People Involved in the Establishment of the Japanese Red Cross

The predecessor of the Japanese Red Cross Society was Hakuaisha (Philanthropic Society), which was established by SANO Tsunetami and OGYU Yuzuru during the Seinan War in 1877. SANO observed the Red Cross Pavilion at the Paris Universal Exposition in 1867 and at the 1873 Vienna International Exposition. He was impressed by their wartime relief activities and other projects.

In March 1877, SANO petitioned for the establishment of Hakuaisha to the Japanese government, but the government did not understand Article 4 of Hakuaisha’s rules, which was to “rescue without distinguishing between friend and foe”. So, SANO asked an intermediary to submit a prospectus to Prince Taruhito ARISUGAWA, who was the commander of the army putting down the Satsuma Rebellion, and received permission on May 1. YAMAGATA Aritomo and OZAWA Takeo agreed with SANO’s purpose, and acted as intermediaries.

Hakuaisha, established in this way, was an institution independent from the government from the beginning. Hakuaisha’s finances were supported by donations from members, statesmen, intellectuals and businessmen. Hakuaisha’s first members were 38 people, including SANO, OGYU and ISHIMARU Yasuyo. SHIBUSAWA Eiichi, one of the businessmen who supported its finances, became a member in 1880.

In 1886, the Japanese Government joined the Geneva Convention. Hakuaisha changed its name to the Japanese Red Cross Society. Finally, let us introduce the four presidents of Hakuaisha and the Japanese Red Cross Society from the Meiji period to Taisho period.


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