Shimizu Usaburo (清水卯三郎)

Usaburo SHIMIZU (1829 - January 20, 1910) was a well-known businessman who was born in Habu Village, Saitama County, Musashi Province (currently it is Habu City). His mother is the younger sister of Yuzan NEGISHI.

Brief Personal History

He was born as the third son of the Shimizu family running a Japanese sake brewery. After learning Sinology from Hazan YOSHIKAWA, he studied Western learning under Genpo MITSUKURI. In 1854, he had a chance to meet Russian plenipotentiary Yevfimy Putyatin in Shimoda as an attendant of Masanori TSUTSUI, and he studied Russian.

In 1849, SHIMIZU moved to Edo, and became a merchant to deal with soybean products. He opened several stores; in 1859 in Yokohama City; in 1868 in Asakusa, Tokyo; in 1869, he opened "Mizuhoya Store" in Nihonbashi, Tokyo (Chuo Ward, Tokyo).

He also engaged in the field of foreign diplomacy, as he participated in the peace talks after the Anglo-Satsuma War in 1863 as an interpreter of Edo bakufu. SHIMIZU also took Tomoatsu GODAI and Munenori TERASHIMA of Satsuma Domain into protective custody by sheltering them at his family's or relative's home, after releasing them from the capture and custody of England.

This distinguished service was well recognized, and he was allowed to accompany with the participants of Paris International Exposition in France (1867) to study liberal arts and industrial arts, while he also visit the United States before he came back to Japan. After this trip, he engaged in import business by dealing with foreign books while he also started publishing business by importing printing equipment and method in order to introduce the news around the world through his "Rikugo shinbun-Newspaper."

He is also known as a kana (the Japanese syllabary) advocate, and he expressed his opinion in an article on a magazine of Meirokusha (Japan's first academic society), regarding the necessity of spreading hiragana (the rounded Japanese phonetic syllabary) throughout the country to improve the knowledge and culture of entire citizens. He founded an association called "Kana no tomo" (The friends of kana alphabet) with scholars who supported his opinion, and published a magazine, "Kana no michibiki" (The guiding of kana alphabet) to develop their theory of kana alphabet usage. In 1874, he published a book called "Monowari no hashigo," a translated British science book; he also left his writing, "Wagayo no ki" (the writing about my life) all written in kana alphabet.

He died on January 20, 1910 at the age of 82. On the tombstone of Usaburo SHIMIZU located in Shoko-ji Temple in the northern part of Habu City, it is written as "SHIMIZU Usaburo no haka" (the tomb of Usaburo SHIMIZU) in kana alphabet (except the character "SHI" of SHIMIZU written in Chinese character "志").