Tsuda Sen (津田仙)

Sen TSUDA (August 6, 1837 - April 24, 1908) was a Japanese agriculturist and a Christian. He was involved in the founding of Doshisha University, Aoyama Gakuin University, and the School for the Visually Impaired in University of Tsukuba. He was also the first person to start a mail order business in Japan. Along with Joseph Hardy NEESIMA (Joe NIIJIMA), one of the founders of the Doshisha, and Masanao NAKAMURA, a liberalist professor of the University of Tokyo, he was known as one of the three pillars of the Christian world.

His daughter Umeko TSUDA was a founder of Tsuda College. His childhood name was Senya.

Brief Personal History

He was born in the Sakura-jo Castle. His father was the fourth son of Yoshichika (Zenemon) KOJIMA, a vassal of the Hotta clan in Sakura Domain of Shimousa Province. In 1851, he reached manhood and was adopted by the Sakurai family. In 1861, he was adopted by his wife Hatsuko's family.

In 1627, at the age of 15, he studied at Seitoku Shoin, a hanko (domain school) in Sakura Domain (the predecessor of the present Chiba Prefectural Sakura Senior High School). The lord of the domain, Masayoshi HOTTA had a keen interest in Western studies, and under the domain's command, Sen studied Dutch, English, Western studies, and Gunnery. In 1855, he entered government service, and enrolled in Rangaku Juku (Institute for Dutch Studies) in Edo to study English among other subjects under Einosuke MORIYAMA. He was employed as a translator for the magistrate of foreign affairs and went to the United States of America in 1867 with Yukichi FUKUZAWA as an attendant for the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

Having left the government post after the Meiji Restoration, he worked for Tsukiji Hotel, a Western-style Japanese hotel, and cultivated Western vegetables. In 1871, he worked as a temporary employee for Hokkaido Development Commission established by the Meiji Government. Kiyotaka KURODA, the Suke (assistant director), who was interested in education for girls, proposed to send female exchange students with the Iwakura mission, for which Sen volunteered his daughter, Umeko. One month after the delegation had departed, he resigned from the Hokkaido development commission.

After working for Minbusho (Ministry of Popular Affairs), he accompanied Tsunetami SANO (the founder of the Japanese Red Cross Society) as a secretary when Sano attended the world exposition in Vienna as a vice-president. He was taught by a Dutch agriculturist Daniel HOOIBRENK, and on May of 1874, following his return to Japan, he published a compilation of HOOIBRENK's dictations in "Nogyo Sanji" (three farming methods).

In January, 1875, he was baptized with his wife Hatsu by Julius Soper, an American Methodist Episcopal missionary, as the first Japanese Methodist. In 1876, he founded Gakunosha (an institution for publishing agricultural magazines and managing schools) as well an agricultural school in Azabu, Tokyo. He taught Christianity as well. In his magazine 'Nogyo Zasshi' (a magazine of agriculture), he sold American corn seeds by mail order; this was said to be the first mail order service in Japan. In the same year, he was invited by Nobuchika KURIHARA to teach wine making in Kofu.

In the Ashio Copper Mine Mineral Pollution Incident, he supported Shozo TANAKA and devoted effort to relief work for the peasants. In 1897, he turned over his enterprises to his second son, and retired in Kamakura. In 1908, he died of a brain hemorrhage on the Tokaido Main Line train at the age of 71. His funeral was held at the auditorium of Aoyama Gakuin.

After his death, Kanzo UCHIMURA and Inazo NITOBE wrote a eulogy, praising his life works called him 'Daiheimin' (the great commoner). The seeds of pseudoacacia that Sen had brought back from the world exposition in Vienna were planted in Otemachi in 1875 following his return to Japan, which became the first roadside trees in Tokyo.

His grave is in Aoyama Cemetery.