instruction, theoretical and practical." These purposes and ideals have been faithfully followed in the organization and work of each of the universities. Subsequent ordinances have provided for the financial support of the institutions and have specified the number and rank of officers and instructors; several independent government institutions, such as the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory, the Marine Biological Station, and the Botanic Garden have been added to the university; regulations as to degrees have been made, and additional facilities have been provided; but the fundamental character of the universities remains as fixed in the ordinance of 1886.

In Tokyo Imperial University there are now six colleges: those of law, medicine, engineering, science, literature and agriculture, and University Hall; the latter the research institution. At Kyoto the school, being younger, is less completely developed, the colleges being those of law, medicine, literature, and science and engineering. Here, as at Tokyo, a university hall also provides for research or graduate studies, as that term was used twenty years ago in America before postgraduate work became so formalized. The term college, as used in Japan, does not correspond exactly to usage either in England or America. The college is more nearly a "faculty," as that word is applied in the larger American schools. Each college is presided over by a director and each controls, through a faculty meeting, the curricula, examinations and qualifications of candidates for degrees. The faculty must also hold itself in readiness to consider educational or technical questions submitted by the minister of education and hence becomes an official adviser of the government on matters within its field. The directors of the various colleges, together with one professor from each, constitute the university council, presided over by the president. This council may consider questions relating to the institution or abolition of a course of study in any college, questions relating to chairs in the universities, regulations for the internal government of the institution, granting of degrees, and may suggest modifications of imperial ordinances, and of regulations by the minister of education relating to the university. The council also must, on request, advise the president or the minister of education. The president, who is appointed directly by the Emperor and ranks with a cabinet officer, has general control of the affairs of the university and, as in America, has large powers. Baron Kikuchi, the president of Kyoto University, and formerly holding the same position at Tokyo, has been minister of education and has rendered distinguished service to the state in many ways. Baron Hamao, president of Tokyo Imperial University, was one of the pioneers of modern education in Japan and a man of great ability and influence. Such men would wield power under any system, and in Japan full advantage is taken of their abilities. The power of the president, however, is sharply limited in certain particulars where in America it is possibly too often unchecked. For example, professors are appointed by the minister of education, but "in each case that professor shall be appointed who shall have been chosen at an election held by the professors of his particular college." Professors, while not well paid in Japan, occupy a position of much more importance and dignity than in America. They are elected for three years, but may be, and are, reelected indefinitely. They receive only from $600 to $2,000 per year, but this is relatively much more than the equivalent sum in America, and they have a pension system, are paid part salary when relieved from duty for any reason, are given periods of leave of absence, are sent abroad for study in rotation, are intrusted with important government investigations at home and missions abroad, and are treated with every courtesy and respect. It is one of the curious contradictions met constantly in Japan, that in an empire a man of title gets less recognition and a university professor more than in the United States. It is true that in Japan, as in America, the professor must console himself with the honor for the inadequacies of his salary. Both that and traveling allowances are small when measured against the cost of living. Engineering professors, at least—I can not speak as to others—derive supplementary income from consulting work, though there is a strong public opinion which prevents this from degenerating into a mere scramble for dollars.

Professors, while poorly paid in Japan, are relatively numerous. At Tokyo the instructional staff consists of 6 directors, 156 professors, 93 assistant professors, and 110 lecturers; a total of 356. In addition there is an elaborate staff of university officers. At Kyoto, aside from these general officials there are 4 directors, 85 professors, 53 assistant professors, and 41 lecturers; 183 in all. Certain peculiarities of Japanese university organization will be illustrated by listing the professors in two of the colleges of the University at Tokyo. For convenience the College of Law and the College of Engineering may be chosen. In the former they are: Constitution, 1; public law, 1; civil code, 4; commercial code, 2; maritime law, 1; code of civil procedure and law of bankruptcy, 2; criminal code, 1; code of criminal procedure, 1; political economy, 5; finance, 1; statistics, 1; politics, 1; history of politics, 1; diplomatic history, 1; colonization, 1; law of administration, 2; public international law, 2; private international law, 1; history of legal institutions, 1; comparative history of legal institutions, 1; Roman law, 1; English law, 1; jurisprudence, 1. In the College of Engineering the list of professors includes: Civil engineering, 4; mechanical engineering, 3; naval architecture, 3; marine engineering, 2; technology forms, 2; electrical engineering, 3; architecture, 3; applied chemistry, 4; technology of explosives, 1; mining, 2; metallurgy, 3; applied mechanics, 1; dynamics, 1; a total of 32. In addition, students in each college take courses in other colleges, so that the effective faculty is largely increased. Geology, for example, is taught to students in mining and engineering, by the professors in the College of Science.

In examining these lists the reader will probably be struck first with the breadth of the instruction given. For example, in no American law school of which I know is it possible to take courses in three systems of foreign law, and in America political economy and the related group of subjects would be taught by a separate faculty instead of as part of the law course. In Japan as in America, a law course is the common preparation for many branches of the public service, but in the former country only is that fact recognized by placing under charge of the faculty of law the whole of the instruction in politics and public affairs. The Japanese are an intensely practical people, and this is one instance of their regarding university education from the utilitarian standpoint—using that word, I repeat, in a broad sense. The same disposition is shown in the College of Engineering. Provision of instruction in naval architecture, technology of arms, and technology of explosives, is not common in American universities. It is the more striking since Japan maintains a separate school corresponding to our own West Point for training army officers, and others for preparing officers for the navy, the railway service, and even for educating officers for the merchant marine. University instruction in these branches is of a higher type than in these special schools, and is more closely related, through University Hall, with research. Another peculiarity is the provision of several professors in the same subject. In Japan there is more democracy and less organization within each department than in the United States. There are coordinate professors, each perhaps with his specialty, rather than a rigorous system of head professors, professors, assistant professors, assistants and so down to the nth order. Still another instructive feature of the system may be seen by examining the courses in some one department. For that purpose those given in mining and metallurgy at Kyoto may serve. It will be noted that the courses provide for what in the United States would be considered undue specialization and make almost no provision for fundamental training. It is true that Japanese students are supposed to have this before taking up their university work and have in fact much better opportunity for acquiring it than have American students. One may none the less retain a doubt whether in this case practise and theory run hand in hand.

Mining and Metallurgical Courses at Kyoto

The special courses noted are given by a faculty consisting of 4 professors, 4 assistant professors, and 1 lecturer; assisted by 2 professors from the College of Law. A few are given in the civil or electrical engineering departments, being required of or open to election by students in mining. At Kyoto the faculty of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy consists of Professors Jisaburo Yokobori, Daikichi Saito, Viscount Tadashiro Inouye, Toshio Watanabe, all graduates of the Tokyo Imperial University with doctorates obtained in engineering. In addition Dr. Yokobori studied two years at Freiberg; Dr. Saito, one year each at Freiberg, Aachen and Columbia; Viscount Inouye, three years at Freiberg, Berlin and other German schools, followed by two years in practise in the United States; and Dr. Watanabe, whose specialty is electro-metallurgy, three years at Aachen. Dr. Oda, who gives instruction in mining law, and Dr. Kambe, who lectures on industrial economy, are also graduates of the university at Tokyo, as is Mr. Tadasu Hiki, the instructor in geology, and Mr. Kenroku Ide, who has been sent abroad to study metallurgy. Mr. Tetsujiro Imanaga, and Mr. Shoji Takahashi, assistant professors, instructing respectively in mine surveying and metallurgy, are graduates of Kyoto Imperial University in engineering, who have not yet proceeded to the doctorate. Dr. Yamada Kunihiko, who instructs regarding ore-deposits, though listed as lecturer in mining, is a graduate of Tokyo with two years later experience at Freiberg. The director of the College of Science and Engineering, to which the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy belongs, is Dr. Mitsuru Kuhara, who obtained his degree at Johns Hopkins for work in organic chemistry.

Formerly, Tokyo University was largely manned by foreign professors. At present there are but 14 foreigners in the whole faculty. At Kyoto the entire faculty is Japanese except 1 French, 1 German, 2 American, 1 Chinese and 1 English lecturer. There has been some disposition to criticize the promptness with which the Japanese dispensed with the foreigners, but there can at least be no question that they have been replaced by well-trained men, and in view of the imperative necessity for economy, the move was not unnatural. As it is, nearly five per cent, of the faculty at Tokyo consists of foreigners (not counting emeritus professors) and the great majority of the instructors both at Tokyo and Kyoto have studied abroad, following courses at home roughly equivalent to that which leads to the Ph.D. degree in a first-class American university. At the time when in the United States our universities were copying most directly and actively after those of Germany, there were few professors imported from that country. We sent rather our own men to Germany to be instructed, and when they returned the movement of students abroad largely ceased. Japan has followed our example, except that she still continues to send her men abroad for final instruction if they are to be entrusted with the higher posts in the university.

A university without students is but a simulacrum, and doubtless the reader has begun to wonder about Japanese students. It is first to be noted that they are all men—for in Japan coeducation does not obtain above the elementary schools. Japanese children begin their schooling at six and for the next six years education is compulsory. It is confined to the elements of language, mathematics, nature study. morals, geography and history and is given in Japanese. At present 96 per cent, of the children of school age are in school, and the records for attendance and proficiency are enviable. Beyond the age of twelve the boys and girls separate, but, contrary to American experience, it is the girl rather than the boy who drops out or is kept at home. The demand for instruction has from the first far outrun the financial ability of the Japanese government to provide and from the elementary school up there are more applicants than can be admitted. In general selection is made on the basis of efficiency, and competitive examinations are the usual means. The boy who, therefore, at the age of 23 or 23 finally reaches the university after passing through middle and higher schools, is the one left by a long process of elimination. It would be interesting to follow the boy through this course, but the limits of this article forbid. Those interested will find the elementary, middle and higher schools, excellently described by Baron Kikuchi, in his most instructive and readable book "Japanese Education."[1] It is sufficient to state that the student comes to the university with long training in English and one or more other languages and with about the mental training and culture that American students have when they enter the junior year of a first-class university. He is ready to specialize, has in fact prepared to specialize, and has received his training in how to study. The university course is therefore concerned more with subject matter than with method. The course is three years long and at its completion the student is entitled to assume the title of gakushi in law, medicine, science, engineering, or whatever line he may have followed. This, it may be noted, is not a degree conferred by the university, though roughly equivalent to our own bachelor's degree. Upon attaining to this rank the student is ready to study for the doctorate, for which five years work in University Hall is required. During the last two of these years he may under certain restrictions, engage in practise away from the university, and before becoming gakushi he must, in engineering at least, spend six to eighteen months in practical work. In the latter case he is sent to a mine, smelter, or other works, and required to follow a prearranged course, reporting to the university on each piece of work as completed and receiving meanwhile help from the university, much like that given to students in correspondence courses in the United States. While in this preliminary practise he is not allowed, except by special agreement, to receive pay; the object not being to put the student into regular work on a money-making basis, but to permit him to learn practise in a commercial plant. The university reserves for its own field the teaching of principles.

Degrees are not given by the university, but by the Minister of Education upon proper recommendation. This may come either from the university or by a two thirds vote of the assembly of Hakushi, those graduating with the doctor's degree, of each school. The degree maybe given either for completion of the regular course or for a satisfactory piece of research conducted under the auspices of University Hall. To the latter admission is either by graduation from the university with gakushi rank or by examination. Thus the way is open to the highest degree for the non-college trained man who is capable of doing research work and satisfies the faculty, or the graduates, as to his ability. This provision for the exceptional man is, I believe, especially commendable and stands in contrast with the growing tendency of universities in the United States to standardize everything. Degrees in Japan open the way to appointments on the bench, in the civil service, and to responsible positions in mercantile life. They are, therefore, much in demand, and there are always many more applications for admission to the universities than can possibly be accepted. At Kyoto there are now 984 students, of whom 70 are in University Hall, or, as we should say, are graduate students. At Tokyo there are over 5,000 students and there are now nearly 10,000 alumni. Of 5,737 admitted in the years 1905 to 1909, inclusive, 1,076 were graduates of the colleges, 4,709 came from the higher schools, and 1,029 were admitted by examination. Of those who enter the university a large number remain to graduate. At Kyoto the proportion is 70 per cent.; a sure test of the quality both of students and professors, though passing standards in examinations are low, 60 being a passing mark. If, however, one may judge by a very brief experience in meeting university men in Japan, few who are unfit survive. Degrees in Japan have one further peculiarity. They are revocable for anything which involves moral culpability. The Hakushi have the power of revoking as well as recommending degrees, though a three fourths vote is necessary for that purpose.

The University at Tokyo supports no dormitory, and at Kyoto most of the students lodge outside the grounds. They, as in the lower schools, wear uniforms and pay moderate tuition fees. Professor Basil Hall Chamberlain, speaking from his long experience says: "As for the typical Japanese student, he belongs to that class of youth who are the schoolmaster's delight—quiet, intelligent, deferential, studious almost to excess. His only marked fault is a tendency common to all subordinates in Japan—a tendency to wish to steer the ship himself." To the stray visitor Japanese students seem much like those in America. Their actual greater age is not apparent, since in Japan nobody looks as old as he is. They are generally sturdy, well set-up looking, young men. Formerly they devoted too little attention, it is said, to physical culture, but the introduction of gymnastics, changes in diet, and the introduction of sports has worked wonders. A professor in the University of Tokyo struck an answering chord when he remarked to a group of American visitors, "Yes, the campus is very beautiful—but it is not large enough for baseball! "The latter bids fair to become the national game of Japan as it is of the United States, young Nippon taking to it as readily as does young America. In adopting the game the Japanese have also adopted the American nomenclature so that cries of "Ball two, Strike one" and "Out at first" are heard on campus and sand-lot on both sides of the Pacific. Military drill, compulsory through middle and higher schools is not, I believe, required of university students, though they show in their bearing the effects of their previous training. Those who, while in the university, become subject for military duty are excused until they complete their studies. They are also required to serve but one year and become eligible for positions as officers.

In equipment the imperial universities are excellently provided, but in lands and buildings, judged by lavish American standards, they are not so well fixed. At Tokyo the university stands within the grounds of Kaga Yashiki, the former residence of the Daimyo of Kaga, who gave the property to the government for the founding of the school. The club house is one of the old residence buildings of the Daimyo and is surrounded by a bit of landscape gardening that no art or money could reproduce without the element of time that entered into its making. Adjacent to the university is the home of the present Marquis, a part of the original holdings having been retained by the family. The buildings of the university are unpretentious, but well-planned and well-built brick structures. There is a central power station, water and sanitation have been well cared for, and for working plant the university is well provided. The same is true at Kyoto, though at both places money has been spent on men, books and apparatus rather than on buildings. The library at Kyoto consists of 255,000 volumes and that at Tokyo of about 240,000 Japanese and Chinese books, and 189,300 European and American. As Tokyo University is charged with the duty of compiling the historical records of Japan, the collection of native material is certain to increase rapidly in amount and value.

Both Kyoto and Tokyo universities support learned publications in literature, science and arts. The publications of the Medical School at Tokyo are in German, those of the Observatory in French, and the others in English, except the republication of documents relating to Japanese history, a monumental work in Japanese. The list of titles at Kyoto and at Tokyo reads not unlike similar lists from Johns Hopkins, Columbia or Chicago. As for doctor's theses, they read alike around the world, but one wonders what Shinjo Sogo, who obtained the coveted Hogakushi by investigating the subject, found to be the "Fundamental Ideas of Political Economy," and also what Naoji Oshina, Bungakushi, resolved on as the "Theory of the Moral Ideal." The study of the "Development of Pure Philosophy in India," by Taiken Kimura, should also be of interest. With the abundant materials available and the insight given by favorable historical background those who devote themselves to the study of eastern philosophy ought to develop results of wide value.

For the historical investigations and other special duties intrusted to the universities, such as agriculture experimentation, forestry work, support of a marine laboratory, and similar duties, funds have been provided which, while inadequate, must be conceded to be large in view of the ratio of demand to supply in the national exchequer. For general support of the universities an annual appropriation of 1,358,838 yen ($679,419) is made to Tokyo and 840,000 yen ($420,000) to Kyoto, These funds are supplemented by special appropriations, fees, donations, and income from endowment. The total sum available at Kyoto for 1911 was $728,902. Small as this amount is in proportion to the work that can be done, no one can visit the Japanese universities without being deeply impressed with the strong hold they have on the interest of the nation. A reading of the list of benefactions and endowments at either institution makes clear that this affection is bounded by neither class nor section. Scholarships and special aid funds have been established by banks, by mining, shipbuilding, and mercantile companies, and memorial scholarships of all ranks of importance have been provided. The amounts are not large, $100 to $500 being most frequently mentioned, though both larger and smaller sums have been given. With the inevitable fall in interest rate the value of the individual gifts is bound to decrease, despite careful regulations for repayment of money advanced from them. The spirit, however, that they reflect, and which at the same time they foster, will become increasingly valuable. It is this that has made Tokyo a great educational center which will more and more attract special students from all over the world. It is the inevitable result of the whole-hearted cooperation of the Emperor, the government, and the people, both rich and poor, who are earnestly working to give to beloved Nippon the best there is in education as in other things.

  1. John Murray, London, 1909.