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Omihachiman and the man named William Merrell Vories – Part 3

Who is William Merrell Vories?

William Merrell Vories was an american from Leavenworth, Kansas who at a young age of 24 left his country and
moved to Japan to teach English at Hachiman Commercial High School and since his arrival at Omihachiman on February 2, 1905, he has called this place his new home.


I believe God sent me here, so I will never move until He make me move. – William Merrell Vories (1880 ~ 1964) (Image from Ryosuke Yagi)

He quickly became popular among his students and together with a Japanese Christian they started having Bible classes – this Bible study classes led to him being fired from his work as an English teacher. At that time there was a strong discrimination against Christians in Japan. But even if he lost his job, Vories never lost his sense of mission.

I was shocked as if my head was knocked by an iron bar – he wrote after he lost his job.


Vories has become one of the most famous historical figures in Shiga

After loosing his teaching job, he went to establish Vories & Co. – an architectural office which would later on design around 1600 western style buildings including churches, schools, hotels and private houses over a career that spanned 35 years. Many of these buildings he designed are still standing today located not just in Japan but also in Korea and China. Besides putting up an architectural office, he also established Omi Sales Company – the company was later renamed to Omi Brothers Co., Ltd and began importing Mentholatum – an ointment. The sales of Mentalatum was used to support his missionary work. In 1919, He married Makiko, daughter of the Viscount Suenori Hitotsuyanagi and in 1941, he became a naturalized Japanese citizen taking his wife’s family name of Hitotsuyanagi Mereru.

Mentholatum – ointment

Apart from being an entrepreneur and architect, Vories was also a preacher – he even had his own mission boat called Galilee-Maru that often sailed in Lake Biwa (largest lake in Japan). The name Galilee was derived from the Lake Galilee where Jesus Christ preached his gospel.


Vories Memorial – 2014/10/4 ~ 2014/11/3

This year, the city of Omihachiman in Shiga prefecture is commemorating the 50th anniversary of his passing by remembering and celebrating his lifes achievements and contributions to the community (You can download a brochure about the commemoration here).  You can get a special ticket for 1500 yen to see all of the buildings he has designed in Omihachiman known as ikeda cho.


Hakuunkan Hall – though not designed by Vories this served as starting point of our tour. This is where we got our passes


Omi Brotherhood School (Omi Kyodaisha Gakuen) – the largest Vories building we visited


Hyde Memorial Building (designed by Vories) built in 1931 which served as a Kindergarten school which was managed by his wife – Makiko

This is the residence where Vories and his wife lived


Vories Residence – thou Vories was a famous architect and has designed many structures, he has never owned a house. He did not believe in having private assets.


Matsuoka Residence (built in 1933)


Andrews Memorial Hall (formerly the Hachiman YMCA) – the first building William Merrell Vories designed built in 1907.


Former Omi Mission Double house built in 1920.


Local Municipal Museum built in 1886 it used to be the Hachiman Police Department. It was renovated by Vories on 1953.


Yoshida Residence and Waterhouse Memorial House Located in Ikeda-cho.


Far left is Yoshida Residence and on the right side Waterhouse Memorial House. Both houses were built in 1913


Built for Waterhouse, who was an instructor at Waseda University and was also a part of Omi Mission


Omi Brothers Company


Give away at the Vories Memorial


1. William Merrell Vories Library

2. Karuizawa Union Church

3. W.M. Vories & Company Architects Ichiryusha

4. 50 Vories


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