Torii Ryūzō

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In this Japanese name, the family name is "Torii".
Torii's Memorial Museum established by Tokushima Prefecture (徳島県立鳥居記念博物館).

Ryuzo Torii (鳥居龍藏; May 4, 1870 – January 14, 1953) was a Japanese anthropologist, ethnologist, archaeologist and folklorist. He was known for his anthropological research in China, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, etc. His research is all over East Asia, also South America. He conducted archaeological excavations, attempted to understand prehistoric things in Asia.


Born in Tokushima (徳島) Prefecture (at Funaba Street (船場町), which is a part of Shikoku (四国), in a rich merchant family. His parents were kind and never interfere him. So he was free to do everything he liked. From an early age, he was a passionate collector of artifacts of all kinds, and without interest in school studies. He stopped going to the school. Fortunately, he finished those studies of schools in a short term, under a nice teacher, who appreciated him, tried to support him in his studies according to his interest. So he could study in a very efficient way to approach his own destination: Anthropology. At the same time he started to learn histories of his home town Tokushima and also Shikoku, and researched around these places. At the time, he already began to write articles on Anthropology (in his teen ages). His article was greatly appreciated by Professor Shogoro Tsuboi (坪井正五郎) of Tokyo Imperial University(Tokyo University now). Mr. Tsuboi is the pioneer of Japan's Anthropology. He found out this genius boy Torii, and hurried to Tokushima, to advice Torii to get fundamental knowledge in anthropology at Tokyo Imperial University. So Torii moved to Tokyo when he was 20 years old.[1]

He used 8 kinds of languages in his studies. and he also could use Ainu language. His article "Ainu people in Chishima Island" written in French is very famous and important. In Europe and America, till now, it is the most necessary material for people who study in Ainu. In this article, you can feel the deep sympathy of Torii towards Ainu.[2]


Ryuzo Torii spent almost all of his life in anthropology field-work (research). He insisted on: "Studies should not be done only in the study room. Anthropology is in the fields and mountains." So he always tried his best to find out all kinds of proof to support his ideas.[3]

●Torii always tried to use the newest technology in

 his researches and studies.
 ○ Torii is the first person to use camera in 
     anthropology research. His first research using
     camera is his first abroad research to the 
     northeast part of China, at the age of 25.
 ○ Torii began to use record in anthropology 
     research in domestic research, at Okinawa Pref.

●Domestic Researches in Japan  Here is a Torii-style

Torii is famous for his abroad anthropology research. But there is an recently unknown fact is that: Torii started his anthropology research in his teen ages, from his hometown to almost everywhere of Japan. During his working in Tokyo Imperial University time, he also researched around Japan, invited by Prefectures, villages, streets etc. Torii was always glad to receive invitations and traveled to the place, after researching, he would certainly hold an exhibition showing things from the research. At the same time, make lectures on it. This is the Torii style: research, exhibition, lecture. Torii worked hard on expanding anthropology and historical knowledge. This is also a great job done by Torii. It could be highly evaluated. .[4] His domestic researches were all over Japan: North from Hokkaido, south to Okinawa, you can find registrations of his researches almost everywhere.

●Abroad Research

Tn 1895, Torii was sent to Northeast China, at Riao-dong Peninsula for anthropology research, by Tokyo Imperial University. This is the first abroad anthropology research of Torii, at his age of 25.

In 1896, Torii was sent to Taiwan for anthropology research by Tokyo Imperial University at the age of 26. He began to use camera in this research. Torii is the first person to use camera in anthropology research. For this reason, there are so many superior precious pictures taken by Torii, memorizing those sights you couldn't never find it out again in this world. Considering the social environment and technical level at the time, these pictures could be the cultural property of mankind.[5]


  • 1870 Born in Tokushima Prefecture (May 4).
  • 1895 Sent by Tokyou Imperial University to the northeast part of China, for anthropology research. The first abroad research of Torii, at the age of 25.
  • 1896 Sent by Tokyo Imperial University to Taiwan, for anthropology research. He took a large number of pictures of Taiwanese people, at the age of 26.
  • 1898 Became an Assistant at Tokyo Imperial University.
  • 1899 Torii was sent by Tokyo Imperial University to Hokkaido (in the north part of Japan, near Russia), as well as Chishima Island, where Ainu people lived. Torii's article "Ainu People in Chishima" in French was highly regarded. In Europe and America, it remains a necessary material for people studying Ainu.
  • 1900 Torii succeeded in climbing to the top of "Yu-mountain" (at the time, "Shin Taka-mountain") in Taiwan, and he is supposed to be the first successor.
  • 1901 Married Kimiko, daughter of a famous Samurai (when Meiji) in Tokushima, talented in music, language and education.
  • 1905 Became a lecturer at Tokyo Imperial University.
  • 1906 Engaged by Karachin Royal Family of Mongolia, Kimiko became the Teacher of Karachin Girl-School. Torii also became the Professor of Karachin Boy-School in Mongolia.
  • 1911 Torii was on his field-work in Korea. At the time, Mr. Sada Sekino mentioned an ancient tomb as Goguryeo culture. It was a mistake. Torii pointed out that belongs to Kan-people'(漢人)s culture. This also became a big reason for Torii to be disliked, since Sekino was a powerful and famous person in Tokyo Imperial University. This is a great discovery of Torii; he proved that Kan-people(漢人)had moved to Korea in such an ancient time, about which even historians did not know.[6]
  • 1920 Torii was honored for an Ordre des Palmes Academiquesiques of France. But Torii did not receive this award. It strangely got lost, disappeared within Tokyo imperial University, and could not be found out anymore.
  • 1921 Torii was offered a PhD degree by Tokyo Imperial University, for his achievement in anthropology studies.
  • 1922 Torii became an Assistant Professor at Tokyo Imperial University.
  • 1924 Torii left Tokyo Imperial University and established his own Torii Institute, staffed by his family members.
  • 1928 Torii worked on establishing Sophia (上智) University. It was the only foreign School in Tokyo for many years, could not become a University, managing by German Catholic fathers. As a Catholic anthropologist, Torii worked hard: he did all procedures in Ryuzo Torii's name instead of Sophia(上智)to Monbusho(文部省 Minister for Education and others), and succeeded in lifting its level up to a university level, since Torii was very famous at the time. It is a great achievement of Torii in internationalizing Japanese universities.[7]
  • 1939 Scouted by Harvard as a scholar majored in his China anthropology studies, belonged to Harvard Yenjing institute, in the name of "Invited Professor", the top Institute for Asian studies in U.S.A. At the time. There was a Sister University of Harvard University named Harvard Yenjing University, located in Peking, China. This area belonged to America, and had the same rights as the American Embassy at the time. That is the reason why Japanese Army could not come into this University until the Pearl Harbor attack, on December 8, 1941. Torii was sent to this American area in China by the Institute, a nice place for his China anthropology studies, out of the China-Japan War. Torii lived in Yenjing area, belonging to the Harvard Yenjing Institute, not the University (even the Harvard Yenjing University was an American University at the time, since this area was bought by American before. This area was completely under Americans' control, including management).[8]
  • 1951 Torii returned to Tokyo, Japan.
  • 1953 Torii passed away.
  • 1964 (March) The first "Torii' Memorial Museum" was established by Tokushima prefecture, at Naruto area, closed to the sea. It is in a Japanese traditional castle style, on the top of Myoken Mountain. Money for establishing were from Tokushima people, showing their memory and love for Ryuzo Torii.
  • 2010 Torii' Memorial Museum was moved to Tokushima city, the central part of Tokushima Prefecture, more easy for people to visit. It is in a large facility in "Forest of Culture" area, together with other museums and also library.


  1. ^ "Memo of an Old Student" by Ryuzo Torii
  2. ^ 『Studies on Ryuzo Torii』№. 1
  3. ^ 『Life of Ryuzo Torii』by Torii Ryuzo Menorial Museum
  4. ^ "Achievements of Ryuzo Torii" by Tadashi Saito
  5. ^ "Life of Ryuzo Torii", "Exhibitin" by Torii's Memorial Museum
  6. ^ "Ryuzo Torii' s achievement" by Tadashi Saito
  7. ^ "Studies on Ryuzo Torii No. 1"
  8. ^ "Life of Ryuzo Torii" by Torii's Memorial Museum

There are some people mixed anthropology studies with Imperialism, such as below: In the wake of Yoshino Sakuzō's criticism of Japan's Imperial ambitions in Korea, Torii lined himself up with those who justified Japanese annexation on the grounds that the contemporary consensus worldwide in linguistics, anthropology, and archaeology was that the Korean and Japanese people were one and the same 'race/people' (dōminzoku)[1]

  1. ^ Oguma Eiji, Tan'itsu minzoku shinwa no kigen, Shin'yōsha, Tokyo 1995 pp.154ff. English translation in Eiji Oguma, "A Genealogy of 'Japanese" Self-Images", Trans Pacific Press, 2002, pp. 126-127.