Special Collections & University Archives University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Yamashita, Yoshiaki, 1865-1935

Yoshiaki Yamashita Photograph Album, ca.1904.
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet).
Call no.: PH 006

Yoshiaki and Fude Yamashita, ca.1904
Yoshiaki and Fude Yamashita, ca.1904

From 1903 to 1906, Professor Yoshiaki Yamashita of Tokyo traveled the United States providing instruction in the new martial art of judo. In Washington, D.C., he provided instruction for the sons and daughters of the nation’s political and business elite and was brought to the White House to teach President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1905-1906, Yamashita was employed by the U.S. Naval Academy to train midshipmen, but after his contract ended in the fall 1906, he returned to Japan and continued to teach judo until his death on October 26, 1935. He was posthumously awarded the 10th degree black belt, the first ever so honored.

The Yamashita photograph album contains 53 silver developing out prints apparently taken to illustrate various judo throws and holds, along with Yamashita’s calling card and four documents relating to his time teaching judo in Washington.

Historical Note

Seeking to strengthen his nine-year old son’s “character,” Samuel Hill, sought out a suitable man to provide instruction in an exotic art he had seen during a business trip to Japan: judo. A wealthy Seattle railroad executive, Hill had the contacts — and funds — to hire the best and in February 1903, Kazuyoshi Shibata, a Yale student and friend of a Japanese acquaintance, recommended Professor Yoshiaki (Yoshigutsu) Yamashita as the best man for the manly job.

Born in Ishikawa Prefecture on Feb. 16, 1865, the son of a minor samurai, Yamashita had a basic grounding in the traditional martial arts before joining the new Kodokan dojo of Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, in August 1884. Yamashita rose steadily, even rapidly, through the ranks, achieving his sixth degree black belt in 1898 and gaining wide respect for his technical mastery. By the turn of the century, his reputation earned him a position teaching judo at the Japanese Naval Academy and Tokyo Imperial University.

Having long believed that making judo better known abroad would be good for Japan, Yamashita was an outstanding choice to spread the discipline in America, and he quickly responded to Hill’s inquiry. Accepting the offer in August 1903, Yamashita sailed for Seattle the following month, bringing with him his wife, Fude, and a 19-year old assistant, Saburo Kawaguchi (or Kamaguchi). Barely a week after their arrival, the trio gave a private judo exhibition for Hill and prominent invited guests, which historian Joseph Svinth believes may have been the first Kodokan judo exhibition for a non-Japanese audience in North America.

From Seattle, Yamashita and his party traveled across country by rail to Washington, D.C., where Hill’s son, John Nathan Hill, was then living. Offering demonstrations and lessons through the Japanese Legation, Yamashita found an eager audience of students in the nation’s capitol, and a surprisingly strong interest among the daughters of the nation’s political and corporate elite. Among the many who took notice was the President, Theodore Roosevelt, who had a well-known passion for what he considered manly pursuits. Through the Japanese Naval Attaché, Isamu Takeshita, Yamashita was introduced to Roosevelt at the White House in 1904 and by the spring, he had Roosevelt adding judo to his regular fitness regimen.

In January 1905, Yamashita left Washington to accept a position instructing midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. At the same time, representatives of the Army visited Annapolis to investigate the potential of Japanese martial arts, but while these representatives were favorably impressed, the Academy opted instead to hire a wrestling champion to train the cadets, a man who preferred the traditional western sports of boxing and wrestling.

From this point forward, Yamashita’s American sojourn wound down. His contract with the Naval Academy was not renewed for the fall 1905, but after Roosevelt personally intervened, Superintendent James H. Sands agreed to rehire him for another year. At the end of this second term, however, Sands recommended that the judo program be discontinued as not essential to shipboard life. Yamashita returned to Japan in the fall 1906 and continued to teach judo until his death on October 26, 1935. He was posthumously awarded the 10th degree black belt, the first ever so honored.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Yamashita photograph album consists of 53 silver developing out prints of Yamashita’s tour of the United States in 1903-1905. Laid onto stiff cardboard pages in a canvas-bound album, the images appear to have been used as teaching aids or as promotional material for classes taught by Yamashita in Washington, D.C., during the early months of 1904. A small number of images show Yamashita, Yamashita’s wife, Saburo Kawaguchi, and their students, but the majority are intended to depict particular judo holds and throws.

Laid into the album are four documents: a list of judo exercises (2p.); Yamashita’s address (“kindness of Lt. [Isamu] Takashita” of the Japanese Legation); a receipt in Japanese and English for payment by George de Geofroy, (presumably for judo lessons); and instructions for various judo throws (6p.). Yamashita’s calling card is included in an envelope laid into the front of the album. Many of the images are numbered in the negative and appear to have been photographed in a rather elaborate setting.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Cite as: Yoshiaki Yamashita Photograph Album (PH 006). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

History of the Collection

Gift of Caroline Watson, December 2007.

Processing Information

Processed by rsc, February 2008.


Additional Information

Language
English.

Bibliography

Svinth, Joseph R., “Professor Yamashita goes to Washington,” Journal of Combative Sport (Oct. 2000)


Contents List
Mr Kamaguchi — Mr. Kitagaki — Prof. Yamashita — Mrs. Yamashita
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Mr Kamaguchi -- Mr. Kitagaki -- Prof. Yamashita -- Mrs. Yamashita
Children’s class: Margaret Perrin — Miss A. Lee
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Children's class: Margaret Perrin -- Miss A. Lee
Nage no kata: Uki Otoshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Nage no kata: Uki Otoshi
Se oi Nage
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Se oi Nage
Sukui Nage
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Sukui Nage
Uki Goshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Uki Goshi
Harai goshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Harai goshi
Tsurikomi goshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Tsurikomi goshi
Uchi mata (rotation [arrow])
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Uchi mata (rotation [arrow])
Tomoe nage (a)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Tomoe nage (a)
Tomoe nage (b)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Tomoe nage (b)
Ura hage
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Ura hage
Tsuri otoshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Tsuri otoshi
Yoko gake [photo loose, laid into album]
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Yoko gake [photo loose, laid into album]
Yoko gake
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Yoko gake
Yoko guruma
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Yoko guruma
Uki maza (a)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Uki maza (a)
Uki maza (b)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Uki maza (b)
Dai i kyo: Tai otoshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai i kyo: Tai otoshi
Osoto gari
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Osoto gari
Da ashi harai
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Da ashi harai
Yoko otoshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Yoko otoshi
Dai san kyo: Harai goshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai san kyo: Harai goshi
Dai shi kyo: Kata guruma
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai shi kyo: Kata guruma
Dai roku kyo: Giyaku maki komi (a)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai roku kyo: Giyaku maki komi (a)
Giyaku maki komi (b)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Giyaku maki komi (b)
Dai i kyo: Tai otoshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai i kyo: Tai otoshi
Dai hi kyo: O goshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai hi kyo: O goshi
Sumi gaeshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Sumi gaeshi
Dai san kyo: Obi otoshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai san kyo: Obi otoshi
Dai shi kyo: Utsuri goshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai shi kyo: Utsuri goshi
Tawara gaeshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Tawara gaeshi
Dai go kyo: Uchi maki komi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai go kyo: Uchi maki komi
Se oi otoshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Se oi otoshi
Se oi otoshi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Se oi otoshi
Osoto guruma
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Osoto guruma
Dai raku kyo: kube nage (a)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Dai raku kyo: kube nage (a)
Kube nage (b)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Kube nage (b)
Hiza guruma
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Hiza guruma
Kueki raoshi (a)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Kueki raoshi (a)
Kuyeki raoshi (b)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Kuyeki raoshi (b)
Uchi konei (a)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Uchi konei (a)
[Uchi konei] (b)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
[Uchi konei] (b)
Tsuki komi (a)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Tsuki komi (a)
(same)
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
(same)
Ke komi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Ke komi
Yoko uchi
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
Yoko uchi
[unidentified throw]
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
[unidentified throw]
[unidentified kick]
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
[unidentified kick]
[unidentified throw]
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
[unidentified throw]
[Prof. Yamashita, Mrs. Yamashita, unidentified American]
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
[Prof. Yamashita, Mrs. Yamashita, unidentified American]
[Prof. Yamashita seated between unidentified Americans]
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
[Prof. Yamashita seated between unidentified Americans]
[Prof. Yamashita seated between unidentified Americans]
ca.1904
Silver developing out print
[Prof. Yamashita seated between unidentified Americans]
Geofroy, George de, Receipt for $50 to Yoshiaki Yamashita
ca.1904
Receipt, 1p.

In Japanese and English, signed “Received payment, Prof. Y. Yamashita.”

Yamashita, Yoshiaki, Address in Washington, D.C.
ca.1904
AMs, 1p.

In English, listed as c/o Japanese Legation and “kindness of Lt. Takashita” and “Jiu dow in London, Ukio Tani, co. Jap. Embassy.”

Yamashita, Yoshiaki (?), Instructions on judo throws
ca.1904
AMs, 6p.

In English, includes detailed information on how to perform throws, parrys and counters.

Yamashita, Yoshiaki (?), List of judo holds and throws
ca.1904
AMs, 2p.

In English, organized by kata and roughly equivalent to the images in the album.

Subjects
  • Judo--Photographs
  • Kawaguchi, Saburo
  • Yamashita, Fude
  • Yamashita, Yoshiaki
Types of material
  • Photograph albums
  • Photographs
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