Posts Tagged ‘Ulysses Grant’

Ulysses Grant and Emperor Meiji

August 28, 2022

In the summer of 1879, Ulysses Grant visited Japan. The former U.S. president and Civil War general spent two months in Tokyo, where he had several meetings with Emperor Meiji, as well as other Japanese notables such as Eiichi Shibusawa.

In the summer of 2022, I traced Grant’s footsteps around Tokyo in the course of writing a feature story about his visit for The Japan News. I found the project enjoyable and fascinating – and in this, my feelings seemed to echo Grant’s, as reflected in the farewell speech he made to the emperor on Aug. 30, 1879.

I’ve copied the text of his speech below, from the 1879 book “Around the World with General Grant,” by one of his traveling companions, John Russell Young. The illustration also comes from the book.

“Your  Majesty: I come to take my leave, and to thank you, the officers of your  government, and the people of Japan, for the great hospitality and kindness I have  received at the hands of all during my most pleasant visit to this country. I have now been two months in Tokio and the surrounding neighborhood, and two previous weeks in the more southerly part of the country. It affords me great satisfaction to say that during all this stay and all my visiting I have not witnessed one discourtesy toward myself, nor a single unpleasant sight. Everywhere there seems to be the greatest contentment among the people; and while no signs of great individual wealth exist, no absolute poverty is visible. This is in striking and pleasing contrast with almost every other country I have visited. I leave Japan greatly impressed with the possibilities and probabilities of her future. She has a fertile soil, one half of it not yet cultivated to man’s use, great undeveloped mineral resources, numerous and fine harbors, an extensive sea-coast abounding in fish of an almost endless variety, and, above all, an industrious, ingenious, contented, and frugal population. With all these nothing is wanted to insure great progress except wise direction by the government, peace at home and abroad, and non-interference in the internal and domestic affairs of the country by the outside nations. It is the sincere desire of your guests to see Japan realize all possible strength and greatness, to see her as independent of foreign rule or dictation as any Western nation now is, and to see affairs so directed by her as to command the respect of the civilized world. In saying this I believe I reflect the sentiments of the great majority of my countrymen. I now take my leave without expectation of ever again having the opportunity of visiting Japan, but with the assurance that pleasant recollections of my present visit will not vanish while my life lasts. That your Majesty may long reign over a prosperous and contented people and enjoy every blessing is my sincere prayer.”