Founded Amid Controversy
In 1905, Japan bursts onto the scene as a world power, defeating Russia in a stunning upset. The Americans recoil. In March 1905, the California legislature and union-backed Asiatic Exclusion League support Congressional legislation to limit Japanese immigrants. In October 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt brokers the Treaty of Portsmouth to end hostilities. His vision of America’s “Manifest Destiny” confronts Japan’s growing power, which creates a climate of fear and prejudice on both sides of the Pacific.
In this hostile environment, San Mateo attorney Henry Pike Bowie, Stanford University president David Starr Jordan, and San Francisco Consul Kisaburo Ueno, found the Japan Society on October 7, 1905 to spread knowledge of Japanese language, arts, industry, history, folklore, and customs, and promote U.S.-Japan cooperation.
Jordan and Bowie are budding Japanophiles. Jordan is a noted educator, scientist, peace activist, and ichthyologist. Educated at Cornell, he teaches zoology at Indiana University before being appointed the first president of Stanford in 1891, where he develops the Japanese Studies Program. He is involved in arranging baseball games between Stanford and Waseda. A staunch pacifist, he serves as president of the World Peace Foundation from 1910 to 1914 and as president of the World Peace Conference in 1915.
Bowie is a lover of Japanese gardens and art. In 1891, after the death of his first wife Agnes Poett-Howard, a prominent San Mateo socialite, he is heart-broken and travels to Japan to study art. He masters Japanese calligraphy and sumie brush painting. While in Japan, he meets and marries Komako Hirano, who provides etiquette training to ladies at the Imperial Palace. They share their love of Japanese culture with Bay Area friends.
David Starr Jordan
Henry Pike Bowie
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