Matthew Fraleigh writes:
On 16 December 1872, six days before Parisians read in Le Temps of Phileas Foggís triumphant dash homeward, a group of Japanese travellers arrived in the city, halfway through their much more stately but no less adventurous tour around the world. Led by Iwakura Tomomi, the Iwakura Missionís tour of the United States and 11 European nations was carefully documented by the groupís secretary, Kume Kunitake:
Each day we were fully occupied and had scant time for rest Ö When we arrived at a destination, we would hasten to a hotel to unpack and immediately set out on a tour of observation. We spent days on trains with screaming wheels and screeching whistles, careering through billowing clouds of smoke amid belching flames and the smell of iron. Soot and smoke caked our bodies and flew into our eyes. When darkness fell and we reached our hotel rooms, we scarcely had time to wipe off the dirt before it was time for the next banquet Ö No sooner did we go to bed at night than it was time to wake up, with representatives from the next factory awaiting us.
The 108 participantsí experiences and Kumeís 2500-page report were crucial to Japanís effort to establish itself as a major world power in the early 20th century.
(LRB 14 April 2011)
Cambridge | Paperback
558 pp. |ISBN: