The first Young Men’s Christian Association among the Japanese was probably that organized this year in Tokyo. Rev. Messrs. Kozaki, Ibuka, Hiraiwa, and Uemura were prominent in the early days of the society. Meetings of its members were held for religious and philosophical discussions, a small library was formed, and there were occasional evangelistic services. It formed the foundation of the present Association in Tokyo. In October there was published under its auspices the Rikugo Zasshi (The Cosmos), a magazine that soon gained considerable circulation and influence. In this connection it may be noted that about the same time there was started in Kyoto a periodical entitled Ryokyo Zasshi (The Magazine of the Two Religions), which announced as its object the protection of Buddhism and Shintoism from the alarming advances being made by Christianity.
A letter written in July, 1881, by Rev. C T, Blanchet of the American Episcopal Mission, mentions four indications of the rapid extension of Christianity; — 1. The establishment, with the Government’s approval, of a number of Christian papers. 2. The greater demand for Christian literature, and the rapidly increasing supply. 3. The renewed energy put forth by the Buddhists in trying to bolster up their system, which was daily losing its hold upon the people. 4. The tacit allowance by the Government of preaching the Gospel and of selling the Scriptures in the interior as well as in the open ports, irrespective of the protests of the Buddhists against the same.
The circulation of the Scriptures had largely increased. The sales of Bibles and “portions” by the three societies — the American Bible Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the National Society of Scotland — amounted to 115,000 copies, for which 16,000 yen were received. It was the general rule of these societies to sell and not give away the Scriptures, the retail price being but little, if any, below the actual cost of production. Most of the missions and other societies that published Christian books put the price at such a sum as covered all the expenses of publication and distribution.
About this time Rev. Mr. Okuno, at the request of the superintendent of a large prison near Tokyo, commenced to preach every week to the criminals. His audiences usually numbered from eight hundred to a thousand. These services were kept up for about two years, when the opposition of Buddhist priests caused their discontinuance.