Torii Ryūzō

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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 took him all over East Asia and also into South America.

Ryuzo Torii 01.jpg


He was 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. From an early age, he was a passionate collector of artifacts of all kinds, and without interest in school studies. He eventually stopped going to school. Fortunately, he finished his school studies in a short term, under a nice teacher who appreciated him and tried to support him in his studies according to his interests. 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 began to write articles on anthropology (in his teen years). His articles were greatly appreciated by Professor Shogoro Tsuboi (坪井正五郎) of Tokyo Imperial University (Tokyo University now). Tsuboi is the pioneer of Japanese anthropology. He took an interest in the young Torii, and hurried to Tokushima, to advise Torii to pursue fundamental knowledge in anthropology at Tokyo Imperial University. Torii consequently moved to Tokyo when he was 20 years old.[1]

He used eight different languages in his studies, and he also could use Ainu language.[clarification needed] His article "Ainu people in Chishima Island", written in French, is a landmark work in Ainu studies. In Europe and America, it is important to this day for people who study in Ainu. In this article, one can feel the deep sympathy of Torii towards the Ainu.[2]


Ryuzo Torii spent almost all of his life in anthropology field-work (research). He insisted that "Studies should not be done only in the study room. Anthropology is in the fields and mountains." He insisted that anthropological theories should be backed by strong empirical evidence.[3]

Torii always tried to use the newest technology in his research. He first made use of a camera while conducting field-work in Northeastern China when he was 25. In 1900, Torii was assisted in his research by interpreter Ushinosuke Mori. Described as "a pioneer in the use of the camera in anthropological field-work",[attribution needed][4] Torii inspired other researchers, including Mori, to make use of photographs in their anthropological studies.

Torii began to use record in anthropology research in domestic research at Okinawa Prefecture.[clarification needed]

Domestic Researches in Japan and Torii-style[edit]

Torii is famous for research performed outside of Japan. But Torii started his anthropology research in Japan during his teen years, from his hometown to almost everywhere in Japan. During his time working at Tokyo Imperial University, he also researched around Japan, invited by prefectures, villages, streets etc. Torii was always glad to receive invitations and traveled to the places in question; after researching, he would always hold an exhibition, lecturing and showing things from the research. This is the Torii style: research, exhibition, lecture.[5] His domestic researches took him all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Research abroad[edit]

Tn 1895, Torii was sent by Tokyo Imperial University to Northeast China at Riao-dong Peninsula for anthropology research. This was Torii's first overseas research. In 1896, the University sent Torii to Taiwan. He began to use a camera in this research. Torii is the first person to use a camera in anthropology research.[clarification needed][6]

Some have argued the relationship between Torii's anthropology studies and Japanese imperialism. 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)[7]


  • 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.[8]
  • 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 Ministry of Education, Science and Culture) 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.[9]
  • 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).[10]
  • 1951 Torii returned to Tokyo, Japan.
  • 1953 Torii died.
  • 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Memo of an Old Student" by Ryuzo Torii
  2. ^ 『Studies on Ryuzo Torii』№. 1
  3. ^ 『Life of Ryuzo Torii』by Torii Ryuzo Memorial Museum
  4. ^ Bennett, Terry (1997). Korea: Caught in Time. Garnet Pub Limited. p. 16. ISBN 1859641091. 
  5. ^ "Achievements of Ryuzo Torii" by Tadashi Saito
  6. ^ "Life of Ryuzo Torii", "Exhibitin" by Torii's Memorial Museum
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Ryuzo Torii' s achievement" by Tadashi Saito
  9. ^ "Studies on Ryuzo Torii No. 1"
  10. ^ "Life of Ryuzo Torii" by Torii's Memorial Museum