Past and Present

A. Hepburn's Background
B. Hepburn's Marriage and His Missionary Work in China
C. Hepburn in New York
D. Hepburn in Japan
E. Hepburn's Medical Practice in Japan
F. Hepburn's Education in Yokohama and His Efforts to Compile a Dictionary
G. Handing over the Reins of the Hepburn Academy to Mr. and Mrs. Ballagh

H. The Establishment of the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary
I. The United Japanese-English Union School and the Japanese English Preparatory School: The Successors of the Hepburn Academy
J. The Founding of Meiji Gakuin and the Inauguration of the Shirokane Campus
K. The First Graduation from Meiji Gakuin
L. Hepburn's Return to America and his Creed “Do for Others”
M. Hepburn's Creed and the Present-Day Meiji Gakuin University

A. Hepburn's Background

James Curtis Hepburn (1815 – 1911), the founder of Meiji Gakuin University, was born in the town of Milton, Pennsylvania on March 13, 1815. Hepburn's ancestors were Scotch-Irish, having emigrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland. A sheltered Hepburn was raised by his devoutly religious parents. In 1831, he entered Princeton University, a school founded by The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America for the purpose of training teachers. After Princeton he aspired to a career in medicine and went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1836.

Home where Hepburn was born

B. Hepburn's Marriage and His Missionary Work in China

Although he was engaged in medicine as a general practitioner, Hepburn also felt the calling to travel abroad to perform missionary work. It was by chance that he met Clara Mary Leete (1818 – 1906), a woman who shared his interest in becoming a missionary. The two were married in 1840, and applied to a project of The Presbyterian Church in the United States to send missionaries to Siam. By March of the next year, they were aboard a boat departing Boston Harbor.

They arrived in Singapore in July of 1841. Sadly, while the couple was at sea, a pregnant Clara experienced a miscarriage. In Singapore their mission destination was changed from Siam to the city of Amoy in China. However, due to the Opium War, they were unable to immediately make the voyage and their arrival in Amoy was delayed until November of 1843, two years later. During this time, the couple managed to give birth to a child. However, they once again met with misfortune, as the child passed away no more than a few hours later after birth.

Though Amoy's scenery was pleasant, its water was of poor quality and malaria was rampant. It was here that Clara gave birth to a son, whom the couple named Samuel David. Samuel was ultimately the only one of their children who survived to adulthood. Clara fared poorly after giving birth, and both she and James contracted malaria. In the face of these troubles, they had no choice but to abandon their mission. The three members of the family returned to New York in March of 1846.


C. Hepburn in New York

After Hepburn returned to the United States, he started a medical practice in New York. At that time, numerous people from all over the world were immigrating to New York. Because the hygienic situation was very poor, plagues like cholera were spreading. Hepburn provided medical treatment to many cholera patients and gained a famous reputation as a doctor. He was also familiar with ophthalmology, having earned a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and his clinic became very popular. Ironically, he and his wife lost three children (2, 3, and 5 years old) from illnesses (scarlet fever and dysentery). Hepburn wrote to his brother Slator (August 1, 1855):
“My heart is broken. New York is such an awful place. I wish I had wings and flew away from here. If it's a sin, forgive me my trespasses.”

Hepburn in New York

D. Hepburn in Japan

In 1858, US and Japan entered into a commerce treaty. Hepburn heard this and applied for a missionary position to Japan through the Presbyterian Church of America, the Overseas Missionary Station. His application was accepted in January of the following year.

Without his parents' support, Hepburn left his son, Samuel (14) with his friend, closed his popular clinic, and left for Japan on April 24, 1859. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope, stopped at Hong Kong and Shanghai, and arrived at Kanagawa, Japan on October 17. Hepburn described this journey in his letter to the headquarters of the Missionary Station in New York (March 16, 1881):
"When I received the order, I gave up many things that related my heart to my homeland and went to Japan with high hope. As I am always thinking, my first missionary trip and life in China was for the second missionary act in Japan, which is the most important decision in my life.”

Presbyterian Church of America, the Overseas Missionary Station Building

E. Hepburn's Medical Practice in Japan

The Hepburns settled down at the Jobutsu temple in Japan's Kanagawa prefecture in 1860. Although Christian missionary activities were banned by the Japanese government at that time, medical treatment was permitted. In a letter to missionary headquarters in New York (May 14, 1860) he wrote:
“When we walk around, everyone smiles and bows. I did not give much medicine to them but I treated 4 people in these days. Three of them were fine warriors assigned to our local guard house. I did a small surgery and everyone was so pleased because the pain was gone after that.”

Jobutsu Temple

Many people who heard about his clinic from all over visited him for treatment. For a medical practice, Jobutsu Temple was too small, so he moved his clinic to Soko Temple in the spring of 1861.However, after six months, the Japanese government ordered him to close his clinic. He described this incident in his letter to the headquarters of the Missionary Station in New York (September 8, 1861):
"My clinic was closed, now. Its history was very brief. It has been only 5 months. The number of patients grew very quickly, and I treated an average 100 people per day in 3 months from opening. I did not record the exact number of patients because I did not have any assistant. But I wrote 3,500 prescriptions in this period. All new patients. Besides surgeries, I treated cicatricial inversion (eyelid inversion due to trachoma, eye infection) 30 times, pterygium (abnormal growth on the eye) 3 times, ophthalmectomy (removal of eyeball) once, cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) 5 times, boils once, cataract 13 times, fistula (abnormal opening) 6 times, proctitis (inflamed rectumonce) once, and typhous 3 times. Only one treatment for cataract did not go well, but all others were successful."

W. E. Griffith who was Hepburn's friend from 1870, described Japanese hygiene in his book: This shows that Hepburn's medical practice was appreciated by the Japanese.
"In the street, there are many homeless people. Human beings were created by God in His image. However, people in Japan suffered so badly from poor hygiene and illness, their figures are misformed. And there is no hospital here."

At the same time that the Hepburns started a medical practice, they also started educational activities for the Japanese. This was the origin of the Hepburn School, which later became Meiji Gakuin and Ferris Women's School. He wrote in his letter (June 22, 1861):
"We gathered a small groups of students and scholars. Two students who are interested to help me in my clinic will come in a few days. My wife teaches English to my Japanese teacher and our servant's son for one or two hours every afternoon. Both of them are really hard workers."

Soko Temple

F. Hepburn's Education in Yokohama and His Efforts to Compile a Dictionary

Hepburn relocated to a newly-completed residence in Yokohama's No. 39 foreign enclave in December of 1862. In autumn of the following year, the Hepburns made efforts to begin their full-scale educational activities, utilizing the medical facilities they established in their home, and thereby making a name for the Hepburn Academy. Several prominent individuals studied at this school, among them Korekiyo Takahashi (who held the offices of the Governor of the Bank of Japan, the Minister of Finance, and the Prime Minister and who was ultimately assassinated by rebel troops in the February 26 Incident), Tadasu Hayashi (who worked to conclude the Anglo-Japanese Alliance as an envoy to Great Britain and who held the successive posts of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Communications), and Takashi Masuda (the founder of Mitsui & Co., Ltd.). The educational efforts of the couple had a lasting impact on Tadasu Hayashi in particular, and it is said that he made the fact that he was a product of the Hepburn Academy very clear on his personal resume.

Hepburn's House

In 1870, Mary Eddy Kidder (1834 – 1910), a missionary from the Dutch Reformed Church in America, arrived to teach at the Hepburn Academy. In 1872, however, she left the Academy in order to open up her own school for women. Her efforts later led to the development of the Ferris Seminary (now known as Ferris University).

Hepburn recognized the need for a dictionary so that he could translate the Bible into Japanese. While practicing as a doctor, he also undertook avid studies into the Japanese language and began to compile a lexicon. On November 28, 1864, Hepburn wrote the following letter:
"Once this dictionary has been completed, I expect it to be of the greatest benefit to the Japanese and foreigners alike. The reason I say this is that it is not only foreigners who wish for it, but the Japanese as well, who are making an equal request. Even now, I am filled with trepidation when I think of this large undertaking I have planned, and the heavy responsibility. However, it is my hope that with the help of Our Heavenly Father, I will be able to complete it. I pray that all the glory shall be God's alone."?


At that time, the only systematic English-Japanese dictionary in existence was one that had been published by the Edo Shogunate's western studies survey under the title “A Pocket Dictionary of the English and Japanese Language” (Eiwa Taiyaku Shuchin Jisho). This dictionary was translated from an English-Dutch dictionary and a sort of word book that contained individual English and Japanese terms set against one another. In 1867, eight years after his arrival in Japan, Hepburn reached his goal of publishing the first full-fledged Japanese-English / English-Japanese dictionary, entitled “A Japanese and English Dictionary; with an English and Japanese Index” (Waei Gorin Shusei). Hepburn made subsequent efforts to not only revise and enlarge the number of vocabulary words, but also made content enhancements such as usage examples. With the 1886 delivery of the 3rd edition of his dictionary, Hepburn was held in enormous esteem, and it is said that the number of advance orders alone reached 18,000 copies.

For another dictionary to appear on the scene that would outstrip "A Japanese and English Dictionary”, the world would have to wait until 1896, when Sanseido issued the “An Unabridged Japanese-English Dictionary with Copious Illustrations” (Waei Dai Jiten), jointly edited by Brinkley, Nanjo, and Iwasaki. By the end of the Meiji era, Hepburn's dictionary occupied a position unchallenged in Japanese society. That the Hepburn method of Romanization, conceived during the editing of the dictionary, possesses an ascendancy that far outstrips the Ministry of Education's kunrei-shiki method of Romanization, even after more than 100 years have passed, is a testament to the breadth and depth of the dictionary's influence on Japanese society.

G. Handing over the Reins of the Hepburn Academy to Mr. and Mrs. Ballagh

Hepburn was not only growing older, he was also faced with the fact that his work translating the Bible was taking up a great deal of time. In 1875, he decided to entrust the Hepburn Academy to the religiously devout specialist in academic education John Craig Ballagh (1842 – 1920) and his wife. From that point, the Hepburn Academy came to be called the Ballagh School. Hepburn furthermore closed his medical facility in 1876 and moved to a new residence in the Yamate area of Yokohama. Hepburn held Ballagh in high esteem as an educator, as evinced by the following letter, which he wrote on April 6, 1882:
"There is no other gentleman than he who can manage my school. He is a man who is steady, patient, and kind, and he holds the deepest concern regarding the school. Mr. Ballagh will be the students' father, their friend, and in faith he shall command them well. If you know the young men of Japan, then you will also come to know that what Mr. Ballagh is doing is quite considerable. Those who do not know of the young men of Japan may think them angels, but in fact they are a group who are ignorant and impudent, selfish, and do not listen to what they are told."

J.C. Ballagh

H. The Establishment of the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary

The three missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, the Dutch Reformed Church in America, and the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland worked together to establish the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary in the Tsukiji area of Tokyo in 1877. During this time the seminaries presided over by the missionaries in each mission merged to become the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, starting with the Brown Academy (the remains of which can be found in the present-day Yokohama Kyoritsu Gakuen), which was opened in the Yamate area of Yokohama by Samuel Robbins Brown (1810 – 1880), a member of the Dutch Reformed Church of America. The Tokyo Union Theological Seminary would later participate in the establishment of Meiji Gakuin.

S.R. Brown

I. The United Japanese-English Union School and the Japanese English Preparatory School: The Successors of the Hepburn Academy

The Hepburn Academy, which had come to be called the Ballagh School, moved to the Tsukiji area of Tokyo in 1880. It added college-level coursework and changed its name to the Tsukiji Dai-Gakko. Tsukiji Dai-Gakko went on to merge with a preparatory seminary in the Yamate area of Yokohama called the Senshi Gakko, thereby forming the United Japanese-English Union School. This successor to the Hepburn School was made up of a 4-year university and a 2-year preparatory school. Classes at the university were taught entirely in English. After that, the preparatory school moved to Awaji-machi in the Kanda area of Tokyo, changing its name to the Japanese English Preparatory School. The United Japanese-English Union School and the Japanese English Preparatory School also participated in the establishment of Meiji Gakuin.

J. The Founding of Meiji Gakuin and the Inauguration of the Shirokane Campus

Meiji Gakuin was established by the merging of three educational institutions: the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, a school rooted in the theological teachings of the missionary Samuel Robbins Brown, as well as the United Japanese-English Union School and the Japanese English Preparatory School, both of which were the successors to the Hepburn Academy. At their first meeting in 1886, the board of directors drew up a proposal for the establishment of Meiji Gakuin. The Tokyo Union Theological Seminary had its name changed to the Meiji Gakuin Department of Japanese-Language Theological Studies, the United Japanese-English Union School changed to the Meiji Gakuin Department of Regular Studies, and the Japanese English Preparatory School to the Meiji Gakuin Regular Preparatory Department. The site of the school was established at its current Shirokane location, and in the following year, 1887, construction of the school building and the dormitory was completed.

The school building came to be called Sandham Hall. The dormitory, meanwhile, was hailed as one of the foremost wooden structures of that time in Tokyo, and it towered over the hills of Shirokane. It came to be called Hepburn Hall. The following description of these two buildings can be found in “Meiji Gakuin Gojunen-shi” (50 Years of Meiji Gakuin):

Sandham Hall

"And afterwards at Sandham Hall, the students are left deeply impressed by the meeting of their literary club under a large lamp in the lecture hall on the second floor, once a week on Friday nights. Extremely beautiful scenery fills the fifth floor tower of Hepburn Hall, where in the west one can look out across the Musashino plain to the mountains in Chichibu and to distant Mt. Fuji, or in the east, gazing upon the seawater in Shinagawa harbor and the distant mountains of the Boso peninsula; it is filled with these expansive vistas. And there, the volunteers at their sunrise services, oh so early in the morning, while in the quiet night the familiar light of the lanterns in the school gardens shines through the multitudinous windows. It is no wonder that all of this is so deeply etched in the students' minds."

Hepburn Hall

K. The First Graduation from Meiji Gakuin

In June of 1891, the first graduation from Meiji Gakuin was held. There were 20 people in this graduating class, among them Toson Shimazaki, Kocho Baba, and Shukotsu Togawa (the latter two of whom both went on to become professors at Keio University). Toson Shimazaki went on to write the following about that time, which can be found in his autobiography “Sakura no Mi no Jukusuru Toki” (When the Cherries Ripen). The name Sutekichi in the text is shimazaki himself:

Picture of the Graduation

"The teachers at the school all gather in the chapel, where they offer their blessings for our prospects—we boys who are about to enter into society. There are recitations from the Bible, the singing of hymns, and prayers for our departures. Each of the teachers in charge of the classes write their signatures on the diplomas one by one, and then stamp them with the large school seal in the shape of a flower. At last, the teachers all exited the chapel and gathered in a corner of the nearby grassy field. There, all together in a crowd, they planted a new memorial tree. Under the tree, they placed a single stone. When it is all over, Sutekichi, along with Suge and Adachi, walk over to stand before the stone, which they have carved with the words
'Meiji 24 – The Graduates'.

Shimazaki Toson

Kocho Baba's diploma from this graduation was contributed to the school by his family after his death, and it is now kept in the Meiji Gakuin Archives of History. At the left of this diploma is the signature “President of Board of Directors, J.C. Hepburn". In the right-side column are the signatures of Ballagh, Wycoff and the subjects they had charge of. At the lower right of the diploma is the “large school seal like a flower” (the seal of the Regular School) that Toson described. Though more than 110 years have passed since this first graduation, the atmosphere of Meiji Gakuin University graduations continues on.

Graduate Certificate for Baba Kocho

L. Hepburn's Return to America and his Creed “Do for Others”

After living in Japan for 33 years, Hepburn decided in the autumn of 1892 to return to America. He made the following speech at his farewell party, held at Meiji Gakuin's Shirokane campus before a crowd that was reluctant to see him leave:
“I give my thanks to God that I have been in this country for 33 years and have devoted my energies to helping the Japanese people. Ah, I have completed my work and it is time for me to return to my home country, where I shall rest and then go on to meet my parents in Heaven.”There is no doubt that the aged Hepburn, leaving Japan, was overwhelmed by a flood of emotions. Hepburn also had the following to say:
“Though my wife and I have but little time left here, we shall certainly never forget about Japan.”

Hepburn (94 years old)

Clara died on March 4, 1906 at age 88. James followed her five years later, passing away in East Orange, New Jersey in September of 1911 at age 96. Our thoughts go to Dr. Hepburn's life, and we are certain that even now he is casting his serene gaze down upon the people of Japan and Meiji Gakuin. As Dr. Hepburn himself said, “I have been in this country for 33 years and have devoted my energies to helping the Japanese people”. This is his lifelong creed of “Do for others.”

Tadasu Hayashi, who endeavored to conclude the Anglo-Japanese Alliance as Ambassador to Great Britain and who also held the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs, made the following reminiscence of his time studying at the Hepburn Academy, especially noting how Clara had looked after him:
“His was a life of acts rooted in his creed, a creed that continually demanded that he be absorbed in his singleness of purpose, steadfast and never losing his way. Dr. Hepburn generously the better years of his life spreading the Gospel in Japan. His devoted demeanor and in fulfilling the obligation he was given was in no way glamorous such as how many public figures in the world would make accomplishments merely to gather praise from humanity. However, he was in no way inferior to these men, because his life was truly virtuous and he was a man worthy of respect.”?

Tadasu Hayashi

M. Hepburn's Creed and the Present-Day Meiji Gakuin University

Meiji Gakuin University is Hepburn's educational institution. Even today, the university carries on Hepburn's personal creed of “Do for Others” as its educational philosophy. This philosophy still thrives, unbroken from the past to the present of Meiji Gakuin University.

While the fundamental function of a university is research and instruction through in general, the function of Meiji Gakuin University is, “Education that will foster character to put one's studies to good use.” To put it more concretely, the university holds to the idea that ours is an upbringing in Christian character that respects the educational philosophy “Do for Others”.

Shirokane Campus Main Building

This education of character may result from the individual contact between students and faculty. It may also be attained through participation in club activities. However, the education of eduction may happen in incidental ways, rather than as a systematized process. The university does more than simply advocate a Christian education; it prepares an educational system in form and essence. Such an educational system also contains a volunteer center, an international exchange center, and a career center.

The momentum for our volunteer center came from the spontaneous volunteer efforts on behalf of our students during the Great Hanshin Earthquake, and in 1998 it was incorporated into the university system. It was as if this center was supposed to be born on a campus that has devoted itself to the educational philosophy of “Do for Others” for so long. Despite the fact that the volunteer center is a part of the university system, it has its own full-time coordinator and student staff whose activities emphasize independence and autonomy.

Yokohama Campus, Chapel

The volunteer center always has on hand more than 1,500 sources of volunteer information to support students. Not only that, but the center also provides a wide variety of programs for students, such as internships at the Yokohama Association for International Communications and Exchanges and overseas volunteer programs unique to this university. The volunteer activities of the Meiji Gakuin University Volunteer Center, with its spirit of innovation and strong identity, claim a position of leadership for all universities in Japan. We are fully aware of its position and are working towards further expanding its activities.

As of 2004, the university's International Exchange Center has sent 190 of its students to study abroad, and has accepted 161 exchange students from other nations. The International Exchange Center encourages exchanges between international students and Japanese students who are studying at Meiji Gakuin University. The Center hopes achieve a higher degree of success for our educational system by putting the “Do for others” philosophy into practice. We are conscious of the fact that in order to do this, it is necessary to further implement a system for sending students abroad and accepting students from other nations.

The Career Center is not only a provider of employment information and job search techniques for our students, it has taken the further step of positioning itself as a place of character-building where the “Do for Others” philosophy is fully realized. The staff at the Career Center knows the significance of a person's contributions to society, and works with the students to offer them support. At the same time, the Center encourages students to improve themselves beyond their everyday lives, drawing forth their latent abilities that the students might not be personally aware of.

Palette Zone Shirokane

Works Cited
“Meiji Gakuin 50 Nen Shi” (50 Years of Meiji Gakuin). Meiji Gakuin, 1927.
“Meiji Gakuin 90 Nen Shi” (90 Years of Meiji Gakuin). Meiji Gakuin, 1967.
“Meiji Gakuin 100 Nen Shi” (100 Years of Meiji Gakuin). Meiji Gakuin, 1977.
“Meiji Gakuen Hyakunenshi Shiryoshu Dai 3 Shu” (A Collection of Information on the 100 Years of Meiji Gakuin). The Committee on 100 Years of Meiji Gakuin, 1976.
Toson Shimazaki, “Sakura no Mi no Jukusuru Toki” (When the Cherries Ripen). Shunyodo, Jan. 1, 1919.
Michio Takaya“Dokutoru Hebon” (Doctor Hepburn). Makino Shoten, 1954.
Takaya Michio (ed.) “Hebon Shokanshu” (A Collection of Hepburn's Correspondence). Iwanami Shoten, 1959.
Michio Takaya “Hebon” (Hepburn). Jinbutsu Shosho 61. Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1961.
Michio Takaya (ed.) “Hebon no Tegami” (Hepburn's Letters). Expanded Edition. Yurindo, 1978.
Yoko Mochizuki “Hebon no Shogai to Nihongo” (The Life of Hepburn and the Japanese Language). Shinchosha, 1987.
W.E. Griffith (writer), Akira Sasaki (ed.) “Hebon – Dojidaijin no Mita –“ (Hepburn – As Seen by His Generation). Kyobunkan, 1991.
The Society for the Lives of Prominent Meiji Gakuin Figures “Meiji Gakuin Jinbutsu Retsuden” (The Lives of Prominent Meiji Gakuin Figures). Shinkyo Shuppansha, 1998.
Koji Nakajima, Naoto Tsuji, and Haruki Onishi “Choro Kaikaku Kyokai Rainichi Senkyoshi Jiten” (A Dictionary of Presbyterian and Reformed Church Missionaries Who Came to Japan). Shinkyo Shuppansha, 2003.
Yutaka Hara “Hebon Juku ni Tsuranaru Hitobito” (The People Who Attended the Hepburn Academy). Published by the Author, 2003.
Fumiaki Murakami “Hebon Monogatari” (The Story of Hepburn). Kyobunkan, 2003.
Yasuko Oda “Ishi Hebon to Sono Jidai” (Dr. Hepburn and His Times). Maruzen Sendai Shuppan Service Center, 2004.