In 1890, Torajiro Yamada, 24 years old at the time, felt great sympathy for the Turkish ship in distress Ertugrul. He walked throughout Japan collecting donations which he took to Turkey.
On April 4, 1892, Yamada (山田 寅次郎) handed these contributions to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Said Pasha and was granted an audience with the Emperor Abdulhamit II.
The emperor requested that he stay in Istanbul, so he taught Japanese and introduced Japanese culture there for about 20 years, acting as a bridge between the two countries. He took the lead in trade, guided Japanese Government VIP’s and highly-educated Japanese in Turkey because the two countries did not have diplomatic relations. The first President of The Republic of Turkey, Kemal Pasha (Ataturk), was his student as well.
When the Russo-Japanese War began, the Japanese Government asked Yamada to secretly watch the Bosporus to aid in controlling war situations. He was able to report that three Russian warships passed the Dardanelles on July 4, 1904.
In those days, Turkey had a great interest in Japan, a rapidly modernizing Asian country, in order to rival the Western European great powers. Under the threat of Russia for a long time, the Turks were delighted at the news that the island in the Far East had defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. It became popular to name Turkish shops and streets “Togo” or “Nogi”.
Yamada returned to Japan in 1914 for World War I and became head of a school of Japanese tea ceremony as Soyu Yamada (山田 宗有). When Japan established diplomatic relations with Turkey in 1925, he resumed his unofficial exchange between the two countries. In 1931, he visited Turkey after a period of 17 years and met with the President Kemal Ataturk. President Kemal reminisced with Yamada and showed him great amity.