About J. F. Oberlin University


Yasuzo Shimizu
Yasuzo Shimizu (1891-1988)

J. F. Oberlin University traces its heritage back to 1921, when Reverend Yasuzo Shimizu, a Japanese missionary in Beijing, China, founded the Chongzhen Vocational and Grammar School for Girls. Over the next two decades, the school educated some 700 Japanese, Chinese, and Korean girls. In the late 1920s, Reverend Shimizu took time out from his missionary work to attend Oberlin College in Ohio, U.S.A., where he learned about the educational philosophy of Jean-Frédéric (John Frederic) Oberlin, an 18th-century minister and educator in the Alsace region of France.

After Japan’s defeat in World War II, Reverend Shimizu left China and returned to Japan, where he resumed his educational efforts on the war-ravaged land where our campus still stands today. In 1946 he established a school and named it Obirin Gakuen. He created the name “Obirin”—written with the Japanese characters for “cherry tree,” “beautiful,” and “forest”—to honor J. F. Oberlin, whose philosophy had influenced him so deeply.

Jean-Frédéric Oberlin
Jean-Frédéric Oberlin (1740-1826)
Photo © Denis Betsch/
Musée J. F. Oberlin

In the decades that followed, the school prospered and grew, with a junior high school being added in 1947, a high school in 1948, a two-year junior college in 1950, a four-year university in 1966, a kindergarten in 1968, and a graduate school in 1993. Throughout, Reverend Shimizu urged students to use what they had learned to serve others, an ideal central to the philosophy of J. F. Oberlin.

As a tribute to the educator whose ideas had such great meaning for our founder, in 2006 the official English name of the school was changed from Obirin Gakuen to J. F. Oberlin University and Affiliated Schools. Now as we move closer to the centennial of our founding, we continue to work toward our goal of fostering global citizens on the basis of Christian values.