This talk examines the lives of two reform-minded individuals during Japan’s Meiji period (1868-1912): Nakagawa Yokotarō (1836-1903) and Sumiya Koume (1850-1920). I contend that this era of rapid modernization and social upheaval offered each of them a new start and the chance to create a new identity. In 1868, Nakagawa, a samurai bureaucrat bought out Sumiya’s geisha contract and made her his concubine. After moving in with Nakagawa and his wife, Sumiya gave birth to a daughter. Nakagawa then became interested in Christianity, and he sent Sumiya to Kobe College, an institution run by western missionaries. Ultimately, Sumiya decided that concubinage was sinful, converted to Christianity, and left Nakagawa, leading him to complain that “Jesus stole my mistress.” After their breakup, both played prominent roles as local reformers. Together their stories shed light on how individuals in late nineteenth-century Japan forged new gender roles and created a new world.
Marnie Anderson is Associate Professor of History at Smith College. Her recent publications include “The Forgotten History of Japanese Women’s History and the Rise of Women and Gender History in the Academy,” Journal of Women’s History (2020) and “Critiquing Concubinage: Sumiya Koume (1850-1920) and Changing Gender Roles in Modern Japan,” Japanese Studies (2017). She is completing a book manuscript about Okayama-based activists including Sumiya and Nakagawa entitled In Close Association: Local Activist Networks in the Making of Japanese Modernity, 1868-1920.
Publishing in the late 1870s and 1880s often under the byline “The Circumnavigator,” Li Gui (李圭) made himself known as a cosmopolitan, a reformer, a commentator, and a victim. He attended the Philadelphia World’s Fair in 1876, making him one of the first Chinese to travel around the world first class via the then newly opened Suez Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad. He published dispatches from his journey in Shen bao, making use of new communications technologies to share insight into the wonders and challenges that he encountered abroad. His travelogue, A New Record of a Trip Around the World (環遊地球新錄), and his memoir of captivity among the Taiping army, A Record of Pondering Pain (思痛記), both were published in book form after his return to China. They also were advertised in contemporary media. By looking both at advertisements and articles, this talk will examine the life of a late Qing traveler in its global and local contexts, with particular attention to the changing market for print in the very late 19th century.
Tobie Meyer-Fong, Professor of History and Director of East Asian Studies, received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University (1989) and her doctoral degree from Stanford University (1998). She served as editor of the journal Late Imperial China from March 2007-December 2018. Professor Meyer-Fong is broadly interested in the history of China especially from 1600 to the present. She is the author of Building Culture in Early Qing Yangzhou and What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China. Her recent research deals with a survivor of the Taiping civil war who circumnavigated the globe in 1876 and on recollections of childhood in the Zhoushan archipelago during the 1940s from the vantage point of both subsequent emigration and the island’s rapid 21st century urbanization.