Biographical / Historical
Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933) was a Japanese Quaker diplomat, agriculturist, and educator who sought to act as an emissary of understanding between Japan and Western nations. He was born in Morioka, Japan, in the waning days of feudal Japan, a descendant of samurai, and became a Christian during his studies in Sapporo. He was further educated at Tokyo University and in 1884 became one of the first Japanese students to study in the United States, first at Allegheny College in Pa. and then at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Md. He joined the Society of Friends in 1886, and in 1891, he married Mary Patterson Elkinton, a Quaker from a prominent Philadelphia family, under the care of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (Orthodox). This marriage was highly controversial at the time and against the wishes of both families. Mary P. Elkinton (1857-1938) was the daughter of Joseph S. and Malinda (Patterson) Elkinton. The Elkinton family was prominently involved in social causes in Philadelphia, Pa.
After the W.W.I, Nitobe became Under Secretary-General to the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, a post he held until 1926. He later returned to Japan where he held government positions and served as Chairman of the Institute of Pacific Relations. The Nitobes' only child died in infancy, and they adopted two children: Inazo Nitobe's nephew, Yoshio, and a daughter, Kotoko, a distant relative. Nitobe died in British Columbia, Canada, in 1933 while representing Japan at a the Fifth Conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations. A state funeral was held in Japan attended by 3,000 people. and in 1984, his memory was honored when his portrait was selected for the 5,000 Japanese yen note. He is highly respected as an internationalist, an important individual who helped in the transition of Japan to a modern society, as well as pioneer educator and spiritual man.