“Fifth day of the fifth month[…] Daybreak came at New Brunswick of the New Jersey state. This is the city where the famous school is.”
The “famous school” (有名なる学校) that is referred to in this brief passage on New Brunswick, New Jersey, in A True Account of the Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary’s Journey of Observation is Rutgers University, known as Rutgers College at the time. Rutgers and its preparatory Rutgers Grammar School had become a home to dozens of Japanese students by 1872. The first to arrive in 1866 were Yokoi Saheita and Daihei, nephews of the famed philosopher Yokoi Shōnan. They were soon joined by Kusakabe Tarō of Fukui domain, who would become the first foreign student to formally enroll in Rutgers College in 1867.1
Many of the Japanese students who came to New Brunswick had studied in Nagasaki under Guido F. Verbeck (1830-1898), a missionary sent to Japan by the Dutch Reformed Church. Verbeck referred the students who wished to study abroad to John M. Ferris of the Church’s Board of Foreign Missions in New York, who then introduced them to Rutgers, a school that was affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church. The Yokoi brothers and Kusakabe were Verbeck’s students; so were Iwakura Tomomi’s sons, Tomosada具定 (a.k.a. Tatsu; 1852-1910) and Tomotsune 具経 (a.k.a. Asahi; 1853-90), who had left for New Brunswick in 1870.2 Katsu Kaishū’s son, Koroku, accompanied by Tomita Tetsunosuke and Takagi Saburō, had already been there when the Iwakura brothers arrived. Also in New Brunswick were students from the Satsuma Domain: Hatakeyama Yoshinari, Matsumura Junzō, and Yoshida Kiyonari. At Rutgers, these Japanese men were befriended by Professor David Murray and his wife Martha, their fellow American students, among whom were William E. Griffis and Edward W. Clark who would later go to Japan as foreign teachers (oyatoi gaikokujin), and the members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Both William E. Griffis and Charles Lanman mention a third son (“Minami”) who was at Rutgers as well, but his name does not appear in any of the records.