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Hidehiro Takaki, Gonville & Caius, Cambridge 1927-30
After graduating from Cambridge in 1930, and a further one and a half years working in London in Prof. Pite's architecture office, I returned to Japan in 1932. So my memories of the old days of the Cambridge & Oxford Society go back a long way into the past!
I very well remember the first time I attended a C&O meeting. In those days, the President of the Imperial Hotel, Baron Kishichiro Okura, was a graduate of Trinity, Cambridge, having been up from 1904 to 1906. He looked after C&O members extremely well, and my first meeting was in his hotel.
It was a more formal event than we are used to nowadays. All of us were dressed up in dinner jackets, and after some conversation in one of the hotel's reception rooms, we were brought into one of the dining rooms, where, under the sparkle of chandeliers, the British Ambassador proposed a toast in Champagne - of excellent quality, I must add!
Baron Okura used to host such occasions twice a year, in spring and autumn, with a total of 20 to 30 British and Japanese members attending. He greatly contributed to the C&O Society by his support.
In addition, the British Ambassador hosted a year-end dinner, which was attended by Baron Okura and other members, in full formal attire.
As well as these formal occasions, members used to get together about once every three months at restaurants in Shimbashi and Marunouchi. But for some reason, these seem to have been attended only by the Japanese, if my memory is correct.
With all these C&O meetings, I had no time to join the Japan-British Society, to my later regret.
Few members of today's C&O have probably heard of the 'Shijukyu-kai'. This was in fact not formally connected to the C&O, but it was made up of Japanese Cambridge graduates, including myself. In 1927, seven Japanese were admitted to Cambridge - an unusually high number for those days. The seven of us formed the 'Shijukyu-kai' after our return to Japan. The '49' in the Japanese name was arrived at by taking the number 7 in 1927, and multiplying it by the 7 of us.
We kept our friendship going through subsequent decades, meeting as frequently as possible, and often engaging in heated and extremely enjoyable discussions on every subject under the sun. Now I'm the only member of the group left, since the death of Munetaka Yamamuro (Trinity Hall, 1927-1930) a few years ago.
For many years I have been an Hon. Secretary of the Society, and am delighted to see it is still extremely active. I am happy to observe that the atmosphere is much more informal than in the days I remember back in the early 1930s, and there are many more members, both Japanese and British as well as from other countries. But the purpose is still the same, to build continuing friendships between men and women who have enjoyed the common experience of studying at these two ancient universities.
I enjoy meeting young members of the Society at our meetings, and it brings back happy memories of my own young days in an earlier period of the Society's history.
(13th April, 1995)