Born in Osaka in January of 1835, Fukuzawa Yukichi was arguably one of the greatest Japanese social thinkers of his time. In addition to being a thinker, Fukuzawa was a theorist, writer and reformer during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was most likely the most influential man during the Meiji era. Having been born into a poor Samurai family, Fukuzawa took it upon himself to seek knowledge and expand his own horizons. In the 1860s, he was involved in Shogunate missions to the west and was inspired to share western ideas and customs with the Japanese people. Fukuzawa was quite passionate about education, as he believed that more knowledge would lead to the strengthening of Japan. One of his main theories was that using advances made in the west, Japan could develop more technology. He wanted people to reach personal independence during the Meiji Restoration and believed that education should be the main focal point of every Japanese person. The idea that education is the root to success still reigns true in Japan today, thanks to Fukuzawa.
While Fukuzawa had a few reasons for his pursuit of knowledge, his ultimate goal was to make Japan independent through the strength the people would gain from it. He believed in the importance of understanding the principle of equality, as he also believed that study was the key to greatness. Learning the Dutch language, and the English language soon after, shows his immense need to gain information in the journey to greatness. When Japan allowed three ports to open for European and American trade, Fukuzawa made the trip to witness these ships. Upon arrival, he noticed that the English language was being widely used and thus, decided to learn it. This way, he could communicate with the Western people easily, seeing as how the amount of translators was very scarce. As an avid proponent of education, Fukuzawa’s most lasting principle is “national independence through personal independence”. He...
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