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A Guide to the Sanehiko Yamamoto Collection Regarding Albert Einstein

Finding aid created by Matt Kruse

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections

July 2017

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Yamamoto, Sanehiko, 1885-1952
Title: Sanehiko Yamamoto Collection Regarding Albert Einstein
Dates: 1922, 1949
Abstract: This collection chronicles the 30 year relationship between Albert Einstein and Sanehiko Yamamoto (President of Japan's renowned publishing house Kaizosha) that was formed during Einstein's 1922 trip to Japan. Included are photographs, letters, and artwork given to Yamamoto by Einstein during his trip, as well as a 1949 letter and photographs documenting Yamamoto's continued friendship with Einstein after World War II.
Extent: .48 Linear feet. 2 Boxes and 1 Oversize framed item.
Identification: MSS 0399
Language(s): Includes materials written in English and German
Online ContentItems from this collection have been digitized and are available online in the UF Digital Collections. For more information please see the note below.

Biographical/Historical Note

Having won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, Einstein embarked on a tour of London and Europe, followed by Asia and the Middle East. His tour of Japan in November 1922 was planned and funded by Sanehiko Yamamoto, the President of Japan's most successful publishing house, Kaizosha, and an important political figure, and the first person to publish Einstein's works in Japanese. Yamamoto arranged for Einstein's lecture series, a parade through Tokyo and his meeting with the Emperor and Empress.

The tour was a great success and Einstein was enthusiastically welcomed with cries of "Einstein banza!" (Long May You Live), a greeting he later described as the most genuine and enthusiastic reception he had ever received. During that month, Einstein delivered lectures to seven Japanese universities. At Keio University, he gave a marathon six-hour lecture on relativity, and at Kyoto University, he delivered an impromptu speech about how he derived his famous theory. Sanehiko Yamamoto hosted Einstein and his wife Elsa in his home. Yamamoto took great pride in bringing leading intellectuals to Japan, including writers and philosophers such as George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell, as well as great scientists like Einstein. In this way, Yamamoto hoped to expose the Japanese people to prevailing ideas and philosophies and so further enrich Japanese society. While they stayed with him, Yamamoto's illustrious house guests were encouraged to record their thoughts on large sheets of paper using a special pen in a traditional Japanese art form known as Shuji. On his sheet, Albert Einstein wrote "Wissenschaft is die Religion Unserer Zeit" (Science is the Religion of our Time). Einstein also crafted a poem and illustration on a silk scroll as a gift for his host, as well as a special autographed letter of thanks. The friendship they established proved enduring, and Einstein would later sponsor Yamamoto's son, Shunta, to become the first Japanese person to gain American citizenship after the Second World War.

Sanehiko Yamamoto (1879-1952) was President of Kaizosha, a major Japanese publishing house. Yamamoto's magazine Kaizo (Reconstruction) had one of the largest circulations in the world (greater than Time). While he made sure to secure prominent national and international authors, Yamamoto also endeavored to include younger, little-known authors from diverse schools of thought. He similarly revolutionized the publishing industry by producing collections of small, inexpensive books that enabled a new generation of readers to gain access to major works. Less well-remembered today, Yamamoto was instrumental in shaping Japan's interwar and postwar intellectual landscape, bringing to Japan leading Western intellectual, cultural and scientific figures, including Albert Einstein in 1922. He cared deeply about his country and became heavily involved in politics, even starting his own party, from which would come a number of Japan's prime ministers. In 1946, however, he was placed on Japan's red purge list and forbidden to engage in politics, a development that put pay to his own leadership ambitions. In a 1949 letter to Einstein, Yamamoto expressed regret that he was forbidden to travel. Instead, he requested Einstein's help in offering guidance and advice to his son, Shunta, during his visit to the United States.

Scope and Content

This collection, chronicling a distance relationship that spanned 30 years, offers further insights into the human side of one of the 20th century's great historical figures. Included are photographs, letters, a special illustrated scroll, and a traditonal Japanese calligraphic rendering given to Sanehiko Yamamoto by Albert Einstein in recognition of Yamamoto's hospitality and freindship during Einstein's 1922 trip. Also included is a 1949 letter from Yamamoto to Einstein and photographs documenting Yamamoto's continued freindship with Einstein after World War II. One of the photographs, of Albert Einstein and his wife staying with the Yamamoto family in 1922, was retained by the donor and is only available in digital form online.

Access or Use Restrictions


The collection is open for research.

Related or Separated Material

Other material related to Albert Einstein's 1922 trip to Japan can be found in the Einstein in Japan Collection held by the Princeton University Library.

Administrative Information

Alternative Format Available

Digital reproductions of selected items in the Sanehiko Yamamoto Collection Regarding Albert Einstein are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Sanehiko Yamamoto Collection Regarding Albert Einstein, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Acquisition Information

Donated in 2011 by Janet K. Yamamoto, grandaughter of Sanehiko Yamamoto and professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Florida.


Sources consulted by Matt Kruse while writing this finding aid:

Science is the Religion of our Time: Einstein in Japan exhibit.

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
World War (1939-1945)
Yamamoto, Sanehiko, 1885-1952

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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