The Salad Bowl. Vol. V, No. 8. Sep. 1997. p. 1, 3.
Shigeyoshi Matsumae, c. 1990)

Shigeyoshi Matsumae

One of the first persons to become an honorary citizen of Shizuoka city was Shigeyoshi Matsumae. Anyone visiting the Tokai University College of Marine Science or Tokai University Museum on the Miho Peninsula will notice the mark of this man on Shizuoka City.

Born in a small village in Kumamoto prefecture in 1901, Matsumae was the sixth child of a local farmer and village chief. From an early age he developed an interest in science and judo. In 1912 his family relocated to Kumamoto city. Matsumae entered the electrical studies course at a local technical college in 1919. For a period of time he considered a military career, but opted to study science instead. Thanks to the his older brother's help, he was able to study vacuum tube technology at Tohoku Imperial University. Inspired by teachers such as Nukayama Heiichi, Matsumae learned about engineering at a time when exciting advances were being made in telephone cable technology.

After graduating in 1925, Matsumae worked for the Ministry of Communications. He started out in a telegraph and telephone construction bureau in Nagasaki. When he complained of a law infraction by a local official, however, he was reprimanded and shunted to the Tokyo office. There Matsumae conducted cable research and in 1931 invented a new type of telephone cable.

In Tokyo the teachings of Uchimura Kanzo attracted Matsumae. Uchimura's blend of samurai philosophy and Christian theology stressed the importance of having a mission in life. Though Matsumae held lofty ideals about peace and brotherhood, he also maintained a pragmatic streak.

In 1926 a marriage between Matsumae and Mori Nobuko was arranged. Matsumae gave her a Bible for an engagement present and they had three sons: Tatsurou (b. 1927), Norio (b. 1931), and Aogu (b. 1935).

From 1933-34 Matsumae was sent to Germany to learn more about Western technology. He also received secret orders to help establish a direct telephone link between Japan and Germany. The following year he worked on a government cable from Tokyo to Harbin, then under Japanese control.

In Europe Matsumae visited some schools based on Nicolai Grundtvig's principles. Seeing how Grundtvig's Christian-socialist ideas impacted Danish education, Matsumae resolved to adopt some of his ideas in Japan. By 1936 Matsumae had enough capital to open a small, private school at his residence on the outskirts of Tokyo. This academy lasted until Matsumae's military conscription and about a hundred students studied there, including Yonezawa Shigeru (later president of NTT) and Kobayashi Kouji (later president of NEC).

Two years after receiving a doctor's degree in engineering from Tohoku Imperial University in 1937, Matsumae was awarded the Tounichi Daimai Communications Prize for his ongoing research in cable technology. In 1941 he was promoted to director of the technical bureau of the Communications Ministry. With growing political clout, he helped establish an aerial science and electric wave science college in Shizuoka and Tokyo, respectively.

During World War II Matsumae was in a precarious position. His loyalty to Japan was not under question, but his disdain for the existing military government drew sparks. Though he served briefly as an officer of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, he disapproved of some its policies and resigned after four months. A Feb. 22, 1941 Asahi Shinbun article depicted Matsumae as "part of Japan's scientific defense shield". Privately, however, he had more reservations about what was going on. For a period Matsumae stood at the edge between opposition to and compliance with the war effort. By 1944, however, he crossed the line by condemning Toujou too openly. As a punishment, Matsumae was conscripted into the army and shipped to the Philippines. Through a complex chain of events, he became a secretary at the Army's Southern GHQ in Vietnam that October. In January 1945 he returned to Tokyo. Thanks to some connections and the fall of the Toujou cabinet, Matsumae was released from military service in May 1945.

On August 8 Matsumae headed a team reporting on the effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This experience shocked him of the destructiveness of atomic arms, though came to be a strong advocate of the "peaceful use" of nuclear power later in life.

On August 15, 1945 Matsumae became president of the Japan Communications Board. A year later he resigned to focus on establishing a new university. When permission to establish a new institute was granted, Matsumae was dismayed to learn that he couldn't chair it due to GHQ purge directives. When the directives were lifted in 1951, Matsumae took the helm of Tokai University and transformed it into a money-making enterprise.

Matsumae served six terms as national diet representative to the from 1952 to 1969. Although his primary focus was on building up an educational empire, he also had an avid interest in domestic politics and world affairs. During the period when Japan's economy was booming and the need for more educational facilities felt, Tokai's educational network prospered. Campuses in Shizuoka, Yoyogi, Kanagawa, and many other parts of Japan were established.

Retiring from politics in 1969, Matsumae's later years were devoted to humanitarian and administrative activities. For a period of time he chaired the International Judo Federation and Matsumae also built sports and educational facilities in Honolulu, Vienna, and Denmark. Matsumae also received honorary degrees from Moscow University, Miami University, Dresden Technical University, Budapest Technical University, Tufts University, and Sophia University as well as special awards from the Bulgarian, Swedish, Danish, Thai, Polish, Soviet, and Japanese governments.

In 1990 Matsumae's wife Nobuko died. The next year he followed her. As the author of over sixty books and creator of over one hundred private educational institutions, his legacy continues to this day.

- Tim Newfields


". . .when I encounter people who believe in social justice, [who] do not flinch when faced with a strong opponent and are not disheartened by difficulties, I am always invigorated, even if their ideology is different from mine." - 1986: 37

"There is nothing so fragile as an excess of self-confidence." -1986: 215

". . . my motto throughout my life has always been 'enthusiasm, effort, and ingenuity.'" -1986: 227

". . . the democratization of Japan is possible only by demolishing the old culture and sewing the seeds of a new culture on the charred foundations." - 1987: 3

"The foundation of true democracy is national culture consisting of . . . qualitative enhancement of each of the members of the state. Simply to legalize a system of rights and to produce a political system which has the trappings of democracy and to say this is true democracy is to construct an edifice on a foundation of sand." - 1987: 69

"A country with no weapons is country that is truly armed. A country without armor and protection is a country with true armor and protection. These are the truths that the Bible shows us." - 1987: 75

"A striking tendency throughout Japanese history has been to place a higher value on the discretion of age than on the skills of the young. . ." - 1987: 126

"Ironically, history will quickly bury those politicians who live for themselves alone, but those who resist authority and are miserably defeated, if they live their lives as faithful servants of the truth, will be immortalized." - 1987: 56

"Those who arm themselves thinking only of their own defense do not show true bravery. True bravery is found in the person who shows love and justice and is prepared to abandon himself and has a spirit of self-sacrifice." - 1987: 97

"History is full of many examples of how once something is systematized, however many faults it throws up, it will not be reformed or revised." - 1988: 126

"There is a strong tendency in Japan for political, economic, and cultural influence to b centralized and for regions to be put in second place." - 1988: 198

"If I were to define my personal ideology, I would say I was a Christian Socialist and that my ideas were close to those of Robert Owen." - 1988: 242-243

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Copyright (c) 1997, 2004 by Tim Newfields and the Shizuoka City International Association