Statue of Thomas Blake Clover in the Glover GardenKitinut Jinapuck/Shutterstock.com

The Story of Nagasaki‘s Thomas Blake Glover


2022.09.10

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

When people think of Japan, there are a number of companies that come to mind, responsible for everything from cars to beverages. It is often seen as a place of innovation from which a number of products known and loved around the world originate from.
But while the Japanese can be credited with much of this ingenuity, few know that some of Japan’s greatest developments came from a single man hailing from Scotland: Thomas Blake Glover. A man whose legacy lives on today in Nagasaki as one of Japan’s most stunning tourist destinations and important historical sites, Glover Garden.

  • 01

    From Scotland to Japan

    Born in 1838, Glover grew up in the city of Aberdeen in Scotland’s northeast. Upon finishing his schooling, he worked as a shipping clerk for the Asian-based trading company, Jardine Matheson, which in 1857 took him to Shanghai, China. It was here that he gained experience in trade and logistics, before making his move to the shores of Japan.

    Thomas Glover and his family in Nagasaki. After his passing, Glover’s descendants continued living in the area, becoming very much a part of the local community.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    Thomas Glover and his family in Nagasaki. After his passing, Glover’s descendants continued living in the area, becoming very much a part of the local community. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    In 1859, Glover moved to the Kyushu city of Nagasaki as the manager of a British trading house. Two years later, he then founded his own firm, Glover and Co, which thrived largely through the exportation of tea.
    With his business soon well established in Nagasaki, Glover also built his home in the area, now known as Glover House, which still stands today and remains the oldest western style building in Japan.

    Left: A portrait of Thomas Glover from the late Nineteenth Century.
Right: A drawing of Glover House, which was also known as Ipponmatsu (Single Pine Tree) from 1863. 
The tree was chopped down in the early 20th century.
Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
{{PD-Old}}Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    Left: A portrait of Thomas Glover from the late Nineteenth Century. Right: A drawing of Glover House, which was also known as Ipponmatsu (Single Pine Tree) from 1863. The tree was chopped down in the early 20th century. Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons {{PD-Old}}Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

  • 02

    The Foundations for Mitsubishi

    Throughout his time in Japan, Glover made numerous investments and contributions to the Japanese industrial landscape, some of which laid the foundations for what we now know today as Mitsubishi.
    As much of Glover’s work was centred around the Nagasaki docks and the use of ships, he soon realised that Japan lacked the modern facilities required to repair ships. Determined to fulfill this need, Glover then imported the equipment necessary to establish a dry dock in the Nagasaki Shipyard, the first of its kind in Japan.
    In later years, Glover sold his share of this project to the Japanese government, who then went on to lease the dock to Mitsubishi as part of their shipping operations.

    Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is today considered one of the world’s leading companies in engineering and electronics.
Dmitriy Prayzel/Shutterstock.com

    Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is today considered one of the world’s leading companies in engineering and electronics. Dmitriy Prayzel/Shutterstock.com

    Not one to be confined to shipping, in 1868, after making a contract with the Nabeshima clan in the Hizen Province, Glover made investments in the development of the Takeshima Coal Mine. An influence that saw it become the first coal mine in Japan to employ western methods of mining.
    Although later financial trouble forced Glover to sell his stake in the mine, he stayed on to manage the operation for several more years. Then in 1881, Iwasaki Yataro, Mitsubishi’s founder, acquired the mine, signalling the company’s first serious diversification into an industry outside of shipping.

  • 03

    Brewery Beginnings

    Further displaying not only his willingness to diversify, but his ability to spot a fruitful opportunity, Glover negotiated the sale of William Copeland’s Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama. Along with others, Glover then invested in the brewery and established the Japan Brewery Company, which later became what is now known around the world as the Kirin Brewery Company.

    Kirin beer is today a household name, famous around the world as one of Japan’s most loved beers.
karanik yimpat/Shutterstock.com

    Kirin beer is today a household name, famous around the world as one of Japan’s most loved beers. karanik yimpat/Shutterstock.com

    Today, although unverified, urban legend has it that the moustache of the mythical horse-like creature on the Kirin Beer labels is in fact a tribute to Thomas Glover himself, who also sported a similar moustache.

  • 04

    Reward and Recognition

    For his contributions to Japan, Glover was also awarded the Order of the Rising Sun in 1908. Established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji, the order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government and was given to those who provided distinguished service to the state outside of the military system.
    Celebrating his life and the now long-standing relationship between Scotland and Japan, the Glover series of whiskies was launched in 2015. These whiskies, made using a blend of single malt Japanese whiskey, combined with a Scottish single malt scotch, were considered to be the first Scottish-Japanese blend, and quickly sold out.

  • 05

    Lasting Impressions

    Since his passing in 1911, Glover’s former residence in Nagasaki sits amongst a park known as Glover Garden, located on a hillside overlooking Nagasaki Harbour. Glover’s residence and the park, built by Hidenoshin Koyama in 1863, have since been designated as Important Cultural Assets in Japan.
    Here, visitors today can enjoy the historical significance of the location and gain insight into the life of Thomas Glover, while taking in the stunning views of Nagasaki Harbour from the pristine grounds of Glover Garden in what is a truly one-of-a-kind location in Japan.

    Glover Garden and Glover House today in Nagasaki, both of which are open to visitors.
Fg2, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    Glover Garden and Glover House today in Nagasaki, both of which are open to visitors. Fg2, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    Today, Thomas Blake Glover’s legacy lives on throughout Japan in what are globally appreciated companies and products. There are cars and technology that may never have existed without his influence all those years ago, as well as beer that may never have been enjoyed by the masses had he not been the man of determination and business that he was.

  • 06

    Visiting Glover House and Glover Garden

    Glover Garden is located at: 8-1 Minamiyamatemachi, Nagasaki, 850-0931
    To reach the garden, visitors can take Nagasaki’s number 5 tram line to the Ouratenshudo stop. From here, Glover Garden is 5 minutes’ walk away, located beside the Oura Catholic Church.
    Admission fees:
    Standard individual: ¥620
    High School Student: ¥310
    Elementary School Student: ¥180
    Glover Garden is open every day from 8.00am to 6.00pm (this is sometimes extended to 9.30pm during summer and peak seasons)

    Glover Garden (Former Glover House)
    rating

    3.5

    20 Reviews
    place
    Nagasaki Pref. Nagasakishi Minamiyamatemachi 8-1
    phone
    0958228223
    opening-hour
    8:00-18:00 (Admission until …
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