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Visiting Librarians: Junko Doi

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Doshisha University Library, Kyoto, Japan

Junko Doi with East Asia Library Curator Ellen Hammond

Visiting Librarian, August 2005

Junko Doi’s professional trip to the United States may be less adventurous and momentous than the cultural pilgrimage which, more than a century before, led the future founder of her home institution to exchange his samurai sword for a New Testament, but the ultimate motivation of both journeys – to explore a foreign culture and its institutions in order to better understand and to improve one’s own – remains strikingly the same.

The samurai-turned-missionary founder of Doshisha University was a man at odds with his country and times. Born Niijima Shimeta in Edo (now Tokyo), he was ten when the U.S. fleet of Admiral Perry arrived to Japan in 1853, an event which would have significant consequences in his life as well as in the future of his country. In 1864, when foreign trade was budding but foreign travel remained strictly forbidden (and punishable by death), Neesima left illegally Japan to pursue a Western education in the United States.

Thanks to the patronage of a wealthy U.S. businessman, he was able to study at Phillips Academy, Amherst College, and Andover Newton Theological School. While at Phillips, Niijima Shimeta was converted to Christianity and baptized Joseph Hardy Niijima (assuming the names of the Biblical patriarch and of his own American patron). While at Amherst, he visited a friend at Yale, an experience which years later would inspire him to adopt Yale’s alma mater "Bright College Years" as “Doshisha College Song.” The lyrics, originally written by H.S. Durand, were adapted by William Merrill Vories, an American who spent most of his life in Japan as missionary, businessman, architect, social worker and educator. (Among other things, he designed more than 2000 western-style buildings in Japan, China, and Korea, and was instrumental in negotiations between General Douglas MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito.)

By the time he went back to Japan as a missionary, in 1874, he had raised enough money to found a Christian school based on the American liberal arts college. Doshisha Eigakko (Doshisha College) opened in 1875 with less than ten students, one year later admitted the first two women, and in 1879 produced the first class of fifteen graduates.

Today, Doshisha University is a leading educational institution with seven faculties (Theology, Letters, Law, Economics, Commerce, Policy Studies, and Engineering), eight graduate schools (Theology, Letters, Law, Economics, Commerce, Engineering, American Studies, and Policy and Management), two professional schools (Law and Business), and a rich program of international exchanges. Located in the center of Kyoto, it occupies three campuses and is home to 22000 undergraduate and 2000 graduate students. Its libraries hold more than two million volumes.

Every year, Doshisha University offers a total of three professional development grants to staff members who are interested in visiting a foreign country to improve their knowledge of local academic and research institutions. Junko Doi was the second librarian to take advantage of this program, and during her three-month trip to the United States she had the opportunity to visit several private and public institutions of higher education, including Amherst and Smith colleges, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, and Yale.

While at Yale, Junko spent precious time with librarians from various departments, including Cataloging, Systems, Research Services and Collections, Electronic Collections, Human Resources, and Area Studies (the East Asia Library in particular). She also had a chance to tour the campus, Sterling Memorial Library, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.