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WHY THE "CAMBRIDGE & OXFORD SOCIETY"?

Giro Koike, Magdalene College, Cambridge 1931-34

This year, we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Cambridge & Oxford Society, Japan. This is indeed a happy event.

But when I thought of how the members who knew the Society in earlier days are gradually disappearing, I felt I should take up my pen and leave some short account of what I know about the Society's history.

I myself was born in Tokyo in 1908, and went to England after having graduated from middle and high schools under the old educational system. I studied at Magdalene, Cambridge from l931-1934. The foundation of the Society in 1905 was thus three years before my birth, and a long time before my own Cambridge experience. So all I know is what I have heard from older members, primarily from my father-in-law, Shigezo Imamura, who graduated from a Japanese middle school in 1896, went to England in the same year, entered Trinity, Cambridge, and graduated in 1902.

As is well known to everybody, 'Oxford and Cambridge' is the normal way in England of referring to the two universities, and not vice versa.

I do not know for certain why people refer to them in that way, but the fact is that the oldest college in Oxford is older than the oldest college in Cambridge. This is often said to be the reason, but perhaps people simply became accustomed to talking about them in that order, without there being any supporting logic.

In Japan, we always say 'So-kei' whenever we refer to Waseda and Keio, the two prestigious Japanese non-state universities, together, but again there seems to be no profound reason for it; simply people have got into the habit of referring to them in that way over a period of many years.

So why is our own Society called the 'Cambridge & Oxford Society', in that unexpected order?

When I myself returned home after studying at Cambridge, I had the feeling that the name sounded a bit out of place, even unnatural! So at the first meeting I was invited to, I asked some senior members about it. Shigezo Imamura (who subsequently became my father-in-law, though at the time I never dreamt of that happening!) gave me the following explanation.

He, and several British and Japanese friends who had spent time together at Cambridge, founded the Cambridge Society here in Japan, I think it was in 1903. There were already of course a number of Japanese Oxford graduates at that time, and some of them proposed to the Cambridge Society that they should link up and enjoy activities together.

From the early days, although both universities have been competing vigorously with each other in every field, they have also remained on extremely good terms with each other, and have a good mutual understanding as they have developed in a similar environment. So my father-in-law and his Cambridge friends received the idea of joint activities enthusiastically.

However, they made one proviso. Since the Cambridge Society already existed, the Oxford graduates would have to accept that O should follow C, with the joint Society taking the name C&O, or Cambridge & Oxford. The Oxford side reluctantly agreed, feeling they had no choice! And so it has been since 1905.

I would like to tell you who the Japanese and British people were who founded the Society at that time, and how many members there were. But I have no records, and the Hon. Secretaries have told me that Book I of the Minutes of the Society has long ago disappeared, perhaps at the time of the 1923 Kanto earthquake. The important thing, however, is that the Society has been kept alive all through the 90 years since then, and is still extremely vigorous today.

I feel happy too when thinking ahead to the future of the Society.

My own high school under the old Japanese educational system closed many years ago. Despite this, even today its alumni meet every year, and we have a good time talking and singing. But the youngest members of the alumni group are already in their mid sixties, and one cannot help thinking about the future, 30 to 40 years ahead, when all of the alumni will inevitably have died out.

In contrast, our Society will be able to maintain its continuity into the future, adding new members every year, from Japan, Britain, and other countries. In this way, the Society will last for ever!

(5th April, 1995)

Posted in | Submitted by giro.koike on Tue, 1995-04-04 15:00.
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