International Marriage in Meiji/Taisho Japan: Inazo and Mary Elkinton Nitobe
Nitobe Inazô (1862-1933) was an important intellectual in Meiji/Taisho Japan, in fact so famous that he was decorated by the emperor and featured on the 5000 Yen note printed from 1984-2004. Few know, however, that he was married go an American Quaker from Philadelphia, Mary Patterson Elkinton (1857-1938). Inazô, a Christian convert before his overseas studies in the United States and Germany, joined the Quakers after meeting Mary in Baltimore. Though both faced opposition from their families, their international marriage (kokusai kekkon) lasted for 42 years, from 1891 until Inazô’s death in 1933. Mary, a remarkable woman in her own right, considered Japan to be her home. Her extensive correspondence, neglected by scholars, shows clearly that she spent her life contributing to educational reform in Japan, trying to improve U.S.-Japan relations, and advocating internationalist values. She helped to establish several schools; was influential in the writing of Inazô’s famous 1899 book, Bushidô, The Soul of Japan; and was active in international circles while her husband served in the League of Nations at Geneva. Their return to Tokyo in the late 1920s would become a test of Mary’s Quaker beliefs as Japan expanded its empire and became an aggressor nation.
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