Last week, Doshisha University President Koji Murata and Amherst College President Biddy Martin met to formally extend the already friendly relationship between the two schools that dates back to 1875. (See photos of the signing ceremony.) This recent event prompted me to look back at the origins of our relationship with Doshisha, and consequently at the founder of the University, Joseph Hardy Neesima.
Niijima Shimeta was born in 1843 in Tokyo, Japan to father Niijima Tamiki, the recording secretary to Lord Itakura. At age 21, despite Japan’s restrictive policy of national isolation, Niijima stowed away on a ship headed for Shanghai, there transferring to the Wild Rover, a schooner headed for Boston, Mass.
Upon reaching Boston in 1865, the schooner’s captain, Horace Taylor, introduced Niijima to Alpheus Hardy, the ship’s owner and a trustee of Philips Academy in Andover and of Amherst College. With the support of Hardy, Niijima, now legally known as Joseph Hardy Neesima, was baptized into the Congregational Church and studied at Philip Academy. Following his graduation from Philip Academy, Neesima went on to attend Amherst College, becoming the first from Japan to earn a college degree from a western institution in 1870. Neesima studied at the Andover Theological Seminary before returning to Japan as a Christian missionary.
In 1874, Joseph Hardy Neesima established Doshisha College, a Christian school in Kyoto. Within ten years, the school grew from six students in a one room schoolhouse to 230 students with several spacious buildings. In 1886, Neesima raised money to enlarge Doshisha into a university with the creation of graduate departments and an all girls school. Joseph Hardy Neesima was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Amherst College in 1889 and died one year later in Tokyo, Japan.
More information about Doshisha University and the school’s founder, Joseph Hardy Neesima, can be found in the Archives at Amherst College. The Joseph Hardy Neesima (AC 1870) collection in the Archives and Special Collections contains correspondence to and from Neesima, as well as Neesima’s photo album. The Amherst College Digital Collections (ACDC) has digitized four Doshisha University photo albums. The Doshisha University collection in the Archives contains correspondence, ephemera, photographs, printed matter and media documenting the long-standing connection between Doshisha University and Amherst College. And be sure to read The Manga Story of Jo Niijima, published by Doshisha University in 2009.
Amherst College and Doshisha University have fostered their friendly relationship for over a century, which has including Amherst – Doshisha faculty and student exchange programs. Last week, Presidents of both schools have committed to continuing their friendship for five more years.