Long-forgotten diary of Japanese ‘wine king’ unearthed in California


The diary of a Japanese man sent abroad by the feudal Satsuma domain who later established himself as a successful U.S. winemaker has been found in California, a scholar in Kagoshima Prefecture said.

The diary belonged to Kanae Nagasawa (1852-1934), who was one of several people sent to Britain in 1865 near the end of the Edo Period to study Western civilization. Nagasawa, 13 at the time, was the youngest in the group. His diary contained a draft letter to fellow student Arinori Mori, Japan’s first education minister, according to Takaaki Inuzuka, a professor at Kagoshima Immaculate Heart University.

The draft letter portrays Nagasawa’s views of Japan shortly after the 1868 Meiji Restoration while he remained alone in the United States, Inuzuka said.

Nagasawa moved to the U.S. after meeting a religious leader, Thomas Harris, in Britain. He ran a winery in Santa Rosa, California, eventually turning his wine into one of the top 10 brands in the state. The city’s assembly hall has a bust of Nagasawa.

The diary was written in 1871 when Nagasawa was studying at Cornell University in New York, Inuzuka said. In the 2½-page letter to Mori, Nagasawa debated in English whether to return to Japan or remain abroad to continue his studies as his fellow students were returning to their homeland.

“We could tell his state of mind at the time. Thinking that he must do something for Japan, he had trouble making up his mind about living permanently (in the U.S.),” the professor said.

The diary was found in California by workers from the city of Ichikikushikino, Kagoshima Prefecture, the port that the students sailed from at the start of their journey.