Image Source: PAW Online April 22, 2021 . Photo credit: Orren Jack Turner
Behind 1925's Japanese-themed Tenth Reunion lies a family story . . . .
Beginning in 1890, Zensuke Osawa of Kyoto built a successful international import/export business and by 1919, J. Osawa & Co. was established as an international trading company. Looking ahead to trade with the West, he sent his son to the Lawrenceville School for two years of English polishing in 1919, following corporate success during World War I on the side of the Allies. Arriving at Princeton with the Class of ’25, Kenji Osawa quickly gained friends. He ran track, debated at Whig, and was described in his PAW memorial as one of the best-liked men in the class.
He immediately then went to work for his father, and by 1932 also started the first talking picture studio company in Japan as a subsidiary. It merged in 1937 with Toho, the largest movie producer and distributor in Japan, and Osawa became a member of the board. He eventually became president of both the trading and huge integrated film companies.
Meanwhile came the 10th reunion of the Class of 1925, in the middle of the Depression and the gathering of fascist and militarist regimes across the globe. In the teeth of this, the class decided to go all-out on a Japanese P-rade theme, complete with orange-and-black parasols and scarves supplied by J. Osawa & Company courtesy of Osawa (see below). The outfits actually got written up in the New York press, and ’25 had the largest official attendance of any class in history at 230.
When he was invited, to huge acclaim, to say a few words to the class in thanks for his long-distance award, Osawa proclaimed his gratitude and invited the entire class to join him for a repeat performance in Japan. For that story, go here.
Adapted from Gregg Lange's '70 April 22, 2021 PAW column.
Photo credit: Terry Rosen
In 2020, Terry Rosen "brought this scarf to the [attention of the Princetoniana] Committee, which fell instantly into a two-pronged attack. The linguistic crowd quickly found the Asian script (Japanese) translates roughly to “Princeton Tenth Anniversary” or a close version of the English, and the implication there was a Japanese flavor to the class reunion activities. Meanwhile, the relic-focused crowd tried to come up with some sort of backstory to the Class of 1925’s Japanese theme (if indeed it was one)...The answer was, for a refreshing change, unambiguous and straightforward. And he had a name, too: Yoshio Osawa ’25 of Kyoto, Japan."
Gregg Lange, Ibid