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Glover's Son Tomi-San

Thomas Albert Glover 1870-1941 - Businessman, Biologist and Artist.

Glover's son was originally named "Shinzaburo" and remained with his natural mother until the age of about 6.  Like many other Foreigners who fathered children in casual relationships with Japanese women, Glover perhaps wanted to give his mixed race son a Western-style education and so paid the mother Maki a certain sum of money and persuaded her to give the child up. Glover was now living with a Japanese woman named Tsuru, who had given birth to a daughter named Hana in 1876.

After coming under the care of Thomas and Tsuru, Shinzaburo adopted his stepmother's maiden name Awajiya as a family name and "Tomisaburo" as a given name. From that day onward he was called "Tomi-san" by Japanese people and "Tommy" by Foreigners and used the name T.A. (Thomas Albert) Glover when speaking or writing in English.  In 1880, American Missionary C S Long and his wife arrived in Nagasaki and the following year established a Methodist school called Cobleigh Seminary in the Higashiyamate quarter of the European Settlement. Tomisaburo was a member of the 1st class. Four years later he entered Gakushuin (Peers School) in Tokyo, at the time the most exclusive Educational Institution in Japan. During his 4-year stint there, Tomisaburo lodged at the house of Iwasaki Yanosuke, the President of Mitsubishi Co. and close friend of his father.

The school records show that Tomisaburo achieved excellent grades at the beginning of his career at Gakushuin. In fact, he was placed 1st in his class. He later fell behind, however, possibly because of abuse from his classmates over his mixed race and mother's background. This conjecture is supported by the fact that, during his years at Gakushuin, he changed the character for ya in Awajiya from "shop" which suggests plebeian ancestry, to "valley" which strikes a more elegant chord.  Tomisaburo graduated from Gakushuin in March 1888, and on September 1 the same year his name was officially entered in the Japanese family register as the adopted son of Tsuru Glover.

In the autumn of 1890 he entered the University of Pennsylvania as a student in the pre-medical Biology course. His reason for choosing the University of Pennsylvania is further evidence of the intimate relationship between the Glover and Iwasaki families: Iwasaki Hisaya (1865-1955), who later succeeded his father as President of Mitsubishi Co., had been studying in the Wharton School of Business at the University since 1887. He graduated in the spring of 1891 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, the only foreigner in his class. During the less than 1 year they were together in Philadelphia, Hisaya undoubtedly served as Tomisaburo's mentor and helped him settle into University life.  Tomisaburo returned to Nagasaki in 1893 after 2 academic years. Although not obtaining a degree, he had had an experience that only a tiny handful of wealthy Japanese could enjoy at that point in history. The stay in Philadelphia had helped him master the English language and European manners, to establish friendships and to gain an International outlook. Moreover, the study of Biology was to remain a vital interest throughout his life.

Also known as "Tomisaburo Guraba," he was the son of Thomas Blake Glover and a Japanese woman Kaga Maki. Tomisaburo was born in 1870. He studied at Chinzei Gakuin in Nagasaki and Gakushuin in Tokyo. In 1888, he travelled to the United States to study at Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Pennsylvania. When he came back to Japan in 1892, he joined the British Trading Company Holme, Ringer & Co. in Nagasaki. After that he served as a bridge between the Japanese and Foreign Communities and made many important contributions to the local economy. He spoke both languages fluently, and his warm personality made him popular among both Japanese and Foreigners. Circumstances that developed during the 2nd World War, unfortunately, ruined his life. The Japanese Military regarded him as a potential spy. In 1939, he was forced to leave the Glover House because it overlooked the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard. At the time, the Battleship Musashi was being built under secrecy at the Shipyard. The War began with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour 1941. This was Tomisaburo's worst nightmare. Ironically, it occurred on December 8, his birthday.

Holme Ringer & Co.
As soon as he arrived back in Nagasaki Tomisaburo entered the employ of Holme, Ringer & Co. as a junior staff member. From the beginning he showed great ability in liaison work between Japanese and Foreigners, his quiet intelligence and warm personality endearing him to both groups. Soon after moving back into the Glover House he was joined by Thomas, Tsuru and Hana. Thomas had recently retired from the Japan Brewery Co. (predecessor of Kirin Brewery Co.). According to the family register, Tomisaburo's name was transferred on October 1894 to the register of a certain Kuraba Rihei in the Japanese neighbourhood of Ebisu-machi in Nagasaki. The name Kuraba is made up of 2 characters meaning "warehouse place." This is feasible as a Japanese surname, but the resemblance to "Glover" is too strong to think that it was anything but a fabrication. Furthermore, only 4 months earlier Tsuru had changed her registered domicile from Tokyo, not to the Glover House in Minamiyamate, but to the same address in Ebisu-machi. It is likely, therefore, that Thomas and Tsuru invented the name Kuraba and had a new family register created in order to give the 23 year old Tomisaburo a solid footing for his new life in Nagasaki.

Subsequently, the young man was in the unique position of being a member of both communities: a Japanese National and registered Nagasaki resident named Kuraba Tomisaburo, and an employee of the British firm Holme, Ringer & Co. and active member of the Nagasaki Foreign Settlement named Mr Thomas Albert Glover.  In June 1899, Tomisaburo married Nakano Waka, the 2nd daughter of British Merchant James Walter and a Japanese woman named Nakano Ei. Walter and Thomas Glover shared an intimate connection with the British firm Jardine, Matheson & Co. and both were active in the business communities in Yokohama and Tokyo.  Tomisaburo and Waka did not have children, but their similar backgrounds and interests made them inseparable lifelong partners.


Fish of the Sea
Among the benefits reaped by Japan after its victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) was the right to extend its fishing grounds to the waters around the coast of Korea and the Russian Coast of the Japan Sea. Nagasaki and the other ports of Kyushu thus found themselves with a wealth of new marine resources.  In response, Holme, Ringer & Co. established the "Nagasaki Steamship Fishery Co." in October 1907 and appointed Kuraba Tomisaburo as Director. In May the following year Tomisaburo imported the 1st Steam Trawler the 179-ton Smokey Joe (renamed Fukaye Maru) built in his father's hometown of Aberdeen, Scotland. Under the supervision of a Captain Ford and 2 other British experts hired by Tomisaburo, the 1st trawling experiments were conducted in waters off the Goto Islands. The result was so extraordinary that it provoked an outcry from local fishermen using traditional fishing methods, but a compromise was reached in June 1909 by the adoption of a number of regulations for Steam Trawling. Tomisaburo subsequently imported one more trawler from Scotland and had another 2 built in the Nagasaki Mitsubishi Shipyard.

During the 1st years the catches were distributed mainly in Nagasaki and surrounding areas, but in February 1912 Tomisaburo arranged for a trial shipment by train to the markets in Osaka. This experiment proved an enormous success and marked the beginning of Nagasaki's role as the foremost fish-producing prefecture in Japan a position that it holds to this day.  In many ways the year 1908 marked a significant turning point in the modern development of Nagasaki and Japan as a whole. Aside from the epoch-making introduction of Steam Trawlers, it is noteworthy that the total production of local shipyards exceeded the volume of imported ships for the 1st time this year. Japan was finally overcoming its dependence on foreign industry and technology. It had proven itself to be a new world power after successive victories in wars with China and Russia and was now glowing with pride, confidence and growing industrial might.

The Glover Fish Atlas
From the time the Trawlers brought their 1st catches into Nagasaki, Kuraba Tomisaburo visited the waterfront frequently to watch the fish being landed.  He was of course motivated by business considerations, but there was also a scholarly interest stemming from his years as a biology student. At the University of Pennsylvania he had seen the meticulous watercolour and lithograph illustrations of animal and fish species that filled the biology textbooks. In his 1st year he had even spent 3 hours a week himself in a course devoted to freehand drawing from animal models.  He was keenly aware that no Fish Atlas of the scale of those in Europe and America had been produced in Japan.  Looking at the great variety of fish hauled up in the trawler nets, Tomisaburo decided to begin systematic research into the fish species living in the ocean near Nagasaki and to compile an authoritative Fish atlas.  In 1912 he hired a local artist to do the 1st illustrations. He had to present examples of the appropriate style and to patiently supervise the initial attempts.  A long process of trial and error was probably needed before the Japanese artist who by training was accustomed to capturing the movement of fishes and birds grasped the purpose of the project and accepted the unprecedented task of painting a fish in exact detail, right down to the number of scales. The completion of the atlas required a period of 21 years, enormous financial expenditures and the painstaking efforts of 4 successive Artists. Entitled Atlas of Fish Species in the Waters off West and South Japan and known in Nagasaki as the "Glover Fish Atlas," the collection of paintings that resulted from these labours is called one of the four great fish atlases of Japan. Preserved today at Nagasaki University Library, it contains a total of 823 minutely detailed watercolor paintings, including 700 illustrations of 558 fish species and 123 illustrations of shell and whale species, all with names in both Latin and local Japanese dialects inscribed carefully in Tomisaburo's handwriting.

The fish atlas was Tomisaburo's life work and his prized possession. Indeed, this Herculean work of Art and Science put Japan on a par with Europe and America in the scientific documentation of fish species and made a significant contribution to this branch of human knowledge.

Broken Dreams
By 1936 the Japanese Army had already subjugated Manchuria ignoring the protests of the League of Nations and was readying itself for all-out war with China that would begin the following year. Already, the news from the mainland was causing ripples of concern in the once serene Chinese and European communities in Nagasaki.  The incident at Luguoqiao (Marco Polo Bridge) near Beijing on July 7, 1937 triggered the outbreak of war between Japan and China and opened the floodgates for Japanese Military movements on the continent. Before the end of the year, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and the national capital at Nanjing had fallen under the force of the attacking armies. Britain and the United States were not involved directly in the fighting, but the Japanese made no effort to hide their defiance of the Western Powers. In isolated incidents in the autumn of 1937, the British Ambassador to China was killed when his train travelling between Nanjing and Shanghai was machine-gunned by Japanese Aircraft, and the American Gunboat U.S.S. Panay was bombed and sunk in the Yangtse River.  Everything in Nagasaki suddenly began to prepare itself for War. Arms factories appeared in the City and existing workshops were revamped for the manufacture of war-related products. Young men were conscripted in increasing numbers and the Railroad Stations thundered with cheers of Banzai as they departed to join their Regiments. When ships left the harbour carrying soldiers to China, 100s of children were brought by their schools to stand on the waterfront and wave flags. Citizens were compelled to join various patriotic rallies, exercises and work crews. The spirit of war was only enhanced by the successive victories of the Japanese Army in China and the Government's assurances that the fighting was necessary to liberate people from the oppression of imperialism and to achieve a "Sphere of Co-Prosperity in Greater East Asia."

The Nagasaki Mitsubishi Shipyard also began to concentrate on the production of Warships. In 1938, the construction of 1 of the world's largest and most formidable battleships the Musashi began in Dock No. 2 at the shipyard under commission from the Japanese Navy. The dock had been equipped with a huge gantry crane in March 1936, making it the largest in the Orient.  The project proceeded under strict secrecy. In order to prevent outsiders both Japanese and foreign from viewing the work, rope curtains were hung from tall wooden frames around the dock, and uniformed guards stood watch along the streets nearby. Even passengers on ships to outlying islands were ordered to stay inside and to draw black curtains across the windows when leaving and entering Nagasaki Harbour. 

Yamamoto & Mushashi Battleships

The construction of the Musashi brought a wrenching upheaval in the lives of Kuraba Tomisaburo and his wife Waka. On June 30, 1939, they sold Glover House to Mitsubishi and moved into the house at No.9, Minamiyamate at the bottom of the hill. The new house was a fine 2-storey Western-style structure with a long entrance and spacious gardens with an enormous centuries-old camphor tree, but it certainly had none of the personal or historical significance of Glover House.  Most Japanese records claim that for some unstated reason Tomisaburo came forward and asked Mitsubishi to buy the house, to which request the Company agreed. It seems obvious, however, that Tomisaburo's presence in the house which commanded an excellent view of the shipyard where the Musashi was taking shape was altogether unacceptable to the Military Authorities supervising the project, and that they forced Mitsubishi to persuade Tomisaburo to sell the house and move out. His many close friends at the company were undoubtedly grieved to see this happen, but their sentiments had no sway over the decisions of the Military. Willing or not, Nagasaki had become an important cog in the expanding Japanese war machine. The Naval Authorities dispatched to Nagasaki from other parts of the country had no knowledge of or interest in Tomisaburo's contributions to the City's economy and culture in peace time, let alone any nostalgia about Thomas Glover's role in the establishment of the modern Japanese Navy. In their eyes Tomisaburo was nothing more than a potential spy.

The situation continued to deteriorate. Tomisaburo and Waka tried to carry on with their social life as before, but they found themselves increasingly hampered by the kempeitai military police who were now exercising considerable control over daily affairs in the city. Everyone was subject to the bullying presence of these military police, but the homes of Tomisaburo and other residents of mixed ancestry were kept under special surveillance to prevent any "unpatriotic" activities. When Tomisaburo or Waka left the house and went into the city, the police followed them and took careful note of the people to whom they spoke. These people were later interrogated about the content of the conversations.

Then, on December 8, 1941, Japan declared war on Britain, the United States and Holland and launched a surprise attack against the American Fleet at Pearl Harbour the same day. Until now only a looming threat, Japan plunged into war with the Allied countries and its armed forces began their drive to take over Hong Kong, Singapore and other areas of East Asia under European domination.


Despair & Tragedy
The attack on Pearl Harbour marked the final collapse of the bridge of goodwill that had been the very foundation of Tomisaburo's life in Nagasaki. The timing of the attack added a painfully ironic touch: it occurred on his 71st birthday.  As war raged in the Pacific, Tomisaburo and Waka retreated into a life of solitude. The Military Police the Kempeitai and Tokk Police became relentless in their surveillance, resorting to tactics like posing as Electricians or Plumbers in order to gain entrance into the Kuraba home. Tomisaburo's many old friends now avoided contact with him because of the harassments they would have to endure if they acknowledged even a simple greeting. The gardener and other people with whom he had daily contact were also subjected to persistent investigations.  In Nagasaki, meanwhile, the parishioners of Suwa Shrine convened a general meeting about 1 month after the outbreak of war and joined in a Shinto ritual to pray for victory. There is no record as to whether Kuraba Tomisaburo attended this ritual, but there can be no doubt that the ominous changes in the world situation had already begun to cause him anguish and worry.

On May 4, 1943, Waka died at the age of 68 in the house at No. 9, Minamiyamate. The loss of his partner of more than 4 decades and the 1 person who intimately shared and understood his deepest feelings was a crushing blow to Tomisaburo as became the last member of the Glover family in Japan.  After that he fared as best he could, spending his time tinkering in the garden, caring for his dogs and reading about the war in the newspapers. He now rarely left the Minamiyamate property, and his simple needs were attended to by a faithful housekeeper.  Near the end of the war, air-raid sirens began to sound with increasing frequency, but for the most part Nagasaki was spared the blanket bombings devastating other cities. An air-raid alarm was sounded early in the morning of August 9, 1945 but was lifted around 8:30 a.m. People emerged from the shelters and went back to their daily routines. Tomisaburo was at home as usual when the hands of his watch crept past 11 o'clock.

Suddenly a brilliant flash of light filled the sky, followed within seconds by a thunderous explosion and ferocious blast of wind. The American B-29 that had dropped the 2nd atomic bomb on Japan slanted high over Nagasaki Harbour and disappeared into the southern sky.  Although the house at No.19 Minamiyamate was located more than 5 kilometers from the hypocenter, the windows were smashed in by the blast and the ceramic roof tiles flew off like flecks of dirt. As Tomisaburo reeled in shock, a mushroom cloud churned up into the hot summer sky over the northern part of Nagasaki.  Six days later on August 15, the Emperor made his historic announcement of surrender over the radio and the cruellest war in human history came to a close.

The entire northern section of Nagasaki was a barren smoking wasteland, and much of the rest of the city had been severely damaged by the blast and subsequent fires. Thousands of corpses still lay strewn among the rubble, and the valley and mountainsides facing the hypocenter were scorched reddish-brown and stripped of all life.  On the morning of August 26, when rumours about the impending Allied occupation were darting around Nagasaki, Kuraba Tomisaburo was found dead in 1 of the disarranged rooms of his house. He had strangled his dogs and then hung himself with a length of clothes line, dying hunched forward, feet on the floor and eyes locked open in an eternal stare.  Higher up the hillside, the Glover House stood ravaged and desolate, its broken windows looking out onto the devastated City like eye holes in a skull. A breathless hush hung over the neighbourhoods of the foreign settlement, and the once bustling harbour was now drained permanently of activity and international colour.

Tomisaburo's self-inflicted death just when the end of fighting should have meant profound relief is a mystery that may never be solved. Did he, like so many other Japanese immediately after the war, succumb to the backlash of years of hardships that turned out to be futile? Did this, along with the fact that he was 71 years old, utterly alone and deeply grieved by the destruction of his hometown, push him over the brink of despair?  Undoubtedly yes. But for Tomisaburo the impending Allied occupation was perhaps the final catalyst. For 6 years he had patiently endured the unfounded suspicions of his Japanese countrymen. Now he faced the prospect of accusations by the British and Americans or, even worse, pressure to do what for Tomisaburo was the impossible:  to take sides.

The explanation for his suicide was that American Forces would soon be arriving in Nagasaki and that Tomisaburo did not want to take sides in the conflict by either offering or refusing to cooperate with the American Forces. He was both British and Japanese, and suicide was his chosen way to avoid having to demonstrate any specific alliance. His remains were cremated and buried in the Glover Family plot at Sakamoto International Cemetery.

He clearly respected the Japanese Samurai ideals in his despairing dichotomy.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013