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Waseda in the “Taisho Democracy” Era Exhibition

Akira Takahashi
Research Associate, Waseda University Archives

Then-President Shigenobu Okuma during his address at the 30th anniversary celebrations. Waseda University Archives’ collection

This year, 2013, marks the 100th anniversary of then-President Shigenobu Okuma declaring the Waseda University mission at the 1913 celebrations commemorating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the university. As this year’s autumn exhibition, Waseda University Archives has decided to host this exhibition so we can take another look at the history of Waseda in the “Taisho Democracy” era from the 1910s to 1920s, when this mission was enacted.

The 1910s to the 1920s, amidst a new generational tide called “Taisho Democracy”, were an era when Waseda University was also searching for new growth. During this growth, individualistic professors and students gathered at the university, and while there was generous support for the university from people in the Waseda area, there was also opposition surrounding the future image of the university. At this exhibition, you can view the history of Waseda University in this revolutionary era through the materials on show. Below, I will introduce some of the exhibits on display to you.

Establishing the mission–from recollections of Sanae Takata-

Playing a central role in the holding of the 30th anniversary celebrations in 1913 and the establishment of the mission was Waseda University’s first president (and later to be third President), Sanae Takata. Details of the celebrations and the establishment of the mission are described in Takata’s biography, Hampo Mukashibanashi (Hampo’s Memoirs) (Waseda University Press, 1927).

According to Hampo Mukashibanashi,, it states that, in addition to the School of Political Science, Economics, Law, Letters, Arts and Sciences, Commerce and higher normal school, the School of Science and Engineering was to be added and that as the second stage plan to make Waseda (Tokyo Senmon Gakko was renamed Waseda University in 1902 and was under the jurisdiction of the Acts of Colleges until becoming a university under the University Ordinance in 1920) an actual university was almost complete, 30th anniversary celebrations were being planned for that announcement and to show appreciation to the benefactors.

The 30th anniversary celebrations were held on October 17, 1913, and for these celebrations, Takata focused mainly on establishing the Waseda University mission as Waseda’s educational ideology. Takata said that a draft was drawn up after consultations with Shoyo Tsubouchi, Tameyuki Amano, Kenkichi Ichijima, Kazutami Ukita, and Yasukuni Matsudaira, and after having then-President Okuma look over it, had the President declare it at the celebrations. In this way, the Waseda University mission was pronounced as the basic document which displays the basic educational ideology of Waseda University that is still followed today. An epitaph bearing the words of the mission was erected in front of the main gate of Waseda University in 1937, and remains there to this day.

Student life in “Taisho Democracy” era seen in Kofu Manga (School Spirit Comics)

“Stobu no Hokori”, from Koichiro Kondo’s Kofu Manga (Hakubunkan, 1917). Waseda University Archives’ collection.

In any era, the main players at Waseda University are the students overflowing with individuality. Here I would like to introduce an exhibit where you can experience student life in the “Taisho Democracy” era.

I will introduce to you Kofu Manga (Hakubunkan, 1917), by cartoonist Koichiro Kondo. This comic lively depicted university and school life of students from schools such as Waseda University and Keio University. Here I would like to take a look at Waseda University student life of the time through Kondo’s cartoons of Waseda.

There are materials on Waseda University School of Science and Engineering students titled “Stobu no Hokori (Pride of the Heater). The story and cartoon tells of an episode where the School of Science and Engineering students of the time would bring meals for three to a “drawing room”, namely a design room, fitted with a heater, and study feverishly from six in the morning until ten at night, annoying academic affairs section by their excessive use of lights and the heater, but couldn’t be reprimanded because they were studying. The diligence of the School of Science and Engineering students of the time and the support from the academic affairs section, while being nonplussed over the expenses provoke a heartwarming smile.

Shiro Ozaki’s assertions in the Waseda Riots

Waseda became a university under the University Ordinance in 1920, opening a Senior High School in addition to the 5 undergraduate schools of Political Science and Economics, Law, Letters, Arts and Sciences, Commerce and Science and Engineering, a higher normal school (later to become the School of Education) and specialist department and making a great expansion as a university. Through the 1910s and 1920s, among an increase in student numbers and growth in size of the university, the university leaders of Shigenobu Okuma and Sanae Takata, faculty and staff including professors and students had their own vision of what direction Waseda University should take in its development. However, these weren’t always the same, and while thinking of the development of the university, there were times of sharp opposition in the differences of the shape the university should take. The representative example of these incidents is the Waseda Riots in 1917 and the Military Research Group Incident in 1923. Here we will look at battles over the university image from the writings of Ozaki in the Waseda Riots.

The Waseda Riots in 1917 was the incident where university leaders, faculty, staff and students were split into the “Amano Faction”, who hoped for President Tameyuki Amano to stay in his position, and the “Takata Faction”, who demanded the reinstatement of former president Sanae Takata. There is no doubt the Waseda Riots were about the opposing views surrounding the post of president, and it is a fact that the opposition was emotional. On the other hand, however, it can not be overlooked that there was also confrontation in differing views over the issue of what direction Waseda University should take in its development. What the “Takata Faction”, demanding the reinstatement of former president Sanae Takata, hoped for was the development of the university under the leadership of the savvy university manager Sanae Takata. Opposing that was the “Amano Faction”, who called for university reform under President Amano at that time.

Shiro Ozaki’s “A Strong Demand for President Amano to Stay” in the 1917 September issue of Seinen Yuuben. Waseda University Archives’ collection

Shiro Ozaki, a student at the School of Political Science and Economics at the time of the Waseda Riots, submitted “A Strong Demand for President Amano to Stay” to the 1917 September issue of the Magazine Seinen Yuuben (Eloquent Youth), an argument in defense of President Amano.

According to Ozaki, the issue was not over who should be president, Takata or Amano, but the important issue of “reforming the school system and organization under a democratic basis.” And he argued that not the retired former president Takata but President Amano at that time was to implement that reform.

In this way there was a side to the Waseda Riots where the “Takata Faction”, aiming for strong university management with the return of former president Takata, and the “Amano Faction”, aspiring for “democratic” reform under President Amano, were at odds. While both were hoping for the development of Waseda University, there was an unfortunate difference in their goals. And that was influenced by the ideological trend of “Taisho Democracy”, as seen in the Amano Faction’s use of the term “democratic.”

This exhibition has various other materials on display, and plans to show Waseda University in this era from many angles, taking up the trends of Waseda University in the “Taisho Democracy” era, the movements of staff and students, and the conflict over the form of the university in the Waseda Riots and Military Research Group Incident. As host of the exhibition, I will be pleased if those who attend will be able to have a real experience of Waseda University in the “Taisho Democracy” era.

2013 Autumn Special Exhibition Waseda in the “Taisho Democracy” Era

Waseda in the “Taisho Democracy” Era poster

October 8 (Tue.) – November 4 (Mon.), 2013
125th Anniversary Room, Okuma Memorial Tower 10F, Waseda Campus
October 13 (Sun.), October 27 (Sun.), October 31 (Thu.)
Waseda University Archives

Akira Takahashi
Research Associate, Waseda University Archives

Born in 1976. Received doctorate from the Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University. Started current position in 2011. Specializes in history of contemporary Japanese political thought. Has written articles for publications such as Sakuzo Yoshino’s Political Party Theory as seen in Shinjin–Focusing on the Russo-Japanese War Era and Contemporary Japanese Political Parties and Society [Kindai Nihon no Seito to Shakai] (Nihon Keizai Hyouronsha Ltd., 2009), etc.