Buchanan family portrait, Christmas/New Year’s postcard, c. 1915.

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Buchanan family portrait, Christmas/New Year’s postcard, c. 1915. Seated in front (l-r): Janie, Minnie (wife), Dorothy, William; 2nd row (l-r): Daniel, Elizabeth (Elsie), Stuart. The family patriarch, William, served as a Presbyterian minister in Japan for over 40 years, in Takamatsu, Nagoya, Gifu, and Kobe. William and Minnie’s eldest child, Daniel, followed in his father’s footsteps, also becoming a Presbyterian missionary to Japan, teaching in Japanese high schools and universities and publishing a number of books translating Japanese haiku, proverbs and popular sayings into English that remain in print today.

“Forty-five years in Japan!

“That’s the record of Scotland-born William Cumming Buchanan, a retired Presbyterian missionary who recently came to Hopewell to make his home.
Dr. Buchanan first sailed for the orient in 1891 when he was 26 years old, a youngster not long out of theological school with a bride of three months. He returned to America in 1935, having served the Japanese for nearly half a century.

“It’s been some 72 years since Dr. Buchanan made his debut in Glasgow, Scotland. When he was six years old, his family sailed for America and settled on a large farm a few miles from Lunenberg Courthouse in Virginia. Dr. Buchanan said that his father, an expert watchmaker, really wanted to live in Richmond but his mother thought the country environment would be best for her family and so (as usual, he said) her will prevailed.

“The finger of fate pointed to the mission field … Missionaries were needed badly in Japan, his church told him. In September, 1891, he was ordained by the East Hanover Presbytery at a special evening meeting in Richmond and a few weeks later sailed for a land of mystery.

“His first missionary work was done in Nagoya (pro: Nangia), a city of about a quarter of a million inhabitants. More than 10,000 Buddhist priests dwelled in Nagoya and from the beginning exerted all their efforts against Christianity. The fight of those priests against a handful of missionaries was a dramatic spectacle, Dr. Buchanan assured us. ‘They would hire young Japs [sic] to disrupt Christian services,’ he recalled. ‘And throw stones at the evangelists. They started a weekly newspaper called ‘Don’t Read Christianity’.’

“[But] enormous progress in the Japanese foreign mission field has been realized since Dr. Buchanan first went there in 1891. At that time, he said, there were only nine Christian churches of all denominations there. Japanese Christians numbered a meager 18.000 and financial support was negligible. Today, there are over 900 self-supporting churches with a total membership in excess of 200,000 and financial resources of approximately $2,000,000. Little short of a miracle has happened to Nippon in half a century.

“… Three of Dr. Buchanan’s children are in Japan now. A son is employed by the Presbyterian church as an evangelical writer on one of the large Japanese newspapers, one of the daughters teaches in a kindergarten and another is the wife of a British business man. Indeed, Dr. Buchanan Is still vitally interested in the land he gave 45 years of his life to.

“Even upon entering his home here, one is immediately encompassed with the oriental touch. The walls in the living room are decorated with several attractive Japanese murals. Books about Japan mingle with those on Christianity on the living room table. When our talk with Dr Buchanan was finished we felt as though we had almost taken a hurried trip to Nippon.”

The Hopewell (VA) News, January 4, 1938

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