The Famous Unkown Missionary
James C. Hepburn (shown above) was a 19th century American medical missionary in Japan. In Japan, Dr. Hepburn is famous. He founded a clinic in Yokohama in the early 1860s. Due to his contributions to the city, the Yokohama City University School of Medicine named a hall after him. 

But this wasn't all. Dr. Hepburn and his wife, Clara, founded a school in Japan that is known today as Meiji Gakuin University, a Christian school in Tokyo and Yokohama with over 12,000 students.

Dr. Hepburn has another claim to fame. Working with another American missionary, a Dutch Reformed minister named Samuel R. Brown, Hepburn helped create the first complete translation of the Bible in Japanese. 

Hepburn has some fame in the West. Oddly, though, it has nothing to do with medicine nor does it have anything to do with his being a missionary. Hepburn was also an accomplished linguist. He is credited with the creation of the first English-Japanese dictionary.

And this is why Hepburn is known in the West. To create the dictionary, he came up with a way to approximate Japanese character sounds using Roman letters. He created what is known as the Hepburn romanization system, a phonetic way (English phonetic) to show Japanese using the Western characters. There are other systems out there, and Hepburn's system has undergone modification over the years, but it is the one system with which nearly every Westerner who has ever studied the Japanese language is familiar. This is the basis for Hepburn's fame in the West. 

If not for Hepburn, characters like し would be spelled out as "si" instead of "shi," which is closer to its actual pronunciation.

In other words, if not for Hepburn, raw fish on rice would likely be spelled susi instead of sushi.

This month's book related post is a download of free historical fiction books. There is a book of WW2 historical fiction and a time travel story involving Edgar Allan Poe that I will be looking at myself. Please click here or on the picture above to check them out. 

Please check out my posts and follow me on social media. Most are related to Japanese history. Click here to follow me on TikTok. Else, click here to watch on YouTube. Click here to follow on Bookbub. Other links are below.

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Walt Mussell

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