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Symposium on first encounters between Japan & New Jersey; Thursday October 4th

Photo of Kusakabe Taro, from the William Elliot Griffis Collection in Special Collections and University Archives.

Members of the Rutgers community and the general public are welcome to attend "Moment of contact: First encounters between Japan and New Jersey" - a free symposium, on Thursday October 4th from 9:00 am - 12:00 pm., held in honor of the 25th anniversary of the sister city relationship of New Brunswick and Fukui, Japan. Two noted professors, one from Japan and the other from Rutgers University, will explore the life and circumstances of one of the early pioneers who helped establish the bonds between these two cities.

In 1867, the young samurai Kusakabe Taro was sent by the shogun (ruler) of Fukui to New Brunswick to attend Rutgers College. He became the first Japanese to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the first Japanese to graduate from Rutgers College, and along with a Japanese student at Amherst, the first to graduate from an American college. Sadly, Kusakabe's degree was awarded posthumously; he died of tuberculosis only weeks before commencement and was buried in New Brunswick's Willow Grove Cemetery. These important historic ties led to the establishment of the sister cities relationship between New Brunswick and Fukui City in 1982.

At the symposium Juri Abe, Professor of Sociology at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, will discuss Kusakabe's experiences during his thousand days in New Brunswick. William Gillette, Professor of History at Rutgers, will speak about the social, cultural, and demographic conditions of the city at that point in time.

The symposium will be held in the Scholarly Communication Center, located on the 4th floor of Alexander Library in New Brunswick. The program will be accompanied by a small exhibition of photographs and manuscripts from the William Elliot Griffis Collection, the Rutgers University Libraries' noted special collection on Westerners in Japan during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

For more information on this event, and assistance with parking, please contact Special Collections and University Archives at 732/932-7006 or send email to

This program was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Other sponsors include Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries; New Brunswick Sister Cities Association; and International Programs, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers–New Brunswick.

Posted September 12, 2007