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Before coming to Princeton, Hikoichi Orita was a samurai retainer of the lord Satsuma, who in turn was one of the lords responsible for disposing of the last shogun and creating Japan's modern emperor-centered state structure. After his service to Satsuma, Orita studied at Nagasaki. When court leader Prince Iwakura decided to send his two sons to the United States to study at Rutgers University, Orita was chosen to accompany them. However, influenced by Reverend Edwin T. Corwin of Millstone, who became Orita's counselor and friend, Orita decided to attend Princeton.
Orita attended Princeton from 1872 to 1876. He occasionally received visitors or traveled through New England and New Jersey. Most of his time was spent studying and attending chapel. A highlight of his time at Princeton was his baptism by President James McCosh and Professors Stephen Alexander, Lyman Atwater and William Packard. Following graduation, Orita returned to Japan to begin a thirty-year tenure as the head of the Third Higher School in Osaka and later Kyoto. He instituted reforms modeled on the university structure he had come to know at Princeton, but in a very different context. He replaced foreign language texts with those written in Japanese, hired native Japanese instructors to take the place of Europeans, and introduced new courses in classical Japanese and Chinese literature. Today, Orita is recognized as a leader in Japanese educational reform during the early part of the 20th century. (For more information about Orita and the diary, see the Princeton Alumni Weekly, January 25, 1995, p.64).
The diary is photocopied in two volumes. The first volume dates from January 1, 1872 to December 31, 1873 and the second from January 1, 1874 to December 31, 1876. The handwritten entries are written in English, but the memoranda, which are placed at the end of each year, are written in Japanese. There are also listings of bills and accounts by month.
Generally, the entries are brief. Orita notes the weather for each day, classes and recitations, his studies, visits to chapel, letters received from friends, visits with faculty--including President and Mrs. McCosh--and occasional personal comments regarding his health or loneliness.
Orita occasionally took trips to New England, New York City and New Brunswick. In a typical entry describing a visit to New Brunswick on August 15, 1872, Orita wrote on learning of the death of a countryman, "It was a very sad matter, although we could not help it."
He attended the College chapel almost daily, as required at the time, and the Second Presbyterian Church on Sundays. He writes often of Bible studies and prayer meetings with classmates. "Fine, warm day," Orita writes of the day he was baptised, May 28, 1876. "After the morning chapel the ceremony of baptism was done by Dr. McCosh. Profs Alexander, Atwater, Packard and my classmates present. Partook Lord's supper in chapel..."
This photocopy of the diary was presented to Princeton in October, 1993 by a delegation of Japanese students and descendants of Orita. The original diary is retained by his family in Japan.
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Described by John S. Riddle, April, 1995.
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