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Thomas Blake Glover
Born 6 June 1838
Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Died 13 December 1911
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation Businessman
Spouse(s) Yamamura Tsuru

Thomas Blake Glover, Order of the Rising Sun (6 June 1838 – 13 December 1911) was a British merchant in Bakumatsu and Meiji Japan.


Early life (1838–1858)

Thomas Glover was born at 15 Commerce Street, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire in north east Scotland on 6 June 1838, moving to Bridge of Don, near Aberdeen six years later. His father worked for the coast guard. Upon leaving school, Glover entered into employment with a trading company and travelled widely.

Japan (1859–1911)

in 1859, Glover crossed from Shanghai to Nagasaki and worked initially for Jardine Matheson buying Japanese green tea. Two years later, he founded his own firm, Glover Trading Co. (Guraba-Shokai). His first major success was as a merchant for ships, guns and gunpowder sold illegally to the rebellious Satsuma, Chōshū and Tosa clans in Japan during the 1860s. His business was based in Nagasaki, and it was here that he had his home constructed, the first Western-style building in Japan. There is no evidence to show that Glover was a freemason, although he is often associated with the Masonic Lodge by both Japanese and foreign writers.

Anti-western sentiment was rife at this point throughout the country due to the unbalanced treaty agreements imposed upon the Shogunate by the USA, which included extraterritorial rights. Nationalistic militants in Satsuma and Choshu spearheaded anti-government efforts aimed at toppling the Shogunate and restoring the emperor as sovereign. It was to these factions, later to become leaders in the Restoration governemt, that Glover plied arms and warships.

In 1863, Glover helped the Chōshū Five get to London on Jardine Matheson ships. He also helped send fifteen trainees from Satsuma under Godai Tomoatsu in 1865. He was also responsible in 1868 for bringing the first steam railway locomotive called "Iron Duke" to Japan which he demonstrated on an 8-mile track at Oura in Nagasaki.[1]

Glover assisted in toppling the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Meiji Restoration and as such, had cordial relations with the new government. These links led to his being responsible for commissioning one of the first warships in the Imperial Japanese Navy (the Jho Sho Maru, later called Ryūjō Maru) which was built by Alexander Hall and Company in Aberdeen and launched on 27 March 1869. Glover also commissioned the smaller Ho Sho Maru for the navy and the Kagoshima for the Satsuma clan from the same Aberdeen shipyard.

In 1868, Glover made a contract with the Hizen (Saga) clan and began to develop Japan's first coal mine at Takashima. He also brought the first dry dock to Japan.

Thomas Glover went bankrupt in 1870, but he stayed in Japan to manage the Takashima coal mine after the Restoration for the mine's Dutch owners until it was taken over by the Meiji government. In 1881, the mine was acquired by Iwasaki Yataro.

Glover with Iwasaki Yanosuke, the son of the founder of Mitsubishi, circa 1900.

Glover was a key figure in the industrialisation of Japan, helping to found the shipbuilding company, which was later to become the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan. He also helped found the Japan Brewery Company, which later became the major Kirin Brewery Company, Ltd. It is rumoured that the moustache of the mythical creature featured on Kirin beer labels is in fact a tribute to Glover (who sported a similar moustache).[2]

In recognition of these achievements, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (second class).

Thomas Glover died at his home in Tokyo, but was buried at the Sakamoto International Cemetery in Nagasaki.


Glover (holding grandson) and family, circa 1900.

Thomas Glover shared a common-law marital relationship with a Japanese woman named Yamamura Tsuru, a native of Bungo (Oita Prefecture) whom he apparently met in Osaka in the early 1870s. The couple had a daughter named Hana, born in Nagasaki in 1876. Hana wed British merchant Walter Bennett in 1897 and later moved with him to Korea, where she died in 1938. She had four children but only one grandchild, Ronald Bennett (1931- ) who is living today in the U.S.A. Thomas Glover also had a British-Japanese son, later named Kuraba Tomisaburo (1870-1945), who was born in Nagasaki and went on to make important contributions to the economy of this city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tomisaburo was married to Nakano Waka, also of mixed British and Japanese descent.

Official household registers preserved at Nagasaki City Hall indicate that Tomisaburo was the son, not of Glover's wife Tsuru, but of a woman named Kaga Maki. Except for these official registers, however, nothing is known about Kaga Maki, her relationship with Glover, or the circumstances of their separation. Glover and Tsuru remained together until the latter's death in 1899. Kaga Maki, meanwhile, married a Japanese man and died in Nagasaki in 1905.

Despite his Japanese citizenship, Kuraba Tomisaburo was hounded as a potential spy by the Japanese military police during World War II. His wife Waka died in 1943, and Tomisaburo committed suicide on 26 August 1945, soon after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a few weeks before the arrival of American Occupation forces in Nagasaki. Since the couple had no children, this marked the end of the association between Nagasaki and the Glover family.

Thomas Glover has been linked with Giacomo Puccini's opera "Madama Butterfly," which is set in Nagasaki, but there is no historical evidence to support this claim, except the fact that, in some photographs, Glover's wife Tsuru appears wearing a kimono with a butterfly design on the sleeve. There is also no evidence whatever for the claim that Tsuru went by the nickname "Ochô-san" (Ms Butterfly). It is likely, as Brian Burke-Gaffney points out, that the Glover-Madame Butterfly connection is derived from the fact that the American Occupation forces nicknamed the former Glover House the "Madame Butterfly House" (purely on the basis of the panoramic view over Nagasaki Harbor and the Euro-Japanese ambience of the building) and that Nagasaki authorities picked up on this as a way to promote the postwar tourism industry.


Glover House known as Ipponmatsu (Single Pine Tree) from a drawing of 1863. The tree was chopped down in the early 1900s

Glover's former residences in Nagasaki and Aberdeen have both since been turned into museums, with the beautifully situated Glover Garden (グラバー園) house in Nagasaki attracting two million visitors each year. He also had a residence in the Shiba Park area of Tokyo.

Glover's family home in Scotland, Glover House, 79 Balgownie Road, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen is now open to the public as a restored Victorian house, telling the Glover story. The house is also available as a venue for business meetings, small private functions and group tours. The home where he was born in Fraserburgh was destroyed by World War II bombing although a blue plaque marks the site of his birth.

The following is from *:[3]

The same year as the bankruptcy of Glover & Co., Thomas Glover fathered a baby boy with a Japanese woman named Kaga Maki. The boy attended the Nagasaki mission school Chinzei Gakuin, where he was one of the school's first pupils, and moved on later to Gakushuin in Tokyo. From 1888 to 1892 he studied biology at the Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Pennsylvania. He returned to Nagasaki in 1892 and took up a position with the British firm Holme Ringer & Co., later acquiring Japanese citizenship and assuming the legal name "Kuraba Tomisaburo." In 1909, Kuraba Tomisaburo moved into the Glover House (it had been rented to other foreign residents until then) with his wife Waka and became its sole owner two years later when his father died in Tokyo. The couple, who were never blessed with children, lived in the house over the following decades and enjoyed an important role in the economic and social life of the city. One of Tomisaburo's important achievements was the establishment of the Nagasaki Steamship Fisheries Co. and the introduction of Japan's first steam trawlers, which brought about a revolution in the Japanese fishing industry. Through his efforts、 Nagasaki Prefecture became and remains the foremost fishing prefecture in Japan. With his many connections on both sides of the language barrier, Tomisaburo also made great efforts to enhance international exchange and understanding and to promote Nagasaki both as a business center and tourist destination. He was a key figure in the establishment of the Nagasaki Naigai Club and in efforts to promote the designation of Unzen as one of Japan's first national parks. One of Kuraba Tomisaburo's most illustrious and enduring achievements was the compilation of the "Glover Fish Atlas," a collection of 823 precise watercolor illustrations of marine species found in southwestern Japan. This project, which stemmed from Tomisaburo's lifelong interest in biology, took more than 20 years of effort by several local artists. The atlas is preserved today in the Nagasaki University Library and remains one of Japan's three most important fish atlases. But despite Tomisaburo's efforts at international understanding, the rising tide of militarism and Japan's increasing animosity toward the United States and Britain in the early Showa Period cast a dark shadow on Nagasaki and particularly on people with foreign connections. Finally in 1939, Tomisaburo and Waka were forced to sell the Glover House to Mitsubishi Co. because it commanded a clear view of the building berth where the battleship Musashi was taking shape. After that the couple lived in the house at No.9 Minamiyamate, enduring harassment from the Kempeitai and cutting off most of their social contacts. Waka died in 1943, leaving Tomisaburo alone. Kuraba Tomisaburo was in his house in Minamiyamate on 9 August 1945 when an atomic bomb exploded over the northern part of Nagasaki. Then on 26 August 1945, less than two weeks after Japan's surrender, Kuraba Tomisaburo committed suicide in the Minamiyamate house, severing the connection between the Glover family and Nagasaki. He was 75 years old at the time. One motivation for Kuraba's suicide may have been fear that the American forces (that would land in Nagasaki on 23 September) might accost him for taking Japanese citizenship.

In The Footsteps of Young Thomas Blake Glover

This was a vast photo exhibition organised by the Art department of Fraserburgh Academy in 2009 to commemorate Glover's early years of living in Fraserburgh. See Fraserburgh Academy section of Fraserburgh Article.


In fiction

  • The character Jamie McFay in the novel Gai-Jin by James Clavell is based on Glover.[citation needed]
  • Glover is the subject of The Pure Land by Alan Spence.

See also

Statue of Thomas Blake Glover in Glover Garden, Nagasaki


  1. ^ Semmens, Peter (1997). High Speed in Japan: Shinkansen - The World's Busiest High-speed Railway. Sheffield, UK: Platform 5 Publishing. ISBN 1872524885. 
  2. ^ SECRET TALES at
  3. ^ Kuraba at
  4. ^ Crossroads: A Journal of Nagasaki History and Culture


  • Burke-Gaffney, Brian. (2003). Starcrossed: A Biography of Madame Butterfly. Norwalk, Connecticut: EastBridge. 10-ISBN 1-891-93647-6, 13-ISBN 978-1-891-93647-0; OCLC 261376334
  • McKay, Alexander. (1993). Scottish Samurai: The Life of Thomas Blake Glover. Edinburgh: Canongate Books. 10-ISBN 0-862-41452-0; 13-ISBN 978-0-862-41452-8; OCLC 246544069
  • McKay, Alexander.(Midori Hiraoka, trans). (1997). Tōmasu guraba den (トーマス・グラバー伝). Tokyo: Chuō Kōronsha. 10-ISBN 4-120-02652-3; 13-ISBN 978-4-120-02652-2; OCLC 47299389
  • Naito, Hatsuho. (2001). Tōmasu bi guraba shimatsu : meiji kenkoku no yōshō. (トーマス・B・グラバー始末: 明治建国の洋商). Tokyo: Ateneshobō. 10-ISBN 4-871-52214-8; 13-ISBN 978-487-152214-4; OCLC 166487686
  • Spence, Alan. (2006). The Pure Land. Edinburgh: Canongate Books. 10-ISBN 1-841-95855-7; 13-ISBN 978-1-841-95855-2; OCLC 225266369

External links



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