The Janes' Residence, Kumamoto 洋学校教師館ジェーンズ邸
by Jake Davies
The Janes' Residence suffered huge damage in the Kumamoto Earthquake of April 2016
The building known as the Janes' Residence was the first western-style house built in Kumamoto and is registered as a Cultural Asset.
The Janes' Residence was constructed in 1871 to house the family of L.L. Janes, an American who had been hired as a teacher at the new School of Western Learning.
Originally built within the grounds of Kumamoto Castle, it has been moved several times before ending at its present location next to Suizenji Garden, though there are plans to move it back within the castle grounds within a couple of years.
Its design is fairly typical of what is known as Treaty Port, and is based on British colonial architecture of the Far East. The house is open as a museum, and on display is furniture and belongings of the Janes family as well as teaching materials used by him.
There are also displays connected to the Japanese Red Cross as the house is connected to the birth an organization called Hakuaisha which became the Japanese Red Cross in 1887.
Hakuaisha was the creation of Sano Tsunetami who set it up to care for the wounded of both sides of the Seinan War, many bloody battles of which took place around Kumamoto. He received permission to set up the organization while he was in the Janes residence, hence the connection.
Leroy Lansing Janes
Leroy Lansing Janes was born in Ohio in 1838. A graduate of Westpoint, he served as a captain in the Union Army in the American Civil War which has led some to suggest he was the model for the Tom Cruise character in the movie The Last Samurai.
Retiring from the army he attempted farming in Maryland. After initially refusing the invitation to teach in Kumamoto, he changed his mind and he and his wife and two children arrived in Japan in 1871. He was one of thousands of foreign experts hired in the early years of the Meiji Period as Japanese government policy to learn from the west.
In a sense, Kumamoto was playing catch-up as the neighboring domains, now Nagasaki and Kagoshima Prefectures, had been hiring Europeans since before the Meiji Restoration. Most of the foreign experts hired came from Europe, but in Kumamoto Yokoi Daihei urged an American be hired as he had studied illegally in the U.S. in the 1860's and had been impressed.
Like most of the foreigners hired, Janes received very generous conditions; transportation costs to Japan for he and his family, rent free western style house, liberal sick leave and vacations and 400 US Dollars a month salary.
His curriculum at the Kumamoto School of Western Studies included mathematics, natural sciences, history, and geography. All instruction was in English, itself not so unusual, but he strictly forbade the use of interpreters.
By all accounts he was an autocratic and strict educator, at one point he failed and dismissed half the students of a class, but he did encourage his students to think for themselves, stressing self study and group study over formal lectures. In 1875 too girls were admitted by Janes and this made it the first co-ed public school in Japan.
Janes was a fervent Christian, and at the time Christianity was still outlawed for Japanese citizens, so he did not directly include Christianity in the school, but after a few years he invited any students who wanted to come to his house for bible study.
Of the students who attended some chose to become Christian, and in January, 1876 a large group of them met on a hill overlooking Kumamoto and publicly proclaimed their faith. The Kumamoto authorities were horrified, and the students were persecuted, not least by their families. Janes' contract was not renewed and the school closed.
As well as for his educational and religious activities in Kumamoto Janes is also remembered for introducing western vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, and cauliflower.
Janes left Japan in 1877, but returned for a further six years teaching in 1893. He died in 1909 in the U.S.
Further reading: American Samurai: Captain L.L. Janes & Japan.
By F.G. Notehelfer. Princeton University Press.
The LL Janes' Western-style house is located just to the east of Suizenji Garden, a short walk from the tram line.
Hours: Open 9:30-4:30. Closed Mondays, or the following day if Monday is a national holiday, and over the New Year.
Entrance 200 yen adults, 100 yen children.
22-16 Suizenji, Kumamoto 862-0956
Tel: 096 382 6076
Just in front of the Janes' Residence is the third house of Soseki Natsume who moved six times during his stay in Kumamoto. The house is not open though it can be looked inside.
Another famous western resident of Kumamoto was Lafcadio Hearn, the Greek-Irish writer who was one of the first westerners to write about Japan and its culture in the late 19th century.