From Tokyo to Chapel Hill: UNC’s First International Student

The first international student to study at UNC was Shinzaburo Mogi, from Tokyo, Japan, who was enrolled during the 1893-1894 school year. Mogi had an interesting personal history. His family in Japan was involved in the production of soy sauce, beginning the company that would later become Kikkoman Corporation. Mogi himself made several attempts to manufacture soy sauce in the United States.

Mogi has a brief entry in the earliest alumni directory, noting only that he was a student during the 1893-1894 year. He is listed among the freshman class members in the 1894 yearbook, but does not appear to have been mentioned in the student newspaper for those years. Nor could I find anything about him in the University President’s correspondence for 1893-1894. The Registrar’s record book for the 1890s show that Mogi was here for just one term, taking classes in Math, English, and Physics.

The only other references to Mogi that I could track down were from local newspapers, including one published a few decades after he left UNC.

Mogi is first mentioned in the Durham Globe on February 2, 1894, under the heading “A Jap at the University.”

Durham Globe, 2 February 1894. Newspapers.com.

Durham Globe, 2 February 1894. Newspapers.com.

The so-called “conversion” mentioned by UNC President George Tayloe Winston is evidence that there was still a strong religious emphasis at the University at the time.

Mogi received a brief mention in the social column of the Raleigh Evening Visitor a month later when he visited Raleigh to attend the state museum.

Evening Visitor (Raleigh, N.C.), 10 March 1894. Newspapers.com.

Evening Visitor (Raleigh, N.C.), 10 March 1894. Newspapers.com.

Mogi didn’t appear in local newspapers again until an article about international students at UNC published in the Salisbury Evening Post in 1920.

Salisbury Evening Post, 30 January 1920. Newspapers.com.

Salisbury Evening Post, 30 January 1920. Newspapers.com.

We believe that the Shinzaburo Mogi who attended UNC is the same as the member of the Mogi family who came to the United States in the 1890s and opened the first soy sauce factory in America. In Ronald Yates’s 1998 book, The Kikkoman Chronicles, he says that Shinzaburo Mogi, then 20 years old, left Japan in 1892 with the intention of bringing the family business to the United States. Little is known about Mogi’s early years in the United States (the book does not mention his time in Chapel Hill), but he is known to have opened a soy sauce plant in Denver in 1907. The business was not successful, and Mogi moved to Toronto where he managed another soy sauce factory. This, too, was a short-lived effort and he eventually settled in Chicago where he worked as a trader, importing Japanese soy sauce and also continuing to invest in American soy sauce companies. Mogi returned to Japan in the 1930s and died in 1946.

 

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