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Rutgers University Libraries

History and College Life : Japanese Overseas Students

This guide presents select resources on Douglass and Rutgers Colleges' history. Originally created for the History and College Life seminar taught by Prof. Nancy Hewitt, Fall '12. .

Images from Rutgers Collections

Taro Kusakabe

Taro Kusakabe Funeral

Japanese Section of the Willow Grove Cemetery, New Brunswick, NJ.  

Sample Subject Headings

Education -- Japan -- History

International education

Japan -- Civilization -- Western Influences

Japan -- History -- Meiji Period, 1868-1912. 

Japanese students -- New Jersey -- History

New Brunswick (NJ) -- History

William Eliot Griffis Collection

The Wiliam Eliot Griffis Collection, a unique scholarly resource at Rutgers documents the history of first Japanese students who came to the United States to study at the time of Meiji Restauration (1868). The collection includes photos, manuscripts, and other items documenting the students, including Taro Kusakabe, 1845-1870 (above) the first Japanese to graduate from an American college. Fernanda Perrone (Tel:848-932-6154. Email:  is the curator of the Griffis Collection. 

Kusakabe attended Rutgers College, 1867-1870 and earned an A.B. in mathematics. He is the first Japanese to become Phi Beta Kappa, but died of tuberculosis a few weeks before commencement. Kusakabe is buried in the Willow Grove Cemetery, New Brunswick.

Photographs of Griffis and other Japanese students are represented in New Jersey Digital Highway. Do a search for "Griffis" on the main portal


Primary Sources

Ardath W. Burks Papers, 1928-1996, 1970-1990. Burks was a Rutgers administrator and faculty of Asian Studies. He wrote extensively on Japanese students at Rutgers and promoted positive relationship between Japan and the United States.

The Gardner Sage Library of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary archives includes a collection of Japanese students. Many Japanese students came to study at the Seminary and at Rutgers Preparatory School (Rutgers Grammar School) which was then affiliated with Rutgers College. 

New Brunswick Daily Times, 1861-1891. Microform Collection, Alexander Library. Newspaper Collection, SC/UA.

Useful resource to find New Jersey newspapers: Directory of New Jersey Newspapers, 1765-1970. Newspaper titles and their date coverage are organized by names of cities.