On 6 June 1838 Thomas Blake Glover was born in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. It was from the north east of Scotland that he ventured out to the Far East in the late 1850s, leaving a lasting legacy in Japan that provided the foundation for the enduring connections between Scotland and Japan.
In nineteenth-century Japan Scots were at the vanguard of European arrivals. Many of the earliest Scottish arrivals in Japan had made their way via China, and Shanghai in particular. It was a key port for the China trade, and served as an important gateway that connected China with Japan. Trade was, in fact, the key motivation for many Scots to go to Japan, and the first British diplomatic plenipotentiary sent to Japan, the 8th Earl of Elgin, was specifically brought there to try open up trade opportunities. Developments of such opportunities were slow, however, due to the resistance from the Japanese government. It was only with the establishment of the merchant communities in Nagasaki and Yokohama that the modern relations between Britain and Japan began.
Thomas Blake Glover was among the earliest arrivals in Nagasaki, arriving in Nagasaki from Shanghai. A prime example of the role Scottish trading networks played in the Far East, Glover had made his way to Shanghai under the auspices of Jardine Matheson & Co. in 1857, and initially also worked for the firm after his arrival in Nagasaki, before setting up his own company, Glover Trading Co., in 1861. Through that company Glover sold arms, developed coal mines and, most importantly, was fundamental in establishing a shipyard in Nagasaki that would later become the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan, importing the required technology directly from the Clyde. Glover, often dubbed the Scottish samurai, was the purveyor of the Japanese industrialisation.