History of the Bahá'í Faith in Japan 1914-1938Barbara R. Sims.
In the spring of 1925, through Divine guidance, a little home in Manoa Valley in Honolulu came into my possession. There I was free to teach His Cause and often entertained friends whom I wished to attract to the Faith. In the fall of 1926, I went to California, remaining there for six months, I returned to Honolulu on March 20, 1927. There on May sixth, came the first intimation from the beloved Guardian that he wished me to go again to Japan. It came most unexpectedly in powerful dynamic words. The letter was dated Haifa, April 2, 1927. In the Guardian's writing were the words:
My dear co-worker: I long to hear of your determination to return to Japan and pick up the thread of your unsparing efforts and activities for the promotion of the Cause of God. I feel that your destiny lies in that far-off and promising country where your noble and pioneer services future generations will befittingly glorify and thankfully remember. May the Beloved remove every obstacle from your path and enable you to resume your active work in that land. Shoghi
In the meantime the Institute of Pacific Relations held their second Conference in Honolulu in the summer of 1927, and I was able to contact, not only Japanese delegates to the Conference, but a Korean young woman, and also a Chinese woman delegate whose brother, Mr. Liu of Canton, was a Bahá'í (See Star of the West Vol. XVIII, pages 212-216).
Dr. Shiroshi Nasu of the Tokyo Imperial University, who first heard of the Cause from Roy Wilhelm, in West Englewood, New Jersey, was a delegate to the Conference, and I showed him the letter I had received from Shoghi Effendi. On his return to Japan, he wrote me, "As our steamer nears Yokohama, Fuji San is in sight. This is the symbol of our welcome to you! Come to Japan!"
On August 22, 1927, another beautiful letter came from the beloved Guardian:
Haifa, July 16, 1927
Dr. George Jacob Augur, our dear Bahá'í brother who had served the Cause faithfully, passed to his reward on September 14, 1927, in Honolulu. The following day, seeking guidance, I decided upon the date of January 10, 1928, to sail for Japan, as I could get passage then. Knowing the conditions existing in Japan, I was fully aware that my path would not be easy, but with His assurance and the glorious words of the Guardian I could leave all in God's hands. Again on November eighth, I was reinforced by the beloved Guardian in another letter.
Haifa, October 12, 1927
After the ascension of the Master I began collecting His Tablets to Japanese living in Japan, in order to have them published and preserved for future times. In answer
Haifa, October 22, 1927
On November twenty-eighth, another precious message came to me from the beloved Guardian:
Before sailing for Japan, I called on Governor Wallace R. Farrington. He was a man of high principles, and as he had known my family for many years, he gave me a very fine letter of introduction which bore the seal of the Territory of Hawaii. In it he mentioned my interest in the Bahá'í Faith and commended me to all government officials wherever I might journey.
Return to Japan
There were only a few passengers on the voyage to Japan and the ocean was stormy. I found opportunity, though, to give the Bahá'í Message to an American woman who was married to a Filipino and was going with him to his home in Manila. Another passenger, whom I spoke to of the Cause was a young Japanese. He had already heard of it in Geneva where he had met Martha Root. When the steamer docked in Yokohama, the dear young man, Susumu Aibara, came to meet me. He had graduated from Keio University and was then working in the Tokyo Branch of the League of Nations office. At the steamer I received a letter from an American friend living in Tokyo, who advised me to go the Sakurai house there where a room had been prepared for me. It was the house I had stayed in when I arrived in Tokyo in November, 1914, and it was there that the Bahá'í meetings were first held in Japan. In a humble little room I settled with all my baggage. I was grateful to the kind friend and the bright sunshine which entered the room. Yuri Mochizuki, who had spent three years in France since we had met, soon came to see me.
Soon after my arrival I called on the editor of the American newspaper The Japan Advertiser, Mr. Benjamin Fleischer. We had a talk along spiritual lines and the next day a very kind notice appeared in the paper about my return to Tokyo and the Bahá'í Cause, in which it was stated that as a Bahá'í I received nothing for my service.
Then I called on the American Ambassador, Mr. McVeagh, and showed him the letter I carried from Governor Farrington of Honolulu. When I offered to present him with a Bahá'í booklet, to my surprise he said he did not need it for he already knew about the Teachings and had entertained ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in his summer home in Dublin, New Hampshire. It was in Mrs. Agnes Parsons' home there that he had met ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. He not only invited me to a tea party at his home to meet his wife, but offered to do anything he could to help me. When I met Mrs. McVeagh, she seemed to be greatly impressed that in Tokyo she should meet an American woman Bahá'í who was there teaching the Cause. She was an intimate friend of Mrs. Parsons, whom she called
When I left Japan after the great earthquake of 1923, all was destruction. On my return I found a great change had taken place in the reconstruction which had gone forward daily, and Tokyo and Yokohama were being built up again into modern cities. This modern Japan had been called a country of light because of the rapid extension of electricity to all parts of its Empire. A spiritual change was also taking place.
In a letter to the friends on March 4, 1928, I wrote: "c/o Sakurai, 31 Nichome Fujimicho, Kudan, Tokyo. Perhaps you might be interested to know the meaning of the above address. 'Ni' is two and 'Chome' is block. 'Fuji' is the sacred mountain. 'Mi' is to see, and 'Cho' is street, so it means the street where one can see Mt. Fuji. 'Ku' is nine, and 'dan' is steps. It is above the nine steps, and here it was that I came when I first arrived in Tokyo, and where the first meetings were held and the first student wrote to ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. That was in November, 1914, though it was the following spring when Mr. Fukuta, the young student saw the Light of this Day. I had never expected to be back here again, but as it was His guidance, it must be His bounty.
"Six weeks have passed and now I feel more adjusted to the change of life, and also to a new Tokyo since the great earthquake of 1923. The inner joy too has come which alone is through His love.
"On the twenty-fourth, I was asked to speak at the Pan-Pacific luncheon on the Bahá'í Movement. This, I am sure, came through the letter which Mr. Ford gave me to the Director here in which he mentioned my connection with the Bahá'í Movement, and also of the Bahá'í table at the weekly luncheon in Honolulu . . . Before going to the luncheon, I followed Martha Root's way of writing out a talk, keeping as near as I could to ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's words, and then, when the luncheon was over, I gave it to the two newspaper men, that is, the two English papers, and so of course it was correctly reported. The morning Advertiser published a column, and the evening paper the principles, so now we can feel that all the English reading people know something of our Movement in this Far East, and we know it was only His assistance which brought it about. The luncheons here are quite formal and are presided over by a Viscount. In introducing me he said that he did not know what the Bahá'í Movement was, but afterwards spoke very kindly and said he also believed in the principle of the oneness of religions at their foundations, and then, turning to me he added that he hoped the Movement would have success here.
"The League of Nations Association of Japan which has 10,000 members, is publishing an article on the Movement with ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's picture, in their publication, so it will reach 10,000 persons all over Japan. To my great surprise they sent me a check for the article. Instead of returning the money to them, I have put it into a year subscription to the Star of the West and some Bahá'í books for their library here . . .
"Yuri Mochizuki is translating the booklet, What is the Bahá'í Movement? into Japanese and I hope to publish 2,000 of these.
"On February nineteenth, I had the joy of receiving a message from Shoghi Effendi, which was forwarded from Honolulu and was dated December thirtieth. That it is a relief to him, and that it gives him hope and pleasure, can only be a joy to me that I can be permitted the Bounty of being here to work."
Haifa, Dec. 30, 1927
Dr. R. Masujima
In Honolulu in 1924, a Pan-Pacific Food Conference was held which was attended by Dr. R. Masujima, an international lawyer. His address at the conference, which was published, had the spirit of the Bahá'í Teachings. I quoted from this in an article for the Star of the West (See Vol. XV, page 207), and later sent him a copy of the magazine. He wrote in reply that he had already heard of the Bahá'í Cause from some American friends. On my return to Tokyo, I met him and was invited by him to a garden party which he gave on March twenty-first. In a letter, April twenty-second, I wrote: "On March twenty-first, there was held a Garden Party here given by Dr. Masujima in his garden. He is the Chairman of the Good Relations Club of Tokyo, which is one of the Pan-Pacific clubs started by Alexander Hume Ford, the Director in Honolulu. Dr. Masujima is a friend of the Bahá'ís. He likes the Teachings which he heard from Mrs. Cook (Mrs. Inez Greven) and her sister in New York. He also knows Mountfort Mills. March twenty-first is a national holiday here. It may be called 'the day of ancestor worship,' and in Japanese is 'O Higan'. Dr. Masujima did not know it was the Bahá'í New Year day when he invited me to his party on that day. It was a most beautiful day and there were gathered about
"Two members of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom were here on their way from China to America, Miss Pye (English) and Mme Drevet (French). Miss Pye was wearing a beautiful Bahá'í ring. She told me she was not a Bahá'í, but Mrs. White, mother of Sir Frederick White, had put it on her finger and told her it would help her. This especially interested me, as Sir Frederick White headed the English delegation at the Institute of Pacific Relations in Honolulu last summer.
"Easter Sunday, April sixth, was also this year Buddha's birthday. On that day it was my privilege to give the Bahá'í Message to some students of the School for the Blind here. Among them were two who spoke Esperanto fluently. There is in Tokyo now a group of young women Esperantists. One of them attended the Japanese Esperanto Convention held in Osaka. It is the first time for a young woman in Japan to attend such a Convention. She also spoke in some of the sessions, although not on the program. The young women Esperantists here in Tokyo have a conversational meeting one Sunday afternoon in each month to which I go and hope some of them will become interested in our Bahá'í Cause. One of them asked me questions at the last meeting."
Dr. Masujima remained a staunch friend of the Cause during the following years I spent in Japan, but did not become a declared follower. For three years the Bahá'ís held their Naw-Rúz gathering in his lovely Japanese garden in Tokyo, and on several occasions they met in his law library building in the garden, where also Bahá'í talks were given to the law students from Keio University who gathered there once a week.
In May, three students from the University of Hawaii came to Japan on a Good Will Tour to take part in a debating contest with students from the Universities of Tokyo. The three students were of Chinese, Japanese and Anglo-Saxon origin. I had a short visit with them and told them of the Bahá'í Cause, giving each a Bahá'í booklet in English. I also gave the Japanese student, one in Japanese, the Chinese, one in Chinese, and the Anglo-Saxon, one in Esperanto. The young men listened most sincerely to me and I hoped the seed would sometime blossom. (See Star of the West Vol. XIX, page 156).
On May sixteenth I wrote a friend: "Last week I had the joy of a message from our Guardian. From his words I can know that he has the insight to know and understand conditions . . . Apparently things are not moving fast here, but after all it is the Spirit and the power of the Covenant which alone can move the hearts and there are conditions here which are not a help, but we know that in time all will be clear. The Tablet of Ahmad is indeed wonderful to read!"
The letter follows:
Haifa, March 13, 1928
All Japanese Religions Conference
The next event of spiritual importance in Japan was the Japanese Religions Conference, held in June in Tokyo in commemoration of the Enthronement Ceremonies of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. From the prospectus of the Conference the following is taken: "Japan has an historic record of the creation of a new culture through the cooperation of the three religions, namely Shintoism, Confucianism and Buddhism under the patronage and guidance of Prince Shotoku. The history of religions in this country is unique in its display of a magnanimous spirit of one religion toward another . . . Buddhism, the glory of oriental civilization has attained its highest development in this country; and
The fifteen hundred delegates who gathered for the Conference included Buddhists, Christians, Shintoists and others. The evening of the second day, a dinner was held where a wonderful spirit of brotherly love prevailed. Rev. Kozaki, the presiding officer, spoke of the Parliament of Religions which convened in Chicago during the Columbia Exposition of 1893, which he had attended, and how he had since witnessed the development of the spirit of cooperation of all religions both in Japan and the world at large. It was at the Parliament of Religions that the Bahá'í Message was first heard of in America. Three foreigners were invited to speak that evening. One was a Christian minister from Canada, another a German missionary resident of Tokyo and myself, the only woman who spoke that night. In a letter I wrote, June twentieth: "On June 5-8 there was held here in Tokyo the first National Religions Conference of Japan composed of Buddhists, Shintoists, Christians and others. Through His power I was invited to be a member of the Conference and to speak a few words the evening of the 'get together' banquet. Everything was in Japanese and although I know enough to get along here, I could not understand the speeches. It alone, though, was a great sight to see the fifteen hundred delegates of that assembly. The night of the banquet there were fifteen speakers. Without the language one could sense the wonderful spirit of the meeting. When my turn came, the director, who himself interpreted for me, asked me to speak two minutes. As I arose the audience did not know where to look, for I had been sitting at one end of the room, and the director had come over to be near to me. He then said, 'Koko,' meaning 'here,' and all eyes turned and Bahá'u'lláh guided the words which were spoken. His name was mentioned and His words, 'Ye are all the leaves of one tree . . .' and the words of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, 'Religions are many but the reality of religion is one. The days are many but the sun is one . . . ' (Promulgation of Universal Peace Vol. I, pg. 122). There was a great response shown to His words . . . The next day the members of the Conference were invited to visit the Imperial Gardens of Shinjuku, which are only opened on rare occasions. When I went to the Conference Hall, on the steps I met the German minister who had spoken in Japanese the night before. His first words to me were of the great impression the words (which had been put into my mouth) had made the night before. From the Conference hall the members walked to the gardens, about a mile distant. It seemed like a pilgrimage, the members walking in files of twos and threes. During the walk I was enabled to speak of the Bahá'í Revelation to the German minister and to a Canadian missionary who interpreted for the only other English speaking person that night. The missionary had been in Japan twenty-three years, and he also spoke to me of the impressiveness of the (His) words of the night before. It was all together a wonderful demonstration of His power and I thanked my Lord for all His goodness and assistance to this servant. Every word spoken at the Conference is recorded, so His great words go down in the history of this first independent all-religions conference in Japan. In the past the government has tried once or twice to have such a conference, but this one came from the people themselves and was entirely independent."
From the Conference greetings were sent to religious associations throughout the world. In reply to his greeting, Shoghi Effendi expressed keen interest in the work of the Association and the assurance of his hope for its success.
In another letter I wrote: "A source of great happiness to me this last week has been the receiving of a letter from Haifa from a lady who left here in March on her way to the United States by way of Europe. She has spent most of her life in Japan and is a great friend of the people. She is very open-minded and has known of the Bahá'í Cause for many years. Before she left Japan, I wrote in her address book names of Effie Baker and Mr. Fujita, Haifa, Pilgrim House. Then I left it to His guidance, thinking that if it was the right time for her to go there, the way would open. She did not even then know whether she, and the companion she was traveling with, would stop in Palestine. Before her visit to Haifa, she had written a friend here about Jerusalem and called it, 'the city of hate,' for she wrote the people of the different religions and sects there, although all praying, were hating each other. Here is what she writes me from Haifa. 'Here I am . . . . in the guest house of the Bahá'ís. It is a palace and house of rest and peace. The best possible hospitality and you may imagine how delighted I was to find Fujita San here. We have just been having a good talk about our dear Japan. Miss Baker, or Effie, as she is called, is a wonderful little hostess. I should like to spend weeks with her and Fujita San. She has explained many things to me. To be met with an open hand at the door, a cheery welcome is certainly a blessing in this far away land. Palestine is beautiful but very different from Japan . . . . Here the East and West are housed under an American roof. It looks like unity does it not? . . . Your good name opened the doors wide for us.'
"Once a week I have been going to Waseda University English Speaking Society for their noon hour conversation lesson. It is a source of joy to me . . . I think of the words which Shoghi Effendi once wrote me, 'I will pray that you will be guided by our dear Master who loved you so dearly and wanted you so keenly to train and guide the rising generation in Japan into the light of this divine Revelation.' And of course these words give me great inspiration just to know that I am doing His will.
"The Esperanto students of Waseda University, Keio University and Medical College have all invited me to be a guest at their meetings and a most beautiful spirit has been felt. One cannot help but love these students who are striving for these universal aims.
"I now have a sitting room here of my own and pray that His love will be felt here. It is the very room where in 1915, I entertained Martha Root on her first journey around the world, and where many happy Bahá'í meetings were held in the past when I lived in Japan the first time. This is my third visit to Japan and each time it has only been through His direction that I have come here to work."
During the summer of 1928, I went to Lake Nojiri. I
Messages from Shoghi Effendi
The beloved Guardian continually sent reinforcements to me in his precious letters, which were the joy and strength of my heart, as follows:
Haifa, Mar. 29, 1928This precious letter reached me in Tokyo on Christmas day, 1928.
In the fall of 1928, I suddenly discovered that the young women's Esperanto group which I had been attending each month was held in the home of Communists. Because of conditions existing in Japan at that time, Communism had spread, especially among the youth and many students were imprisoned. I was myself watched by the police, as well as those who came to see me, although I was striving to eliminate the cause of
There was at that time in Japan a religion called Oomoto, which had rapidly spread throughout the country. The head of the religion was regarded by the followers as a Manifestation of God. They used Esperanto in their propaganda. In their publications they had taken some of the Bahá'í principles and teachings and published them as their own. In regard to these conditions in Japan, I wrote the beloved Guardian. In a letter from him dated December 21, 1928, were these words in his own hand:
My dear and valued co-worker:
In a letter dated February 14, 1929, I wrote: "Since the New Year has dawned it seems more and more that a Divine Wisdom is working to draw all the Bahá'ís of the world into a closer love and unity than before. With the coming of this New Year, hope and inspiration have come that His Cause may make greater progress in this land where Shoghi Effendi has bid me work.
"It has brought joy to me that on the ninth of this month the Bahá'í booklet called No. 9 Ben in Esperanto Braille was finished in a school for the blind here. This was a reprint of one which had been made in Stockstund, Sweden, through the efforts of Martha Root. Often on Sunday evening I had the privilege of meeting with students from this school at the home of one of their teachers (Keiji Sawada) who desires for them spiritual comfort.
"Since the New Year, on Friday evening many Esperantists have been coming to my room where we speak of the Bahá'í Teachings. One of these young men had corresponded with an American lady Esperantist who is a Bahá'í and had sent him one of the Bahá'í Esperanto booklets.
"On the ninth of this month there was held the second oratorical Esperanto meeting of medical and pharmacist students of Tokyo, and for the first time, young women from a women's medical college took part with the young men.
"In December for twenty nights Esperanto lessons were given over the radio here where there are 10,000 listeners, so in this land Esperanto is well known and understood, and it is of the greatest help in contacting those who have the capacity for the Message of Bahá'u'lláh.
"Whatever we do in striving to attain to the wishes which ‘Abdu'l-Bahá with His great love left to us, we cannot help but reap great benefits for the Cause of God, and hasten the day of 'the Most Great Peace.'
"Among the members of the Imperial Academy, the highest educational association in Japan, there are three Esperantists. A few years ago this body sent their approval of Esperanto being accepted as the universal language, to similar groups of educationalists in other countries, but their approval was not accepted by the others.
"In meeting strangers here, a joy has come many times when I have had occasion to tell them of my purpose in this country. Often they tell me that they had heard of the Cause in their homes in America and the
"In the January number of one of a Japanese women's magazines. I was able to publish an article on, 'Showa a New Era for Japanese Women.' 'Showa' is the name given to the present Emperor's reign and means 'bright peace,' so this should be a great era!"
In a letter of February seventeenth, I wrote: "Thing have changed here very much, that is, my work, and I realize more the reason why Shoghi Effendi wrote me he could not exaggerate the importance, nay the urgent necessity of my return here. He also told me not to be disheartened at first with trials and obstacles in His Path. So the way was plain. Since coming here I have had the blessing of five messages from him. He knows the needs and his words help and inspire me always to strive more. Most of my work seems to be through the Esperantists."
Mr. Keiji Sawada, who was a student at the Government School for the Blind in Tokyo when I first met him during my second stay in Japan, had since graduated and become a teacher in the school. He had a little Japanese home and a woman who cared for it. It was there I often spoke to the students of the Blind School whom Mr. Sawada invited to meet me, and through his kindness the lives of several students were brightened with spiritual light. God's bounty to me was the love He put into my heart for these blind friends, and my greatest joy was in sharing with them His blessings to me.
At the time of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan's coronation in the fall of 1928, through the suggestion of Dr. R. Masujima, seven especially bound volumes of Bahá'í books were sent from American Bahá'ís as a gift to him. When the books reached Tokyo, the coronation ceremonies had already taken place in Kyoto, and the presentation of the books was delayed. On May twenty-second, Dr. Masujima received a letter from the Minister of the Imperial Household, stating that the seven books, which were named, had been presented to His Imperial Majesty on that day. Accompanying the books were these words from Shoghi Effendi.
May the perusal of Bahá'í literature enable Your Imperial Majesty to appreciate the sublimity and penetrative power of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation and inspire you on this auspicious occasion to arise for its worldwide recognition and triumph.
In June and July messages came from the beloved Guardian as follows:
Haifa, April 19, 1929
In the message of June 15, 1929, he wrote in part:
The news we receive from the different parts of the world are mostly very encouraging, and definitely show how the Master's hand is constantly helping us and furthering His Cause.And in the Guardian's handwriting: With the assurance of my continued prayers for the success of your unsparing and constant efforts for the spread of our beloved Cause, Your true brother, Shoghi
During the summer I made the pilgrimage to Mt. Fuji (See Star of the West, Vol. XX, page 285).
In October I went to Kyoto, where the Institute of Pacific Relations was holding its third Conference, and through the kindness of my cousin, Mr. Wallace M. Alexander, who was one of the Directors, I received a badge admitting me to the general meetings of the Conference. There I had the joy of sharing the Bahá'í Message with my cousin's daughter. (See Star of the West Vol. XX, page 311). On the return to Tokyo, I stopped in Tsu Shi, Mie Ken, and spent the weekend at the home of the beloved friends, Mr. and Mrs. Tokujiro Torii. It was several years since we had met and the boy, Akira was twelve years old. Mr. Torii invited Esperantists and other friends from neighboring towns to meet me on Sunday and hear of the Bahá'í Cause. It was a very happy and blessed visit.
In January, 1930, I wrote a friend: "Conditions are very different here from former times, but I am only here because it is our Guardian's wish, — it is not of my will, but His." It was a great bounty God granted me to serve His Cause in that land. On February twentieth, a precious message came from the Center of our Faith:
Haifa, Dec. 31st, 1929
Sincerely in His service, Soheil Afnan
I was rejoiced to have the Cause strengthen in Tokyo by two new friends. One of them, Rev. Sempo Ito, was a Christian minister whom Mr. Keiji Sawada met and introduced to me. He became a devoted member of our Bahá'í group and greatly assisted us in the spread of the Cause. The other friend was an American woman who was married to a Japanese, Mrs. Antionette Naganuma. Her sister, Mrs. Emma Smith, was a Bahá'í and knew of the Cause, but it was not until she was ill, that she sent for me. My heart was rejoiced to find her. She taught several evenings a week, English conversation in the YMCA night school, and once when she was ill I was asked to take her place. This opened a new door for me to spread His Cause among the students, and afterwards during the time I remained in Tokyo, they continued to call on me whenever a substitute was needed. It was a cause of great joy to me, I always went with a prayer and for His sake. Many evenings were spent there when the students ask me to speak of the Cause. The directors of the school, who were Japanese, showed no prejudice toward Cause, and on one occasion I was asked to speak of Bahá'í Faith during the fifteen minute chapel time. The English speaking Club of the YMCA also many times welcomed me to speak in their meetings, thus I felt the stones of the building must vibrate with His Message.
Another source of joy and inspiration was the noon meeting of the Waseda University English Speaking Club, where at different times I went once a week. There also the Cause was often spoken of and once the students asked me to tell them about Bahá'u'lláh. They were very lovable. Their lives were simple and they were eager for knowledge.
In a letter dated January 5, 1930, Shoghi Effendi wrote in part:
He sincerely hopes that you will leave a wonderful group of Bahá'ís in that land. Once they come to appreciate the futility of mere material progress and come to desire a spiritual impetus they will see that the source of all inspiration in this day is Bahá'u'lláh and His teachings. Shoghi Effendi hopes that Mrs. Naganuma will be of inestimable help to you.
In a letter of January 16, 1930, which was received in on February twenty-seventh, Shoghi Effendi wrote in part:
I would urge you, above everything to arrange for the translation into Japanese of Esslemont'sBahá'u'lláh and the New Era. I feel it of the utmost importance that such a book should be translated and printed at present.
From that day I began to strive to fulfill the Guardian's wishes. The history of the efforts put forth to have Esslemont book translated as the Guardian wished would make a long story, but in the end it was fulfilled. The beloved Guardian sent me many messages in regard to the translation. On April 11, 1930, he wrote:
My dear Bahá'í sister, I am delighted with the news you give me regarding the translation of Dr. Esslemont's book into Japanese. I will pray for your guidance and success. I long to hear that it has been accomplished. This would constitute yet another jewel on the crown of your life-long service to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh.
On March twenty-first, some of the Japanese friends sent a greeting to the Guardian, which he answered as follows:
Haifa, April 18th, 1930
On June fifteenth, I was invited by some Esperantist students to a boys' private preparatory school, the Seikei Gakuyen, in the suburbs of Tokyo. A group of students of the school had arranged an Esperanto program and I was asked to take part in it. The program opened with songs sung by the Esperanto group of the school followed by a talk given by Dr. Asaiiro Oka, an enthusiastic Esperantist and a member of the Imperial Academy of Japan, the highest educational body in that country. His subject was, "The International Age," which he described as the age in which we were living and he spoke of the necessity at this time for an international language.
I took for my subject the name of the era of the present Emperor of Japan, "Showa," that is, "bright peace," and told of the Bahá'í Cause and how we could attain peace through the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. A photograph which was taken of the Esperanto group that afternoon brought honor to the school, as it was published in three Bahá'í publications. (See Star of the West Vol. XXI, page 201, also Bahá'í World Vol. III, page 27).
In the summer I attended the annual Japanese Esperanto
The last of September I went to Shanghai to meet Martha Root, (see Chapter V). In October, on my return from there, at Nagasaki I was met by some Esperantists and spent part of a day with them while the steamer was in port. It happened to be a holiday in the city and a group of Esperantists gathered to meet me. Wherever I met with the Esperantists a brotherly spirit was felt. Many Bahá'í seeds were sown that day. The friends accompanied me to the steamer and gave me a grand farewell which attracted some of the passengers. I returned to Tokyo because of the urgency of attending to the translation of Esslemont's book which was then being made for the second time. I found the translator was not satisfactory and again it was necessary to find another translator. Shoghi Effendi I feel was fully aware of the many difficulties which came in my path and he continually sent his loving messages of encouragement. I was ready to give my life that it might be done satisfactorily. Through His assistance a third translator was found, but after he had commenced the work, suddenly an opportunity presented itself for him to go abroad and the translation was left unfinished.
Through Mr. Sempo Ito, a Bahá'í meeting was arranged at the home of a Japanese dressmaker, Miss Keiko Eito, on the fifteenth day of each month. Miss Eito had young women living in her home who assisted her in making kimonos, but on the fifteenth of the month work was put aside. Mr. Ito interpreted for me and many happy meetings were held in that humble Japanese home. It was there that I met an enlightened Buddhist priest who later arranged for a meeting in his temple. Miss Eito's home was also blessed by the presence of dear Martha Root and also Keith Ransom-Kehler, when they came to Tokyo.
Martha Root's Third Visit to Japan
On October twenty-seventh, beloved Martha Root reached Japan and came to stay with me in Tokyo for two months. During that time her days were filled with selfless work for His Cause. She gave many talks to the students in the schools of Tokyo. They seemed to be the ones whom we could reach and were ready to listen to His Message. Martha spoke to the YMCA English Speaking Club, where she had been invited to speak on her two previous visits to Tokyo; to the law student from Keio University at Dr. Masujima's law library; at a girls' private school, which opened the way afterward for me to teach Esperanto to the girls once a week during a school term. Martha also spoke at the Commercial University and to a club of young women who had attended schools in the United States. This was a very impressive meeting. Some of the young women seemed greatly attracted to the Cause and asked questions. At a meeting of ministers, Martha told of the Cause, and at a public gathering held in the hall of Japanese newspaper which advertised the meeting. Besides Martha several others spoke that evening among them Yuri Mochizuki and myself. Martha also spoke at the Pan-Pacific luncheon held in the Imperial Hotel. The crowning event of her visit was the talk she gave over the Tokyo radio station JOAK on, "The Progress of the Bahá'í Movement in the Five Continents." She read her talk in English which was translated into Japanese. Afterwards it was published in the Japan Times. The radio station paid its speakers, but as Bahá'ís do not accept money, they presented Martha instead with a beautiful bolt of rainbow colored silk. She succeeded in getting much Bahá'í publicity in the newspapers. In Persia she had been given a copy of some of the Holy Writings written in Persian script in the form of a beautiful bird, and also a small Persian rug. Through the assistance of Dr. R. Masujima these were sent to the Minister of the Imperial Household to be presented to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan.
When Martha sailed from Yokohama on her way to the United States the last of December, the beloved brother, Tokujiro Torii, came alone from Kyoto to see her at the steamer. He was guided by the Divine hand to come, and through His assistance reached the steamer half an hour before it sailed. It was the first time these beloved Bahá'ís met, and a blessed half hour was spent together. The friends who had come to bid Martha farewell, gathered in her stateroom where prayers were said. Martha took from her baggage a small carved wooden box, which had been given her by relatives of the Báb in Shiraz, Persia, and gave it to Mr. Torii. He greatly treasured it and placed his Tablets from the Master in it.
When Martha sailed away, Mr. Torii went to visit his sister in Atami. A day or two later, he sent me from there spiritually fragrant letters written in English Braille to Martha, the beloved Guardian and myself. These I transcribed into writing. To me he wrote: "Dearest spiritual mother! For the first time in this New Year I am writing you with my hearty prayer that this New Year may be happier for you and for the Cause in Japan than ever . . . Now the people of Japan are seeking for truth more profoundly than ever, although on the other hand they are running madly after material civilization. The soil is fertile and seeds of light fall in our hands. Showers of bounty are in torrents — spring is coming! But alas, how few sowers there are! However, dear mother, Japan is the promised land for you to stay, you know. I wish you would die in this land for us! Please do not think to return to Hawaii. Of course I know you have no plan of your own, but God's. It is my prayer to study English and Esperanto more and more fully and translate the Bahá'í literature into Japanese. I know that is my life-giving work. I pray the time will come and my prayer will be fulfilled for I believe that the right prayer will always surely be heard . . . Songs of waves at the near seashore remind me of Miss Root on the ocean, whom I met for the first and last, but I felt the fragrance of Abhá and found love and peace which shines through her. It is my great regret that I could not have much time to be with her, but praise God, He gave me that unforgettable hour. Everything was made clear in my way that day and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá guided me to the ship without uneasiness in my heart. I could really understand the words, 'Trust in Him and He will guide you.'"
On January 10, 1931, an enlightened Buddhist priest, Rev. J. Mori, opened his temple for a public meeting and invited Rev. Sempo Ito, a Universalist minister, who had accepted the Bahá'í Faith, and myself to speak on the Cause. It was indeed a great event
The Japanese Esperanto magazine, Orienta Revuo, published a review of Lidia Zamenhof's Esperanto translation of Dr. Esslemont's book which I wrote for them. It was translated into Japanese and published together with a picture of Lidia. At that time I was teaching Esperanto in a girls' private school once a week, and at the Chinese YMCA twice a week, which helped to spread His Cause.
On Naw-Rúz Dr. Masujima kindly let us celebrate the day in his garden, where more than forty friends gathered. It was a very happy event which surely would bear fruit. The friends who gathered sent a greeting to the Guardian to which he replied:
Haifa, June 20, 1931
In May a Religious Conference was held in Tokyo at which I was asked to speak on the Bahá'í Revelation. In my talk I quoted the words of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá to the Japanese in Oakland, California. Miss Michi Kawai, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, interpreted my talk into Japanese. After the talk a Japanese minister, Rev. Kodaira, came and told me that he was present when ‘Abdu'l-Bahá spoke in Oakland and had translated His address into Japanese. He said ‘Abdu'l-Bahá had invited him to breakfast with Him in San Francisco and that it was a time of great inspiration. He was going to England in the summer, and hoped to stop in Palestine on the way, and there pay his respects at the Shrine of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. My talk that day was afterwards published in two editions of the English edition of the Japanese newspaper Osaka Mainichi.
Keith Ransom-Kehler in Japan
On June 12, 1931, I wrote: "A great joy has come to me. For a short time I have felt as though something happy was coming and yesterday morning a cable from dear Ella Cooper told me that Keith Ransom-Kehler will arrive in Yokohama on the twenty-fifth, so now the source of my happiness is clear. Although I have never met this sister, yet I can feel her fragrance and a thrill comes to my heart that she will soon be here. Indeed God is good and I thank Him for His help, without which nothing could be done. I have felt very much the need of Bahá'í teachers to come to this Orient and also China. The work needs to be reinforced by others. The seeds are planted but the harvest time does not yet seem ripe."
After Keith had left Japan on August twenty-first, I wrote the friends telling of her wonderful stay with me. "Although I had only known of our dear sister Keith through the Bahá'í News Letters and her writings in the Star of the West, yet when the cable came from dear Ella Cooper that she was on her way to Japan, a great love and inspiration sprang up in my heart. Even before the cable arrived I had felt a special happiness. Then on the morning before the cable came, a thrill of joy, and the thought that our Guardian was sending some happy message filled my heart. Shortly after the cable that Keith was on her way was handed me. Five days before her arrival, a second cable from Honolulu stated that she would remain 'two weeks' in Japan. This at first saddened my heart, but when I knew if it were His Will, all was for the best, and before she arrived a two weeks program had been filled. It was a happy meeting when she arrived in Yokohama on June twenty-fifth. We felt a peace and joy in being together and Keith said she felt a happiness here. I longed that she might remain longer, as there was so much we could do together, but as her plans had been submitted to Shoghi Effendi she did not feel she could change them without his knowledge and consent, so two days after her arrival I cabled him asking if it were permissible for her to remain longer. We decided that if no word came in answer, then she would keep to her original plan. The day before she was to leave, when we felt satisfied that we were striving to do His Will only, the following cable was received, 'Whole heartedly approve Keith extend stay love Shoghi.' At the time Keith was packed to go. The cable was probably late in reaching us as Shoghi Effendi had left Haifa for the summer. As the steamers to Australia go monthly, Keith remained another month, making a stay in all of six weeks. Without making previous plans, each day was
"All that it meant to Japan to have Keith with me to strengthen and encourage the friends, can never be told in words. Her first public talk the day after her arrival was at the Pan-Pacific luncheon. As the speeches there are taken down by a stenographer, I was delighted the next morning to see the most inspiring of her words, under the heading, 'The Bahá'í Movement,' in the Japan Advertiser, the leading English newspaper of Japan which is American owned. This was a great confirmation and showed how when we are in love and unity, the Holy Spirit speaks through us and attracts people to our Cause. That evening we had a gathering of the Friends in my room to meet Keith. The next day, the twenty-seventh, we attended a tea party where I knew her presence would attract to our Cause. In the evening we had a Chinese dinner with some of the directors of the Chinese YMCA after which she spoke to a group of the Chinese students of which there are several thousand in Tokyo. On Sunday, the twenty-eighth, a group met in my room. Keith spoke with our dear brother, Rev. Sempo Ito, translating. Among the group were two Korean students whom Mr. Ito had brought. He told us afterwards that they said they found a 'very good feeling' in the gathering.
"At 8 o'clock, the next morning, Keith spoke at the chapel exercises of the Japan Women's University, one of the teachers, a graduate of Vassar College translating. The founder of this university, the late President Naruse, met ‘Abdu'l-Bahá when in London in 1912. ‘Abdu'l-Bahá urged him to return to Japan and spread the Bahá'í teachings, and in 1916, he invited me to speak in the chapel to the whole school on the Bahá'í Movement. So in this university the seed has been sown and the future will show the results. In the evening Keith spoke to a group of students from the Commercial University who had arranged a tea party for us. Keith was delighted with meeting this group of the rising generation of Japan and of having opportunity of talking with them and answering their questions.
"The next afternoon, we were invited to the beautiful garden of Dr. Masujima, who shows kindness to the Bahá'í friends. He was away en route to England, but we met in his law library law students from Keio University who gather there every Tuesday to study and have Japanese supper together. Martha and I had both spoken here at different times, so it was good to have Keith reinforce the efforts which had been made. As we were leaving the library, the student who had arranged for our coming accompanied us and asked if we would have our photograph taken with him, to which we gladly consented. (See Star of the West, Vol. XXIV, page 372.)
"After attending a tea party the next day, we were guests of the YMCA English Speaking Club for supper where Keith spoke. This club has heard the Bahá'í Teachings many times, but as the members are constantly changing, it is almost always a new group. Martha, on her three visits to Japan has each time spoken there and I have spoken a number of times of the Bahá'í Movement, so again Keith reinforced the work. We returned to the club at their request on several Wednesday evenings when they met, and each time Keith spoke. Many seeds were sown and some of the members came to my room to hear more of the Cause.
"Several evenings we especially invited the Bahá'í friends and those we hoped to confirm, to my room so that Keith might speak to them of the Bahá'í Administration. One evening we had the pleasure of welcoming two Indian young men who were most open-minded in regard to the Cause. Two meetings of great importance, I feel, were those of Buddhist gatherings. One was at the Buddhist Temple where on January tenth, I had been asked to speak on the Bahá'í Movement, which was the beginning of a series of meetings held on the tenth of each month. Keith spoke here on the tenth of July, when Mr. Ito translated for her. The other gathering was a Buddhist summer lecture conference. Here Keith spoke on the Bahá'í Message and referred to the Buddha's teachings. Mr. Ito again translated for her.
"One day, through the efforts of Mr. Ito, we were invited to a private school which prepares students for immigration to South America. The principal of the school, which is out of the city and self-supporting, is a most earnest Christian. Here we were received with great cordiality. We will never forget the sight of the principal kneeing before his students, leading them in fervent prayer. In the afternoon we were guests for tea of Dr. S. Nasu, who first heard of the Bahá'í Teachings in New York, and who is a devoted friend of Roy Wilhelm. There we met a dozen or more graduate students who are assisting him in his work as Director of the Agricultural Department of the Imperial University. Every day was filled with seed sowing. Several afternoons I invited some ladies to meet Keith and to have tea with us. One of these ladies, an American, invited us also to tea at her home. She writes me, 'I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed having her (Keith). She was like a being from another planet.'
"Keith also spoke in the YMCA night school, to an English night school, and at a Girls' Higher School where Martha had spoken and I had been teaching Esperanto. This is a very brief outline and does not adequately convey the wonderful spirit which Keith showed to all and which was reciprocated by those who met her."
Keith wrote to Shoghi Effendi, "The contacts which Agnes Alexander made for me in the Universities and the student groups were most rewarding; Friday night Bahá'í meetings were well attended by inquiring students, many nationalities being represented. Agnes felt that the most important of all was the several meetings held for the confirmed Bahá'ís and those about to declare themselves, to study and grasp the import and modus vivendi of Administration." When Keith left Tokyo on her way to China, I accompanied her on the steamer from Yokohama to Kobe, where we took a train to Kyoto to visit our blind brother, Tokujiro Torii. There we spent the last night together in the hospitable Japanese home of Mr. and Mrs. Torii and their dear boy Akira. The kindness of the family to us was without bounds. Keith said, "I have never known such kindness." She was deeply impressed to see in the Japanese place of honor in the home a small bronze relief copy of a picture of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, under which was the Greatest Name carved in wood. These spiritual treasures were touched by the fingers of the materially blind. Mr. Torii and Akira accompanied us the next morning to Kobe, where we met the Buddhist priest brother. Mr. Daiun Inouye, and spent an hour together before Keith sailed away.
Shortly after Keith left Tokyo, the Japan Advertiser,
From the first day in Japan Keith loved the people and their art. After she left me, in her first letter she wrote that she was planning to return and be with me again, and in her last letter to me written shortly before her passing in Persia she wrote: "I still like Japan better than any country that I have visited and I often think with love and longing of the precious friends there. Please assure them that I remember each one of them. Give them all my hearty Bahá'í love." I am grateful to God that she came into my life!
I went to Kobe especially that Mr. Torii and I might consult with Mr. Inouye about the translation of the Esslemont book into Japanese. After Keith left we had lunch together. In June that year Mr. Inouye had lost his only daughter who was sixteen years old. As we sat together in love and unity, Mr. Inouye suddenly said he would translate the book himself as a memorial to his daughter. A wave of joy came to us with his inspiration. Three different translations had previously been attempted, but had failed to conform to the beloved Guardian's request to "take every precaution to put it into as good Japanese as possible." After the departure of the third translator, Shoghi Effendi wrote:
As regards the translation of Esslemont's book, he was sorry to learn of the sudden departure of the translator, and hence of the impossibility of his completing the work. In view of the importance which he attaches to this translation, however, he would urge you to find some suitable person and arrange for its translation entirely.
Visits in Japanese Homes
I had expected to return to Tokyo after Keith sailed. How little do we know God's plans for us! Instead of returning to Tokyo, I accepted Mr. Torii's invitation to go with his family to his father's home in the country. Through His guidance, I was privileged to visit during nineteen days in the Japanese homes of some of the former students who were among the Tokyo Bahá'í group at the time of my first sojourn there. They were then all married and had their homes and children.
Returning to the Torii home in Kyoto, I accompanied the family to Miguchi in the country where I remained for nine happy days. In a letter to the friends from Toyohashi, August twenty-first, I wrote: "Probably I am the only foreigner who has visited that village where Mr. Torii's family are engaged in silk manufacture. The whole family could not have been more kind to me and they said it was only balancing what I had done for their son and brother in the past. The night after Keith left, I had spent in Kobe with another Bahá'í sister who, when a school girl in Tokyo became confirmed in the Cause and was often, in those days before the great earthquake of 1923, in my little Japanese home in Tokyo. She is now married and has two lovely boys. She and her husband made me most welcome and asked me always to come and stay in their home and this she said was to repay for what she had received in my home when a school girl. I speak of these things for they came to me so unexpectedly.
"This is the time of the year called Obon, when in every family the dead ones are especially remembered. This time and the New Year in January are the two times in the year when workers have holidays. At Mr. Torii's home I had the privilege of taking part as a member of the family in a Buddhist ceremony for the dead ancestors of Mrs. Torii's family. In the village Buddhist temple, with beautiful surroundings, this ceremony was held. All the relatives of the family gathered in the temple where the dear old priest and his assistants chanted sutras, and the members of the family, one by one, paid their respect at the altar. After the ceremony they all visited the family burying ground. It was all a beautiful, sweet atmosphere and the family said they felt it was providential that I was there at that time. One beautiful thing in these ceremonies is that the little children all take part. Another event and fete for the dead was that held in a neighboring town which has an ocean inlet. Here at night beautiful little miniature boats lighted with candles were put in the water, each boat representing someone who had died during the year in the town. Each family also placed a lighted candle fastened to a round hemp mat, in the water. At the same time beautiful fire works were sent up so that the whole scene was one of beauty. The little miniature boats one by one became ignited by the candles on them and disappeared in flames of fire, the symbol of the spirit. This is a very old custom which is carried out every year in this town.
"Another thousand years old custom observed is called Tanabata. In front of the house bamboo branches are placed on which paper streamers of all the rainbow colors flutter. These have verses written on the them and are for the stars, as it is believed that on this particular night two stars, male and female lovers meet in the heavens. The Tanabata at Mr. Torii's home was unique in all the world, for on it were written words from Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, as well as the Greatest Name in both Roman and Persian letters. One of the verses suggested by Mr. Torii was, 'A star has the same radiance whether it shines from the East or from the West.' ‘Abdu'l-Bahá.
"Leaving Mr. Torii's home, I visited another friend whom I had not met for ten years. He is now the Social Director in one of the Gunze Filature factories and has the spiritual welfare of 700 factory girls under his care. I feel it was a wonderful visit I had in his home where his mother, wife and four children live. Twice I spoke a few words to the factory girls at their time of assembly. In the factory, before the girls retire, a bell sounds and all is quiet. The girls then sit in quiet meditation until another bell sounds. As ten girls live in one room, it gives them an opportunity to commune in quiet. The manager believes that the girls do better work when their hearts are at peace and something is given them to bring spiritual contentment. This friend felt his interest in our Bahá'í teachings renewed and said he was going to begin again his study of the literature. At this place also I was probably the only foreigner who had visited it, and naturally was a great curiosity to the girls.
"Now I am here where I came to see after twelve years our Bahá'í brother, Mr. Fukuta. He was the first confirmed Bahá'í when I came to Japan for they had the honor of receiving from the Master the first Tablet sent to a Japanese living in Japan. He is married and has three lovely children and is working in the wholesale rice business. He says he puts the principles
After my return to Tokyo in the fall, Mrs. Lorol Schopflocher and Mr. Loveday of Eliot, Maine, passed through Tokyo. I was made happy by their two visits to my room when Mrs. Schopflocher spoke to the friends who had gathered. She had moving pictures taken of the friends at the Kudan Shrine, and also of students at the Government School for the Blind.
On October 16-18, the nineteenth Japanese Esperanto Congress was held in Kyoto. In 1923 the blind Esperantists of Japan had formed an organization. As they were to hold a sectional meeting during the Congress, Mr. Torii invited me to his home to attend the Congress and speak in the meeting of the blind. It was a great privilege for me to speak to them of the Bahá'í Cause and the blind of Japan, which Mr. Torii translated into Japanese. More than 300 Esperantists from all parts of Japan attended the Congress. I was, as usual, the only foreigner present, but felt as though among brothers. It was always a pleasure to be among the Japanese Esperantists who were the brightest hope of the country in promoting understanding and eliminating prejudice between the nations. A blind friend from Tokyo Mr. Kataoka, whose life had been changed from dense darkness to light, through the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, was also a guest in the Torii home, and I had the joy of talks with him. In Mr. Torii's library were many volumes of Braille books of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, which he had transcribed into Braille with the help of his wife, from the printed English editions.
The Chugai Nippo, a Buddhist newspaper, the only religious daily paper in Japan, had many times published articles about the Cause. While I was in Kyoto, it accepted an article from me which contained ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's words to the Japanese in Oakland, California. The few days spent in the blessed home of the Torii family were filled with His confirmations.
On November twenty-sixth, the beloved brother, Mr. Susumu Aibara, was taken ill and died suddenly on December twentieth. He was thirty-two years old and had a baby daughter a month old. At first his passing was a shock to me, but afterwards I was consoled by the realization that he was not far away, and that he would assist us from the Other Realm more than if he had remained with us. At his home I met with his family and intimate friends. The funeral service was held in a Buddhist temple where friends gathered to pay their respects, among whom were two hundred Esperantists. The Keio University group of Esperantists also honored him with a special service in a Buddhist temple where prayers were offered. I was invited to the service and afterwards to a dinner which was given by the group for the family. Nineteen were present at the dinner and each one spoke of the brother who had left us. At the head of the table a photograph of Mr. Aibara was placed with flowers and fruit offerings. At the dinner I met again Mr. Chikao Fujisawa, an ardent Esperantist who had been in Geneva working as a secretary of the League of Nations for a number of years. He afterwards gave a talk at a Bahá'í meeting which was published in the Bahá'í World, Vol. VI. On January ninth I had a gathering in my room in memory of Mr. Aibara when nine of the friends were present. It was through Mr. Aibara that the students of Keio University heard of the Bahá'í Cause. He was loved for his gentle, kindly disposition and had ability as a leader. The Tokyo Esperanto magazine published two pages of articles about him written by his friends, with his picture. Shoghi Effendi wrote on January 25, 1932, through his Secretary:
Shoghi Effendi wishes me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated Dec. 29, 1931, bearing the sad news of the death of Mr. Susumu Aibara. It is surely a great loss to have a young man of his ability and standing leave the group. Our sole comfort should be in this that he is at present in a higher spiritual realm enjoying a blissful being far beyond our powers to appreciate. Shoghi Effendi hopes that the members of his family will view his passing in that light and appease their sorrows. Please convey to them all Shoghi Effendi's sympathies.
On January 9, 1932, a letter came from Shoghi Effendi addressed to the Bahá'ís of Tokyo in answer to one sent him on November 12, 1931. In his own hand he wrote:
Dear and valued co-workers: Your message has imparted an indefinable joy to my heart and cheered me in my arduous task. Persevere in your efforts for the spread of our beloved Faith, and rest assured that my prayers will continue to be offered in your behalf. I cherish the brightest hopes for the extension of your deeply-valued activities and will supplicate the Almighty to bless and sustain your high endeavors. Your true brother, Shoghi.
First Bahá'í Assembly of Japan
On March nineteenth, in the Bahá'í Record book I wrote: "On the morning of March thirteenth, the guidance came that now was the time to form the first Japanese Assembly of Bahá'ís of Tokyo, and so I sent letters to the friends asking them to come and confer together on the fifteenth, at seven p.m. Mr. Nakanishi, Rev. Sempo Ito, Mr. H. Matsuda and Mrs. Yuri Furukawa were able to come. We then decided to meet again on Friday evening, the eighteenth. In the meantime, I visited all the friends who were not able to come. We counted in Tokyo at this time eleven who were confirmed, so nine had to be chosen. The eleven names are as follows: Rev. Sempo Ito, Mrs. Yuri Furukawa, Mrs. Ote Murakami, Mrs. Kanae Takeshita, Mr. Y. Kataoka, Mr. Keiji Sawada, Miss Agnes Alexander, Mrs. Antoinette Naganuma, Mr. Nakanishi, Miss Eito, Mr. H. Matsuda. The first nine names were chosen. In the Record Book on March twenty-first, I wrote: "Naw-Rúz celebration in the garden of Dr. R. Masujima, Azabu. Nineteen friends came, and with Dr. R. Masujima and his son-in-law and library custodian, the group made twenty-two. As the wind was blowing we changed the tables and chairs to indoors from the garden. The meeting was in charge of Mrs. Yuri Furukawa and the speakers were Dr. R.
In a letter of March twenty-sixth, I wrote the friends: "I write to convey to you the glad news of the forming of the Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo, the first Assembly of its kind in the world. It has long been the hope of our Guardian that here in Tokyo enough friends might be brought into the Cause as to form the first Japanese Spiritual Assembly in the world, as a nucleus round which would gather and flourish the future Bahá'í community of Japan. In one of his letters our Guardian wrote: 'My prayer will be offered again for you at His Holy Shrine that you may be assisted to establish permanently a Bahá'í Spiritual Assembly in that land and help that centre to get in close and constant touch with Assemblies both in the East and the West.'
"It is now my joyful privilege to write you as the Foreign Secretary of our newly formed Assembly which met last evening for the first time and elected officers. Our Assembly, which was born on the glad Naw-Rúz day, came into being wholly through the Master's power and guidance. . . . At our first Assembly meeting last night it was decided to publish monthly a Japanese Bahá'í magazine beginning in May. . . ."
On April twenty-first, for the first time in Japan a meeting was called to elect the Local Spiritual Assembly which had been formed on Naw-Rúz. One change only was made in the members, Mr. H. Matsuda taking the place of Mr. Kataoka who asked to be relieved. With the forming of the Assembly, the Cause in Japan received new life and vigor.
In a letter written on May twenty-sixth, is the following: "I am sending you some copies of our little Japanese Bahá'í monthly which was sent out on May twenty-third, the anniversary Day. It is a humble little sheet, but with your help and prayers it will succeed and carry His Message to many thousands. . . . Our little Bahá'í Group is very small and materially poor, but with His Assistance all things may be done. In sending these leaflets, I have thought they could be used to spread His Message among Japanese friends in other lands. Also it would help tremendously if friends in the different countries would send their messages, letters, or articles to this leaflet to be published and help in bringing to our world that great Unity which must eventually come. This leaflet offers that opportunity. . . "
From the Record Book on May twenty-third, is the following: "We celebrated the Day of the Báb in the Law Library upstairs room of our friend, Dr. R. Masujima. Nine friends were present. Mr. Chikao Fujisawa had prepared for the occasion a very fine address which I intend to send to the Bahá'í Magazine for publication. I was very happy that the Japan Times edition of that day published the article I had given them under the heading, "Origin of the Bahá'í Movement Told," and subheading, "May 23rd is Anniversary of Significant Event in Religious History."
Although only nine persons heard Mr. Fujisawa speak on May twenty-third, his address has been published in the Bahá'í World, and also in Stanwood Cobb's book, Security For a Failing World.
On June twenty-ninth, I wrote, "Recently I have been invited to three different groups of Esperantist where I was asked to give the Bahá'í Message." And on June twenty-seventh, I wrote: "Our Assembly of nine is composed of five ladies and four men which seems significant of the New Day in this oriental country. Two of the ladies, though, are American. At our last Friday evening gathering we had the pleasure of having with us Miss A.W. Henny of Holland, an international lawyer who is traveling around the world. . . . It was surely through His guidance that I came to meet Miss Henny. At the Friday noon Pan-Pacific luncheon here I mentioned to the lady sitting next to me that I was in Japan for the Bahá'í Movement. Immediately a stranger across the table spoke up and said she had been in the home of Shoghi Effendi. This was Miss Henny who came the same evening to our gathering. Although not claiming to be a Bahá'í, she said she thought the Greatest Holy Leaf was the most remarkable woman she had ever met. She said of our little sister, Mrs. Furukawa, formerly Miss Mochizuki, that she saw in her eyes the same look she had seen in the Bahá'ís of Alexandria."
Visit to Hokkaido
In the summer of 1932, I had the joy and privilege of visiting the northern island of Japan, Hokkaido, where a Bahá'í had not yet traveled. My visit came through the invitation of Mr. Tadashi Watanabe of the Technical School of Tomakomai. The Esperantists of Hokkaido were planning to hold the first Esperanto Congress of the island including seven cities, and invited me to attend and speak on the Bahá'í Cause.
In 1931 Mr. Watanabe had visited Seattle. As he was an ardent Esperantist, he attended the Esperanto meeting, where he met some of the Bahá'ís and heard for the first time of the teachings. The kindness shown him by the Bahá'ís, among whom was Mrs. Ida Finch, attracted him to the Cause, and on his return to Japan, while in Tokyo, he came to see me. It happened to be the evening of November twelfth, when the friends were gathered in my room, and we spent a very happy evening together. I felt the depth and beauty of Mr. Watanabe's soul, and gave him some of the Bahá'í Esperanto literature, including the Paris Talks by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. After his return to Tomokomai we corresponded, and in May, he started two mimeographed monthly papers. One of these was to unite the seven Esperanto groups in Hokkaido, and in the other, his personal publication, La Norda Kruco, he introduced the Bahá'í teachings with translations into Japanese from the Paris Talks of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. It was this which decided me to accept the invitation and go to Hokkaido that summer, as the Divine seed had already been started there.
Through God's bounty I was guided to go first to a summer boarding place in Onuma, kept by an English missionary lady, who showed no prejudice when I told her of my Faith. There I rested a few days before meeting with the Esperantists. On the train in Japan I had the joy of meeting a girl who was in my Esperanto class at the girls' school in Tokyo. I had been greatly attracted to her, and God granted me the privilege of meeting her
On August first, I left Onuma to join Mr. and Mrs Watanabe, who came from their home to meet and welcome me at a hot spring resort. At Muroran, the station before the resort, three young men entered the train and came with smiling faces to the section where I was sitting. One of them asked, "Cu vi estas F-ino Alexander?" I had been very tired, but meeting these bright young men, and speaking with them of His Cause, all else vanished. Mr. Watanabe had sent word to them that I would be on the train, and so they came to greet me and accompany me to the dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Watanabe. We spent a happy evening together until the young men had to return to their town. The next day I went with Mr. and Mrs. Watanabe to their home in Tomakomai. As the train reached the station, two students carrying Esperanto flags welcomed us. A crowd had assembled at the station, among them the Headman, as he is called, of the town, as the local newspaper had announced my arrival. In the evening a welcome meeting was held. I spoke in Esperanto to which Mr. Watanabe translated into Japanese. We sat around a long table, and at my right was the Headman of the town. (See Star of the West, Vol. XXIII, page 246). It was the first time for the Cause to be proclaimed on that island, and I felt a great happiness. Two Esperanto songs were sung, Espero and Tagigo. The heading on the mimeographed copies of the songs, which were passed around, translated from the Esperanto was, "Welcome to our Miss Agnes B. Alexander! We will sing, Hope for your future glory, and Dawn for your holy movement."
I had the joy of meeting a young Christian Minister, who was a student of Esperanto, and had heard from Mr. Watanabe of the Bahá'í Cause. He was open-minded and free from prejudice. The next morning I left with Mr. Watanabe for Yamabe, the center of the island where the Esperanto Congress was to be held. We traveled all day on trains before reaching the small village where the Oomoto movement had a center. This movement was later disbanded by the government. The Esperanto meetings were held in a school building, and there I spoke of the Bahá'í Teachings and Esperanto. Though the attendance was small, because of the distances to reach the village, yet the seed was sown and those who came were carriers of the Message to their home towns. The evening after the Congress was over, I was asked to speak in the hall of the Oomoto religion on the Bahá'í teachings. The hall was crowded with the country people whose eager earnest faces impressed me. In that far away village God granted me the privilege of planting the seed of the Divine Cause for this Day.
The next day, with Mr. Watanabe and an Esperantist friend, we visited the offices of two newspapers in the town of Asahigawa. From there I went with Mr. Watanabe to his family home in Sapporo, where we spent the night, and in the morning called at the office of the leading newspaper on the island, the Hokkai Times. The editor had an article ready to publish about the Congress and added to it something about the Bahá'í teachings and my attendance at the Congress. This I felt was God's great favor, for although the Congress had been held in the center of the Oomoto religion, only the Bahá'í Cause was mentioned. During the day in Sapporo we met a number of Esperantists and returned in the evening to the Watanabe home in Tomakomai. There I spent three nights during which I had the privilege of explaining the Bahá'í teachings more fully to Mr. Watanabe and the young minister. The kindness of Mr. Watanabe to me during our travels and of his wife in their home can never be forgotten.
I returned from Tomakomai to Onuma. The happiness, though, came when I went from there to Hakodate and met the Esperantists. At the Congress I had met an Esperantist from there who asked me to come to his city and meet the Esperantists. As I went unannounced, I inquired my way to his drug store. Mr. Odashina, the Esperantist, then telephoned to some Esperantists, two of whom worked in banks. As it was Saturday, they were free in the afternoon. The third Esperantist who came was a teacher and writer who had heard of the Cause in Tokyo. I suggested that we visit a newspaper and added that I knew God would help us. As the writer was acquainted with the editor of the Hakodate Shimbun, he telephoned and arranged for us to meet him. Almost immediately after receiving us the editor proposed that I should give a public talk in the Town Hall, which he would advertise in his paper, and also publish, and it would be without any expense to us. It was arranged that I should speak in Esperanto, and the writer would translate my talk into Japanese. After meeting the editor we spent a happy afternoon together talking of the Cause. The two young men from the banks said they had been Christians but they now had doubts. The other two friends had no definite beliefs. I returned that evening to Onuma, where I prepared the Esperanto talk. The subject chosen was, "Bahá'í the Religion of Religions." The next week on my return to Tokyo, I stopped a few days in Hakodate, when the public meeting was held. The night of the meeting, a flash light photograph was taken of myself and the interpreter, as we spoke on the platform, which was inserted in the newspaper with an account of the meeting. The following day the paper published an article on the history of the Cause with pictures of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and the Bahá'í Temple of Wilmette.
As I sailed away from the port the day after the meeting, the new friends were on the wharf waving their hearty farewells. Through His favor, in every place I visited I had been helped and cared for by kind friends. Only through the principle of Bahá'u'lláh of a universal language had we been drawn together.
A letter from the beloved Guardian dated July 30, reached me in Tokyo on September nineteenth, in which he wrote, through his Secretary:
He was particularly glad to learn of Mr. Tadashi Watanabe's recent publication on religion in which he has written about the Bahá'í teachings and he sincerely trusts that such an attempt on his part will serve to further the interests of the Faith and awaken many souls to the sublimity of the teachings and principles of the Cause. The Guardian wishes you therefore to associate with this well-known Esperantist and if you find it feasible to visit the northern island of Hokkaido where the Esperantists have already paved the way for a more extensive and more fruitful teaching campaign.
In anther letter from the Guardian dated October sixth, he wrote through his Secretary:
Shoghi Effendi was very glad to hear of your teaching activities. He sincerely hopes that the
seeds you have sown will gradually germinate and bring forth their fruit. Please extend the loving greetings of the Guardian to Mr. Watanabe and express his deep appreciation for the services rendered by him to you in this trip.
The morning of November twenty-fifth, a Persian Bahá'í, Mr. H. Touty, from Shanghai called. He was the first Persian Bahá'í to be greeted in Japan, and during his stay in Tokyo attended several meetings in my room. In a letter to the friends I wrote: "Through the bounty of Bahá'u'lláh, the Tokyo Assembly has a visit from our Persian brother, Mr. H. Touty of Shanghai, who came unexpectedly on business. He brought us spiritual help and the fragrance of the Master of whom he told us many beautiful stories of his visit in ‘Akká about twenty-five years ago, when he spent a month there. For five years Mr. Touty has been a resident of Shanghai and as a member of the group there, we feel our two groups, representing the power of God in this New Day in this Far Eastern Empire, and the Republic of China, have been more closely drawn together. It was my privilege to go one day with Mr. Touty to Kamakura, where the great image of Buddha, standing in the open surrounded by verdure, is most impressive. Looking at it one realizes that a people who more than 300 years ago conceived such a spiritual work of art have something profound within themselves. There we bought the famous three monkeys, the original of which is carved in wood in the mausoleum in Nikko. One monkey has his hands to his eyes, one to his mouth, and one to his ears, symbolizing, see, speak and hear no evil. The next morning, on opening the Hidden Words the first verse my eyes saw was number 44 of the Persian section: 'O Companion of my Throne! Hear no evil, and see no evil; . . . Speak no evil . . .'"
Esslemont Book Translated Into Japanese
In December, 1931, I received a letter from the beloved Guardian dated, Haifa, October 8, 1931 as follows:
Dear Miss Alexander,
As I received no word from Mr. Inouye in Kobe in answer to my letters to him regarding the Esslemont translation into Japanese, I was guided to go there in February in order to confer with him in person. It was a blessed meeting and we had some happy spiritual visits. While there I occupied the room in the temple which had been his daughter's. We arranged that he would have a helper in the translation work, and in April it was completed. Mrs. Yuri (Mochizuki) Furukawa who was in charge of the printing of the book, felt that the translation was not suited to the younger generation and arranged to have it corrected. This caused still another delay in the publication of the book. On March fifteenth, Shoghi Effendi wrote through his Secretary:
Shoghi Effendi wishes to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated February 17th, 1932. It is surely a pity that so many unforeseen circumstances seem to delay the progress of the translation of Dr. Esslemont's book, because upon the completion of that work rests the real start of an effective teaching work in Japan. Anyhow we have to appreciate the great kindness of Mr. Inouye to undertake the task and pray that his handicaps be eliminated. Please extend Shoghi Effendi's greetings and assure him of his deep appreciation for the wonderful service he has offered to render to the progress of the Cause in Japan. . .
Shoghi Effendi himself ordered 100 copies of the books to be sent to him in Haifa when completed and printed.
On December twelfth, in the Bahá'í Record book is the following: "It was the Temple day meeting and the afternoon when the books, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era were to be delivered from the binders. Mrs. Furukawa and Mr. Matsuda had come especially to help receive the books. We had supper together but not until after ten p.m. were all the 1,000 copies delivered. How thankful we should be to Bahá'u'lláh for this bounty which is at last accomplished and for which Shoghi Effendi has waited so long."
A letter from the beloved Guardian dated Haifa, January 15, 1933, was received in Tokyo February 13, 1933, as follows:
Dear Miss Alexander,
Please extend the Guardian's deep appreciation and thanks to those who rendered their assistance in this noble work. They will obtain the reward of their labours from the services this book will render to the Cause as well as to the people of their land. He is certain that through it many seeking souls will learn of the truth of the Faith and thereby attain the source of eternal grace and salvation.
Again a precious message came from the Guardian dated February 11, 1933, in which he wrote:
Dear and much-prized co-worker: With feelings of intense delight and gratitude, I have sent this very afternoon the books you sent me to the library of the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahjí. They will be placed by myself side by side with the fourteen printed versions ofThe New Era, and will be a constant reminder of your perseverance, your magnificent efforts, your exemplary devotion to the Cause of God. It is a historic service that you have rendered to the Abhá Threshold. I urge you to send one copy to each of the most important Bahá'í centres in East and West. Its effect, I feel, will be remarkable. Your true brother, Shoghi
When Keith reached Haifa she wrote me on May 13, 1933 "How my heart rejoiced with you over the crowning of your years of heart ache effort and devotion in the completion of Esslemont, and how rejoiced our Guardian is at your really stupendous accomplishment. I told him of all your faithful devotion and steadfastness; his appreciation of your efforts is boundless."
A teacher in the Yokohama Commercial University. Mr. K. Denzo Koyama, first heard of the Bahá'í Cause from Miss Jessie Revell in Philadelphia. In 1930 Martha Root and I met him and he arranged for her to speak to the students of his class. From that time I was invited many times to speak to his students in Yokohama. When Keith Ransom-Kehler was with me, through Mr. Koyama, she was invited to speak in a gathering in Yokohama. In the Bahá'í Record book is the following: "January 25. It was my pleasure to be the guest of twelve students of the Yokohama Commercial University. We had tea at Fujiya and discussed the Bahá'í Teachings for two hours."
On February fourteenth, through Mr. H. Matsuda, who was attending the Tokyo Commercial University, I was invited to speak to a group of the students on the Bahá'í Cause, and on the seventeenth, I was asked to speak on the Cause in the YMCA Chapel time at six p.m. to the students of the Night School.
It was a great privilege to meet on March 14th, Mr. Spendlove, who had spent two weeks in Haifa while on a trip around the world. He was in Tokyo only two days and I invited some friends to meet him on the fifteenth. Mr. Matsuda, Mr. Sawada and Dr. Kovrig, a Hungarian, who had heard of the Bahá'í Cause in Shanghai, gathered in my room where we spent several hours together, and Mr. Spendlove explained the teachings to Dr. Kovrig. The next day I went to Yokohama and said farewell to Mr. Spendlove who sailed for Vancouver. I felt he was a uniting link between the Bahá'ís of the West and those of the East.
Because of the passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf, we did not celebrate Naw-Rúz.
Return to Honolulu
In the house where I had lived for five years in Tokyo, the conditions were difficult, and I had not been well. At the Spiritual Assembly meeting on March twenty-fourth, I asked the friends if they felt I should move. They agreed they felt I should move. In the Record book I wrote, "The friends feel it were better for me to change my residence — this is in God's hands who alone is our Guide." Although I did my best to find a place where I could move, nothing opened up for me. On April twenty-first, I received a letter from my brother in Honolulu, who wrote of the sudden death of his wife. Like a flash it came to me that I was to move to Honolulu, and with it came a joy and inspiration, so there was no mistaking it was there.
The friends could not all meet, or send in their votes for the Spiritual Assembly on the twenty-first, so we postponed the meeting until the twenty-eighth. The Assembly which was elected for the second year was the same with one change, Mr. Kenji Ogawa, who took the place of Mr. Keiji Sawada.
On May nineteenth, I invited the friends to have supper with me for the last gathering in my room, as I was leaving for Honolulu on May thirtieth. Mrs. Yuri Furukawa had taken a house in Yotsuya in which to teach French and English, and there we arranged to have the Bahá'í meetings. The first meeting was held there on May twenty-third. In the Bahá'í Record book I wrote, "I made a collection of Bahá'í books of about twenty-five and took to Mrs. Furukawa's house as the beginning of the Aibara Memorial Library. Mrs. Furukawa has placed my scroll of the Greatest Name together with Juliet Thompson's portrait of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in the entrance of her house. She also has my large Temple picture in her sitting room. . . . It is a great joy to me to have the center now in the home of one of the Japanese friends."
From the Record book is the following: "May 28. On
I arrived in Honolulu on June eight, and on that day in Haifa the beloved Guardian wrote me as follows:
Letters From Japan
While in Honolulu I received a letter from Akira Torii, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Tokujiro Torii. He was then fifteen years old and had been ill for a long time. His mother told me that during his long illness, his companions were classic musical records. Before I reached Japan, in March, 1935, this beloved boy passed away. For a few days I felt great sorrow when I heard of his death, then a happy realization came to me that he had a work to do from the Other Realm and would help us all. His name for me was Obasan, or Aunt. He had been very diligent in studying English. His letter follows: "Kyoto, Japan, Dec. 17, 1933. Beloved Obasan! I wish you a Happy New Year. Thank you so much for your beautiful cards and interesting pictures of Hawaiian fishes. Here I am enclosing some pictures which were displayed at the Imperial Exhibition and also a chrysanthemum that I made. I hope they will bring you our loving thoughts. I am very glad to let you know that I have been almost fully recovered, though I am still at home every day listening to music, as I like to hear records so much. Hawaiian songs make me think of you and your beautiful islands. We are greatly surprised to hear that Keith passed away so suddenly. My grandmother is now here and we are thinking and talking of her very much. With loving greetings to you all from your Akira."
In a letter from Mr. Tadashi Watanabe, of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, dated October 25, 1934, he wrote: "De tiam, kiam vi forlasis nian landon la Bahaa movado, iras ne tiel bone en Japanujo, cu ne? Mi ankau tre malofte audas pri la movado. Via frua reveno al ni estas varmege dezirata, mi pensas. Sed mi sentas koran gojon, audante vian revenon tre proksimiganta. Kore me esperas, ke vi revenu frue laupove kaj okazigu la movadon kun nova energio, kaj ni ankau subtenu gin kun tuta forto. La movado certe reiros pli viglan kaj pli prosperan vojon. Nia movado estas ciam pli forte dezirata ce nuna stato krizplena en la mondo. La movado kaj gia plifortigo devas esti ciam pli grava. Ni manon en mano devas marsi antauen la veran komprenon inter popoloj kaj nacioj."
click for larger image
Miss Alexander (left) with Mrs. May Maxwell. Taken in 1934.