Shiratori Kurakichi’s Visit to Vladivostok in the Early 20 th Century:
From the First Page of History of “Oriental Studies” in Japan
(57th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Vladivostok, 2014)
The disciplines of modern science were imported into Japan from Western Europe during the latter half of the 19th century. In 1877, the “University” (the forerunner of the Tokyo Imperial University and today’s University of Tokyo) was founded in Tokyo, that was the first modern and European style’s university among the Asian countries. However teaching staff at the “University” were invited from Western Europe or the USA. “History” was also taught by Ludwig Riess from Germany, a student of Leopold von Ranke, at the University since 1877. However, “History” at that time in Japan, as well as in Europe concentrated on the history of European civilization. Among universities or research institutions in Europe, research on Asian history was included within “Oriental Studies”, not under the frame of “History”.
Between 1901 and 1903, Shiratori Kurakichi, the first graduate from the Department of History of the University and professor at the Gakushuin (the Peers’ School), was sent to Western Europe (Britain, Germany, France and Austria-Hungary) to study “Oriental Studies” for becoming the future professor of Asian (Oriental)history at the University. On his return to Japan, Shiratori passed through Vladivostok as the first Japanese passenger on the Siberian Railway and then visited the Institute of Oriental Studies opened in 1899 there. After his return to Japan, Shiratori was nominated as a professor of Asian History at the University in Japan. He was also the first professor of Asian history among any universities in the world.
What impression toward “Oriental Studies” in Europe did he have? What did he see at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Vladivostok? I will trace Shiratori’s experience in Europe and in Vladivostok, and introduce the forgotten episodes even among today’s Japanese scholars in the early days of “Oriental Studies” in Japan.