Biography and History

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, where he appeared to be fairly lonely, occasionally receiving visitors or traveling 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)

Source: From the finding aid for AC033

  • Hikoichi Orita Diary. 1872-1876 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC033

    This photocopied two-volume diary was written by Hikoichi Orita (1849-1920), a Japanese student, while he attended Princeton University between 1872 and 1876. Upon his graduation from Princeton in 1876, Orita returned to Japan and became a leading educational reformer. There are entries, in English, for each day of his time at Princeton including accounts and bills paid monthly as well as memoranda written in Japanese. For the most part, the entries are brief, listing classes and recitations, visits to the chapel, letters from friends, the weather, and some personal notes such as visits with faculty and friends, illnesses and his loneliness. He also writes of travels to New York City, New Brunswick and New England, though, again, the entries are generally brief.