The history of German-Japanese relations prior to 1914 has often been characterized by the similarities between the two newly established nations and the transfer of knowledge between them—mostly from Germany to Japan—for the sake of building a modern nation-state. This article critically reconsiders that view, particularly with regard to school and language education, by taking the colonial dimension into consideration. By focusing on reports commissioned by the colonial government in Korea and an inquiry by that of Taiwan on the eve of the First World War, the author shows that the Japanese colonial empire increasingly paid attention to Imperial Germany alongside other colonial powers such as Great Britain and France. It is striking that the Japanese search for a model or a reference point shifted between Germany's remote overseas colonies and metropole borderlands with minorities, such as Prussian Poland and Alsace-Lorraine, and that the colonial governments in Korea and Taiwan addressed them on their different agendas. After 1918, Germany was no longer a role model; however, it came to serve as a history lesson or negative foil justifying self-praise by Japan and was, at the same time, used by the colonized people to strengthen their self-assertion.