Departmental Bulletin Paper Charles Longfellow's Twenty Months in Japan : A glimpse at the journals, letters, and photographs of the poet's son, and their significance among other writings in our understanding of the Euro-American experience in Meiji Japan

Nootbaar, Julie Joy

Charles Longfellow, son of the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, traveled to Japan in 1871 at age 27, where he would end up staying for twenty months. An avid adventurer and active globe-trotter, Charley had already traveled to Europe and other parts of Asia by the time he set off for Japan, a country with which he had long been fascinated. He arrived in Yokohama with no real purpose, but was armed with the good connections of his father and fortified by ample financial means to enjoy himself to the fullest. The combination of these two circumstances made it possible for the affable Longfellow to not only enjoy the sights and pleasures available to the increasing number of Euro-Americans traveling to Japan, but also opened the doors for a number of extraordinary experiences. He wrote about these experiences in his private journals as well as in letters home to his family, and his irreverent wit and lively sense of humor make for acute and quite honest observations on things such has audience with the Meiji Emperor, his travels in Hokkaido, cultural events such as festivals and sumo wrestling, and all kinds of pleasurable pursuits. The large number of photographs he amassed during his stay document not only the sights of Japan, but also his personal experiences such as dressing in various Japanese costumes, building his own home, and enjoying the company of women. This paper highlights some of his writings and photographs and suggests that among the plethora of writings by Euro-Americans in Japan during this period, these are valuable resources for our understanding of Meiji Japan and the Euro-American experience within it.

Number of accesses :  

Other information