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The Founding Philosophy, Founder, and Educational Principles of Meiji Gakuin University

  “Do for others what you want them to do for you” (Matthew 7:12)

Go through the main gate and up a gentle slope, and you will see a large, aged Meiji Gakuin Chapel on your left. This chapel was built over 90 years ago and is in the shape of a cross when seen from above. It was designed by W.M. Vories, one of Japan’s most prominent modern architects. The usually quiet chapel has been, over many years, a place to welcome new students and send out new graduates into the world. Some of the university’s alumni return to hold their wedding ceremonies here.

The chapel is an indispensable part of Meiji Gakuin University. This is because its roots can be traced back to the Hepburn School, which was opened by Dr. James Curtis Hepburn (1815-1911), an American medical missionary who came to Japan in 1863 with the dream of spreading the teachings of Protestant Christianity to its people who were going through a tumultuous period at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. He opened the school in Yokohama with his wife Clara to teach English to promising students.

It was a time in which everyone was forced to follow the political philosophy of sonnō jōi (meaning “revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians”) and notices were posted proclaiming a ban on Christianity. Spies infiltrated Hepburn’s immediate circle and Clara was once attacked and beaten by a stranger, hurting her both physically and emotionally. Even so, the doctor stood steadfastly by Christ’s words and continued to offer free medical treatment to the underprivileged, learned Japanese through his interactions with his patients, edited and published A Japanese and English Dictionary with an English and Japanese Index, the first full-scale Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionary, and finally succeeded in translating the Bible into Japanese.

Carrying forth the ideals to which the founder Dr. Hepburn adhered throughout his life, Meiji Gakuin University sets “Do for Others” as its educational principle, and inherited the Christianity-based character-building education as its founding philosophy. This educational principle essentially poses to our students the question of “what” they may “Do for others,” and stresses to them the importance of having such an objective. How do you want to, that is to say, through what job do you want to “Do for Others” in the future? To do that, what do you need to learn and how? Meiji Gakuin University places value on its students’ dreams and support their efforts in realizing them. Efforts are poured not only into the regular curricula offered by each academic department and the University Center of Liberal Arts, but also into the university’s Volunteer Center, Center of International Cooperation in Education and Career Center, in order to realize the educational principle of “Do for Others.”

In 2013, Meiji Gakuin University will celebrate its 150th anniversary since the founding of the Hepburn School. In preparation for it, the university has set up the 21st Century Hepburn Project, a medium- to long-term plan under which efforts are being carried forth based on a three-pronged plan, which are (1) to reform education and improve and expand campuses; (2) to enhance language education and vitalize international exchange; and (3) to promote a unified school program and contribute to the local community.

Meiji Gakuin Univesity continues to contribute to society by placing importance on its founding philosophy—to promote Christianity-based character building—and on its educational principle, “Do for Others.”

President of Meiji Gakuin University