In 1877 he entered Sapporo Agricultural College and, along with his classmate Uchimura Kanzo, became a convert to Christianity. He was said to have been at the time an avid reader of Carlyle’s Sartor Resartns. In 1883 he entered Tokyo Imperial University, and the following year went to America and entered Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. After graduating, he spent the years from 1887 to 1890 studying agricultural administration at various universities in Germany.
After returning to Japan, he became a professor at Sapporo Agricultural College.
Nitobe later held positions as technical expert in the office of the governor-general of Taiwan, professor of Kyoto Imperial University, head of the First High School, and professor of Tokyo Imperial University. From 1920 to 1926 he served as assistant director general of the League of Nations, playing an active part on the international scene. He held the degrees of Doctor of Agriculture and Doctor of Law and was a member of the Imperial Academy and the Upper House of the Diet. He died in Victoria in Canada while attending a conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations in 1933.
In 1899 he published in America a work in English entitled Bushido, the Sold of Japan, in which he sought to introduce to Westerners the “code of the warrior,” which forms the basis of moral education in Japan. The work was widely read and translated into various languages.
His writings include Nogyo honron and other works in Japanese and English.
He worked vigorously for international peace and in particular for better understanding between Japan and America, lecturing at many places in the United States and endeavoring to act as a bridge between the two countries.
While abroad, he married an American named Mary P. Elkinton.