Kusakabe Taro: the Samurai Connecting New Brunswick and Fukui
From October 4th through the 7th New Brunswick, New Jersey hosted a delegation from Fukui, Japan to celebrate 35 years of friendship. The two cities formed their sister city relationship in 1982, committing to exchanging ideas and culture in order to promote peace and grow together. Their partnership has led to the growth of student exchange programs, cultural ambassador programs, and more. The Fukui delegation consisted of over 40 people including the Vice Mayor and members of the City Council; members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce; and members of the Fukui International Citizens Association
New Brunswick planned for a very full and entertaining visit. In the spirit of engaging youth in cultural exchange, the Junior Chamber of Commerce brought with them two Fukui middle schoolers who wonan essay contest on the topic of Kusakabe Taro. Kusakabe was a samurai from Fukui, Japan who came to New Brunswick to study Mathematics and Science at Rutgers in 1867. He was a brilliant student who was not only the first Japanese national to graduate from Rutgers, but also the first to be admitted to Phi Beta Kappa. Taro died of tuberculosis at age 25 in 1870 weeks before accepting his bachelor’s degree. While his death was tragic, Taro’s time in New Brunswick was the unofficial beginning of the relationship between the two cities—making the relationship closer to 150 years old.
Other events included a Buddhist ceremony at Kusakabe Taro’s grave on Thursday, October 5 and a lecture on “Kusakabe and His Friends,” held at the Alexander Library on Friday, October 6. The delegation also immersed themselves in the local culture by visiting the Zimmerli Art Museum and the new Johnson and Johnson Museum. They toured the Rutgers University Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs, Community Affairs, and the libraries. The events concluded with a Friendship Gala on Friday, Oct 6th at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick.
This relationship is a shining example of international exchange. The year after Taro died, there were 18 Japanese students studying at different schools in the area.That number has continued to grow in both cities. Thanks to their relationship, the two cities have sponsored many academic, scientific and cultural exchanges through the University and other local institutions. If their friendship can last 150years, we can only imagine that more great developments are in store.