Japanese arguments against Christianity!

14 09 2010

Satow is better known in Japan than in Britain or the other countries in which he served. He was a key figure in East Asia and Anglo-Japanese relations, particularly in Bakumatsu (1853–1867) and Meiji Era (1868–1912) Japan, and in China after the Boxer Rebellion, 1900-06.

IN 1868, there was circulated in Kyushu a pamphlet that may well be given in full, as it shows how the Japanese looked upon the missionaries and their religion. It also narrates from a different point of view some of the events described in previous chapters.


The Roman Catholic Religion

At a village named Oura, near Nagasaki, the French built a church, and five or six priests took up their residence there. They gave waives of a hundred or two hundred rios annually to about twenty Japanese readers and sent them out in the disguise of traders or travelling students to Hirado, Shimabara in Hizen, to Fukabori and to Amakusa. To the poor they gave money, and to the superstitious they exhibited prodigies in order to proselytise them, or worked upon their feelings by conventicles. (A conventicle is a meeting of both sexes at night in a secret chamber for pleasure.) In a short time, therefore, one or two hundred fellows sprang up who disregarded the most stringent injunctions of the lords of the districts, and neglected the social relations and the five virtues— a most fearful state of things, indeed A certain spy, as he was concealed under the veranda of a house in Urakami, heard a priest of the evil religion preaching who said: ” Persons who enter our sect and believe its doctrines will be born in heaven and enjoy eternal felicity; while believers in Shintoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism will all go to hell and suffer

The translation, which is taken from the Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States for 1868, was made by Mr. (now Sir) E. M. Satow, afterwards British Minister to Japan and later to China. Dr. Verbeck was convinced by internal evidence that the original work was written by a priest who had been instructed by himself and two of whose pupils were still coming to him three times a week. (Griflfis’s ” Verbeck,” p. 134.)

torment. Should only a single person of a family enter our sect, the rest will all be born in heaven by his merit. Then he showed them in a “Glory’ palaces and mansions, and people enjoying themselves with beautiful women. Consequently they became desirous of dying at once and being born in heaven, and do not care for the severest punishment I will narrate further stories of the prodigies performed.

The Jesus or Protestant Doctrine

In the same way the Americans and English have built Jesus halls, and five or six priests coming, try to lead astray the talented and clever men of Japan. These priests of the Jesus doctrine live mostly in private houses, and under pretence of teaching astronomy, geography, and the use of fire-arms, and medicine desire in actual fact to spread about the abominable poison of Jesus. Compared with the Roman Catholic religion this is a very cunning doctrine indeed. Although they try to make out that there is nothing abominable in it, they are really foxes of the same hole, and it is really more injurious than the Roman Catholic doctrine. The priests say: “The Jesus doctrine which I recommend to you does not practise magic; it advocates the observance of the social relations and the five virtues.”

But in the matter of abolishing Shinto and Buddhism and of treating prince and father with contempt it does not differ from the Roman Catholics, for which reason it is very hurtful to the state.

A Chinaman named Chang Chi-tsuo, in a letter to a friend of mine, says: ” I find from my acquaintance with the retainers of Japanese daimyos residing in Nagasaki that they are all studying western learning by command of their princes. The fact is the western barbarians practise murder instead of agriculture. Astronomy, geography, warlike weapons, and other toys of theirs are only fit to amuse the eye and ear. But there is not one of their books which does not praise the spirit of Jesus or of the

Lord of Heaven, and persons who do not study those books with a profound appreciation of fundamental truth will find themselves respecting the doctrine before they know where they are. I sincerely hope that the doctrines of Jesus and of the Lord of Heaven may not spread all over Japan in two or three years.”

Those words are perfectly true. Should it turn out so. Japanese will become enemies of their own country for the sake of foreigners. I pray most earnestly that benevolent men and superior men will not be led astray by the evil plots of these people, but will assist our countrymen with just laws, and keep the state as firm as Taisan.

Elements of the Evil Doctrine

The Jesus doctrine and the doctrine of the Lord of Heaven are the same in origin, and merely branches of one tree. Three hundred and fifty-two years ago a division of vile Roman Catholic religion was founded, which, professing to observe the true meaning of Jesus, called itself the Jesus doctrine. They say that the Roman Catholic religion consecrates wooden images and practises all sorts of prodigies. The Jesus doctrine does not even consecrate images of Jesus; it merely instructs, and does not practise prodigies. They derive their doctrines from the Old Testament in thirty-nine books, and the New Testament in twenty-seven books. The commencement of the Old Testament says that five thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight years ago the Lord of Heaven made the heavens and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, herbs, trees, birds, and beasts, in the space of five days; and on the sixth made a man and a woman who are the original ancestors of all mankind. Wherefore the Lord of Heaven is also called the Creator. He is also called the Great Prince and the Great Father; (natural) princes and fathers being distinguished as little princes and little fathers. In that case what is said in the Classic of Poetry, that “in the whole of what is under the heavens there is no place which is not royal territory; in the whole earth there are none who are not royal subjects” comes to nought. And when they say “that the Lord of Heaven made human bodies which were of earth, and that the Lord of Heaven put life into them,” what is said in the classic of Filial Piety, ‘that we have received our bodies, hair, and skin from our fathers and mothers,” comes to nought.

They look upon prince, father, and mother as nurses who merely nourish us, and say that if we worship our ancestors we shall be hated by the Lord of Heaven. This is treating prince and father with contempt and entirely destroying the natural relations of prince and vassal, father and child, which is a great evil to the state.

The Old Testament contains the Ten Commandments of the Lord of Heaven. The first of those says: “There is no other Lord but me.” Consequently the evil confederation of Urakamimura near Nagasaki threw the tables of Tenshoko Dai j in (the Sun-goddess) and of Kasuga Hachiman and the rest into the water, into the fire, and into the privies. The sixth says: “Thou shalt not kill ;” but this means, ” Thou shalt not kill people of our religion;” but they murder the most virtuous persons and superior men if they do not belong to their religion. The seventh says: “Thou shalt commit no abominable lechery;” but there are many cases in the Old Testament of persons who are said to be beloved by the Lord of Heaven becoming united in the bonds of parent and child, brethren, husband and wife; and besides, at Urakami, near Nagasaki lately, under the name of conventicles, men and women meet secretly in the depth of the night, which is abominable lechery. The eighth says: “Thou shalt not steal;” but thQT seize on other countries and make them subject to their own. Is this not flagrant robbery?

In the New Testament is written the history of Jesus from his birth to his death by crucifixion. This person called Jesus was originally very poor. In his fifteenth year he was banished, upon which he travelled through many countries learning magic art curing the sick, and stopping floods, and other magic. He deceived the ignorant lower classes, making them follow himself until his evil design of murdering the sovereign of the country and seizing the country and people for himself being discovered, he was put to death by crucifixion. He was a most traitorous animal. It is, however, written that he was crucified to atone for the sins of all men; that after his death he came out of his grave and preached for the space of forty days to his disciples, and ascended to heaven alive. This is the invention of those fellows, and entirely unfounded.

Considering that the foundation lay in such violent wickedness, it is impossible that any of his believers can be either filial or loyal. They say that the most unfilial and disloyal can go to the very top place m heaven if they only love the Lord of Heaven. The disasters of Shimabara and Amakusa may be looked upon as warnings to avoid. The love of novelty is unfortunately such that, if divine tickets and images of Buddha are caused to fall from heaven, as they have been since last autumn, there are plenty of common people, who, under pretence of worshipping the gods, dance and sing drunken songs, and forget the principles of social relations. Such would be the misfortunes of the state, were people to be sunk in this evil doctrine.

What I pray for is that patriotic samurai in this country shall learn how these people offend against the principles of fidelity and filial piety; what ambitious designs they have against the state; and fortifying men’s minds with good principles, block up every chink by which the evil doctrine might creep in; and perform one act of good service to the sovereign.

I do not aim here at describing the thing in detail, but only to speak a bit of my mind and narrate a story for the benefit of the ignorant and young.

History of the Evil Doctrine in Nagasaki

Since the opening of the port of Nagasaki, the French among the western barbarians have mainly preached the Roman Catholic religion, and the English and Americans the Protestant religion. In addition to these there are the Greek religion, the Mahometan religion, &c., all of which resemble the former and are as injurious to the state as they are.

In Oura, at Nagasaki, Roman Catholic churches and Protestant churches have been built and the Japanese are secretly induced to join these religions. The Roman Catholic religion proselytises from the middle down to the lowest classes of the inhabitants; the Protestant religion chiefly proselytises those of a higher position than the middle class.

The proselytes of the Roman Catholics are as follows. In Urakami, near Nagasaki, above two thousand people ; in the territory of Omura, above one hundred persons ; in the territory of Fukabori in Hizen, above fifteen hundred; Yokohama, Shimabara in Hizen, Amakusa in Higo, Hirado in Hizen; in these last four places proselytising is going on, and it is not known exactly how many thousands are there.

On the evening of the twenty-third day of the sixth month of last year (July, 1867), the Governor of Nagasaki sent to Urakami, seized the evil onesi, and threw them into prison. The images in the church which had been built at Urakami were seized at the same time and entrusted to the charge of the Mayor of the village. The officers who were sent to apprehend them brought them all, seventy-odd in number, to the Governor’s official residence. Six or seven men were left to guard the Mayor’s house; but the remainder of the evil band, to the number of several hundred, attacked the place and possessed themselves of the images, &c. They also seized two officials and two of their subordinates as hostages, declaring with violent language that they would not give them up unless the prisoners were set at liberty. In consequence, these hundreds of other offenders were left alone and not apprehended.

The people of the next village, called Nishi, were all of a resolute disposition and always observed the principles of loyalty and filial piety. Although built in a continuous line with the village of Urakami, it did not contain a single one of those evil fellows. When the evil fellows of Urakami were apprehended, the officials were very much afraid and did not like to force an entrance; but the people of Nishi, thinking that now was the time to do their duty, forced their way among the enemy and did good service.

In Urakami there is a place subject to Omura. As that place contained some of the evil band, the authorities of Omura arrested more than a hundred in the commencement of the seventh month, and committed them to prison.

The evil ones who had been apprehended by the Governor of Nagasaki and cast into prison were daily summoned by him and remonstrated with on their evil conduct, but they remained obstinate and gave no signs of repentance. On the contrary, they actually begged that they might be openly permitted to join the Roman Catholic sect

As the Governor and collectors could do nothing with them; on the fourteenth day of the eighth month, the priests of nine temples—seven being of the Shin sect and two of the Zen sect- were summoned to the Governor’s official residence and asked if they could suggest a plan for bringing back the evil fellows of Urakami.

The priests replied that they would give in their answer after mature consideration, and retired. Next day they sent in their reply, which was to the effect that they would do their best in exhorting those people to change their hearts.

On the nineteenth day the Collector and judges set out to Urakami with the priests of the nine temples, and tried to exhort those people; but they were obstinate and refused to be convinced in the slightest degree, the fact being that, as they had not been severely dealt with up to that time, the evil bands only increased in their obstinacy.

In the middle of the ninth month, the people imprisoned by the Governor of Nagasaki falsely pretended to have repented and were released from prison, but they only collected together again- and increased in numbers from day to day.

As the affair of those who had been released from prison ended only in their village being made responsible for them, the evil fellows thought they had found a capital opportunity; they took a quantity of money out of their church with which they went secretly to all parts, giving money to the poor, performing magic and wonders, and proselytising the people. Consequently, in a short space of time, large additions were made to their numbers — ten in one place and a hundred in another.

The fourth commandment of the evil religion ordains the observance of a day of rest. Japanese began gradually to keep this day, by which their having entered the sect became apparent.

As the Roman Catholic religion had spread so widely, it behooved those of the Protestant doctrine also to take their measures to increase the circle of their sect also. A person called Maria, wife of one Verbeck, a priest of Jesus, left her child at the breast and went to China in a steamer. She went as far as Shanghai and Hongkong for the purpose of getting the priests residing there to come with her to Japan.

This is a summary of the doings of the evil ones at Nagasaki. I do not know what may be the state of things at Yokohama and Hakodate. As there are several priests residing at those places also, it is pretty certain that they will entice Japanese gradually.

Since Hiogo became an open port last winter, no doubt the priests will gradually make their entrance there, and I fear they will pour their abominable poison in a short time into Osaka and Kyoto also. But as they have not commenced working at those places yet, I hope that a plan for protecting us against them will be matured while there is yet time.

As the evil ones of Nagasaki who are fully convinced are not at all likely to be converted again, I think they ought to be visited with the severest punishment. But the persons who have been merely drawn in by others will probably repent if they are exhorted in the proper manner.

In the above I have given a brief account of the rise and spread of the evil doctrine.

Another pamphlet that was widely circulated at about the same time was, “A New Essay on the Protection of the Country, by the Rev. Folly-Pitier.”A few extracts will serve to show the objections commonly urged against Christianity.

* The full translation may be found in the United States Diplomatic Correspondence for 1868. The tracts quoted were published in China.

“The doctrines of honouring the Lord of Heaven and believing in Jesus appear to be de foundation of the Protestant religion; but nothing is taught of cultivating one’s person, regulating one’s family, ordering the state, and tranquillizing die empire. The fifth of the Ten Commandments of the Lord of Heaven is ‘Honour thy father and mother.’ Some tracts have lately been published entitled, ‘Elements of the Five Virtues in the Holy Scriptures,’ and ‘ Elements of the Five Social Relations in the Holy Scriptures,’ which are made up of texts picked out of different parts of the two Testaments and twisted so as to bear out the meaning of the title; but they do not contain the correct principles of the human relations. They are merely got up to stave off troublesome opponents and also, at the same time, to take people in; but they do not represent the real spirit of the Protestant religion. . . .

“It is quite true that one of the Ten Commandments directs that honour be given to parents, but as no care is taken to give effect to this injunction by teaching it to the people, we do not find that either Abraham, Moses, or Jesus, who are venerated as holy and sage men by the Protestant religion, were celebrated for their filial piety.”

“Seeing that the great principle of filial piety, which is the root of all good actions, is thus neglected, we cannot expect to find any traces of loyalty either. There is not one of these so- called wise and holy men who has acted with loyalty towards his lord and master. Besides, there is not a single word about loyalty in the whole of these numerous books and thousands of words of which the two Testaments are composed. . . .

“The Ten Commandments consist of two laws: ‘ Honour and love the Lord of Heaven,’ and * Love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Respect to parents comes under that universal love which is meant by * Love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Therefore, although the expression, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother,’ exists, it does not urge the practice of filial piety. Jesus said: ‘ He who loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of me.’ In discussing this question in the ‘Dialogue on the Christian Religion, ‘Jesus is made first and of greater importance, and parents last and of less importance. When the great principles of loyalty and filial piety are thus neglected and the five virtues thus destroyed, how can one expect perfection in the social? In the ‘ Mirror of the Way to Heaven, the five social relations are said to be insufficient, and another relation, that of heaven and man, is set up as the chief of all the others, as being of the highest importance. The object is to destroy the five relations and to substitute that of heaven and man for them all. The Lord of Heaven is the Lord of all countries and the Father of all men; He is therefore the Great Prince and Great Father. All difference between high and low among men is done away with, and this is because the single relation of heaven and man is made to take the place of the five relations. Under these circumstances, little love and honour are shown towards prince and father, and when they are despised it is impossible that there should be any loyalty or filial piety. It is no wonder that there should be no loyal or filial men among the Protestant fellows.

In discussing the question of filial piety, which they rarely do, they say that the child’s duty is fulfilled by his supporting his parents as long as they are alive and burying them when they die. The father of one of Jesus’ disciples having died he asked permission to go home and bury him. Jesus would not permit it. …”

Naikū, Ise Shrine.

“It objects strongly to the worship of graven images. The second Commandment says: ‘Thou shalt not worship graven images.’ There are two books called ‘Reasons for not Worshipping Graven Images and ‘Argument against the Worship of Graven Images,’ which attack the practice with great violence, besides passages in many other books which condemn it Should the Protestant religion spread in Japan, I fear the consequences will be the complete destruction of the shrines of Ise and Hachiman, [of places] where the bodies of the Emperor’s ancestors repose, of all the sacred images of the gods, and of the tablets of our forefathers. Protestant churches will be built, and only the Lord of Heaven and Jesus will be worshipped. Laws which have remained in force from the earliest stages will be abolished, and the Imperial line, which has lasted for the last ten thousand generations, will be polluted. …”

“If we allow our countrymen to become corrupted by this abominable religion, it is to be feared lest the disposition which venerates the Imperial line should disappear and traitors arise who would aim at the throne for themselves. This is what I have feared and grieved over for years. I humbly pray the princes, nobles, and great officers to ask to the wise of the three systems [Shintoist, Buddhist, Confucianist] to rigidly prohibit this religion while our people are not yet deeply affected with Protestantism; to expel these fellows, to prevent the divine Princes from being polluted by the stinking wind, to prevent this necromantic doctrine from throwing the right system into confusion ; and thus insure to the people safety under the shadow of the Imperial favour.”

An appendix to the pamphlet speaks of the way in which the division between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism arose, and closes by saying : ” The evil nature of Protestantism being thus apparent, the reader may judge of the equally evil nature of Roman Catholicism without my enlarging on the subject.”

Wiki Links:



The translation of the Bible in Japanese and “There is a Happy Land,” and “Jesus Loves Me.”

13 09 2010

Karl Friedrich August Gützlaff (8 July 1803 – 9 August 1851), anglicised as Charles Gutzlaff, was a German missionary to the Far East, notable as one of the first Protestant missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand and for his books about China. He was one of the first Protestant missionaries in China to dress like a Chinese. He gave himself a Chinese name, 郭士立 (pinyin: Guō Shìlì), but later on 郭實腊 (Simplified Chinese: 郭实腊, pinyin: Guō Shílà) became his official Chinese name. Gutzlaff Street in Hong Kong was named after him.

In the first period of missionary effort a beginning had been made towards providing a Kiristian literature. Reference has already been made to some of the works that were published. It will be convenient here to give a more detailed account; and since the translation of the Bible is one of the first things to take the attention of Protestant missionaries, we will consider what had been accomplished in this direction up to the close of the year 1872.

The materials for this account of the translations of the Bible are chiefly drawn from an address made by Dr. Hepburn in 1880 at a meeting held to celebrate the completion of the Japanese version of the New Testament.

So far as known, the first work of this kind was that of Dr. Gutzlaff, who, with the help of the shipwrecked Japanese that found shelter in his house at Macao, made a translation of the Gospel of John. By the aid of the American Bible Society this was printed about 1838, on the press of the American Board at Singapore. When the circumstances of its production are considered, it is not strange that it was very imperfect and abounded with errors.

Dr. S. Wells Williams also attempted by the help of shipwrecked sailors to make translations. The results appear not to have been published.

Dr. Bettelheim, while in Loochoo, prepared a translation of the New Testament in the dialect he found in those islands. The Gospel of Luke was printed at Hongkong. Afterwards Dr. Bettelheim, while in Chicago, obtained the assistance of a Japanese for bringing his translation more into conformity with the language used in Japan proper. This revision of the Four Gospels and Acts was printed at Vienna in 1872, and many copies were sent to Japan.

The Protestant missionaries in Nagasaki made early attempts at translation.

Dr. Hepburn states that when he undertook this kind of work in 1861, the prejudices against Christianity, and the fear of the Government were so great that his teacher, after proceeding a little way in the Gospel of Matthew, positively declined to remain in his service. In 1866, the Christian Intelligencer of America, said, concerning the work of missionaries of the Reformed Board: “The Gospels are translated. The money is ready to print an edition. . . . Shall we print the Gospel?

Walter Henry Medhurst (Chinese: 麥都思, 29 April 1796 – 24 January 1857), was an English Congregationalist missionary to China, born in London and educated at St Paul's School, was one of the early translators of the Bible into Chinese language editions.

The missionaries hesitate, fearing bloodshed. For, by the laws of Japan, whoever may be converted by reading the Word of God may be put to death with all his family.” Reference is probably made here to the translations prepared by Dr. S. R. Brown; and the question of their publication was settled in 1867, when his manuscripts were all destroyed by fire.

Finally, in 1871, Mr. Goble had an edition of the Gospel of Matthew printed from wooden blocks. He said of this: “I tried in Yokohama to get the blocks cut for printing, but all seemed afraid to undertake it, and I was only able to get it done in Tokyo by a man who, I think, did not know the nature of the book he was working upon.” The next year, Drs. Hepburn and Brown published Mark and John. Their translation of Matthew was issued in 1873.

The first tract was published by Dr. Hepburn in 1864. Shortly before it appeared, he wrote :

” I am now publishing a Christian tract The block-cutter is at work on it and will probably finish it in a month. It is one of Dr. McCartee’s [of China] tracts, which my teacher with my supervision has translated into what appears to me to be very good Japanese. It is the tract “The True Doctrine Made Plain or Easy.”. . I have to be very secret in getting the blocks cut. No doubt, if the officers of the Government knew it, they would soon put a stop to it. Most providentially, as it seems, the man who is cutting the blocks is employed by one of our merchants and lives in his compound; and that merchant, strange to say, is a Jew, but a most liberal one ; indeed, I think he is much more of a Christian than a Jew.”

Samuel Wells Williams, President of the American Bible Society, 1881-1884

Another early tract prepared by Dr. Hepburn consisted of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed.

One difficulty attending the preparation of tracts for the common people is described by Rev. J. D. Davis, D.D., and may be inserted here, although what it narrates occurred in the first year of the next period of our history.

Dr. Davis says:

“In the summer of 1873, the writer sat under the maples by the waterfall in Arima, the only missionary in the place, and wrote in Romaji [Roman letters] in his broken Japanese the first draft of a little tract. Two months later, when his teacher had copied this into Japanese, he asked him to revise it, and it came back in such high Chinese that none of the Common people could read it. He then asked a scholar of the pure Japanese language to put it into such language that the masses could read it, and after another month it came back about fifty decrees higher yet The writer then took his original draft and sat down with his teacher and fought it over word by word and sentence by sentence, demanding that the words which could be understood by the greatest number of the common people should be used; and after two months more it was ready for the block-cutter; but his teacher begged of the writer not to let anyone know who helped in the preparation of it, as he would be ashamed to have it known that he prepared so colloquial a book.”

Bernard Jean Bettelheim Medical Missionary on Okinawa April 1846 to July 1854

In other ways the printed page was the medium for teaching Christian truth. Students of English found in their reading-books frequent references to religious doctrines. English books on ethics were for a while diligently studied in the government schools. One who was a teacher in these schools has written of this time:

“Every class of students able to read a foreign language, from the highest to the lowest, was supplied with text-books on morals, and the use of them continued during several months. Suddenly an order from the Dai Jo Kwan (the Emperor’s Privy Council) to discontinue the study arrived in the various schools; this study was banished from the curriculum, and the manuals of Wayland, Haven, and Malebranche were exiled to the dust and oblivion of the top shelf. Text-books on morals made by Christian writers were supposed to be too strongly flavoured with Christian theology, and the name so long publicly outlawed and hated in this Empire occurred too often on their pages to render it safe to allow such books in the hands of Japanese youth.

A noted native educator . . . had translated ‘ Wayland’s Moral Science’ . . This translation, however, is but a fragment It omits all the positively Christian theology of the book, much of the theory and reasoning, and gives scarcely more than the results arrived at by the author and a portion of the moral code which is expressed in the book. Those high officers who read only the translation and were pleased with it, sanctioned the use of the various moral text-books of foreign countries, not knowing their full contents. On discovering their true nature, however, the order to discontinue the study of these books was sudden and peremptory. … A few weeks later came an order prohibiting all students in the government schools from attending or visiting a Christian church.”

The first attempts at Christian hymnology were probably the translations of “There is a Happy Land,” and “Jesus Loves Me.” The first version of the former was made by Mr. Goble. The imperfect knowledge of the language led to the production of verses that have since been a source of merriment. The first stanza commenced,

“Yoi kuni arimas

Taiso empo.

Shinja wa sakaete

Hikari zo.”

Apparently several persons attempted the translation of “Jesus Loves Me.” These two hymns, so far as is known, were the only ones produced before 1873.

Wiki Links:









Prince Iwakura visits the United States and Europe.

3 09 2010

Iwakura Tomomi (岩倉具視?, October 26, 1825 - July 20, 1883) was a Japanese statesman who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration, influencing opinions of the Imperial Court.

Near the close of the year 1871, an embassy headed by Prince Iwakura had set forth to visit the United States and Europe. Its chief object was to secure such a revision of the treaties as would do away with extra-territoriality. In the letter of credence presented by Iwakura to the President of the United States, the Emperor declared: ” We expect and intend to reform and improve ” the treaties ” so as to stand upon a similar footing with the most enlightened nations, and to attain the full development of public right and interest.” The American Secretary of State said that before permitting citizens of the United States to come under the jurisdiction of Japan it would be necessary to consider the laws of that country, and he proceeded to ask about religious liberty and the edicts against Christianity. The Japanese Ambassador attempted to make it appear that the edicts were no longer enforced. Mr. De Long was then in Washington, and when Prince Iwakura denied in his conference with the Secretary of State that there was any religious persecution, Mr. De Long; cited the facts connected with the arrest and continued imprisonment of Ishikawa Einosuke. The Ambassador who could make no satisfactory reply, was told that it was useless to ask for the desired change in the treaty so long as the religion believed by most Americans was regarded in the present manner. On going to Europe the Embassy found that it was not without reason that the British and French Charges d’ Affaires had expressed the opinion that it would not be cordially received so long as the persecution of Christians continued. Before it reached England an influential deputation from the Evangelical Alliance had presented to the Foreign Secretary a memorial in which the persecutions of the Roman Catholic Christians were narrated, and the hope expressed that, in case the treaties were revised, a clause would be inserted guaranteeing religious liberty. The Westminster Gazette had opened a

The former 500 Yen banknote issued by the Bank of Japan carried his portrait.

subscription for funds to support a movement that should urge the English Government to demand the release of the Japanese exiles. A vigorous agitation was begun in France by the publication of M. Leon Pages’s pamphlet on “The Persecution of the Japanese Christians.” As the Embassy rode through the streets of Brussels, many among the spectators shouted out their demands that the Japanese Christians be released. Ito Hirobumi (afterwards Japan’s leading statesman), who was a member of the Embassy, wrote to his Government, declaring that wherever he went he was met by the strongest appeals in behalf of the Christian exiles and for religious toleration. He was sure that, unless the Government acceded to the first request and evinced a disposition to be somewhat liberal in the other matter, it would look in vain for friendly concessions on the part of the foreign nations.

Prince Itou Hirobumi (伊藤 博文?, 16 October 1841–26 October 1909, also called Hirofumi/Hakubun and Shunsuke in his youth) was a samurai of Chōshū domain, Japanese statesman, four time Prime Minister of Japan”

In November, 1872, Mori Arinori, who was in Washington as the Japanese Charge d’ Affaires, prepared a memorial to his Government in favour of complete religious freedom. Annexed to it was a draft for “The Religious Charter of the Empire of Dai Niphon” (Japan). This, as given in the English version, was as follows: —

” Whereas, in matters of conscience and religious faith, it has been justly observed that the manner of exercising them can be properly determined only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and “Whereas, no man or society of men has any right to impose his or its opinions or interpretations on an^ other in matters of religion, since every man must be responsible for himself, and  “Whereas, we have no other purpose than that of avoiding for our nation the misery which the experience of the world shows has followed the patronage by the state of any particular religion;

“It is now soletpily resolved and declared that the Imperial Government of Dai Niphon will make no law prohibiting, either directly or indirectly, the free exercise of conscience or religious liberty within its dominions.

“And it is further solemnly resolved and declared that the organisation of any religious orders shall not be interfered with by either local or national authority, so long as such organisation does not conflict with the law of the State.

“And it is further solemnly resolved and declared that the law of the Empire shall recognise no religious institution as special or different from any other kind of social institution.

“And it is further solemnly resolved and declared that no special privilege or favour shall be granted by either local or national authority to any particular sect or religious denomination without extending the same at once to every other.

“And it is further solemnly resolved and declared that no religious or ecclesiastical title or rank shall be conferred by the state upon any person belonging to any religious association.

“And it is further, in conclusion, solemnly resolved and declared that no action which may promote religious animosity shall be permitted within the realm.

In this, as in many other propositions made by Mr.Mori to his Government, he was too far in advance of his times. Not until the proclamation of the new Constitution, February ii, 1889, was religious liberty assured to the people of Japan ; and on that very day, Mr. Mori, the advocate of such liberty, was assassinated by a Shinto fanatic for having, as was alleged, raised the curtain of the shrine at Ise with his walking-stick.

Portrait of Itō Hirobumi was on the 1,000 yen note of Japan from 1963 until a new series was issued in in this, as in many other propositions made by Mr.Mori to his Government, he was too far in advance of his times. Not until the proclamation of the new Constitution, February ii, 1889, was religious liberty assured to the people of Japan ; and on that very day, Mr. Mori, the advocate of such liberty, was assassinated by a Shinto fanatic for having, as was alleged, raised the curtain of the shrine at Ise with his walking-stick.

Though the guaranty of religious freedom did not come until 1889, the Government on February 19, 1873, ordered the removal of the edict-boards which, among other regulations, prohibited Christianity.



William Elliot Griffis (September 17, 1843 – February 5, 1928)

3 09 2010

Photograph of William Elliot Griffis and his class of Japanese students

In the early part of 1871, Mr. W. E. Griffis (who afterwards wrote many well-known books upon Japan) went to Fukui as a teacher of English; and in the latter part of the same year Mr. E. W. Clark went in the same capacity to Shizuoka. Both of these gentlemen found opportunities for doing Christian work while in these interior cities. The contract that Mr. Clark was asked to sign did, indeed, contain a clause forbidding him to say anything about Christianity. “It was a great dilemma,” he says, “for I had spent all my money in coming to Japan and getting ready to go into the interior.” Some of his friends urged him to accept the condition, and the Japanese interpreter advised him to sign the agreement and then disregard it. He felt that a principle was at stake and stood firm, saying that unless the clause was struck out he must refuse to go.

“It is impossible,” he added, “for a Christian to dwell three years in the midst of a pagan people and yet keep silence on the subject nearest his heart.” His firmness triumphed, and the clause was struck out. He began a Bible class the very first Sunday he was in Shizuoka, and kept it up all the time he was there.

Nakamura Masanao (中村 正直?, 24 June 1832 – 7 June 1891) was a Japanese educator and leader of the Meiji Enlightenment in Meiji period. He also went by his pen-name of Nakamura Keiu. Born to a samurai family in Edo, Nakamura was originally a Confucian scholar. He was selected by the Tokugawa bakufu to study in Great Britain, where he mastered the English language.

Near the close of 1871, while the persecutions were still being directed against the Roman Catholics, a remarkable pamphlet was published by Mr. Nakamura Masanao, one of the best known teachers of Chinese in the country. It was written as though by a foreigner who, having spent some time in Japan, ventured to send a memorial to the Emperor. The writer begins by praising the liberal spirit shown by His Majesty’s Government in adopting various things that have come from foreign lands, but expresses regret that it still adhered to its severe laws against Christianity. His Majesty did not seem to be aware that the secret of the wealth and power of Western nations was in their religion.

“The industry, patience, and perseverance displayed in their arts, inventions, and machinery, all have their origin in the faith, hope, and charity of their religion. In general we may say that the condition of Western countries is but the outward leaf and blossom of their religion, and religion is the root and foundation on which their prosperity depends. Now Your Majesty’s subjects, pleased with the branches and foliage, wish to make them all their own; and try to imitate them. This is more ridiculous than the mimicry of apes, and it seems to me that it is a delusion to reject the very cause of the prosperity of these nations. When the heart and will are wrong, the words and conduct are also wrong; and when the root of a tree is bad, the branches and leaves are also bad. Does Your Majesty judge the Western religion to be evil? Then the Western nations must themselves be evil. And if those nations are corrupt, then their charitable and brave men are bad men, and the wonderful arts and inventions of those countries must be bad. So, too, all industry, patience, and vigour must likewise be evil. In that case the new laws which Your Majesty has introduced must be bad. The teachers employed in the schools for foreign learning are also bad men. The merchants from foreign lands who are permitted to trade in Japan are bad merchants. The telegraphs, steam-vessels, and steam-engines, and all such conveniences are bad things. Why does not Your Majesty command them all to be destroyed, the bad teachers to be expelled from the country, the bad merchants to be put to death, and the bad laws to be repealed? “

The writer goes on to say that Japan will be despised by Western nations so long as it exhibits such unreasonable hatred of Christianity; and declares that Japan cannot make due progress without accepting that religion. He says : “So long as Your Majesty does not repeal the prohibitory laws against Christianity, however assiduously the nation may endeavour to acquire the arts and civil reforms of Europe, it can never attain to the true European civilisation; and Japan may be likened to a manikin with face and eyes, and hands and feet, but without a soul. Can the manikin vie with a living man in the civilities of social intercourse? If Your Majesty should at last desire to establish Christianity in Japan, he should first of all be baptised himself, and become the chief of the church, and be called the leader of the millions of his people. Should Your Majesty come to such a decision, how great will be the respect and love accorded to him by the sovereigns of Europe from that time forward I How the people of the Western countries will pray for his happiness !….. The praises of Japan will ascend to the heaven, and the voice of her admiration will reach to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

During the closing week of 1871, the missionaries in Yokohama united with several English-speaking residents in a series of prayer-meetings. These were continued through the Week of Prayer in January of the next year. Dr. Verbeck in writing of them says:  ”Some Japanese students connected with the private classes taught by the missionaries were present through curiosity or through a desire to please their teachers, and some perhaps from a tiny interest in Christianity. It was concluded to read the Acts in course day after day; and that the Japanese present might take part intelligently in the service, the Scripture of the day was translated extemporaneously into their language. The meetings grew in interest and were continued from week to week until the end of February. After a week or two the Japanese for the first time in the history of the nation, were on their knees in a Christian prayer-meeting, entreating God with great emotion, with the tears streaming down their faces, that He would give His Spirit to Japan as to the early church and to the people around the Apostles. These prayers were characterised by intense earnestness. Captains of men-of-war, English and American, who witnessed the scene, wrote to us: ‘ The prayers of these Japanese take the heart out of us.’ A missionary wrote that the intensity of feeling was such that he feared often that he would faint away in the meetings. Half a dozen perhaps of the Japanese thus publicly engaged in prayer; but the number present was much larger. This is the record of the first Japanese Prayer-meeting.

” As a direct fruit of these prayer-meetings, the first Japanese Christian church was organized at Yokohama on March l0th, 1872.

Mr. Ballagh, too, assisted by Mr. Ogawa and other brethren, was chiefly instrumental, under the divine blessing, in bringing about the organisation of this church. Mr. Ogawa was chosen as an elder and Mr. Nimura a deacon of the young church. The members gave their church the catholic name of ‘The Church of Christ in Japan and drew up their own church constitution, a simple evangelical creed, together with some rules of church government, according to which the government was to be in the hands of the pastor and elders, with the consent of the members.”

The substance of the first of these rules was: “Our church is not partial to any sect, believing only in the name of Christ in whom all are one, and believing that all who take the Bible as their guide, diligently studying it, are Christ’s servants and our brothers. For this reason all believers on earth belong to Christ’s family of brotherly love.” Mr. Ballagh acted as the first pastor of this church.



Hundreds of Roman Catholics on their way to exile in Japan!

15 08 2010

Group portrait of a woman in a kago, two bearers and a man using a carrying pole, Japan (Felice Beato, between 1863 and 1877)

Some nine months later, Mr. Ensor saw hundreds of Roman Catholics being driven by his house on their way to exile. He says that one night when in an almost despairing frame of mind because of the opposition that was being shown towards Christianity:

“I was sitting by myself in my study and heard in the darkness a knock at the door. I went myself to answer it, and standing between the palm trees of my gate, I saw the dark figure of an armed Japanese. He paused a moment, and I beckoned him to enter: and he came in and sat down, and I asked him what his business was. He replied: ‘ A few days ago I had a copy of the Bible in my hands, and I wish to be a Christian.’ I said: ‘ Are you a stranger in these parts? Don’t you know that thousands of your people are being detained as prisoners for this?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, I know. Last night I came to your gate and as I stood there thinking of the terrible step I was about to take, fear overpowered me and I returned. But there stood by me in the night one who came to me in my dreams and said I was to go to the house of the missionary, and nothing would happen to me, and I have come.’ And drawing his long sword, he held it up to me in a form signifying the Japanese oath, and promised that he would ever keep true to me, and I received him.”

This man was afterwards baptised by the name of Titus; “for God,” says Mr. Ensor,” who comforteth those who are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus.”

Though the persecutions inaugurated by the Imperial Government were directed chiefly against the Roman Catholics, persons who were becoming interested in the teaching of the Protestant missionaries were not free from danger. In Nagasaki a young man named Futagawa Ito had feigned an interest in Christianity with the design of assassinating Mr. Ensor, from whom he requested instruction. The story of Christ’s love made so deep an   impression upon him that he soon came to believe what he had once hated. He became Mr. Ensor’s assistant, and in 1870 was helping in the printing of a tract, when he suddenly disappeared. He had been arrested on a nominal charge of having transgressed a regulation concerning the wearing of swords; but in reality because of his connection with Christianity, as was evident from the fact that he was offered his liberty if he would renounce that religion. After a while he was sent to his native province. About his neck was fastened an iron collar to which were attached five chains. These were used to secure him in his cell, and on the road each chain was held by a soldier. On his arrival at his native village his relatives were in great distress at thought of the horrible crime he had committed. His mother for several days refused to eat any food. His sister, who had been married to a priest, was divorced. The villagers came to gaze at him through the openings of the cage in which he was confined, and to talk about the way in which he ought to be punished. After some time spent in the prison of the prefectural capital, he was taken to Tokyo. Throughout the journey he was confined in a small kago, which was something like a box carried by poles that rested on the shoulders of coolies. There was not room in it for him to lie down, and the top was so low that he could not sit upright. Food was given to him through a small opening in the side of the box. Only once was he allowed to get out from his narrow cell. This was at Osaka, where he was permitted to take a bath; but all the time his chains were held by five men, who also had drawn swords to cut him down if any attempt was made to escape. Mr. Ensor, who on account of ill health had been obliged to return to England before anything had been learned about Futagawa, tells us that after a while, “Like Joseph, he found favour in the sight of the keeper of the gaol, and by-and-by, though still a prisoner himself, he was set over the other prisoners and made the keeper of the dungeon. He began to speak to those around him of the Saviour or whose sake he was bound and incarcerated. The magistrates as well as the prisoners listened to him, and treated him with great kindness; so, like St. Paul at Rome, he preached Christ from his prison, and there were between seven and eight hundred men who heard from him the Gospel, and out of these not fewer than seventy or eighty began themselves to study the Word of God.”

Fukuzawa appears on the 10,000 yen banknote engraved by Oshikiri Katsuzō.

The American Minister finally secured the prisoner’s release. The officials at first made some objection to the removal of the iron collar; but the eminent scholar, Fukuzawa Yukichi, always fertile in expedients, brought a physician, who ordered its removal for the sake of health.

Wiki Links:



Mr. and Mrs. Carrothers of the Presbyterian Mission.

15 08 2010

Dr. Verbeck in his “Historical Sketch ” considered that the first school to deserve the name of a distinctly missionary institute was one begun in Tokyo about 1869, by Mr. and Mrs. Carrothers of the Presbyterian Mission. Among the pupils were a few girls, and as these increased in number, it was thought best to form them into a separate school. One student who was about to be left with the young men came to Mrs. Carrothers to say that she was a girl and had been wearing boy’s clothing on account of the popular prejudice against boys and girls studying together.

Yokoi Shōnan (横井小楠?, September 22, 1809 – February 15, 1869); was a Bakumatsu and early Meiji period scholar and political reformer in Japan, influential around the fall of the Tokugawa bakufu. His real name was Yokoi Tokiari.

Among the men who had been prominent in favouring intercourse with foreigners was Yokoi Heishiro, a trusted counsellor of the Daimyo of Echizen. Soon after Perry’s visit to Japan, he had become a great admirer of America, and in 1866 had sent two of his nephews to the United States for education. From missionaries in Shanghai he had obtained a copy of the Bible in Chinese, and had been much impressed by its contents. He wrote to a friend : ” In a few years Christianity will come to Japan and capture the hearts of the best young men.” He urged that men should be left free to follow whatever religion seemed to them true. At the time of the Restoration he became a counsellor of the Emperor. In February, 1869, when returning from the Palace, he was assassinated. The reason given for this act was that he was suspected of harboring ” evil opinions,” meaning Christianity.

An interesting sequel to this account of Yokoi is given in Dr. A. D. Hail’s “Japan and Its Rescue.” Years after the assassination, a prayer-meeting was being held in the town of Shingu preparatory to the coming observance of the Lord’s Supper. A lumberman who had come from a place forty miles distant among the mountains said, after several had confessed their sins: ‘ I, too, have a confession to make. Before I became a Christian I used to be intensely angry towards anyone who was even suspected of being a Christian. Having heard that a prominent man in Japan had some English books in his possession and a Chinese Bible,

I felt that he must be a believer in Christianity. Many others, also, thought as I did. Twenty-four of us accordingly covenanted together .to kill this man. We watched our opportunity, and having heard that he had come to Kyoto, we divided ourselves into squads of six and placed one squad in each road along one of which we knew he must leave the palace. I was not in the squad which slew him. When we heard, however, that the deed had been accomplished and that two of the attacking party had also been killed, we all^ separated and ran away. I never knew what became of the various members of the band of twenty four. A neighbour of mine and I went to the place where we now live and have been there ever since. Now, according to the rules of Old Japan (pointing to the Christian worker that accompanied Dr. Hail), it would be that brother’s duty to take my life, as he is a nephew and so a very near relative of the murdered man. It was before I knew Christ that I could contemplate such an act I believe God has forgiven me, and I ask forgiveness of all.”

He sat down weeping, and there was a time of general and deep feeling. The nephew then said: ” I know that according to our old ideas I should be regarded as unfaithful and unfilial if I did not attempt at all hazards to take the life of the brother who has just spoken. But I know that what he did was done in ignorance of Christ and His Gospel. I, too, have been a great sinner; but have obtained mercy and am taught to forgive as I would be forgiven, and through Christ’s grace I forgive. The next day these two sat down together, with all the brethren, at the communion table.

Wiki links:


January, 1868, Power was restored to the Emperor!

15 08 2010

The Meiji Emperor (明治天皇, Meiji-tennō?) (3 November 1852 – 30 July 1912) or Meiji the Great was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death. He presided over a time of rapid change in Japan, as the nation rose from a feudal shogunate to become a world power.

January, 1868, saw the great revolution by which political power was restored to the Emperor, and a new form of government inaugurated. In May, the American Minister received a set of official gazettes, whose publication had been commenced in Kyoto. They were numbered from one to nine, with the exception that the sixth number was lacking. As this excited curiosity, a copy of the missing number was obtained and was found to contain the following law, which was to be posted with certain others in all the towns and villages, replacing similar laws of the Shogunate.

“The evil sect called Christian is strictly prohibited. Suspicious persons should be reported to the proper officers, and rewards will be given.”

The foreign representatives at once remonstrated against this edict, saying that, while they had no desire to interfere with the internal affairs of Japan, they could not remain indifferent to an act that cast such opium upon the religion of the nations from which they came, the publication of such an ordinance at such a time being inconsistent with the friendly feelings professed by the new Government.

The Japanese ministers replied by referring to the strong feeling that the people had against Christianity because of the troubles to which it had given rise in former years. It was generally supposed, they said, that its followers practise various magical rites connected with foxes and other objects of superstitious dread. While it was impossible to prevent men from believing whatever seemed to them true, it was necessary to prevent the open profession of Christianity and the performance of its rites. If the Government failed to prohibit Christianity, it would be accused of favouring it. They acknowledged that the insertion of the word ” evil ” was ill-advised, and issued new orders saying: “In sending out the edict concerning Christianity there was unfortunately a mistake in the wording. This arose from the fact that in past times there had been the strict prohibition of Christianity and also of evil sects. The ordinance must at once be corrected so as to read:

“The former prohibition of the Christian sect must be strictly observed.

“Evil sects are strictly prohibited.”

As a Japanese writer has said, “This was a very strange order. What was the mistake? Was it in calling Christianity an evil sect? If Christianity is not evil, why should it be prohibited?” The reason for the amendment not being clear, the edict in many places was left in its first form.

Wiki Links:


Prayer Meeting in Yokohama in 1866!

15 08 2010

A 1634 Japanese Red seal ship, during the Edo period

In 1866, there was sent forth from Yokohama the following address:

“Yokohama, Japan, 14th Jan., 18661.

”Brethren in Christ:

“A little company of believers of several nationalities residing here have for the last seven days been observing the concert for prayer with you of other lands, and whilst assembled this evening to supplicate the throne of grace in behalf of this heathen nation it was unanimously resolved to appoint a committee to issue an address to God’s people throughout the world, asking their prayers in a special manner for Japan.

“In order that the ground of this request may be better understood, permit us succinctly to state the circumstances in which we find ourselves here at the present time. There are now Protestant missionaries representing three or four branches of the Church of Christ in this country. Two of these are at Nagasaki and the remainder at this port. Most of these have been here since 1859, or more than six years. They see marked changes in many things since their arrival.

“At first, the prejudice and suspicion of the rulers of this country led them, for some time, frequently to send posses of officers to the houses of the missionaries, ostensibly as friends calling upon friends, but really as spies, to find out for what object these non-trading people had come to Japan. But for more than three years past, such domiciliary visits have entirely ceased. The first decisive symptom of the abatement of suspicions on the part of the Government was the sending of about a dozen young men of rank from Yedo to Kanagawa to be taught English by one of the missionaries. More recently the Governors of Nagasaki and this place authorized schools to be opened for a similar purpose under their auspices, and the Protestant missionaries were invited to take charge of them. ‘One missionary at Nagasaki has, during the last year, devoted three or four hours a day to the school there. The school at Yokohama has over fifty members, and for more than two years past, three and sometimes four of the missionaries have been engaged in it, teaching an hour or two each day. A large supply of American school-books has been imported by the Governor for this school, and the teachers have in no wise been restricted as to the manner or matter of their teaching. Through the use of these foreign school-books more or less of Christian truth is almost daily brought into contact with the minds of the pupils, and has been freely made the subject of explanation and remark in classes. The effect of this is manifest in the unhesitating manner in which the pupils make enquiries and seek information on religious subjects, and in the frequent expression given to Christian facts and doctrines in their school exercise. Four years ago, when copies of a book entitled the ‘ Christian Reader ‘ were bought of a missionary by some young men who were desirous to learn English, they at once erased the word * Christian ‘ from the title-page and cover, for fear that it would be noticed by others and bring them into trouble. Now a considerable number of those who have been under instruction have purchased copies of the Scriptures for their own use. In the schoolrooms and in our houses there is no reluctance to speak, and men do speak from day to day, of God, of Christ, and Christianity. The name of Jesus is no longer uttered with bated breath. Some of the wives of missionaries also have interesting classes of Japanese boys under their instruction in English, with great success.

“A medical missionary has a dispensary thronged with patients from day to day, where the Ten Commandments and passages of Scripture in Japanese are hung upon the walls and read by the patients.

Folding screen depicting scenes of the attendance of daimyo at Edo Castle in 1847.Hasuike-Tatsumi-Sanjū-yagura is at the center,Kikyō-mon (the inner Sakurada-mon) on the right side. Signs alongside the moat are written with the words "geba" (dismount). The attending daimyo were required to reduce their number of attendants before entering the inner castle compound. Signs with the family names of each entourage identify them (counting from the right side the first panel) from the Okayama Domain, Fukuoka Domain (fourth panel), Kurume Domain (fifth panel), Tottori Domain (sixth panel), Satsuma and Izumo Domains (seventh panel) and the Sendai Domain (eighth panel).

“Again, the Gorojiu or Council of State at Yedo is now making arrangements to erect extensive buildings in that city for a school in which some hundred young men of the higher classes are to be taught in English and a French department, and the Protestant missionaries have been requested to take charge of the former.

These facts will enable you to see to what extent the Japanese have come to repose confidence in the missionaries. Meantime the members of the several missions have applied themselves to the study of Japanese, endeavouring to make their labours in this direction available to those who may come after them, by publishing works for this purpose, and a Japanese-English Dictionary containing some 40,000 words is now nearly ready for the press. Most, if not all of them, have for a good while past been at work upon the translation of the Bible, so that, by a few months of co-operative labour, they would be ready to publish at least the four Gospels in Japanese.

“Contrary to the general expectations, it has been found that the Japanese generally do not entertain a feeling of hostility to foreigners, nor are they bigoted in religious matters. They even pride themselves upon being less stiff and more liberal in the latter respect than the Chinese. Those who belong to the class called samurai, who alone are eligible to civil or military office, manifest much eagerness to gain a knowledge of Western languages, sciences, and arts. Some of those who have been or are now studying English are in the habit of going daily to the missionaries’ houses, in groups of from two to three to six or seven, to read the English Bible, preferring this to the study of school-books. These intelligent young men frequently express their earnest desire that the day may soon come when all their countrymen shall have the Holy Scriptures and the free political institutions of which they are the basis. They despise the Buddhist creed and the Buddhist priest “One of the first teachers employed by the missionaries in 1860 recently died in the assurance that he was about to be with Jesus. He had, at his own request, been baptised in his own house and in the presence of his own family, with their full consent. Thus the first fruit of the Gospel in Japan, at least in our time, has been gathered into the chamber of God.

Here, then, we are, in the presence of this great heathen population, estimated by themselves to number 32,000,000 and you may ask: ‘What hinders the Gospel from being freely and publicly preached?’ This is the question that presses us at this moment and urges us to ask your prayers for this people.

“This Government is in some respects a strong one. In consequence of what occurred with the Jesuits and monks of former times it took the most stringent measures to efface the very name of Christian (Kiristan) as that of a crafty usurper from the memory of its subjects, or else to make it the symbol of whatever is dangerous and detestable. Unfortunately the Jesuits did not leave the Bible in Japan when they were banished from the country, else the condition of things here now might have borne more resemblance to that in Madagascar. But now, every man, woman, and child must be registered at some Buddhist or Shinto temple, or be denied a decent burial. Thus every Japanese is in the grasp of an iron hand, the hand of the Government.

There is no evidence that the old edicts against Christians have been revoked; no proclamation from the Government as yet assures the people that they would not be treated as criminals worthy of the death-penalty, should they be suspected of favouring the Christian religion. The missionary might or might not suffer from the offence of preaching, but his hearers would. Here then we hesitate, and desire to know the divine will and our duty. We would neither be cowardly nor rash. We call upon our brethren in Christ to pray that this last obstacle may be removed,— that the Treaty Powers represented in Japan may be inclined to do what Christian governments ought to do in this behalf,— that the spirit of God may move the rulers of Japan to proclaim liberty to their subjects, liberty to hear and read the word of God» — and thus that speedily these everlasting doors may be lifted up and the King of Glory may come in. May we not hope that those whom this address reaches will remember this object in their families, and closets, and meetings for prayer, and that it will be especially inserted among the subjects forming the program for the Week of Prayer in the opening of the year 1867?”

One result of this address was that great interest was aroused among supporters of the Church Missionary Society of England. One person, who withheld his name, sent to the Society a contribution of four thousand pounds to form the nucleus of a special fund for Japan, and three years after the address was issued, the Society sent out its first representative. Rev. George Ensor, who arrived at Nagasaka in January, 1869.

Wiki Links of interest:


First Baptism’s: Yano Riuzan and Murata Wakasa and Ayabe in Nagasaki! (May 1866)

9 08 2010

Yokohama Kaigan Kyokai(Church) was founded on March 10.1872, as the first Protestant church for the Japanese in this country. At the time of its establishment, it inherited the faith and tradition of the Reformed Church and Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The first pastor was Rev. J.H.Ballagh, who arrived in Yokohama with his wife in 1861 as one of the earliest Christian missionaries, after studying at Rutgers College and New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

In November, 1864, occurred the first recorded baptism on Japanese soil of a Protestant Christian. Rev. J. H. Ballagh has given the following account of this person. (* Missionary Herald, 1864, p. 6g.)

Yano Riuzan, a shaven-headed Buddhist, a yabu-isha or quack doctor, who held an inferior position, was selected by the Shogun’s Council of State for a language teacher for Dr. S. R. Brown. On my arrival on November 9nth, 1861, he became my teacher. With him I undertook the translation of St John, more to translate the Gospel into him than for the use of others. In the summer of 1864 he became quite weak. I was impressed with a failure of duty and asked him if he would be willing for me to seek a blessing upon our translation. On his consenting, I made my first impromptu Japanese prayer, which seemed to impress him much and which made a remarkable impression on me.

One day, while explaining a picture of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, he suddenly said to me : ‘ I want to be baptized ; I want to be baptized because Christ commanded it’ I warned him of the law against Christianity and the fact that, even should he escape, his son might not The son, being consulted, said that whatever would please his father should be done On the first Sabbath in November his baptism took place in the presence of his wife, son, and daughter.’

The next baptisms were those of Murata Wakasa and Ayabe in Nagasaki, May, 1866. The story of their conversion sounds like a romance. Wakasa was born in 1815, and on reaching manhood became a minister {karo) of the Daimyo of Saga. He was a man of unusual stature; his grandson asserts that he was seven feet in height and therefore was obliged to have a house made especially for him, since he was so much inconvenienced by the low rooms of ordinary Japanese buildings. When, in 1855, some French and English vessels anchored in the bay of Nagasaki, Wakasa was put in charge of a patrol appointed to watch the movements of the foreign ships. One day he noticed something floating upon the water and sent one of his men to pick it up.

Nabeshima Naomasa (鍋島 直正?, January 16, 1815 – March 8, 1871) was the 10th and final daimyō of Saga Domain in Hizen Province, Kyūshū, Japan. His honorary title was Hizen-no-Kami, and he was occasionally referred to as “Prince Hizen” in western accounts during the Bakumatsu period.

It proved to be a book printed in some unknown language. After Wakasa’s return to Saga, he became so curious to know what was in the book that he sent one of his retainers to Nagasaki, professedly to study medicine, but really to inquire about the contents of the book. He thus discovered that it was a Dutch translation of the New Testament, the book on which the religion of Europeans was founded * A while after, he learned that a Chinese translation of the book had been made, and he therefore sent a man to Shanghai to purchase a copy. With four other persons, one of whom was his younger brother, Ayabe, he then began an earnest study of the book. In the autumn of 1862, Ayabe went to Nagasaki to see if any of the foreigners there could explain some portions that had been difficult to understand. While there he met Dr. Verbeck, who gladly answered his questions. The following spring, Ayabe again appeared and warned Dr. Verbeck that the latter’s life was in danger, as a company of young men had formed a conspiracy for assassinating him. In consequence of this warning Dr. Verbeck found it advisable to withdraw with his family to China for a few months. On his return to Nagasaki he found that Ayabe had received an appointment that removed him to another part of the country; but soon after this, Wakasa sent one of his servants, named Motono, with a new set of questions. Dr. Verbeck now became, though in a round-about way, the teacher of the little Bible-class, for Motono would frequently come from Saga, a journey occupying about two days, bringing a list of questions to which answers were desired, and after receiving Dr. Verbeck’s explanations would return with them to Saga.

In May, 1866, Dr. Verbeck was informed that some high officials from the province of Hizen (in which Saga is situated) desired to come in two parties to meet him. He writes:

“Accordingly, on the afternoon of the fifteenth of May, my visitor presented himself with a retinue of about thirty men, consisting of a number of attendant officers who quite filled my parlour, and of a greater number of common retainers, all two- s worded, who had to content themselves with an outside view of our premises. . . . My principal visitor proved to be no less a personage than a relative of the Prince of Hizen. . . . After the usual introductory compliments, the absorbing topic of the ‘ Doctrine’ was entered upon with a good deal of interest. I may say that I reasoned with him of ‘ righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come/ but I could hardly brine him and his attendant to dwell on the higher topics of faith, hope, and love; for my august visitor insisted on reasoning concerning the unprofitable subjects of the origin of evil in the world, the mysterious permission of the continuance of evil, the justice of God or the apparent want of it under various aspects, and more of the like. I was prepared for his arguments, as I have found that on heathen ground we are often obliged to rehandle the bones of contention of the church of old, but my principal endeavour was to get him to see the wickedness and danger of all evil; that it is infinitely more important to know how to be now and forever saved from it than to know all about its origin and yet be left helpless; that it is vastly more worthy of our thought to know how we are to escape hell and gain heaven than to find out the exact location of either, if such a thing were possible. Yet my efforts to lead him to higher views at the time were vain. . . . “The interview of the other parties was arranged to take place on the seventeenth of May. My visitors on this occasion were Wakasa, one of the ministers of state or governors of the principality of Hizen, and his younger brother Ayabe. Wakasa was a tall man, about forty-five years of age and looking older: His is one of those faces that make sunshine in a shady place, most pleasing and amiable in expression, with a very dignified bearing, his eyes beamed love and pleasure as I met him He said he had long known me in his mind, had long desired to see and converse with me, and that he was very happy that now in God’s providence he was permitted to do so. . . .

Ranald MacDonald (3 February 1824 – August 24, 1894) was the first man to teach the English language in Japan, including educating Einosuke Moriyama, one of the chief interpreters to handle the negotiations between Commodore Perry and the Tokugawa Shogunate.

“At this time there were admitted to our parlor Wakasa, Ayabe, Wakasa’s two sons, young men of twenty and twenty-two respectively, and the servant, Motono, who had acted the part of messenger between us for four years. How different was this meeting from that of two days before! These men like those of Berea in the Apostles time, had received the Word with all readiness of mind and did not come to puzzle themselves or me with unprofitable controversies, but asked several quite natural  and sensible questions to gain additional light on some points in reference principally to Christian character and customs. They had been taught of the Spirit.

“They showed great familiarity with their Bibles, made several pertinent quotations, and when during the conversation I referred them to sacred passages, they readily identified them and always accepted them as conclusive proofs. They were prepared to believe all that Jesus said and to do all that He required. It must be remembered that these men had been studying the Scriptures and reading a great variety of religious books with great diligence for at least four years, having begun to do so with a favorable disposition of mind. Like perhaps most of the higher classes in this country, they had no faith in Buddhism, the religion of the common people, while at the same time they were graciously with-held from falling into the opposite of a total atheism. Their minds were in a state of expectant transition when, just in time, they were led to search for and find salvation through faith in Christ.

“We spent a delightful afternoon in conversing on the saving power and love of Christ, and just as I thought my friends were about to leave me, Wakasa took me by surprise by inquiring if I would object to baptizing him and his brother Ayabe before they left town. I was surprised because so many Japanese had at different times talked to me of the great peril of becoming Christians in the full sense of the word. I had expected from these men to hear something as follows: “We believe and would like to be baptized; but we cannot think of realizing our wish in this one particular so long as the law of the land hangs the inevitable sword over the heads of all who dare to change their religion; for the present we must remain as we are, but when this cruel edict is repealed, we will come forward for baptism”

“I warned my visitors not to think lightly of the act and not to entertain superstitious notions concerning its efficacy. I urged the solemn importance of the sacrament and the great obligations which devolve on those to whom it is administered; I repeated the questions which, according to our form, they would have to answer with a hearty affirmative; and finally told them to decide, as if in the presence of God who searches the heart. They listened attentively and repeated their desire to be baptized, requesting only that it should be done and kept in secret.

“The following Lord’s Day, the Day of Pentecost [May 20], was chosen, the hour selected being seven o’clock, p. m. Wakasa, whose position did not permit him to move about the streets without a half-dozen followers, and who could not visit me without making himself conspicuous, I did not see again until the appointed hour on Sunday night; but Ayabe came to me twice during the intervening days, and I gave him such instructions for himself and his brother as I thought might be useful to them.

Moriyama Einosuke (森山栄之助?, 1820 - 1872) was a samurai during the Tokugawa Shogunate, and an interpreter of Dutch and English. He studied English under Ranald MacDonald, and as “Chief Dutch Interpreter” was one of the chief men involved in the negotiations with Commodore Perry in regard to the opening of Japan to the outside world.

“At last, when the Sabbath evening came, the two candidates presented themselves, attended into the room by none but Motono. The retinue, consisting of eight followers, was dismissed at our door with orders to return in an hour. I had arranged everything beforehand to avoid unnecessary detention. The shutters were closed; the lamps lit, a white cloth spread on the centre-table, a large cut-glass fruit-dish, for want of anything better, prepared to serve as a font. Besides Motono, my wife was the only witness present, so that there were but five persons in the room. I began by reading Matthew twenty-eight, then dwelt on the concluding verses, spoke of the purpose of missionary societies, and referred to the bearing of the words of Jesus upon our present meeting. I exhorted them not to be discouraged in their peculiarly difficult situation, but rather, by a life of faith, of love, and of holiness, to disarm all the criticism of their neighbors and even persecution itself. We then united in prayer both in English and Japanese, proceeded with our liturgy, translating ex tempore the form for baptism; and after the administration of the sacrament, concluded with prayer and thanksgiving.”

On reaching home, Wakasa and Ayabe reported to their Daimyo what they had done. He left them unmolested. In some way Wakasa’s conversion became known to the Central Government, and the Daimyo was ordered to punish him. Nothing was done, however, except to burn some of Wakasa’s books.

Soon after this Dr. Verbeck removed to Tokyo, and thus had no more direct dealings with Wakasa. The latter soon retired from active life to his country villa, where he spent much of his time in translating the Bible from Chinese into Japanese. He died in 1874, with a firm faith in his Savior.

Though it is in anticipation of our narrative, it may be well here to give some further intelligence of Wakasa’s family. In 1880, Rev. Mr. Booth of Nagasaki noticed in his audience on Sunday morning two strangers, one of whom was evidently a woman of high rank. They gave close attention to his address, and their eyes often filled with tears. At the close of the service they introduced themselves, one being Wakasa’s daughter and the other her former nurse. They had learned from Wakasa the Lord’s Prayer and some other portions of Scripture that he had written out for them in simple characters.

The daughter had married and was living in Nagasaki; but she was acquainted with no Christians there. She was about to remove with her husband to Osaka, and desired to receive baptism before going there. Therefore, she had sent to Saga for her old nurse, and they had attempted to find some Christian teacher. They at first fell in with a Roman Catholic priest, who gave them a prayer-book; but on examination, its teaching did not seem to them like that which they had before received.

They were afraid to make inquiries, fearing that they would be insulted as suspected followers of Christianity. After wandering about the city for some days, they saw a shop where the characters on the covers of the books seemed familiar. On opening one volume, they found the Sermon on the Mount, and recognized its words. They purchased several books and had a long talk with the bookseller, who, as it was Saturday, told them where they could find a Christian service the next day.

As both asked for baptism, Mr. Booth asked their reason for desiring it. ”’Whosever believeth and is baptized shall be saved,’ “they quoted. When he said: “How can I know that you are true believers?” the younger woman replied: *’it has been my custom for years to go into my husband’s storehouse every day for private meditation and prayer to God and the Father of Jesus Christ.” “How do you know that this salvation is for you?” “It is written: ‘ Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.*” After some days had been spent in instructing the women, the rite was administered. The younger woman’s husband was present, paying close attention to the service and afterwards expressing a desire to know more about Christianity.

The nurse soon returned to Saga, where she resumed her work of teaching a small school for girls. She also organized a Bible-class for women, and its members soon became the teachers of a Sunday school. Though she is no longer living, the influence of her work still remains in Saga. Among the believers there was a son of Wakasa. The daughter, who removed to Osaka and later to Tokyo, became prominent in religious and philanthropic work. Her husband also became a Christian.

At the close of a meeting held in Tokyo about 1883, a man stepped forward and said to Dr. Verbeck: “I am Ayabe. Since my baptism I have been in the army and also employed in surveying. During all these years I have always carried the Bible with me, and I have been accustomed to read it daily.” The next day he came with his only daughter, about fifteen years old, asking that she be baptized. At one time he was a local preacher in the Methodist Church.

Wiki Links:





Missionary Conference held at Osaka in 1883!

9 08 2010

Griffis with a group of his students.

In a historical sketch prepared for the Missionary Conference held at Osaka in 1883, Dr. Verbeck quoted as follows from various reports that described the conditions under which the early missionaries labored:

“The missionaries soon found that they were regarded with great suspicion and closely watched, and all intercourse with them was conducted under strict surveillance.”

“No teacher could be obtained at Kanagawa until March, 1860, and then only a spy in the employment of the Government. A proposal to translate the Scriptures caused his frightened withdrawal.”

” The efforts of the missionaries for several years, owing to the surveillance exercised by the Government, were mostly confined to the acquisition of the language.”

“We found the natives not at all accessible touching religious matters. When such a subject was mooted in the presence of a Japanese, his hand would almost involuntarily be applied to his throat, to indicate the extreme perilousness of such a topic. If on such an occasion more than one happened to be present, the natural shyness of these people became, if possible, still more apparent; for you will remember that there was then little confidence between man and man, chiefly owing to the abominable system of secret espionage, which we found in full swing when we first arrived and, indeed, for several years after.”

“The missionaries shared with the other foreign residents in the alarms incident to a disturbed state of the country, and were sometimes exposed to insult and even to assault.”

“The swaggering samurai armed with two swords, cast many a scowling look at the hated foreigners, whom they would gladly have expelled from their sacred soil.”

At first it was the common impression that the Japanese language could be easily learned. It was afterwards found to be one of the most difficult in the world. The colloquial language differs much from that used in books. The civilization of old Japan came largely from China and with it came the Chinese ideographs and a large number of words. Speaking roughly, it may be said that it was necessary to learn two ancient Chinese dialects in addition to the original Japanese language. The use of the ideographs was, indeed, a help to those who had learned them in China, while to others they added greatly to the difficulties of study. Dr. Hepburn has said that at first the only help possessed by the missionaries in the way of books was the vocabulary translated from the Dutch by Dr. Medhurst. After a while Hoffman’s Grammar of the Japanese language was sent to them, a few leaves at a time. No teachers could be obtained, and so new words were picked up from servants, carpenters, visitors, and others. After a year, a man offered to teach Japanese in exchange for instruction in English. When, however, the translation of Matthew was begun, the man, after completing the first chapter, refused to do any more, saying that it would cost him his life.

Townsend Harris had the US Legation relocate at the Zenpuku-ji Temple from 1859, following the Treaty of Amity and Commerce.

Townsend Harris had the US Legation relocate at the Zenpuku-ji Temple from 1859, following the Treaty of Amity and Commerce.

Townsend Harris, who was now the United States Minister, continued to show a deep interest in Christian work. Dr. W. A. P. Martin, the well-known missionary in China, who visited Japan in 1859, wrote: ” Mr. Harris received of me more than one hundred geographies (for which he paid) for distribution among officials, and asked me to send him Bibles for the same purpose. Still he thinks it best for missionaries to confine themselves to the sale of books, as the only safe ground.”

Dr. Martin himself has had no small part in the evangelization of Japan. A book (“Tendosogen’) on the evidences of Christianity, which he wrote for the Chinese, was among those early brought to Japan, where many thousand copies have been sold.

” A letter written by Mr. Liggins in 1861, and published in The Spirit of Missions, gives a good summary of the situation in Japan at that time:

“As some persons, because Japan is not open to missionary labors to the extent they wish it was, speak as if it were not opened at all, it seems necessary to state what missionaries can do at the present time in that country.

“1. They can procure native books and native teachers by which to acquire the language, and of course, the acquisition of the language is, during the first few years, a principal part of their duty.

“2. They can, as they are able, prepare philological works to enable subsequent missionaries and others to ac9uire the language with much less labor and in much less time than they themselves have to give to it; and each, in the course of a few years, may make his contribution towards a complete version of the Holy Scriptures in the Japanese language.

“3. They can furnish the Japanese, who are anxious to learn English, with suitable books in that language, and thus greatly facilitate social and friendly intercourse between the two races.

“4. They can dispose by sale of a large number of the historical, geographical, and scientific works prepared by the Protestant missionaries in China. Faithful histories of Christian countries tend to disarm prejudice and to recommend the religion of the Bible; while works on true science are very useful in a country where astrology, geometry, and many false teachings on scientific subjects generally, are so interwoven with their religious beliefs.

“5. They can sell the Scriptures, and religious books and tracts in the Chinese language, and thus engage in direct missionary work. As books in this language are understood by every educated Japanese, and as the sale of them is provided for by an article in the treaty, we have here a very available means of at once conveying religious truth to the minds of the Japanese.

“6. They can by their Christian walk and conversation, by acts of benevolence to the poor and afflicted, and by kindness and courtesy to all, weaken and dispel the prejudices against them, and convince the observant Japanese that true Christianity is something very different from what intriguing Jesuits of former days, and unprincipled traders and profane sailors of the present day, would lead them to think it is.

** Living epistles of Christianity are as much needed in Japan as written ones; and it would be very sad if either were withheld through a mistaken idea that Japan ‘is not open to missionary labor.’

Just after the signing of the Treaties, the statement of some was: “Japan is fully opened to the spread of Christianity.’ This the writer opposed at the time as contrary to the facts of the case; and he has now endeavored to show that it is equally erroneous to assert, as some do, that it is not opened at all. What the writer has said on the subject is not the result of hearsay or of a flying visit to Japan; but of an experience in the work during the ten months that he resided in the country. This experience convinces him, that if missionaries faithfully embrace the openings which there are already, others will speedily be made; and the time will soon come when it may be said with truth, ‘Japan is fully opened to the spread of Christianity.’

“But perhaps it may be asked: ‘Is it not still a law that a native who professes Christianity shall be put to death?’ To this an affirmative answer must be given; but it should be remembered that another law was passed at the same time which declared that any Japanese who returned to his native country after having been for any cause whatever in any foreign country should be put to death. As this latter law, though unrepealed, is not executed, so it is believed that the law against professing Christianity will in like manner not be enforced.

“In conversing with Mr. Harris, the United States Minister at Yedo, on this subject, he stated that he had used every endeavour to have this obnoxious law repealed, but without success ; a principal reason being that the Government feared that it would form a pretext for the old conservative party to over-throw the Government and again get into power.

“I do not believe said Mr. Harris, “after all that the other foreign ministers and myself have said on the subject, that this law will ever be enforced ; but if it should be, even in a single instance, there will come such an earnest protest from myself and the representatives of the other Western Powers that there will not likely be a repetition of it”

“The non-repeal of this law, therefore, while it is a matter of regret, is nevertheless not to be adduced as a proof that Japan is still closed to missionary effort, but only as a reason for a prudent course of procedure on the part of the missionaries.”

Whatever the laws may have been, the Government seemed to have little fear of the missionaries, for in 1861 it sent a number of young men from Yedo to Kanagawa that they might be taught English by them.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers