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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thomas Glover

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Thomas Blake Glover (1838-1911) was one of the most influential of the western foreigners who settled in Japan during the Bakumatsu Period of Japanese history - the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate from the arrival of Commodore Perry in Shimoda in the 1850s to the fall of the Tokugawa regime in 1868.

Thomas Glover

Like many young men of his era out East at the time, the young Scot arrived in Nagasaki from Shanghai in 1859 in the employ of Jardine Matheson, primarily as a trader in green tea.

Glover set up his own company two years later and sensing the way the political winds were blowing, Glover's first big trades were in modern Western rifles, ammunition and ships, sold to the rebellious domains of Choshu (Yamaguchi Prefecture), Satsuma (Kagoshima) and Tosu (Kochi).

Thomas Glover House

With the proceeds from arms-trading Glover was able to build the first western-style house in Japan, the present-day Glover Garden overlooking Nagasaki Bay.

Glover played on a big stage and his achievements are legion. He was instrumental in helping the "Choshu Five" (future Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi, Inoue Kaoru, Endo Kinsuke, Yamao Yozo and Inoue Masaru) leave Japan on Jardine Matheson ships, first for Shanghai and then London, breaking the Tokugawa-erected "sakoku" barrier, which forbade Japanese people from leaving the country on pain of death.

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Glover was in the good books of the new government and even though his first investments in shipbuilding led to his bankruptcy in 1870, he stayed on in Japan to make his fortune in shipping, brewing (he played a part in what was to become Kirin Beer) and mining.

For his considerable part in the modernization and industrialization of Japan, Glover was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (second class) from the Meiji government.

Glover died at home in Tokyo near present-day Shiba Koen near Tokyo Tower, and is buried at the Sakamoto International Cemetery in Nagasaki.

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