“Wherever there’s a chimney,
there you will find someone from Kuramae.”
– Meiji-era adage of unknown origin
“The Higher Industrial School, founded in 1881, was the predecessor of the Tokyo University of Engineering (founded in 1929). It was founded by the government of Japan as the Tokyo Vocational School, 14 years after the 1868 Meiji Restoration.
“To accomplish the quick catch-up to the West, the government expected this school to cultivate new modernized craftsmen and engineers and students were taught, among other vocational trades electrical engineering, paper manufacturing, textile production and seaweed production. Initially the school had a hard time recruiting students, because technical skills in Japan were traditionally handed down in Japan in an apprenticeship system [tsutomeboukou].
“The Tokyo Vocational School was renamed Tokyo Technical School in 1890 and then Tokyo Higher Industrial School in 1901.
“In its early days, the school was located in Kuramae where many craftsmens’ workshops had been since the feudal era. The buildings on the Kuramae campus were destroyed by the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923. In the following year, the Tokyo Higher Industrial School moved from Kuramae to the present site in Okayama, a south suburb of the Greater Tokyo Area.”