Smithsonian Institution

Image: Cover of Sheet Music for the “Smithsonian Polka”. Source: Smithsonian Institute

On April 17, 1872, Vice-Ambassador Naoyoshi Yamaguchi (1839 – 1894) and Kunitake Kume (1839 – 1831) accepted an invitation to visit the Smithsonian Institution. The Institution had been established 26 years earlier with funds from James Smithson (1765 – 1829), whose vision was to create a space “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” As Yamaguchi and Kume approached the building they were impressed by vast lawns, luscious trees, and winding paths surrounding the property.Even from the outside it felt like a place of learning and insight.The two delegates toured the glass conservatory filled with plants and trees, and viewed the main building’s numerous artifacts, specimens, and machines, and walked through the school situated in the center.After the tour, Kume remarked that the Smithsonian was surely Washington D.C.’s leading educational institute.


Kume, Kunitake. “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” In Japan Rising: The Iwakura Embassy to the USA and Europe, edited by Chushichi Tsuzuki and R. Jules Young, 66. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.