In 1877, four young Japanese men arrived in Greencastle, Indiana. They became students at the alma mater of their teacher, an American missionary. They, too, like their mentor, became fraternity men. Two joined Delta Kappa Epsilon and the other two became Beta Theta Pis.
John Ing graduated as valedictorian from Indiana Asbury University in 1868. Founded in 1837, the school became DePauw University in 1884 to honor benefactor Washington C. DePauw. Ing started his studies before he served in the Union Army. After reaching the rank of Captain, he requested and was granted an early discharge to return to school. He also earned a Master’s degree from the same institution. While an undergraduate, he was a founding member of the Psi Phi Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon.
In 1870, Ing married Lucy Elizabeth Hawley, a Mount Holyoke College alumna. Ing served as a Methodist missionary from 1870-78. The St. Louis Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church first sent the couple to China. After four years, the Ings asked for a recuperative furlough. Lucy Ing had given birth twice and had lost one child and she was in poor health. They made it as far as Yokohama, Japan. A second daughter was born there, and she, too, died. While waiting for suitable transportation to the west coast of the United States, the couple was persuaded to start mission work in Hirosaki, Japan. They stayed in Japan. A church was organized in 1875. Ing introduced to northern Japan the apple tree, with large, sweet apples.
Ing’s mission school in Hirosaki was geared to the samurai class. In 1877, four young men who were educated by Ing traveled to Indiana. Sutemi Chinda, Keizo Kawamura, Izumy Nasu, and Aimaro Sato were professed Christians with little money, but they were ready and willing to work.
Nasu and Chinda became members of Ing’s fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon. Sata and Kawamura became members of the Delta Chapter of Beta Theta Pi. Kawamura died in 1881. Nasu translated Homer’s Iliad into Japanese and became a professor at the Royal College of Tokyo, but he, too, died young. He passed away in 1885.
In 1884, Chinda earned a master’s degree from Indiana Asbury. He served as Japan’s ambassador to Germany, the United States, and England. Since 1935, the Cherry Blossom Festival has been a harbinger of spring in Washington, D.C. The cherry trees were a gift from the people of Japan during Chinda’s tenure as the Japanese ambassador to the United States. First Lady Helen Taft planted the first tree in West Potomac Park on March 27, 1912. Chinda’s wife planted the second tree. Coincidentally, Chinda’s wife was Sato’s sister. Chinda represented his country at the 1918 Paris Peace Conference. He died in 1929.
Sato was also a career diplomat. He served as the Japanese Minister to Mexico, chief of staff of the Japanese Peace Commission at the Treaty of Portsmouth, and Japanese ambassador to Austria-Hungary, the United States and the League of Nations. On January 30, 1917, the Beta Theta Pi Club of Washington, D.C. feted Sato at the University Club. Beta President Francis H. Sisson attended. There were 65 Betas from 25 chapters in attendance. The collegians from the Johns Hopkins University chapter sang Beta marching songs and greetings were read from Sato’s chapter. Sato addressed his brothers, “This kind of meeting is agreeable to me because it breathes genuine friendship without any shadow of conventionality. I like it all the more because, banishing all worldly cares, forgetting our ages, politics, creeds, nationalities, varied or conflicting interests, and laying aside even diplomacy, we come here to have a good time together simply as brothers in the bonds of Beta Theta Pi and to recall the sweet associations of the past and to form wider friendships for the future.”
There is evidence that these four were not the only Japanese men to travel halfway around the world to attend college at Greencastle. The Beta Theta Pi catalog lists another member of Delta Chapter, Ogata Sennosuki, who earned an A.B. in 1885 and a D.D. in 1905. He turned down a diplomatic career to serve in the ministry of the Japanese Methodist Church.