Scholarship honoring historical figures in Yamaguchi aims to get grads into world's top universities


The city of Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, has initiated a scholarship program to help high school graduates enter the world’s top universities in honor of Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister, and other local historical figures who studied abroad.

The program was inspired by the members of the Choshu Five of the Choshu domain, the predecessor to Yamaguchi, who snuck out of Japan and into Britain in the late Edo Period (1603-1868), learned Western culture and contributed to Japan’s modernization. Ito and Kaoru Inoue, the nation’s first foreign minister, were among the five.

The grant program will offer up to ¥5.5 million per person and does not require recipients to return to Hagi after earning a degree with the scholarship.

“I think the amount of ¥5.5 million is large, compared with other municipalities,” an official of the city’s education policy division said.

Individuals eligible for the program are those who graduate from high schools in Hagi or the neighboring town of Abu while living in Hagi.

Applicants must be 20 or younger as of April 1 of the fiscal year when they enter university and must submit an essay as part of the application process. The essays will be screened by a committee comprising the head of the city’s board of education and four other members.

For those selected, the program will provide ¥300,000 for enrollment fees and ¥1.3 million annually for up to four years to cover tuition and living expenses.

The city earmarked funds for the program under the fiscal 2019 budget and will start issuing the grants as early as fiscal 2020.

The schools covered by the program include those selected as the world’s top 50 universities, divided into three types of rankings, as compiled by a British tertiary education magazine and others.

The universities, which totaled 73 in the latest rankings announced in June, include Harvard University in the United States, the University of Oxford in Britain, China’s Tsinghua University, as well as the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University.

“We want to offer support so that children in the city will be able to play active roles globally with high aspirations like the Choshu Five,” the city official said.

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