A Japanese Robinson Crusoe
192pp. January 2009
A Japanese Robinson Crusoe
Author: Oyabe, Jenichiro; Editor: Robinson, Greg; Yaguchi, Yujin;
First published in 1898 and long out of print, A Japanese Robinson Crusoe by Jenichiro Oyabe (1867–1941) is a pioneering work of Asian American literature. It recounts Oyabe’s early life in Japan, his journey west, and his education at two historically Black colleges, detailing in the process his gradual transformation from Meiji gentleman to self-proclaimed "Japanese Yankee." Like a Victorian novelist, Oyabe spins a tale that mixes faith and exoticism, social analysis and humor. His story fuses classic American narratives of self-creation and the self-made man (and, in some cases, the tall tale) with themes of immigrant belonging and "whiteness." Although he compares himself with the castaway Robinson Crusoe, Oyabe might best be described as a combination of Crusoe and his faithful servant Friday, the Christianized man of color who hungers to be enlightened by Western ways.

A Japanese Robinson Crusoe is flavored with insights on important questions for contemporary Americans: How does one "become" American? How is Asian American identity formed in response to the conditions of other racial groups? When and how did the Asian American "model minority" myth emerge? A new introduction provides a provocative analysis of Oyabe’s story and discusses his years abroad in the context of his later career, placing the text within both American and modern Japanese history.

Intersections: Asian and Pacific American Transcultural Studies Series
"This is a fascinating memoir by a young Japanese who spent thirteen years (1885–1898) traveling to all parts of the world: the Kurile islands, China, Okinawa, Hawaii, the United States, Britain, Portugal, etc., before returning to his native country as a teacher and a Christian minister. Few in the world, least of all Japanese, would have seen so much of the world on their own. What he saw—and, even more revealing, how he described what he saw—adds to our understanding not only of late nineteenth-century Japan’s encounter with distant lands, in particular the United States, but also of the history of international travels, a history that constitutes an essential part of the phenomenon of globalization." —Akira Iriye, Harvard University
Author: Oyabe, Jenichiro; Editor: Robinson, Greg; Yaguchi, Yujin;
Greg Robinson is associate professor of history at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Yujin Yaguchi is associate professor at the department of area studies, graduate school of arts and sciences at the University of Tokyo.
Read the introduction (PDF).
An Introduction by Greg Robinson and Yujin Yaguchi

A Japanese Robinson Crusoe by Jenichiro Oyabe
Chapter I. Origin—Childhood
Chapter II. Leaving Father’s House
Chapter III. At Yezo Island
Chapter IV. On to America
Chapter V. Crossing Kurile Islands
Chapter VI. On Russian Soil
Chapter VII. Sent Back to Japan
Chapter VIII. Wandering on the South Sea
Chapter IX. At the Ryukyu Islands
Chapter X. In the Chinese Empire
Chapter XI. Voyage to America
Chapter XII. Darkest America
Chapter XIII. Light of America
Chapter XIV. In American Schools
Chapter XV. At the Capital—University Life
Chapter XVI. Lecturer—Visiting Europe
Chapter XVII. Studying at New Haven
Chapter XVIII. Vision of Future Work—Ordination
Chapter XIX. Departure from America
Chapter XX. At the Hawaiian Islands—Return to America