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In His Father’s Footsteps? Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo as a Member of the First Ottoman Student Delegation to Japan [Global Perspectives on Japan, 2: „Japan’s Interaction with the Turkish and the Muslim World“, 2020, 106-126]

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Abstract

In the historiography of Japan’s Interaction with the Turkish and the Muslim World, Ahmed Münir İbrahim (1887-1941) has been overshad-owed by his father, Abdürreşid İbrahim (1857-1944). Abdürreşid, a Rus-sian Tatar scholar and journalist, spent five months in Japan in the first half of 1909. After his journey, he published a two-volume travelogue en-titled Alem-i İslam ve Japonya’da İntişar-ı İslamiyet in Istanbul in 1910. This travelogue has remained one of the most important sources for the history of early Turkish-Japanese relations and has predominantly been regard-ed as an expression of pan-Islamist and pan-Asianist thinking. Similar to his father, Münir too traveled to Japan in December 1910 as a member of the first Ottoman student delegation. Münir and his two companions, Hasan Fehmi and Mehmed Tevfik, were sent to Japan at the request of the pan-Asianist society Ajia Gikai to take up their studies in Tokyo. After his arrival in Japan, Münir published a brief, serialized travelogue in the Ka-zan newspaper Beyanülhak, which relates the students’ journey from Har-bin to Tokyo, alongside other articles on Harbin and Japan. While Münir’s articles in the Ottoman journal Sebilürreşad and the Japanese journal Daitōhave recently been scrutinized by historians, his travelogue in Beyanülhakhas to date remained completely obscure. This article will, first, provide a concise discussion of the Ottoman student delegation to Japan and, sec-ond, examine key aspects of Münir’s travelogue, which may provide his-torians with important insights into the more mundane aspects of Turk-ish-Japanese exchanges behind the idealizing visions of pan-Islamism and pan-Asianism.
106
In His Father’s Footsteps? Ahmed Münir
İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo as a
Member of the First Ottoman Student Delegation
to Japan
Ulrich Brandenburg
Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies,
University of Zurich
Abstract
In the historiography of Japan’s Interaction with the Turkish and the
Muslim World, Ahmed Münir İbrahim (1887-1941) has been overshad-
owed by his father, Abdürreşid İbrahim (1857-1944). Abdürreşid, a Rus-
sian Tatar scholar and journalist, spent ve months in Japan in the rst
half of 1909. After his journey, he published a two-volume travelogue en-
titled Alem-i İslam ve Japonya’da İntişar-ı İslamiyet in Istanbul in 1910. This
travelogue has remained one of the most important sources for the history
of early Turkish-Japanese relations and has predominantly been regard-
ed as an expression of pan-Islamist and pan-Asianist thinking. Similar to
his father, Münir too traveled to Japan in December 1910 as a member
of the rst Ooman student delegation. Münir and his two companions,
Hasan Fehmi and Mehmed Tevk, were sent to Japan at the request of the
pan-Asianist society Ajia Gikai to take up their studies in Tokyo. After his
arrival in Japan, Münir published a brief, serialized travelogue in the Ka-
zan newspaper Beyanülhak, which relates the students’ journey from Har-
bin to Tokyo, alongside other articles on Harbin and Japan. While Münir’s
articles in the Ooman journal Sebilürreşad and the Japanese journal Daitō
have recently been scrutinized by historians, his travelogue in Beyanülhak
has to date remained completely obscure. This article will, rst, provide
a concise discussion of the Ooman student delegation to Japan and, sec-
ond, examine key aspects of Münir’s travelogue, which may provide his-
torians with important insights into the more mundane aspects of Turk-
ish-Japanese exchanges behind the idealizing visions of pan-Islamism and
pan-Asianism.
107
Keywords: Japan, Russian Tatars, Ooman Empire, Manchuria,
pan-Asianism, pan-Islamism
Introduction: Two İbrahims in Japan
A towering gure in the history of Japanese-Ooman and Japa-
nese-Tatar relations is without a doubt Abdürreşid İbrahim (1857-1944),
who visited Japan in the rst half of 1909 and established relations with
high-ranking politicians and pan-Asianist circles. İbrahim was an inu-
ential intellectual among Russia’s Muslims and a prominent gure in the
iifak movement following the Russian revolution of 1905. Abdürreşid left
his country in late 1908 after his popular reformist journal Ülfet (published
in St. Petersburg 1905-1907) had been suppressed by the authorities. Hav-
ing completed his journey, which led him from Japan via Korea, China,
India, and the Arabian Peninsula to Istanbul, he published his Ooman
Turkish travelogue Alem-i İslam ve Japonya’da İntişar-ı İslamiyet (The World
of Islam and the Spread of Islam in Japan) in two volumes in 1910-1913.
This impressive work has served as an important source in historical writ-
ing, particularly with regard to “Japan’s Interaction with the Turkish and
the Muslim World”.
In contrast to his father, Abdürreşid’s son Ahmed Münir İbrahim (1887-
1941)1 has been largely neglected in historiography. During his father’s
journey to Japan, Münir worked as a journalist for the Kazan newspa-
per Beyanülhak, where he was involved in the publication of Abdürreşid’s
writing in Tatar Turkish (cf. Türkoğlu 1997, 67). After rst migrating from
Russia to the Ooman Empire, Münir became part of the rst Ooman
student delegation to Japan and traveled to Tokyo in December 1910. To-
gether with his two companions, he stayed in Japan for several years and
enrolled at Waseda University in Tokyo. There are still many gaps regard-
ing Münir’s life in general and the length of his stay in Japan in particular.2
1 For Münir’s year of death, I follow Gündoğdu 2007. With regard to his date of birth, I refer to
Cwiklinski 2012, 77, 82 n. 179. Cwiklinski mentions two different likely dates: archival docu-
ments indicate 1887, but Abdürreşid’s personal notebook gives 1886. I have opted for the first,
official version.
2 According to Gündoğdu (2012, 138-41), Münir basically stayed in Japan until returning to Tur-
key in 1924. Türkoğlu (1997, 13-14 n. 18), on the other hand, has claimed that Münir first retur-
ned to Kazan after completing his studies in Japan, went to Berlin after the Russian Revolution
Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo
108
He seems to have remained in East Asia for a few years after the end of
World War I, at least, working for a Japanese bank in Vladivostok. In 1924,
he moved back to the newly established Republic of Turkey, where he
briey worked for the Japanese embassy and then became the director of
a high school in Ankara (Gündoğdu 2012, 139-40).
The neglect of Münir’s role in the historiography of Japan’s interactions
with the Turkish and the Muslim World is partly aributable to the fact
that he did not publish a travelogue in the form of a book. Not being as
prolic a writer as his father, Münir limited himself to shorter newspaper
articles (including printed lectures and leers), which were published in
Ooman, Tatar, and Japanese journals. Only part of his Ooman Turkish
and Japanese writing has been discussed by scholars so far, in the context
of Japanese-Ooman relations and pan-Asianism (Gündoğdu 2012, 2007;
Misawa 2013, 507–9, 2001). In this article, I add to the few existing studies
by, rst, providing a brief discussion of the Ooman student delegation
to Japan and, second, introducing a serialized travelogue that Münir pub-
lished in Beyanülhak. I argue that Münir’s travelogue, which relates the
students’ journey from Harbin to Tokyo, provides historians with import-
ant insights into the more mundane aspects of Turkish-Japanese exchang-
es behind the idealizing visions of pan-Islamism and pan-Asianism.
Münir’s travelogue and other Japan-related articles in Beyanülhak have
been completely ignored by scholarship. A similar neglect of Beyanülhak
as a source even exists with regard to Abdürreşid İbrahim, whose exten-
sive travel notes in this journal have been largely overlooked by historians
(although both Abdürreşid’s and Münir’s connections to Beyanülhak are
well known).3 Besides revealing a scholarly bias towards monographic
sources, which are usually in beer condition and easier accessible, this
situation shows a second bias that favors Ooman Turkish sources over
and went to Turkey in 1920. Archival documents corroborate that Münir entered Turkey in
1924, but his activities during the years of World War I and its aftermath still remain obscure.
3 Komatsu Hisao and Komatsu Kaori, in the introduction to their annotated Japanese translation
of Abdürreşid İbrahim’s travelogue, have made use of Beyanülhak, though. Cf. H. Komatsu and
K. Komatsu 2013. Sebastian Cwiklinski, in his yet unpublished PhD thesis on Abdürreşid, also
consulted the articles in Beyanülhak as well as Abdürreşid’s Tatar travelogue Devr-i Alem (1909),
which compiled a part of these articles. I am grateful to Komatsu Hisao’s research group for
kindly giving me access to scanned images of Beyanülhak covering the years 1909-1911.
Ulrich Brandenburg
109
those published in Russia. The problem is, however, that Münir and Ab-
dürreşid, similar to many other Russian Muslim intellectuals in the late
Ooman Empire, frequently moved between the Ooman and Russian
domains and intervened in both public spheres (cf. Meyer 2015; Shissler
2003). Abdürreşid’s articles in Beyanülhak provide additional detail, a clear-
er chronology, and sometimes even a dierent framing of events than the
two volumes of Alem-i İslam (cf. Brandenburg 2018b). Regarding Münir,
the contrast between his writing in dierent languages is particularly
striking: for Japanese audiences, he served by and large as an expert on
the Ooman Empire and the Middle East, commenting predominantly on
political developments. In his articles for the Istanbul-based Islamist jour-
nal Sebilürreşad (up to 1912: Sırat-ı Müstakim), he variegated pan-Asianist
messages with observations on Japanese modernity and a call for closer
relations between Japan and the Ooman Empire. In Beyanülhak, however,
Münir largely abstained from political messages and focused on social
reform, trade and industry, as well as general travel impressions. We may
interpret these dierences as an adjustment to the distinct preferences of
Münir’s audiences in Russia, the Ooman Empire, and Japan.
Abdullah Gündoğdu (2007, 250) has correctly pointed out that Münir
often followed in the footsteps of his dominant father and “always felt
his father’s inuence on his personal life and interests.” This observation
holds true when we look at the overlapping networks in which father and
son were involved: in Istanbul, both published in the pan-Islamist jour-
nals Sebilürreşad and Tearüf-i Müslimin; in Kazan their writings appeared
in Beyanülhak, and in Japan they both frequented the pan-Asianist soci-
ety Ajia Gikai and wrote for its journal Daitō4. These parallels between
father and son should not lead us to underestimate the historical value
of Münir’s writing, however. In historical sources, father and son come
across as distinct personalities: while Abdürreşid was blessed with the
gift of oral and wrien communication,5 Münir seems to have been a
4 The surviving issues of Daitō have been made available on CD-rom by Tōyō University under
the direction of Misawa Nobuo, see (Tōyō Daigaku Ajia Bunka Kenkyūjo Ajia Chiiki Kenkyū
Sentā 2008).
5 The scale of Abdürreşid İbrahim’s writings and activities is nothing less but impressive. Du-
ring his stay in Japan from late January to mid-June 1909, he published more than forty articles
in Beyanülhak. At the same time, he explored Japan, met with a considerable number of influ-
Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo
110
more intellectually minded character. The Czech Orientalist Alois Nykl,
who made his acquaintance in Tokyo in late 1911, described him as “the
most enlightened Turk I have ever met.”6 In Münir’s articles, the reader
is confronted with a density of detailed information and often statistical
data. Nonetheless, historians have commonly focused on commonalities
between father and son, presenting Münir as continuing his father’s activ-
ities in the service of pan-Islamism and pan-Asianism (Gündoğdu 2012,
141). In the following discussion, I show that Münir in his Tatar travelogue
was hardly interested in advocating grand political visions of Muslim or
Asian unity. Instead, Münir’s writing is particularly insightful regarding
the daily practices and challenges in the development of Japanese-Turkish
and Japanese-Tatar exchanges.
The Ottoman Student Delegation to Tokyo
Münir arrived in Tokyo on December 29, 1910, as part of the rst Oo-
man student delegation to Japan and was welcomed by representatives of
the pan-Asianist society Ajia Gikai (“Asian Society”) (Ajia Gikai 1911). The
other members of the group were two recent graduates of the Mekteb-i
mülkiye: Hasan Fehmi, who also frequently published articles on Japan
in the Ooman press, and Mehmed Tevk (cf. Şahin 2001, 165-166 n. 475).
Originally, another graduate of the Mekteb-i mülkiye, İbrahim Edhem,
was supposed to be the third member of the group. When he fell sick be-
fore the journey, however, he was replaced by Münir (Türkoğlu 2015, 112).
Although the circumstances of the student’s dispatch to Japan have
not yet been completely illuminated, Abdürreşid played a major role in
the preparations. During his stay in Japan in 1909, Abdürreşid had helped
found the Ajia Gikai, which one year later invited Ooman students to
Tokyo. The invitation was published in the Istanbul-based journal Tearüf-i
Müslimin (1910a), which was edited by Abdürreşid, and the dispatch of
the delegation was likewise announced in Tearüf-i Müslimin (1910b). It is
uncertain how much nancial backing the Ajia Gikai eventually gave to
the delegation (Misawa 2013, 507). According to Ooman sources (İctihad
ential personalities, gave several public speeches and communicated with Sırat-ı Müstakim.
Japanese interlocutors repeatedly mentioned his tendency to talk a lot.
6 Nykl papers, folder 79: deníky [diaries] 1912 až 1916, Náprstek Museum, Prague.
Ulrich Brandenburg
111
1911; Tearüf-i Müslimin 1910b) an Ooman sponsor (Mısırlı Abbas Halim
Paşa?) provided the nancial means. Hasan Fehmi pointed out after his
return to Istanbul that the Ajia Gikai falsely claimed to have supported
the Ooman students, while this was done in fact by a sponsor at home
(Türkoğlu 2015, 126 and 130). As we read in Tearüf-i Müslimin (1910c), the
Ooman şeyhülislam was also supportive of the delegation. Documents
of the Ooman embassy in London, through which the Ooman for-
eign ministry communicated with Japan, further indicate a degree of in-
volvement by the Ooman bureaucracy.7 Ocial backing was not strong
enough, however, to enable the students to enroll at Tokyo Imperial Uni-
versity as was initially planned; instead they enrolled at Ōkuma Shigeno-
bu’s Waseda University (Misawa 2013, 508).
The three students were in close contact with the Ajia Gikai at least
until 1912, when the society reportedly moved its activities to China (Mis-
awa 2013, 509–10). The Ajia Gikai publicly celebrated its success in bring-
ing the rst students from the Middle East to Japan as the rst step in its
endeavor “to make the relations of Asiatic people closer and to promote
political, commercial and educational interests in Asia” (The Japan Times
1911). It made use of the three students as experts for the Middle East and
teachers of the Turkish language (Nakano 1911). The students were also
charged with the translation of articles from the Ooman Turkish press
(Ahmed Münir İbrahim 1911a). All three were named honorary members
of the Ajia Gikai and thereby served as symbols of the society’s outreach
towards the Middle East and the world of Islam (cf. Misawa 2013, 508).
We often encounter the three students in the vicinity of the Indian revo-
lutionary and pan-Islamist Muhammad Barakatullah, who had moved to
Tokyo from the USA in 1909 to start a position at the Tokyo School of For-
eign Languages (Brandenburg 2019). Soon after his arrival, Barakatullah
made the acquaintance of Abdürreşid İbrahim, became involved with the
Ajia Gikai, and began publication of the journal Islamic Fraternity. After
the three students arrived from the Ooman Empire, Barakatullah pub-
lished an article in the Islamic Fraternity (reprinted in Japanese translation
in Daitō), in which he praised the emerging cooperation between Muslims
7 Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi, HR.SFR.3 611.11, Nov. 5, 1910.
Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo
112
and the Ajia Gikai in bringing Asians together and making Islam known
in Japan (Barakatullah 1911a). He invited the three students to the widely
publicized conversion ceremony of Hatano Uhō and Hatano’s wife and fa-
ther-in-law on December 3, 1911 (Barakatullah 1911b). Hatano, celebrated
by Barakatullah as the rst Japanese Muslim, was a writer and journalist
who frequently translated Barakatullah’s ideas into Japanese and assisted
in the laer’s publishing activities (Kubota 2005, 172–73). Münir’s articles
in Sırat-ı Müstakim/Sebilürreşad occasionally mentioned Hatano and pre-
sented him as a pioneering Japanese Muslim who tried to spread Islam in
Japan (Ahmed Münir İbrahim 1912). Münir also sent Hatano’s pan-Asian-
ist book Ajia gōdō ron (On Asian Unity) to İstanbul (Sebilürreşad 1913b).
It was subsequently translated into Ooman Turkish by Abdürreşid İbra-
him and Nakao Hideo and published under the title Asya Tehlikede (Asia
in Danger) (Sebilürreşad 1913a; Dündar 2015).
İsmail Türkoğlu (2015) has drawn our aention to an important report
on Japan that Hasan Fehmi compiled for the Ooman government in 1915.
Fehmi’s report illustrates that interpersonal relations within the small
Muslim community in Japan and among the three Ooman students were
not as harmonic as they may at rst glance seem. Wrien shortly after
Fehmi’s return to the Ooman Empire, his report aggressively accused all
major gures of pre-World War I Japanese-Muslim relations – Abdürreşid
İbrahim, Barakatullah, Hatano, as well as Münir – of being liars and im-
posters, who habitually inated their own importance for personal gain.
While some of the accusations may be aributed to personal grudges, it is
true that Abdürreşid, for example, adapted his stories to changing circum-
stances and often exaggerated his achievements (cf. Brandenburg 2018b).
Barakatullah also combined dierent political positions and public pro-
les; and Barakatullah and Abdürreşid, together with Hatano and mem-
bers of the Ajia Gikai, projected a grossly misleading picture of the success
of Islam in Japan to Ooman and Middle Eastern audiences (cf. Branden-
burg 2018a). With regard to Münir, Hasan Fehmi bierly pointed out that
Münir frequently mislead Japanese interlocutors to appear more import-
ant, that he had taken money from the two other students to travel to Is-
tanbul, and that he did not hesitate to support Russia against the Ooman
Ulrich Brandenburg
113
Empire after the outbreak of World War I (Türkoğlu 2015, 127–28). At this
point, it is dicult to corroborate these claims with other sources. They
should remind us, however, that Russian Muslims in the Ooman Empire
(as well as other transnational Muslim activists) embraced dierent and
sometimes contradictory identities and frequently adapted their messages
and political positions to changing contexts (cf. Meyer 2015; Shissler 2003).
Among the three students, Münir has probably left the biggest public
imprint. Sebilürreşad alone published sixteen of his articles (cf. Gündoğ-
du 2012, 2007). The Ajia Gikai selected him to deliver a public lecture on
the Caucasus and Persia, which was reprinted in Daitō and partly repro-
duced also in the daily press (Ahmed Münir İbrahim 1911b; Tōkyō Asahi
Shinbun 1911). Daitō also published several other articles by Münir, which
advocated Asian unity or explained developments in the Middle East (cf.
Misawa 2001, 66).8 In an eight-part interview with Yomiuri Shinbun (1912),
we see Ahmed Münir explain Turkish culture and history. Beyanülhak, -
nally, published his (usually serialized) articles on Manchuria and Japan
in at least 35 of its issues in 1910-1911.
The Students’ Journey through Manchuria
Münir did not specify details of his journey to Japan in the Ooman
or the Japanese press. In Beyanülhak, however, he published a sixteen-part
series of travel impressions from East Asia under the headline “The Jour-
ney from Harbin to Port Arthur and from there to Tokyo.”9 This serialized
travelogue appeared in the feuilleton of the newspaper between January
29 and April 9, 1911.10 It was preceded by two separate articles, which
dealt with the Muslim community in Harbin.11 Taken together, Münir’s
texts allow us to reconstruct the East Asian part of the students’ itinerary.
8 Two of these articles are signed “Ibrahim,” without giving the full name. While I agree with
Misawa Nobuo that they should be attributed to Münir, there is a certain ambiguity here.
9 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [1-16], Beyanülhak, Nos. 713 (Jan. 29),
716 (Jan. 31), 718 (Feb. 9), 719 (Feb. 12), 721 (Feb. 16), 722 (Feb. 19), 723 (Feb. 21), 724 (Feb. 23),
726 (Feb. 28), 728 (Mar. 7), 729 (Mar. 9), 732 (Mar. 16), 733 (Mar. 19), 736 (Mar. 26), 738 (Mar.
30), 742 (Apr. 9). All dates are given according to the Gregorian calendar.
10 Abdürreşid İbrahim’s articles “Devr-i Alem” (Around the World) were likewise published in
the feuilleton of Beyanülhak during Abdürreşid’s journey 1909-10.
11 “Harbin’de İslamlar” and “Harbin’de Bayram,” Beyanülhak, Nos. 699 (Dec. 27, 1910) and 702
(Jan. 3, 1911).
Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo
114
They took the Trans-Siberian Railway to Irkutsk and continued to Har-
bin via Zabaykalsk, where they changed into trains of the Russian-owned
Chinese Eastern Railway. The travelers arrived in Harbin on the morning
of December 12, 1910.12 On December 22, Münir, who held Russian nation-
ality, received his travel documents from the Russian authorities in Har-
bin.13 One day later, on December 23, the group traveled to Changchun on
the Chinese Eastern Railway and there changed into an express train of the
Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railway to Dalian (Dalny/Dairen), a
Chinese port that Russia had leased in 1897 and ceded to Japan after the
Russo Japanese War 1904-05.14 On December 24, they went on a day trip
to neighboring Port Arthur,15 and on December 25, the group left Dalian
for Japan in the early morning.16 Traveling on the Japanese ship Amaku-
sa Maru for two days, the students arrived in Shimonoseki on December
27.17 From Shimonoseki, they took a train to Tokyo and were welcomed at
Shinbashi station by representatives of the Ajia Gikai on December 29.18
In several respects, the students’ journey is comparable to Abdür-
reşid’s, who had also spent two weeks in Harbin in January 1909 to ap-
ply for Russian travel documents (Abdürreşid İbrahim 1910, 160). While
Abdürreşid continued his journey to Japan via Vladivostok and Tsuruga,
Münir and his companions, on the other hand, chose the route through
the Japanese-dominated southern part of Manchuria, which Abdürreşid
had only visited after his departure from Japan. In Harbin, Abdürreşid
had been particularly impressed by the imam of the local Tatar mosque,
Inayetullah (Ginietulla Selikhmetov), a young man of 24 years. During his
stay in Harbin, Abdürreşid was a guest at the house of the local merchant
12 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [1]. The text gives the Julian date De-
cember 29, 1911, but on this day the travelers were already in Tokyo. It is most likely that they
arrived in Harbin on November 29, i.e., December 12, 1910, according to the Gregorian calen-
dar.
13 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [3].
14 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [5].
15 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [7].
16 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [10].
17 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [11].
18 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [13]. Although Münir alluded to a sto-
pover in Kobe in in the first part of the series, he does not mention it in this article. The report
by the Ajia Gikai in Daitō states that a member of the society was sent to Kobe on December 28
and transmitted the students’ time of arrival in Tokyo by telegram. Cf. Ajia Gikai 1911.
Ulrich Brandenburg
115
Hüseyin Efendi Agişev (Agishev), whose family maintained a protable
clothing business in Harbin (ibid., 146–47; cf. Miller 1904, 12). As both Ab-
dürreşid and Münir point out, Harbin was a young city that developed af-
ter 1898 as headquarters of the Chinese Eastern Railway Company, i.e., as
a result of Russia’s economic penetration into Manchuria (cf. Bakich 1986,
131–39). Harbin grew rapidly into a multi-ethnic or “international” city
(beynelmilel bir şehir, in Münir’s expression) and housed sizeable Russian,
Chinese, Korean, and Japanese communities.19 The city was a particularly
aractive destination for Russian liberals and ethnic minorities such as
Jews, who could enjoy the privileges of Russian nationality in what was
de facto a Russian colony on Chinese territory without being exposed to
the same discrimination as at home (Goldstein 2015, 103–28; Wol 1999).
From early on, Harbin was home to a Tatar community of around 200 peo-
ple, which constructed a rst wooden mosque already in 1901 and a stone
mosque in 1906-07 (Chernolutskaia 2000, 83–84; Dündar 2008, 21–25).
Münir and his companions arrived in Harbin at the beginning of Eid
al-Adha/Kurban Bayramı. They also arrived in the midst of a plague epi-
demic that hit Harbin and Manchuria in autumn 1910, but this apparent-
ly did not give too much concern to Münir.20 In Münir’s article “Bayram
in Harbin,” we learn that the three travelers spent the third day of the
bayram with Inayetullah, who continued to be imam of Harbin mosque
(and would remain so until his death in 1926, cf. Chernolutskaia 2000, 83).
In a long exchange with the imam, Mehmet Tevk spoke about the broth-
erhood between Ooman Turks and Tatars, and the respect that Tatars
received from people in the Ooman Empire. Inayetullah was particularly
delighted to be informed about the recent political situation in the Oo-
man Empire (Türkiye) and the empire’s future development, which both
Tevk and Hasan Fehmi regarded with optimism.21
Harbin, Münir met with both Inayetullah and Hüseyin Agişev and
again followed in the footsteps of his father, although he did not admit
19 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [1].
20 “Harbin’de İslamlar.” The Chinese suburb Fujiadian was much more heavily hit than the Rus-
sian-dominated parts of Harbin that Münir frequented. Most of the casualties were Chinese
subjects.
21 “Harbin’de Bayram.”
Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo
116
doing so. Instead, the meeting with Agişev is narrated as an unexpected
event. When the travelers arrived in Harbin and ordered tea at the train
station, a stranger approached them and asked in Russian: “Excuse me,
you have just arrived from Istanbul, haven’t you?” The man presented
himself as Hüseyin Agişev and revealed that the imam had sent him to
guide the three travelers to the mosque for the prayer on the rst day of
bayram.22 The travelers rejoiced at this encounter and followed Agişev to
the mosque, coincidentally passing by the store that the Agişevs owned in
Harbin’s quarter Pristan and that Abdürreşid had visited in 1909.23
Münir relates how the three travelers were received with great respect
by the local Muslims while the imam introduced the visitors to the congre-
gation and in his sermon (in Turkish and Arabic) underscored the mean-
ing of Muslim encounters. For Münir, the meeting with the Muslims of
Harbin provided an occasion to provide detailed information on the Mus-
lim community in Harbin. According to Agişev, Harbin housed 270-300
Muslims. The mosque had been constructed in the course of three to four
years and could accommodate around 250 people. The mosque, together
with a library and the house of the imam, was maintained by a commiee
of the local community (mahalle) and cost around 2500 rubles per year. For
Münir this was an impressive achievement by a small community based
on eort (ictihad) and fervor (gayret). Münir consequently admonishes Ta-
tars in Kazan to pursue a path towards national unity by following the
example of the Harbin Tatars.24
The encounter with Inayetullah does not play out in a solely religious
framing, however, but leads over to a topic which connects much of Münir’s
writing in Beyanülhak: a fascination with trade and industry. In the second
part of his travelogue, it is imam Inayetullah who rst explains to Münir
the economic importance of Harbin and provides information on dierent
banks in the city.
25
Agişev later follows up by outlining the important role
of the Tatars in the fur trade and the international activities of his company
22 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [1].
23 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [2].
24 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [2].
25 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat” [2].
Ulrich Brandenburg
117
from Europe to the USA.
26
After arriving in Tokyo and making his rst
observations in Japan, Münir concludes his travelogue by lamenting that
the Tatars in Kazan had neglected trade and industry and had thus fallen
behind other nations.
27
By presenting rst the Harbin Tatars and second
the Japanese as role models, Münir tries to encourage readers in Kazan to
improve themselves and dedicate themselves to business and learning.
28
Münir’s exhortations to his Tatar readers in Kazan indicate that he con-
sistently inserted his observations into a Russian perspective. Not only did
he frequently move from depictions of Japan towards identifying a need
for reform in Tatar society, but also habitually used Russian references,
favorably comparing for example the express train of the South Manchuri-
an Railway to the “Nord Express” which circulated between Moscow and
St. Petersburg.29 In Shimonoseki, he compared the best hotel in the city
with hotels in St. Petersburg, nding the Japanese hotel to be of the same
quality but more aordable.30 In his drawn-out narration of the students’
visit to Port Arthur, Münir describes Russian military cemeteries, inquires
about the interment of Muslim soldiers, critically examines the costs that
the fortication of Port Arthur had brought to Russia, and mentions how
Russian tourists shed tears after visiting the war museum.31 Moreover,
while in Manchuria Münir and his companions seem to have communi-
cated primarily in Russian, and one wonders to what degree this might
have made Münir into the de facto leader of the group.32 Münir’s journey
through Manchuria overall takes place within a decidedly Tatar and Rus-
sian framework, where Islam is addressed only in its relation to the Tatar
nation. One exceptional event, which brings ideas of pan-Islamic unity to
the foreground, is the students’ emotional departure from Harbin when
26 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [3].
27 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [5].
28 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [13].
29 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [3].
30 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [11].
31 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [7-10]. Hasan Fehmi’s article in Tearüf-i
Müslimin provides a more concise narration of the visit, cf. (Fehmi 1911).
32 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [11]. After their departure from Man-
churia, the students mainly tried to communicate in French although they struggled to find
interlocutors. İsmail Türkoğlu (2015, 113) has pointed out that Hasan Fehmi too spoke fluent
Russian. Münir does not mention this in his writing.
Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo
118
the local Tatars and the travelers assure each other that spatial separation
would never break their spiritual connections (manavi rabitalar).33 Apart
from this event, however, Münir’s travelogue keeps by and large quiet on
pan-Islamism and thus stands in stark contrast to Abdürreşid’s Alem-i İs-
lam, where transnational Muslim unity is one of the most prominent ideas.
Arriving in Japan
In the introduction to his travelogue, Münir explains that he chose to
relate his journey from Harbin to Tokyo because this part of his journey
would have been most unfamiliar to the readers of Beyanülhak. He adds
the caveat, however, that the journey’s “most important part” from Da-
lian to Tokyo may contain factual errors since the author had faced severe
diculties in communication with the people he met. From Dalian on-
wards, Münir admits, he could hardly nd anybody who spoke Russian
or French. The Japanese-controlled part of East Asia was instead dominat-
ed by Japanese and English, languages which he did not understand. In
this sense, his journey was split into two – a rst half where he felt at ease
and a second half where he felt insecure.34
Münir is extremely aentive with regard to communication, and lan-
guage is a recurring topic in his travelogue. We nd traces of this interest
in language also in an article in Sırat-ı Müstakim, where Münir describes
that the Ajia Gikai had received issues of Sırat-ı Müstakim from Istanbul
but that nobody was yet able to read them (Ahmed Münir İbrahim 1911a).
In his articles for Beyanülhak, he relates various anecdotes about his and
his companions’ diculties in understanding their interlocutors or in
making themselves understood. In Dalian, they stay at a Yamato Hotel (a
chain of hotels owned by the South Manchurian Railway) but soon realize
that they are unable to communicate with the Japanese personnel. They
are relieved when they nd a Japanese interpreter for Russian, who would
also serve as their guide in Port Arthur.35 In Shimonoseki, too, the travel-
ers are happy when they nd someone who knows a lile Russian and
33 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [3].
34 Although he wrote extensively on the Tatars of Harbin, Münir does not mention Turkish
among his languages of conversation, neither in its Ottoman nor Tatar varieties.
35 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [6-7].
Ulrich Brandenburg
119
who inquires for them about the train schedules.36 During the transit from
Dalian to Shimonoseki, the three students experience a certain isolation
in an environment dominated by English and Japanese but enjoy speak-
ing to the fteen-year-old mate of the ship who knows French – although
he understands only ten to twenty percent of what they say to him.37 In
the reading room of their hotel in Shimonoseki, Münir is impressed by
the number of available journals and magazines. All three travelers are,
however, completely enthused when the hotel sta brings them an older
issue of the French magazine La Revue Illustrée, which they avidly start
reading like something “wrien in our mother tongue.”38 Diculties con-
tinue in Tokyo, where Münir remarks that the leader of the Ajia Gikai,
Ōhara Bukei, spoke very lile French and that all communication had to
go through the interpreter Nikki Jirō.39
From the viewpoint of pan-Asianism, Münir’s description of the Ajia
Gikai is especially interesting. It largely conrms the Ajia Gikai’s own re-
port in Daitō but provides some additional detail. We read, for example,
that two Japanese members of parliament, Kōno Hironaka and Sasaki Ya-
sugorō, who had made the acquaintance of Abdürreşid İbrahim in 1909,
sent representatives to Shinbashi station to present the students with their
calling cards.40 After driving the students to their hotel41, the Ajia Gikai
(which Münir correctly translates as Azyalılar Cemiyeti”42) invites the
students to a welcome dinner at which Ōhara and Aoyagi Masao give
speeches on Asian unity and the awakening of the East. Ōhara outlines the
Ajia Gikai’s goal of assisting Japan’s Asian brothers and sisters (kardeşler-
imiz Asyalılar) to reach the same degree of progress (terakki) as the Euro-
peans. He thanks the Turks and in particular the Ajia Gikai’s members in
Istanbul43 for having responded rst to this ambition by sending students
36 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [12].
37 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [11].
38 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [12].
39 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [14].
40 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [13].
41 Münir gives the name of the hotel as “Sabani” while the Ajia Gikai (1911) gives it as “Ouékya.”
42 Abdürreşid İbrahim, (1910, 427), in Alem-i İslam, gave the suggestive mistranslation Asya
Kuvve-i Müdafaası,” i.e., Asian Defense Force.
43 Apart from Abdürreşid İbrahim, the Ajia Gikai included the Ottoman şeyhülislam in the list of
its members. We may assume that they did so after the şeyhülislam had requested members-
Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo
120
to Tokyo. Still on their rst day in Tokyo, the students visit the British
embassy where Hasan Fehmi and Mehmet Tevk expected to receive mail
from the Ooman Empire (which had not yet arrived).44
While Münir embraced pan-Asianist messages in several of his arti-
cles in Sebilürreşad and Daitō, he leaves the Ajia Gikai’s call for Asian co-
operation uncommented, and his reaction thus remains ambivalent. He
even abstains from further discussions of the Ajia Gikai or his own posi-
tion within the society and rather concludes his travelogue by addressing
characteristics of the Japanese language, which he discovers to be similar
to Turkish,45 and by pointing out the importance of trade and industry for
the future of the Tatars.46 His subsequent articles for Beyanülhak take up
various issues that would have been of interest to reformist Tatar intellec-
tuals in Russia: institutions for the public good (mena-i umumiye) such as
parks and museums,47 hospitals and schools (discussing both boys’ and
girls’ education),48 international trade and business administration,49 na-
tional holidays,50 travel,51 as well as the role of women in society.52 None
of the articles further address the activities of the Ajia Gikai, and Münir in-
stead introduces the Japan Welcome Society, which assists the students in
arranging visits to hospitals and other places.53 Whenever Münir alludes
to the idea of Asian unity, he presents it not as an expression of his own
hip in a letter that was published in Tearüf-i Muslimin (1910c).
44 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [14].
45 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [15].
46 “Harbin’den Port Arthur’a ve andan Tokyo’ya seyahat“ [16].
47 “Japonya’dan” [1-3], Beyanülhak, Nos. 748 (Apr. 18, 1911), 751 (Apr. 21, 1911), and 753 (Apr. 24,
1911).
48 “Japonya mektupları: Hastahaneler ve mektepler” [1-2], Beyanülhak, Nos. 765 (May 9, 1911)
and 766 (May 10, 1911); “Japonya’da mektepler” [1-3], Beyanülhak, Nos. 769 (May 14, 1911), 772
(May 17, 1911), and 777 (May 23, 1911).
49 “Japonya mektupları: Tokyo’dan Yokohama’ya seyahat” [1-2], Beyanülhak, Nos. 820 (July 14,
1911) and 821 (July 15, 1911).
50 “Japonya mektupları: Japonlarda milli bayramlar” [1-2], Beyanülhak, Nos. 825 (July 20, 1911)
and 827 (July 23, 1911).
51 “Japonya mektupları: Seyyahlar,” Beyanülhak, No. 844 (August 14, 1911).
52 “Japonya mektupları: Muharrir Isamura Hanım ve Japon hatunları” and ““Japonya mektupla-
rı: Japon hatunları,” Beyanülhak, Nos. 845 (August 15, 1911) and 846 (August 16, 1911).
53 “Japonya mektupları: Hastahaneler ve mektepler” [1]. Membership was open to all tourists to
Japan for a modest fee; Abdürreşid İbrahim too had joined it and made use of its services in
1909 (Abdürreşid İbrahim 1910 [1328], 245-247). See also “Devr-i alem,” Beyanülhak, No. 438
(Mar. 16, 1909).
Ulrich Brandenburg
121
political or cultural vision but as an aitude of strong sympathy towards
Tatars and other Asians that he encountered among the Japanese.54
It is likely that Münir’s writing in Beyanülhak contains a degree of
self-censorship with regard to pan-Islamism and pan-Asianism, given the
curtailment of public expression in Russia. On the other hand, he readily
reveals his ties to the Ajia Gikai, points out the society’s connection to mil-
itary and political circles in Japan, and even quotes its leaders’ speeches
on Asian unity. To a certain degree at least, we may thus regard Münir’s
abstention from a grand political vision as a conrmation of James H.
Meyer’s (2015, 92) observation that “politically active Muslims in central
Russia were concerned primarily with issues that were practical and ad-
ministrative, rather than theoretical or identity-laden.” By mentioning
Japanese sympathy for the Tatars, Münir does not advocate a pan-Asianist
alliance but tries to encourage other Tatars to travel to Japan for trade and
learning where they will be received with open arms.55 In their indier-
ence to foreign politics, Münir’s articles in the Tatar press dier markedly
not only from his articles in Daitō but also from those in Sebilürreşad. In
future studies, it might thus be revealing to further examine dierences
between Ooman and Tatar perspectives on Japan.
Conclusion
The dispatch of the rst Ooman student delegation to Japan was a re-
markable achievement that has unfortunately drawn lile scholarly aen-
tion. For the rst time, Ooman journals could benet from the insights of
Turkish-speaking correspondents in Tokyo who, after initial diculties,
became more and more familiar with their Japanese environment. When
we examine Münir’s articles in Sebilürreşad, we immediately perceive the
positive eects of this local expertise. Münir reports, for example, on the
1912 “Three Religions Conference” (sankyō kaidō) in Tokyo at which rep-
resentatives of state and religious communities (Shintō, Buddhism, and
Christianity) discussed the role of religion in Japan’s educational system.
When misunderstandings of the conference’s purpose caused rumors that
54 “Japonya mektupları: Hastahaneler ve mektepler” [1]; “Japonya mektupları: Seyyahlar.”
55 “Japonya mektupları: Seyyahlar.”
Ahmed Münir İbrahim’s 1910 Journey from Harbin to Tokyo
122
Japan would adopt Christianity as its state religion, Münir was able to
expose this as false news based on an interview with a Japanese politician
(Ahmed Münir İbrahim 1912).
While many of Münir’s articles in Sebilürreşad are unequivocally
pan-Asianist and pan-Islamist, his writing in Beyanülhak largely abstains
from political messages, instead combining the personal experience of
travel with a fact-based exhortation to social reform and engagement in
trade. Dierences between Münir’s messages in Ooman and Tatar Turk-
ish as a result of his continued involvement in both Ooman and Rus-
sian contexts provide the background to Hasan Fehmi’s later criticism of
Münir and his father Abdürreşid for not being completely loyal to the
Ooman Empire. Münir’s Manchurian travelogue already exposes possi-
ble tensions between Russian and Ooman identities. While Münir clearly
identies with his Tatar readers in Kazan, his companions Hasan Fehmi
and Mehmed Tevk are consistently depicted as Ooman Turks.56 It is
they who explain the present and future of the Ooman Empire to Har-
bin’s imam Inayetullah while Münir remains silent on this topic. From the
very beginning, Münir thus distinguishes himself from his companions
through his Tatar identity – at least towards the readers of Beyanülhak.
In researching and writing this article, I have had access to the years
1909-1911 of Beyanülhak. My ndings are thus limited to Münir’s journey
to East Asia and his rst year in Japan. It is likely that Münir continued to
write for Beyanülhak or other Tatar journals, and later articles might con-
tain information regarding the development of his viewpoints on Japan,
pan-Asianism, and Turkish-Japanese relations. In the years 1910-1911, it
is astonishing to see that Turkish-Japanese exchanges were hampered not
only by the mutual ignorance of each other’s language but also by diverg-
ing preferences for a second language – English or French. When Münir
returned to Turkey in 1924, he had mastered both Japanese and English
and was uent in at least six languages (Gündoğdu 2012, 139–40). This
makes it all the more mysterious, however, why he would hardly play a
role in the Japanese-Turkish exchanges of the interwar years. Two brief
56 İsmail Türkoğlu (Türkoğlu 2015, 112–13) has pointed out that Hasan Fehmi, too, was of Tatar
descent and even born in Kazan. Münir, however, seems to have regarded him simply as an
Ottoman Turk.
Ulrich Brandenburg
123
encounters with Yamaoka Mitsutarō and Ōtani Kōzui in Ankara in the
1920s might suggest that Münir, contradistinction to his father Abdür-
reşid, had become disillusioned with Japan and distanced himself from
pan-Asianist circles (Misawa 2013, 509; cf. Küçükyalçın 2010, 53). Future
research will hopefully provide clarity on this point.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
427), in Alem-i İslam, gave the suggestive mistranslation "Asya Kuvve-i Müdafaası
  • Abdürreşid İbrahim
Abdürreşid İbrahim, (1910, 427), in Alem-i İslam, gave the suggestive mistranslation "Asya Kuvve-i Müdafaası," i.e., Asian Defense Force.
Japonya mektupları: Hastahaneler ve mektepler
"Japonya mektupları: Hastahaneler ve mektepler" [1-2], Beyanülhak, Nos. 765 (May 9, 1911) and 766 (May 10, 1911); "Japonya'da mektepler" [1-3], Beyanülhak, Nos. 769 (May 14, 1911), 772 (May 17, 1911), and 777 (May 23, 1911).
Japonya mektupları: Tokyo'dan Yokohama'ya seyahat
"Japonya mektupları: Tokyo'dan Yokohama'ya seyahat" [1-2], Beyanülhak, Nos. 820 (July 14, 1911) and 821 (July 15, 1911).
Japonya mektupları: Japonlarda milli bayramlar
"Japonya mektupları: Japonlarda milli bayramlar" [1-2], Beyanülhak, Nos. 825 (July 20, 1911) and 827 (July 23, 1911).
Japonya mektupları: Seyyahlar
"Japonya mektupları: Seyyahlar," Beyanülhak, No. 844 (August 14, 1911).
Japonya mektupları: Muharrir Isamura Hanım ve Japon hatunları" and
"Japonya mektupları: Muharrir Isamura Hanım ve Japon hatunları" and ""Japonya mektupları: Japon hatunları," Beyanülhak, Nos. 845 (August 15, 1911) and 846 (August 16, 1911).
Abdürreşid İbrahim too had joined it and made use of its services in 1909
Abdürreşid İbrahim too had joined it and made use of its services in 1909 (Abdürreşid İbrahim 1910 [1328], 245-247). See also "Devr-i alem," Beyanülhak, No. 438 (Mar. 16, 1909).
Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue Canadienne des Slavistes
List of References Ajia Gikai. 1911. "Rapport de la société: Asiaghikai," Daitō 4 (2): 52. Bakich, Olga. 1986. "A Russian City in China: Harbin Before 1917." Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue Canadienne des Slavistes 28 (2): 129-48.