Scottish Connections with Japan

In nineteenth-century Japan Scots were at the vanguard of European arrivals, with Thomas Blake Glover providing the most prominent example of the close ties that subsequently developed between Japan and Scotland. Glover arrived in Nagasaki in 1859 to manage the local office of Hong Kong-based Jardine Matheson, but soon set up his own trading company. He sold arms, developed coal mines and 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 was the purveyor of the Japanese industrialisation. Of great significance too was Neil Gordon Munro, the director of Yokohama’s General Hospital and one of the first Westerners to study the Ainu people of Hokkaido. Yet while the history of Scots like Glover and Munro has received some attention, little is known about the wider imprint left by Scottish migrants in Japan.

Glover with Iwasaki Yanosuke, the son of the founder of Mitsubishi, c1900

I have been awarded a grant by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation to promote further research on the Scottish connections with Japan, shedding light on the deep ties that exist between Scotland and Japan to this day. My research will focus in particular on the development of Scottish clubs and societies in Japan. One of the earliest Scottish associations in the country was founded by Alfred Glover, Thomas Blake Glover’s youngest brother, who set up the Nagasaki St Andrew’s Society in 1886. The influence of Scottish associations, however, went beyond that city and deserves further investigation.

The grant will primarily support a symposium exploring the Scottish connections with Japan, their historical legacies and contemporary impact. The symposium will be organised in collaboration with the National Museum of Scotland. Details to come in due course.

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