Kôjunsha and the shinshi Image : The creation of a new type of public sphere in modern Japanese society1

Takeuchi Rio (竹内里欧)

Publication: Harukaze – Kirjoituksia Japanin kulttuurista.
Issue: 5.
Date issued: 9.6.2010.
Publisher: Japani-opinnot, Oulun yliopisto, Oulu.
ISSN: 1458-2899.
URL: http://www.oulu.fi/hutk/japani/Harukaze/Takeuchi_2010.html

Table of Contents


In this paper I would like to examine how an idealized image of the English gentleman was adopted and appropriated in the creation process of a new type of public sphere in modern Japanese society.2 My focus is concentrated on one social club, Kôjunsha, which was established in 1880 by Fukuzawa Yukichi (福沢諭吉, 1834–1901) for the purpose of creating a modern and civilized public sphere.3 Kôjunsha is said to be the first social club for shinsi (紳士), or gentlemen, in Japan.4 In the Meiji (明治, 1868–1912) and Taishô (大正, 1912–1926) eras, in addition to Kôjunsha, other social clubs appeared one after another, such as the Tokyo Club established in 1884 and the Nihon Club established in 1898. In Japan’s Kansai region, the Osaka Club was founded in 1912 with the aim of establishing a social club which was equal to Kôjunsha and the Tokyo Club in the Kantô region.5 In these kinds of social clubs, construction of a new type of public sphere was made. The image of the English gentleman was adopted and appropriated as a good model for club members to study, follow and emulate. It symbolized Western civilization, and was used to teach respectable behavior and morality suitable for Japan’s emerging modern intellectual and economic elite.

Jürgen Habermas (1929– ), who analyzes the emergence and transformation of public spheres, pays attention to the important functions of ideas about behavior or morality in the public sphere. He argues that even though an idea may not be realized, it can influence society by offering an institutionalized model to which people should pay regard.6 Habermas also notices that the dynamics of interaction between an idea and the real can be an important motive force in history. To borrow Habermas’s argument, it can be said that the idealistic character shinshi (the Japanese translation of “gentleman”), which was adopted as a model for the members of social clubs, including Kôjunsha, influenced modern Japanese history by indicating respectable behavior which people believed the emerging modern elite should follow (even though they did not necessarily live up to this character in reality). By examining the case of the social club Kôjunsha, I would like to clarify the relationship between the idea of gentlemanship and the creation of a new public sphere in modern Japanese society.7


Fukuzawa Yukichi’s ideal of cultivating civilization

The social club Kôjunsha is said to be one of the three heritages left behind by Fukuzawa Yukichi.8 The other two are Keiôgijuku (慶応義塾, Keio University) in Tokyo, now one of Japan’s most prestigious private universities, and the newspaper Jijishinpô (時事新報).9 Fukuzawa was a nationalist who emphasized Westernization and had a strong influence on the process of civilization and enlightenment in modern Japan. His most famous publications are Seiyô Jijô (西洋事情)10 written between 1866 and 1870, Gakumon no Susume (学問のすゝめ)11 written between 1872 and 1876, and Bunmeiron no Gairyaku (文明論之概略)12 (Fukuzawa [1875] 1995).13 He is said to have been one of the most influential opinion leaders in modern Japan.

During the last days of the Tokugawa regime, Fukuzawa made three visits to Western countries, including Britain, the United States, and the Netherlands. Since he was greatly impressed by the advanced character of Western countries during his visits, he advocated that the Japanese people should assimilate Western civilization as rapidly as possible. He harshly criticized the feudalistic ideas and Confucianism that had been dominant in Japanese society. Instead, he praised the ideals of personal independence, freedom and self-respect, which he thought to be the essence of Western civilization.

One thing to pay attention to here is that Fukuzawa was neither a fanatic nationalist nor a naïve adorer of the West. His thought can be described as sort of pragmatism. He argued that the Japanese people should learn Western civilization in order to make Japan independent. Koyasu Nobukuni, who examines Bunmeiron no Gairyaku in detail, agrees that the book has significant meaning in the sense that it shows a prominent plan at a transitional period of modern Japanese society.14 However, Koyasu argues that the book is not a classic as a literary achievement, in the same sense as books written by Plato or Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He emphasizes that Bunmeiron no Gairyaku can be considered a classic as far as we take its account of the situation prevailing at the time.15 Nishimura Minoru, who is a specialist on modern German thought, such as Max Weber and Friedrich Meinecke, argues that Fukuzawa can be regarded as a representative of raison d’état thinking.16 According to Meinecke, raison d’état thinking is a maxim and a behavioral principle of a state that tells what a statesman should do in order to maintain a sound and strong state.17 Nishimura also points out that Fukuzawa had wanted to create a place where adult people could learn outside of formal schools.18 The social club was an embodiment of this ideal. According to Nishimura, Kôjunsha was created with the hope that it would become a place for general study where people could enrich their education, cultivate civilized attitudes, and exchange opinions regardless of their social status, in principle at least.19 Such institutions had never existed in pre-modern Japanese society.20 Kôjunsha was expected to become a new type of public sphere, where Japanese gentlemen would conduct modern civilized behavior.21 For example, in a newspaper article “Shûkai no Shukô (集会の趣向)”22 written in 1896, Fukuzawa advocated the establishment of a social club as a convenient and beneficial place for shinshi in Japan’s new civilized society.23 In this effort, Fukuzawa especially used the English gentleman as an idealistic image, not only to show a good practical example, but also to enhance the prestige of his endeavor. For example, in March, 1888, Fukuzawa made a speech to the students of Keiôgijuku school.24 In this speech, he argued that the students, who were supposed to become members of the new economic elite, should behave as shinshi with civilized manners. He said:

The scope of study is really wide, and that is just what you are devoting yourselves to now. Since you are in training now, you would study with your whole heart. Therefore, of course you should spend your precious time studying hard and do not have a moment to lose. Since this is for your own benefit, you won’t need any advice from other people. However, I think even though you study hard, you are human beings, not dead things. Even though you are in your student days, you naturally need to associate and come into contact with other people. Therefore, you yourself must never lose the requirements for shinshi. You should possess wide knowledge and great versatility and also respect manners. You should strive to behave and speak gracefully in order not to be despised by other people.25

In this speech, Fukuzawa encouraged the students to make strenuous efforts to study. Fukuzawa also emphasized that even though the students devoted their energies to studying, they must not lose their “virtue as shinshi.”26 By using this representation of shinshi, he showed a new model of civilized behavior to be followed by the would-be new modern male elite in Japanese society.

In a newspaper article “Fukuzawa Ô no Kanka: Sakuya no Kôjunsha Zatsudan (福沢翁の感化 昨夜の交詢社雑談)”27 written in 1909, the writer reported the eighth anniversary of Fukuzawa Yukichi’s death, and how gentlemen influenced by the thoughts of Fukuzawa gathered in Kôjunsha to share memories about him.28 The article concludes with the following sentences:

These shinshi talked about many inspiring activities performed by Fukuzawa. And moreover, they themselves were the very fruits of Fukuzawa’s activities.29

Furthermore, Uzaki Rojô (鵜崎鷺城), who was known as an evaluator of people’s characters, wrote a magazine article “Kôjunsha Ron (交詢社論)”30 in 1913 that said:

Kôjunsha includes shinshi who belong to the upper-middle classes. They are “the men of the day,” taking lively parts in the political world and the economic world. Few of them are related [directly] to the government. I can say that Kôjunsha is a nongovernmental social club of the highest quality.31

Another example indicating the relationship between shinshi and Kôjunsha is a speech at a party held on 25 January 1930 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Kôjunsha. Fukuzawa Ichitarô (福沢一太郎), who was a son of Fukuzawa Yukichi, delivered this speech:

As you know, my father devoted himself to developing Kôjunsha. Then, as a son of Fukuzawa Yukichi, I am recommended as an honorary member of this social club. I shall esteem it as a great honor to be a member of the place for shinshi.32

As a response to this speech, Kamata Eikichi (鎌田栄吉, 1857–1934), who was the chief director of Kôjunsha at the time, announced:

Just now Fukuzawa Ichitarô mentioned the word shinshi. I think that the origin of this word can be traced back to the time when Yotsuya Junzaburô (四屋純三郎), who was engaged in editing the magazine Kôjun Zasshi, used the word shinshi. When Yotsuya entered his name in Nihon Shinshiroku (日本紳士録)33 published by Kôjunsha, he had no job title. Therefore, he attached the word shinshi, which was a translation of the English word “gentleman,” to his name, like ‘Shinshi Yotsuya Junzaburô.’ I think this is the beginning of the word shinshi in Japan.34

As can been seen in this passage, Kamata argued that the word shinshi originated in the Nihon Shinshiroku published by Kôjunsha. But his remark is incorrect.35 The beginning of the word shinshi can be traced back to before that time.36 However, Kamata’s remark shows that the members of Kôjunsha were confident about their role and importance in spreading the idea of gentlemanship throughout Japanese society. They thought it was Kôjunsha that created the image of shinshi.


The establishment and development of Kôjunsha

The meaning of kôjun (交詢) in Kôjunsha is “to get to know and consult each other.” According to the prospectus of Kôjunsha, the aim of founding Kôjunsha was “to exchange and ask opinions about the world with each other.”37 The members were people who had graduated from Keiô private school, as well as bankers, landlords, office workers and the like. When the club started, the number of members was 1767. The club was located in Ginza, the contemporary entrance to the capital, and it aimed at creating modern social relationships.38

According to Kôjunsha Hyakunenshi (The 100 years of Kôjunsha), Fukuzawa noticed the important functions of social clubs in cities such as Rotterdam and London.39 Kôjunsha no Hyakunijûgo Nen (The 125 Years of Kôjunsha) points out that the first time Fukuzawa visited a social club might be the year 1860, when he went to the Union Club in San Francisco that had been established in 1854.40 Yamaguchi Kazuo also points out that there was a note “Conservative Club 1200 gentlemen” in Fukuzawa’s travel diary Saikô Tetchô (西航手帳).41 According to Yamaguchi, this Conservative Club was situated near St. James's Palace in London.42 The note indicates that there is a possibility that Fukuzawa visited the social club in London. Based on these experiences, Fukuzawa thought it would be beneficial for Japan if he adopted and modified this kind of institution,43 which would take a leading role in the enlightenment of Japanese society.44

At the beginning there were 1767 members in Kôjunsha. 639 members lived in Tokyo, while 1128 members lived in other places.45 Since more than half of the members lived outside Tokyo, a magazine for the members was created in order for them to get to know each other better. The first issue of this magazine, Kôjun Zasshi (交詢雑誌), was published on 5 February 1880.46 The magazine’s contents covered many fields, including politics, economics, agriculture and literature. In the magazine’s editorial columns, various comments on current topics, such as “revision of a treaty,” “a railway tax” and “education in Japan,” were developed by intellectuals mainly from Keiôgijuku.47 According to Matsuzaki Kin´ichi, who examines the issues from the magazine’s foundation year, contents of the articles at that time can be divided into three categories: “reports about the affairs of Kôjunsha,” “information and arguments about the current situation and the trend of Japanese society” and “questions and answers by the members of Kôjunsha.”48 The most frequent issues in the third category concern Japanese economy and industry.49 This questions and answers style had significant meaning because it gave club members scattered all over the country a sense of participation in the same public sphere. According to Sashi Tsutae, some women’s magazines adopted this style, which later became an established genre of “a personal advice column.”50 The magazine Kôjun Zasshi reflected the ideal of Fukuzawa–creating a new type of public sphere where people spread throughout the country could exchange their opinions freely and enlighten each other. It goes without saying that the people who could join such a public sphere at that time were limited to the ruling elite men. Membership did not include all legal citizens of the state, but consisted of a limited number of economically independent males who formed the enlightened intellectual aristocracy. It should be understood in the original Enlightenment period sense, where “civil” referred only to the more “civilized” members of society, in contrast to the uneducated and economically dependent part of the population of a country. The German concept of Bürgerliche Gesellschaft originally carried this connotation of a limited and partly exclusive membership. Kant argued that “the civil condition” was based on the following three principles: “1. The freedom of every member of society, as a human being; 2. The equality of every member with every other, as a subject; and 3. The independence of every member of the commonwealth, as a citizen.”51 However, this was not yet the general condition of all people in Kant and Fukuzawa’s time, when most people still were dependent on various kinds of employers and masters and consequently were not considered free subjects. At any rate, the creation of the public sphere in Japan can be considered as an epoch-making event, because it offered a new social relationship completely different from the previous one, which was strictly restricted by people’s social status and their belonging to feudal domains. Therefore, it is also possible to say that Kôjun Zasshi created a kind of imagined community in Benedict Anderson’s sense, which provided people with a new social relationship.52 Here I would like to add more information concerning this new social relationship53 by exploring the influence of the thought of Alexis de Tocqueville on Kôjunsha.

Sumita Kôtarô, who examines the role of Kôjunsha in modern Japanese society, points out that Obata Tokujirô (小幡篤次郎, 1842–1905), who was one of the leading figures of Kôjunsha, had been influenced greatly by Democracy in America written by Tocqueville between 1835 and 1840.54 As is commonly known, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859) was a French thinker and politician who wrote Democracy in America, which was based on his experience of travelling in America from 1831 to 1832. In this book, he argued that democratization is historically inevitable. Tocqueville also examined the characteristics, possibilities, essence and risk of democracy in the United States. Especially Chapter 7 “Relationships between Civil and Political Associations” of this book is highly relevant here. In this chapter, Tocqueville argued that political associations could be “great free schools to which all citizens come to be taught the general theory of association.”55 According to Sumita, the influence of this argument can be seen clearly in Obata Tokujirô’s speech at the first anniversary meeting of Kôjunsha.56 In the speech, Obata used the phrase “political associations as an origin of every association.”57 Sumita argues that this phrase is exactly from Tocqueville. In fact, Tocqueville wrote:

It is through political associations that Americans of every station, outlook, and age day by day acquire a general taste for association and get familiar with the way to use the same. Through them large numbers see, speak, listen, and stimulate each other to carry out all sorts of undertakings in common. Then they carry these conceptions with them into the affairs of civil life and put them to a thousand uses.58

Tocqueville claimed that political associations could be the places for people to practice and grow accustomed to organizing associations. In the same chapter, he also stated that, “in all countries where political associations are forbidden, civil associations are rare.”59 Thus, it is obvious that Tocqueville thought that political associations should be created first and that they would become the basis of civil associations. As Sumita points out, Obata’s phrase “political associations as an origin of every association” corresponds to Tocqueville’s idea. Tocqueville also wrote:

There is one country in the world which, day in, day out, makes use of an unlimited freedom of political association. And the citizens of this same nation, alone in the world, have thought of using the right of association continually in civil life, and by this means have come to enjoy all the advantages which civilization can offer.60

In these sentences, Tocqueville argued that such social relationships play important roles in enabling people to enjoy the benefit of civilization. Influenced by this idea, Kôjunsha, especially in its early days, aimed to create new social relationships that would be necessary in a new civilized society. At that time, this idea could be considered a revolutionary invention. As Sumita and Takeda Yukihisa61 point out62, the publication of the magazine Kôjun Zasshi also reflected Japan’s social transformation after the Seinan War (西南戦争, 1877) from a society where people settled their differences by force to a society where people settled disputes by discussion.63

In 1889, Kôjunsha began to publish a register of shinshi called Nihon Shinshiroku, which at that time included about 25,000 shinshi. This register used the amount of taxes that one paid as its criterion for determining whether one was a shinshi.64 Because this was a non-gendered criterion and was created somewhat artificially, some women were included in this register.65 Later this criterion occasionally changed. For example, in 1902, the criterion for shinshi was “paying 5 yen and over income tax or possessing a telephone.”66 It is interesting to see that the telephone was used as a criterion for shinshi. At that time, the telephone was a special piece of equipment that only a few wealthy people could afford to own. It was a status symbol.

Through the publication and strong sales of Nihon Shinshiroku, the concept of shinshi became more popular and shinshi itself became a kind of vogue word. For example, in the Yomiuri newspaper, there was a serial in 127 installments titled Meiji Shinshi monogatari (明治紳士ものがたり)67 in 1892. The serial introduced various episodes about celebrities at that time. In this way, as Nagatani Ken points out, many members of the emerging new elite were described and categorized as shinshi.68

According to the distribution of occupations of the members in 1901 as described in Kôjunsha Hyakunenshi, the number of people who were engaged in companies and banks increased.69 In 1914, the tendency continued and Kôjunsha’s character increasingly became that of a group of businessmen.70 Furthermore, in 1925, there first appeared a category jitsugyô (実業)71 in an occupation space of the staff list of Kôjunsha.72 On this word jitsugyô, Sakata Yoshio’s remark is informative. According to Sakata, jitsugyô, which had been used as a general term for agriculture, industry and commerce in the early Meiji era, gradually came to be used exclusively for representing modern enterprises by the middle of Meiji era.73 In this way, Kôjunsha became the place where the emerging economic elite gathered and exchanged information.

Kôjunsha was sometimes regarded as a political organization because of its engagement in a number of political events, such as Meiji 14 nen no Seihen (明治十四年の政変).74 Meiji 14 nen no Seihen was a political disturbance in 1881 that included the issuance of the Imperial Edict for Establishing a Diet, the cancellation of the transfer of government property to private ownership, and the expulsion of Ôkuma Shigenobu (大隈重信) from the political world. During this political disturbance, Fukuzawa and Ôkuma fell under the suspicion of an antigovernment conspiracy. Gotô Yasushi, who examines75 the activities of Kôjunsha in Jiyû Minken Undô (自由民権運動)76 in the early Meiji era, claims that “Kôjunsha started as a social club. However, [especially in its early days] it was not just a social club but also a heavily political organization.”77 Kôjunsha itself denied and was wary of such an evaluation. The members emphasized that the role of Kôjunsha was not to engage directly in political activities, but to exchange opinions freely regardless the political beliefs of members.78 Fukuzawa himself described the character of Kôjunsha in his speech79 at the social club’s eighth conference:

If you look back on the past, you can see all the things which could not be achieved without knowledge from Western civilization. However, if someone with civilized behavior knows nothing of the Japanese way, he would be regarded as a thoughtless person. It is important to acquire knowledge. However, we have rare opportunities to get that. Therefore, the duty of Kôjunsha is that we ask and answer each other regardless of one’s ethnic group, status or job. What we gain from our conversations would be knowledge about Western civilization and the present situation of Japanese society. Therefore this is what we should do immediately. I definitely believe with you that no place in Japan except our Kôjunsha can be asked to do this task.80

In this speech, Fukuzawa also said that “Kôjunsha was originally not a place for a political talk.”81 To say the least, in its idealistic form, Kôjunsha was supposed to be a place where Fukuzawa could realize his ideal of spreading Western civilization and cultivating modern relationships.

Kôjunsha is also famous for its historically important buildings.82 One of the buildings, built after the Great Tokyo Earthquake (1923), is introduced in the book Sôran Nihon no Kenchiku Dai 3 Kan Tokyo (A Complete Guide of Japanese Architecture Volume 3 Tokyo).83 Kôjunsha reconstructed its buildings several times. For example, the renovation in 1885 was conducted with the purpose of changing everything to a European style so that club members would not feel embarrassed when they invited foreign guests.84 Anzai Eitarô (安西英太郎), a member of Kôjunsha, remembered his impression of the building in the Taishô era. Anzai said, “it was a splendid Western-style building and totally different from the surrounding houses.”85 This impression gives us an image of Kôjunsha at that time.


From a space for enlightenment to a space for mutual friendship

Broadly speaking, Kôjunsha changed its character from a place for enlightenment to a place for social life. In 1901, Fukuzawa Yukichi passed away. Obata Tokujirô, who had been another main person in Kôjunsha, died soon after Fukuzawa, as if following his friend to death.86 Then Kamata Eikichi (鎌田栄吉, 1857–1934) was delegated to manage Kôjunsha.87 Kamata devoted himself to the development of Keiôgijuku, serving as its principal from 1898 to 1922. A generation change also gradually transformed the character of Kôjunsha. At the end of 1907, a new building equipped with facilities for social life was completed.88 From that time on, Kôjunsha became a typical social club for partying and developing specific social lifestyles,89 and its original intellectual mission receded to the background. Dance parties and dinner parties with foreign guests were frequently held.90 Some gatherings, such as Kinyô Gosan Kai (金曜午餐会),91 were also actively held.92 Seiyûkai (清遊会), which was an assembly for member’s families to appreciate entertainment, began in 1908.93 Furthermore, circles of members with common hobbies, such as billiards, Haiku (俳句) and Igo (囲碁, a Japanese board game), were held actively.94 Playing billiards had a particularly symbolic meaning as “a suitable hobby for the most fashionable and intelligent gentlemen.”95 For example, a picture of gentlemen playing billiards was used in an advertisement of the ninth edition of Nihon Shinshiroku.96 In Japan, billiard playing was started by the Dutch in Dejima (出島), which was a special area in Nagasaki for international trade during the period of Japan’s national seclusion.97 By the last days of the Tokugawa period, billiards was also played in a number of hotels in the settlement areas.98 Billiard tables were set up in some Western-style food restaurants, after which the game rapidly spread throughout Japan. The billiard club was the most active hobby circle in Kôjunsha.99 In fact, billiard games held by the members of Kôjunsha were frequently reported in newspaper articles such as “Tamatsukikai Dayori Kôjunsha Senshu Kyôgikai100 (球突界だより 交詢社選手競技会)”101 and “Dôkyûkai Kazokukai to Kôjunsha 6 Tai 6 de Kessen wo Okonau102 (撞球界 華族会と交詢社 六対六で決選を行う).”103 From the end of 1929, when a new building was constructed after the destruction of the former building by the Great Tokyo Earthquake, some other hobby circles, such as a golf club and a social dance club, also appeared.104 Social skills, a wealthy lifestyle, and refined leisure activities became important qualifications of proper shinshi in Kôjunsha.


The criticism of social clubs

Social clubs and their members were often targets for critique, either directly or satirically. For example, in 1928, an interesting book, Kurabu Meguri: Fu Zaikai Inu to Saru (倶楽部めぐり 附 財界犬と猿)105 was published by Miyako newspaper reporters. The subtitle clearly shows the book’s sarcastic character. The book was a compilation of newspaper serials about the true state of the business community.106 In the book, Kôjunsha was described as a community of wealthy haikara (people fashionably dressed in Western style):

Generally, Kôjunsha is an assembly of people who have luck with money. Kôjunsha constructed its building at Minaminabe chô, behind Ginza area. Now it is nothing to speak of. However, at the time it was quite gorgeous and fully-equipped. Every Friday they held lunch meetings. They could be considered haikara. On every Friday snobbish conversations by the members surrounding the venerable Fukuzawa livened up the big hall in Kôjunsha.107

The Tokyo club, which was first established in Rokumeikan (鹿鳴館) building, was described in a sarcastic way as a community for young nobles and rich people influenced by Western habits.108 According to Tokyo Club Monogatari (The History of Tokyo Club), there had been a rumor that “Japan was an uncivilized country because there was no gentlemen’s club” in the early Meiji era. The establishment of Tokyo club was expedited by the Japanese government in order to refute that rumor.109 The main person behind the club’s foundation was Inoue Kaoru (井上馨, 1835–1915), who, as foreign minister, was engaged in a policy of Europeanization.110 Inoue also strived to revise the unequal treaties, although he did not succeed.

About the Nihon Kôgyô Club established in 1917, the reporters said:

If you hear the word businessmen, you would think about respectable gentlemen, who might have a car or a cigar. Maybe they also have titles from their positions, such as a president or an executive managing director. These things would make them look even greater. However, to tell the truth, the people of this class are the dirtiest ones.111

These descriptions in the book Kurabu Meguri: Fu Zaikai Inu to Saru were more or less impressionistic criticisms. We cannot see whether these descriptions were correct or not. However, we can at least say that people were very interested in the gap between the idealized images of social clubs and the real people who could be found there.112 The book pointed out the dubious character of social clubs. Artificial or awkward behavior of the members was sharply observed and commented on. Such reactions reflected the period when the image of the new modern economic elite was in the process of creation and had not yet become definite.


Shinshi images and the rise of the new economic elite

Idealistic images of gentleman were used strategically by people associated with the clubs. In pre-modern Japanese society, people engaged in commerce were traditionally looked down upon, as can be seen in the famous phrase Shi Nô Kô Shô (士農工商, the four classes of warriors, farmers, artisans, and tradesmen in hierarchical order). Such contempt for people engaged in commerce penetrated not only society but also businessmen’s own self-recognition. The emerging modern elite including Fukuzawa, recognizing the national strategic importance of industrial development and international trade, wanted to sweep away such contempt for businessmen and tradesmen.113

In his famous book, Bunmeiron no Gairyaku, Fukuzawa criticized the behavior of traditional Japanese tradesmen.114 According to a commentary by Maruyama Masao, the characteristic behavior criticized by Fukuzawa can be considered as pariah capitalism in Weberian terminology.115 Fukuzawa advocated that Japanese people should learn modern and civilized ways, moral values and polite behavior, which were regarded as a matter of course among businessmen in Western countries.116 As an advocator of a new era, he tried to clear away contemptuous feelings for people engaged in commerce. He used idealistic images about gentlemen in order to endow the new economic elite with a good impression and positive societal roles. This kind of process has been examined in detail by Nagatani (2007) and Nishimura (2006: 259–63).117

In fact, when someone in modern Japan talked about how the economic elite should be or what was appropriate behavior for businessmen, the ideal of gentlemanship frequently appeared. For example, Tanimoto Tomeri (谷本富, 1866–1946), who was famous for introducing the Herbartian method of education in Japanese society,118 wrote Shindôtoku Shôgyô Tekiyô (新道徳 商業適用)119 in 1908. In the fourth chapter of the book “Hinsei to shinshi (品性と紳士)”120 Tanimoto claimed that new businessmen should become a true economic elite endowed with dignity and gentlemanship.121 Another example is from the essay written by the famous businessman Iwasaki Koyata (岩埼小弥太, 1879–1945). In 1915, Iwasaki wrote an essay “Kurabu ni Taisuru Kibô (倶楽部に対する希望).”122 In this essay, he claimed that it would be necessary for contemporary businessmen to cultivate their characters:

Today the status of businessmen is enhanced. It has also become clear that they have heavy responsibilities for the national development. However, it is really regrettable that their manners seem to be rather degenerate at such a time. Businessmen who have especially heavy responsibilities among all the citizens are required to be role models for them, not only of character but also of behavior.123

Furthermore, famous businessmen were sometimes described as persons who had gentlemanship. For example, the famous businessman Shôda Heigorô (荘田平五郎, 1847–1922), who led the Mitsubishi financial group, was described as “a profound British-style gentleman.”124 Kondô Renpei (近藤廉平, 1848–1921), who developed Nippon Yûsen Kaisha (Japan Mail Shipping Line or NYK Line, now one of the world’s biggest shipping companies), was praised as “a gentleman with grace and dignity.”125 In this way, the images of gentlemen as the embodiment of Western civilization were connected to the embellished images of the new Japanese economic elite of the Meiji and Taishô periods.


The construction of new public sphere and gentlemanship

It follows from what has been said in this paper that the social clubs in modern Japanese society, including Kôjunsha, tried to create a new type of public sphere. Idealistic images of English gentlemen were used as a symbol for this new public sphere. The images reflected yearning for Western civilization, which functioned as a driving force of modernization.

At the beginning of the concept’s advocacy, shinshi had rather an obscure image tied to its original Enlightenment meaning. Later, it was connected with social clubs as the vanguards of Japan’s Westernization and Enlightenment. The public sphere connected with the clubs also corresponded with the ideal of an enlightened intellectual aristocracy of economically independent males engaged in civilized debate for the betterment of society. Gradually, the meaning of the concept of shinshi began to be filled with quite concrete elements, such as western dress, wealthy lifestyles, refined hobbies and civilized behavior. On the one hand, these attributes made shinshi very understandable to all people. However, they also opened shinshi to satirical attacks. In this way, the representation of shinshi spread throughout society as a social character that represented the emerging economic elite in modern Japanese society with both positive and negative connotations.126

In his book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, Habermas examines the disappearance of repräsentative Öffentlichkeit and the birth of bürgerliche Öffentlichkeit in Western society. While bürgerliche Öffentlichkeit means a space where people exchange their opinions, discuss freely and criticize each other, repräsentative Öffentlichkeit means a space where one authority expresses its prestige by showing splendid costumes or distinguished manners. As to repräsentative Öffentlichkeit, Habermas explains:

The staging of the publicity involved in representation was wedded to personal attributes such as insignia (badges and arms), dress (clothing and coiffure), demeanor (form of greeting and poise) and rhetoric (form of address and formal discourse in general) —in a word, to a strict code of “noble” conduct.127

If I may be allowed to engage in a little hyperbole, Kôjunsha seemed to go in the opposite direction of the transformation process of public spheres analyzed by Habermas. At the beginning, Kôjunsha had the character of bürgerliche Öffentlichkeit, where the members exchanged their opinions and discussed freely, although the space where this happened was very small—only the club itself. Then Kôjunsha gradually changed its character to repräsentative Öffentlichkeit, with its members showing their prestige by their expensive western clothes, "virtue" as economic elite, sophisticated manners or refined leisure activities, and their behavior spreading across the whole country. It seems that one of the reasons why this process was opposite to the one in Westerns society is that in modern Japanese society, especially in Kôjunsha established by Fukuzawa Yukichi, the bürgerliche Öffentlichkeit did not grow naturally.128 Instead, first and foremost, it was introduced and adopted as an abstract concept from the outside. Therefore, compared to the process Habermas analyzes in Western society, there appeared a different process of the transformation of public spheres in Kôjunsha.

The writing of this paper was made possible in part by a grant from the Graduate School of Contemporary Asian Studies (2008–2009), a Support Presentation Grant from the Kyoto University Global COE Program for Reconstruction of the Intimate and Public Spheres in 21st Century Asia, and a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (2010). I would like to thank these organizations for their generous financial assistance.



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1. This paper is an expanded and revised version of a conference paper entitled “Kôjunsha and Gentlemanship in Modern Japanese Society : the Creation of a New Type of Public Sphere” presented at the Nordic Association for the Study of Contemporary Japanese Society (NAJS) Conference at Turku University, Finland, 20.03.2009 (Takeuchi 2009).

2. In this paper, I changed the kana spellings and kanji characters in quotations from old ones to new ones, in consideration of readers’ convenience.

3. On the period of preliminaries to the foundation of Kôjunsha, see, for example, Sashi Tsutae (1980).

4. According to Kôjunsha Hyakunenshi (The 100 years of Kôjunsha), Kôjunsha can be considered the “first” social club as long as social clubs mean those which have no restrictions on social status, jobs, and academic backgrounds in their membership requirements (Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 43). However, before the foundation of Kôjunsha, there had been some attempts to found social clubs (Kôjunsha 1983, 43) or social clubs for foreigners. For example, according to Yamada Masaru (2004), there had been social clubs for the British who stayed in Japan in the last days of the Tokugawa regime, such as the Yokohama United club (Yamada 2004, 197–200). Tokyo club Monogatari (The History of Tokyo club) points out the existence of some precursors of social clubs before Kôjunsha, although the writer agrees that Kôjunsha can be considered as “the oldest extant nongovernmental social club” (Tokyo club ed. 2004, 28–9).

5. Dentsû Osakashisha ed. 1962, 34.

6. Habermas 1962=1989, 36.

7. My research material has been articles in contemporary magazines, newspapers, and books. Of course, I also use earlier historical research concerning the phenomenon. The history books written by Kôjunsha are rich with information. However, if I only refer to the history books by Kôjunsha, there would naturally be the danger that the information might only be what Kôjunsha members profess in public. Therefore, I have also referred to the articles in contemporary magazines and newspapers.

8. From a congratulatory speech by the rector of Keiôgijuku University, Ishikawa Tadao, at the 100th anniversary party of Kôjunsha’s foundation (Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 439).

9. The newspaper Jijishinpô made its first appearance in 1882. It became one of the representative newspapers in modern Japanese society. However, it ceased publication in 1936 because the business conditions deteriorated.

10. The Situation in Western Countries.

11. Encouragement of Learning.

12. An Outline of a Theory of Civilization.

13. About this book, Maruyama Masao (1986) and Koyasu Nobukuni (2005) are informative.

14. Koyasu 2005, 2.

15. Koyasu 2005, 1.

16. Nishimura 2006, 4–5.

17. “Staatsräson ist die Maxime staatlichen Handelns, das Bewegungsgesetz des Staates. Sie sagt dem Staatsmanne, was er tun muß, um den Staat in Gesundheit und Kraft zu erhalten.” (Meinecke [1924]1960, 1)

18. Nishimura 2006, 255.

19. Nishimura 2006, 256–7.

20. Nishimura 2006, 257.

21. Of course, the actual condition of Kôjunsha was not always the same as what Fukuzawa Yukichi imagined. For example, Fukuzawa Momosuke, who was a businessman and a son-in-law of Fukuzawa Yukichi, described the people in Kôjunsha as hanging around a stove and wasting their time in gossip about the success of colleagues (Fukuzawa 1911, 17–20).

22. An Idea of a Meeting Place

23. Jiji Shinpô newspaper, 21 August, 1896. (Fukuzawa [1896]1961, 494–6)

24. Fukuzawa [1888]1960, 461–4.

25. Fukuzawa [1888]1960, 463–4. 其区域甚だ広く、諸氏の今正に勉強する所にして、修業中は学問の外に余念なく、一刻千金の其時を空うせずして刻苦す可きは勿論、即ち自身の利益の為めなれば、敢て他の勧告を要せざる所なれども、斯く勉強刻苦すればとて、人は即ち人にして死物にあらざれば、書生中にも自から交際なからざる可らず、又他人に接するの要用もあることなれば、常に自から紳士の資格を失わず、博識多芸に兼て礼儀を重んじ、言行優美にして苟も他の軽侮に逢うことなきを勉めざる可らず。

26. Fukuzawa [1888]1960, 464. 紳士の美徳

27. Influence of the venerable Mr. Fukuzawa: conversation at Kôjunsha last night

28. Yomiuri shinbun newspaper, 03 February, 1909.

29. 翁の感化事業は、悉く是等の紳士の口に上り而して又是等の紳士其物が夫れであった。

30. Comments on Kôjunsha

31. Chuokoron,『中央公論』, 1913.05., 74. In this sentence, “[directly]” was added by Takeuchi.中等階級の上の部に属する紳士を網羅し、政府に関係あるもの尠く、いづれも政界及び財異 (ママ) に活動しつゝある「時の人」なり。其品質に於て民間第一流の社交倶楽部たるを失わず

32. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 323.御承知の通り私の父は交詢社の為めに尽力致しましたが、其れが為め私迄も父の余徳をもちまして紳士諸君の集る当社の名誉社員に推薦を受け、誠に光栄の次第と深く感謝致します。

33. The Register of Japanese Gentlemen

34. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 324.先程福沢(一太郎)さんが紳士と言う事を申されましたが、此言葉は交詢雑誌の編纂をやって居った四屋純三郎君が、交詢社発行の日本紳士録に、職業が無い為め英語のゼントルマンを訳して紳士四屋純三郎と掲載致しました、是れが日本に於ける紳士なる言葉の始まりだと思います。

35. Actually the word shinshi had been already used in Kôjunsha before the time that Kamata mentioned. According to Kôjunsha no Hyakunijûgo Nen (The 125 Years of Kôjunsha), there were people who had already written shinshi in the “occupation” spaces in the list of the members made in 1880 (Kôjunsha ed. 2007b, 76). Therefore, Kamata’s remark is incorrect.

36. For example, in 1871, Nakamura Masanao used shinshi as a translation of “gentleman” in his book Saigoku Risshi Hen (西国立志編, How Westerner Decide Their Own Purposes in Their Lives, Smiles, translated by Nakamura 1859=1871, 5. 23). The book was a translation of Self-Help by Samuel Smiles, published in 1859.

37. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 21. 知識を交換し世務を諮詢

38. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 31, 60.

39. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 12–3. About the social clubs Fukuzawa visited, Kataoka Takeshi (2004) is informative.

40. Kôjunsha ed. 2007b, 8.

41. Yamaguchi 1983, 186.

42. Yamaguchi 1983, 188.

43. Although Yamaguchi emphasizes the difference between the social club in London and Kôjunsha (Yamaguchi 1983, 192), one can conjecture that the experience of visiting social clubs inspired Fukuzawa’s idea of establishing a social club in Japan.

44. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 12–3.

45. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 60.

46. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 77–8.

47. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 86–9.

48. Matsuzaki 2005, 63.

49. Matsuzaki 2005, 67.

50. Sashi Tsutae 1988, 524.

51. Kant 1793=2006, 45.

52. Benedict Anderson (1983)

53. According to Nakajima Hisato (2005), the foundation of Kôjunsha could be considered “an experiment” of a new social relationship (Nakajima 2005, 159).

54. Sumita 2004-8a, 2–3.

55. de Tocqueville 1835-40=1969, 522.

56. Sumita 2004-8a, 3–7.

57. 結社の本源である政党

58. de Tocqueville 1835-40=1969, 524.

59. de Tocqueville 1835-40=1969, 520.

60. de Tocqueville 1835-40=1969, 520.

61. 竹田行之. He is a writer of Kôjunsha no Hyakunijûgo Nen (Kôjunsha ed. 2007b).

62. Sumita 2004-8b: 7, Kôjunsha ed. 2007b, 17.

63. The Seinan War was a rebellion conducted by discontented former samurai who opposed the Meiji Government. Saigô Takamori (西郷隆盛, 1827–1877) , a Satsuma clansman, was a main leader of this rebellion. He was also one of the leading figures of the Meiji Restoration. However, he left the Meiji government after losing in an argument about dispatching an envoy to Korea. Fukuzawa was always concerned about the energy of the frustrated former samurai. In this regard, Anzai Toshizô makes an important remark. According to Anzai (2005), Tocqueville’s idea that democratization and decentralization can coexist gave Fukuzawa a clue to solving the problem of the former samurai’s frustration (Anzai 2005, 278–9). Influenced by Tocqueville’s idea, Fukuzawa came to think that their energy could be diverted into local governments (Anzai 2005, 278–9).

64. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 220.

65. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 220.

66. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 227.

67. Stories of Shinshi in Meiji era

68. Nagatani 2007, 43.

69. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 279.

70. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 279.

71. business.

72. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 280.

73. Sakata 1964, 138.

74. political disturbance at 1881

75. Gotô Yasushi (1973) and Gotô (1977)

76. The Freedom and People’s Rights Movement

77. Gotô 1977, 1. In this quotation, “[especially in its early days]” was added by Takeuchi.

78. For example, Ishikawa Kanmei (石河幹明, 1859–1943), who served as chief editor of Jiji Shinpô newspaper, emphasized the nonpolitical character of Kôjunsha (Ishikawa 1932, 777).

79. It was held on 16th April, 1887.

80. Jiji Shinpô newspaper, 18 April, 1887. (Fukuzawa [1887]1960, 242) 顧みて人事の勢を見れば、一より十に至るまで西洋文明の知識なくしては叶う可らず。文明流の人は日本固有の実際を知るに非ざれば迂闊の 譏を免れず。事は重要にして之に応ずるの方便に乏し。即ち交詢社の当さに任ずべき責にして、人の種族地位職業の如何を問わず、互に知る所を告げて知らざる所を諮う。諮うて得る所のものは西洋文明の知識なり、日本固有の実際なり。即ち今日の人事の急要にして、本社を除く外、日本国中他に依頼す可きものなきは、諸君と共に信じて疑わざる所なり。

81. Jiji Shinpô newspaper, 18 April, 1887. (Fukuzawa [1887]1960, 242) 交詢社は素より政談の社にあらず。

82. The magazine article, “Kôjunsha Kurabu Kenchiku no Seika (交詢社――クラブ建築の精華, Kôjunsha, the flower of the club architecture)”, Chûô Kôron 2000.7., 23–5) also praises the Kôjunsha building from an architectural viewpoint. At the time of the rebuilding, there was much regret for the former building. Then, in 2002, a memorial collection of photographs was published (Kôjunsha ed. 2007a, 65–6).

83. Nihon Kenchiku Gakkai ed. 1987, 68.

84. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 191.

85. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 91.

86. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 236.

87. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 236.

88. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 290.

89. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 277.

90. Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 282–3.

91. Friday Lunch Meetings

92.Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 290–1.

93.Kôjunsha ed. 2007b, 61.

94.Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 262–4.

95.Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 262.

96.Kôjunsha ed. 1903, a frontispiece.

97. Tokyo club ed. 2004, 54.

98. Tokyo club ed. 2004, 54.

99.Kôjunsha ed.1983, 298.

100. The report about billiards players community: the competition in Kôjunsha

101. Yomiuri shinbun newspaper, 15 June, 1909

102. The billiard players community: Kazoku group and Kôjunsha fought a decisive battle after the score at 6 all

103. Yomiuri shinbun newspaper, 20 October, 1926

104.Kôjunsha ed. 1983, 363.

105. Visiting Social Clubs: the Business World of Dogs and Monkeys

106. Miyakoshinbunkeizaibu ed. 1928, 2.

107. Miyakoshinbunkeizaibu ed. 1928, 6–7.一体に、金には縁の深い連中の集まり、交詢社が南鍋町の銀座裏に社屋を建てた時なぞ、今から見れば何でもないが当時としてはかなり贅を尽したもので諸設備の如きも随分整っていた、毎週金曜日を午餐会と定めたなども考えようによってはハイカラがったもので、この日は必ず諭吉翁を囲んだ高等的雑談が大ホールを賑わしたものである。

108. Miyakoshinbunkeizaibu ed. 1928, 144.

109. Tokyo club ed. 2004, 10.

110. Tokyo club ed. 2004, 34.

111. Miyakoshinbunkeizaibu ed. 1928, 111.実業家と云うと、如何にも立派な紳士の様であり、又出入とも、自動車を駆って、葉巻か何かをくゆらし、何々会社の社長、専務と、こう云う肩書を持って居ると、一層立派であるが、凡そ此の階級程腐敗してる階級は少ない

112. This kind of tendency to monitor and criticize the behavior of the economic elite is also examined in detail in Nagatani (2003).

113. The image of gentlemen was also used in British society at that time to enhance the prestige of the rising economic and industrial bourgeoisie. On the transformation of the concept of gentlemen in British society, Muraoka Kenji (2003) is informative.

114. Fukuzawa [1875]1995, 189–90.

115. Maruyama 1986, 290–1. Pariah capitalism is a form of capitalism which is characterized by mere money worship or thoughtless pursuit of immediate profits.

116. Fukuzawa [1875]1995, 189–90.

117. Nagatani (1992), Nagatani (2003), and Nagatani (2004) are also informative.

118. The Herbartian method was advocated by German educationist Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776–1841). This method significantly influenced the modern Japanese education system, especially in the Meiji era.

119. New Morals for Businessman

120. Character and shinshi

121. Tanimoto 1908, 78.

122. The Request for Social Clubs

123. Iwasaki 1915, 4–5.然るに実業家の地位も高まり、国運発展の上に特に重大の責任を有することの明かになった現今に於て、一般の風儀の却て堕落したような観のあるのは、実に遺憾の至りでは無いか。凡ての国民の中に在って、特に重大なる責任を有する実業界の人々は、其の品性に於て其の操行に於て、共に国民の模範にならなければならぬ。

124. Miyamoto 1999, 348.

125. Miyamoto 1999, 348–9.

126. We can also see this kind of representation of shinshi in novels. See, for example, Nagai Kafû ([1909-10]1951, 54–6) and Takeda Taijun ([1958]2000, 2).

127. Habermas 1962=1989, 8.

128. Just to be sure, I do not involve any value judgments about whether the bürgerliche Öffentlichkeit grew naturally or not.


Author: Takeuchi Rio.
Article: Kôjunsha and the shinshi Image : The creation of a new type of public sphere in modern Japanese society.
Publication: Harukaze – Kirjoituksia Japanin kulttuurista.
Issue: 5.
Date issued: 9.6.2010.
Publisher: Japani-opinnot, Oulun yliopisto, Oulu.
ISSN: 1458-2899.
URL: http://www.oulu.fi/hutk/japani/Harukaze/Takeuchi_2010.html

Harukaze numero 5:n pääsivulle