Francis Brinkley (Francis Brinkley)

Francis Brinkley

Diplomat, educator and writer. Francis Brinkley first went to Japan in 1867 as assistant attache to the Japanese Legation. He and his son, Jack Ronald, greatly contributed to the culture and education in Japan. Brinkley was born at Leinster, Ireland. His grandfather was a bishop and professor of astronomy in Dublin University. Brinkley studied at Dunganon and Trinity and was at the top of his class in mathematics and classical studies. After graduating from those institutions, he entered the Royal Military Academy near London and earned an appointment as an artillery officer. Brinkley went to Hong Kong as adjutant to the British Hong Kong Governor General, Richard Magnell, his nephew, for three years. Prior to that he had visited Nagasaki and witnessed a rare scene of a duel between two Japanese samurai. The victorius samurai used his “haori”(Japanese half coat) to cover his slain opponent, and then prayed. Brinkley was impressed with this behavior, which inspired him to make Japan his permanent home. In 1867 he came to Japan to be assistant officer to the Japanese Embassy and in 1871 he became professor at the Naval Gunnery School and taught for five years. In 1878 he was invited to teach mathematics at Tokyo University, where he taught for two and a half years. He quickly mastered the Japanese language. During the Meiji period of Japan, there were three newspapers in Yokohama. One of them was the “Japan Mail”(later merged into the “Japan Times”), which Brinkley published and for which he was the Chief Editor. He helped introduce Japanese culture to other nations, supported the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, and also helped revise treatiest between Japan and several other nations. After the Sino-Japanese War, he became a correspondent of the “London Times,” and his military report, “On Japanese Bushido,” met with universal acclaim, particularly during the Russo-Japanese War. On his deathbed, Brinkley told his son, Jack Ronald, that mmediately after Japan defeated Russia in Hoten during the Russo-Japanese War, the Chief of the General Staff, Gentaro Kodama, secretly and hurriedly returned home to recommend that the Japanese Government secure a treaty with Russia. It was the most important secret then but the Chief of the General Staff shared this secret with Brinkley, a foreign correspondent. This was a testimony to the confidence that General Kodama had in him. Brinkley had several hobbies, including gardening, the collection of fine arts and pottery, cricket, horseback riding, tennis and hunting. Part of his collection was donated to museums, both in Japan and abroad. Unfortunately, most of his collection was destroyed in fires of the Great Earthquake and during the Second World War. During what proved to be the last year of his life, Brinkley wrote books for English beginners. These books were later used by many Japanese to study English in the latter half of the Meiji period. Brinkley wrote Japanese history and fine arts of Japan in English. “A History of the Japanese People,”(1915) published posthumously from the “London Times,” dealt with history, fine arts and literature from the origins of the Japanese people through the latter half of the Meiji period. In 1912 Emperor Meiji died. General Maresuke Nogi and his wife committed ritual suicide (hara-kiri) together on the day of the emperor’s funeral. Brinkley’s last report, “On General Maresuke Nogi,” was sent to the London Times. Brinkly died one month later. His funeral was attended by many dignitaries, including Speaker of the House of the Peers, Iesato Tokugawa, the Minister of the Navy, Makoto Saito, and Foreign Minister Yasuya. (bio by: Warrick L. Barrett)


  • December, 30, 1841
  • Leinster, Ireland


  • October, 10, 1912
  • Tokyo, Japan


  • Aoyama Cemetery
  • Tokyo, Japan

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