History of the Bahá'í Faith in Japan 1914-1938Barbara R. Sims.
On January 4, 1937, I received a letter from Louis Bosch in which she related two dreams she had had. She thought that they concerned our dear Yuri San. In my diary that day I wrote: "Louise Bosch's letter gives new inspiration that with unity and Divine help the flower of Yuri San (Yuri means lily) will blossom." In one of the dreams Louise saw a great heap of all kinds of rubbish piled high up. The place seemed to be in Japan. Through a small opening in the pile, to her great astonishment she saw a baby lying in the midst of the rubbish. It looked well and smiling, although the only light it received was through the opening. When I reached Haifa I told the Guardian of the dream. He said briefly that it symbolized the struggling Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in Japan.
After reading Louise's letter, I began to feel that I should not go away and leave the baby under the rubbish heap. The morning of February ninth, suddenly I realized that the burden of the baby was not in my hands. but God's, and I could leave all to His care. Then I began to arrange to leave for Haifa and engaged my passage on the Kashima Maru, which was to leave Moji, the last port in Japan, on March twentieth. There I planned to board the steamer in order that I might visit the friends in Kyoto before sailing.
Before leaving Tokyo, I received Braille letters from my blind friends, Mr. H. Mimura and Mr. Kataoka, who had become a teacher in a school for the blind in Nagoya. Mr. Mimura wrote: "You are leaving Japan for the Holy Land. You say you are going for us, all the blind in Japan and not for yourself, so your mission will be noble and sublime. We blind must thank you with all our hearts. You must be very happy about going to see Shoghi Effendi there. I too am very happy to read the book about Bahá'u'lláh. I swear to Him to be a faithful servant of His. When my baby grows up, I will tell her about the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. You have been so kind to me and all my family. We shall never forget you. Bon Voyage! "
Mr. Kataoka wrote in part from Nagoya: "I think you are now very busy preparing to go to the Holy Land. I hope that you will come back again to Japan with goodtidings, more love and more light. . . . The world is now marching into the unhappiest and saddest direction. . . . We should take hands firmly and stand up to bring love and light to the world. . . . I wish you a happy travel. Hoping to see you again and craving for your good tidings."
During the days of the Fast I made preparations to leave Tokyo. The dear Japanese friends came to visit me and brought many presents, some for myself and some for Shoghi Effendi and also Fujita.
When I went to Japan for the first time, Mr. C.M. Remey sent me a copy of the Greatest Name which was surrounded by a beautiful design in color of his own workmanship. I had it mounted in Japanese style on a scroll, and for many years it hung in the place of honor in the homes I had occupied, where it had been greatly admired. In January 1936, a thief entered my home and carried it away with other things. Although I could not understand the reason why it was taken, I did not feel disturbed and later bought another scroll to take its place. It was a typically Japanese scroll. I was attracted to it by the beautiful rising sun. When I was leaving for Haifa, I took the scroll with me thinking I might give it to Fujita.
The days following were filled with arranging for my departure to Palestine and entertaining the friends. Before leaving Tokyo the guidance came to me that I would not return direct from Palestine to Japan, but would continue the journey to America. I did not speak of this, though, for I wished to wait until I met the beloved Guardian and received from him his directions. I expected to return to Tokyo within a year. How little we can foresee the future! My Bahá'í library was left with Dr. R. Masujima, and my household belongings and trunks were sent to a store house.
On the sixteenth of March I left Tokyo for Kyoto. The first two nights there were spent at the home of Miss Mary Denton. There was a providence in this, for I met again Miss Teresina Rowell, whom I had entertained in my home in Tokyo. There I had the opportunity to speak with her of the Cause and gave her literature. She had joined in Kyoto the Ittoen group, who believed in service without asking for recompense. The morning of the eighteenth, I went to the dear Torii home and remained until the following evening when I took a train to Moji. Mr. Torii had arranged for us to go to the office of the Buddhist newspaper Chugai Nippo. The editors received us cordially and I told of my intended visit to Haifa, the situation of Haifa at the foot of Mr. Carmel, of the Bahá'í Shrines, Fujita, the Pilgrim House and the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi. I also said the visit was for the Japanese friends. That was what I thought when I left Japan, but when I mentioned it to the Guardian, he said it was for myself. A photograph was taken of Mr. and Mrs. Torii and myself as we sat in the editor's reception room, which was used in the paper the next day with the story as I had told it to the editor.
The evening of the nineteenth, the Toriis had a dinner party. Mr. Watanabe, the blind friend, had come in the morning to see me and remained until evening. Also the blind friends, Mr. Kawai and Miss Suzuki, were at the dinner. I was happy to spend the last day in Japan with the dear blind friends. Mr. Watanabe gave me some Japanese incense and asked me to take it to the Shrine of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. Mr. and Mrs. Torii gave me some beautiful silk squares which the Japanese use to cover presents, one of which was for the Guardian. When I went to the train that evening, twelve Japanese friends, five of whom were blind, came to say goodby to me. Two of the friends were from the newspaper Chugai Nippo. They brought with them copies of the paper, which was published that day, giving an account of the interview they had had with me the day before. When the article was later translated to me on the steamer, I found it to be very good and correct. The editors brought with them
Mr. Inouye had written to ask me when the train would pass through Kobe. He felt that as I was going on an important pilgrimage, he wanted to see me and say goodby. When the train stopped in Kobe, I heard a voice call, "Miss Alexander! Miss Alexander!" Then Mr. Inouye hurriedly came into the train and gave me a package containing two beautiful Japanese fans, which he asked me to take to the "Lord of the Bahá'í Kingdom and his Madam." There was not time for me to explain that the Guardian was not married as the train stopped only five minutes. We did not know then that the Guardian was going to be married in a few days. While Mr. Inouye was waiting for the train, he wrote on a paper the messages he wished to convey to me and handed me the paper. He wrote: "We pray God's protection for your safe and sound travel. I shall feel very lonely while you are away from Japan, and will expect you again in Japan in no distant day. Please convey our good wishes to The Lord of the Bahá'í Kingdom in Haifa. The two Japanese fans I offer to the Guardian and his Madam." Mr. Inouye was the last friend I met in Japan.
I reached the port of Moji at noon on March twentieth. Through Divine favors I had been able to keep the Fast in spite of traveling. Before the steamer sailed, a Japanese telegram came from Mr. Torii. Translated it read, "Goodby, take care of yourself, Torii." How dear were those words, the last to reach me in Japan!
The next day was the joyous Bahá'í New Year. In my notes I wrote: "A joyous thrill came to me as we sailed from Moji. I saw before me but one land, the Holy Land, and the glorious person of Shoghi Effendi. All the world seemed nothing in comparison to this land and person. What a glorious privilege God has given me that I can make this trip for the friends in Japan and pray for all there at the Holy Shrines. This morning I spoke at the breakfast table of the Naw-Rúz day, and later had a talk with a young man, Mr. Yoshida, who goes to London and will be in the Japanese Embassy there. He translated to me the article which the Chugai Nippo published the day I left about my trip. Yesterday was cold and raining but today the weather is beautiful and all the passengers are happy, at least I hope so."
At the breakfast table I had only mentioned to my table companions, an American army officer and his wife, the significance of the day and added that it was the New Year day of my faith, the Bahá'í Faith.
On March twenty-second, I wrote: "We reached Shanghai this morning. Mr. Suleimani and Mr. Ouskouli came to the steamer to take me to the Suleimani apartment where I spent the day. Mr. Touty and a Mrs. Chan from Honolulu, a friend of Mrs. Tsao's, came to dinner. As the steamer remained in port until three p.m. the next day, I again spent part of a day at the Suleimani home and Mr. Touty and Mrs. Chan came again to lunch. Mr. Touty then took me in his auto to the steamer. He gave me a box of chocolates which I shared with the passengers." The friends whose names I mentioned were the dear Persian Bahá'ís of Shanghai.
After leaving Shanghai, the wife of the American army officer asked me if I could give her something about my faith, that she had spoken of it to a friend in Shanghai who wished to know about it. Thus the way opened for me to give her Esslemont's book to read, and some pamphlets to send her friend.
On April second, my father's birthday, a young woman who had come on to the steamer with her husband, an aviator in the United States service, asked me about my faith. She had heard of it from the army officer's wife. I loaned Esslemont's book to her also. To a lady from Melbourne I loaned Security for a Failing World, and to another lady who was going with her husband to Sumatra, I spoke of the Cause and gave her a pamphlet as she was not able to read at that time.
In Colombo I took a taxicab with friends from the steamer to a modern Buddhist Temple. I spoke of the Cause to the intelligent taxi driver and gave him a Bahá'í booklet and told him I too believed in Buddha.
On the steamer was Mr. Genyoku Kuwaki, a Japanese scholar to whom I spoke of the Cause. He said he had heard of it from a Mr. Miyata, the late principal of a girls' school. I loaned him the Bahá'í World Vol. V, which I had with me, and also Esslemont's book. He showed no prejudice but did not awaken to the reality of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh.
At Suez many of the passengers left the steamer for the day to go to Cairo, while the steamer passed through the Red Sea and then joined it again the next day in Port Said. I was asked to go, but decided to remain on the steamer, as I had no way of getting in touch with the Bahá'ís of Cairo. Instead, God granted me the bounty that day of speaking of the Cause to a lady from Australia who had recently come on the steamer. When I spoke of Bahá'u'lláh she said she felt another Messenger should come. I left her some literature as we parted that evening.
Arrival at Port Said
Mr. Ouskouli had sent from Shanghai an airmail letter to the Bahá'ís of Port Said to let them know I would be on the steamer. At mid-night, the dawn of April nineteenth, the steamer docked at Port Said, but it was not until after breakfast the next morning the passengers went ashore. Before I had had breakfast, two young men came to my cabin door. I recognized one of them immediately as the brother of Mirza Ali Yazdi of Berkeley, California, from his resemblance to his brother, and the other was Jean Aliwafay. The first words Mirza Yazdi said were, "The Guardian is married and you will never guess to whom." Without hesitation I immediately guessed, although I had not known that May Maxwell and her daughter had remained in Haifa after the winter. The Bahá'í brothers escorted me to Mirza Yazdi's store, where I met another Bahá'í, Philip Naimi, a Syrian, and later Alu Saad El Din joined us and went the home of Mirza Yazdi for lunch. In the afternoon a meeting was arranged of women to meet me. Nine gathered and one of them translated for me. In the late afternoon some of the friends accompanied me by auto to Kantara, the station between Africa and Asia. When I showed my passport at the station before entering the train, it was found that it had expired that very day. It happened there was a Bahá'í in the Customs office who came to my assistance, and it was arranged that I might
Arrival in Haifa
When we reached Haifa I was surprised to find it a bustling, active city. Fujita met me first and asked why the train was so late. He escorted me to the auto where Hussein Effendi the Guardian's brother, was waiting for me. Then we drove to the Western Pilgrim House. The first one to greet me there was my beloved May Maxwell. What a bounty God granted me that after waiting thirty-six years to visit the Holy Land, when at last I reached there my spiritual mother greeted me! As soon as we were seated she began to tell me of her daughter's marriage, and pointing across the street to the little story on the top of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's home, she said, "That is where she is." We were interrupted shortly after by Hussein Rabbani who came to let me know that the Guardian would see me in half an hour. For two days and nights I had been without sleep. I hurried to wash and change my travel-worn clothes. Then Fujita accompanied me across the street carrying the box which contained the doll in the glass case which had been given me by the students of Seikei School on November 26, 1936. This I presented to the Guardian. The meeting with the Guardian seemed very natural. He spoke of the room we were in, that it was the room in which the Master received His guests, and pointed out the chair in which He sat. The Guardian spoke of the Cause throughout the world and then of Japan and said that the Japanese should establish the Cause in Japan, that the next books to translate into Japanese were the Hidden Words, then the Gleanings, and afterwards the Íqán and Some Answered Questions. Then he said I should not return to Japan alone, that I should have help, and that someone might go with me from America. It was a great surprise to me when he said he wanted me to go to Germany, for I had never dreamed of it, but I had hoped I could go to Paris where thirty-six years before I had received the confirmation to go forth and teach His Cause. The Guardian added that I might spend a week or so in Paris and in London.
In the afternoon I went across to the Master's house where the women of the Holy Family met for tea. In the evening the beloved Guardian came to the Pilgrim House where he dined with us. Fujita would call us when the dinner was brought from the Guardian's house, and then Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell and I would go to the dining room and remaining standing until he entered accompanied by his wife. He would say, "Good evening!" to us in his beautiful resonant voice. That first evening he directed me to the seat opposite him at the table, while Mrs. Maxwell sat at his right and his wife at his left. His conversation was inspiring. Addressing Mr. Maxwell, he spoke of the Plan of Bahá'u'lláh, that the Báb had declared and referred to it and ‘Abdu'l Bahá had embodied it in a blueprint, as it were, and we were the champion builders to carry out the Plan.
The next day, April twenty-first, the men went to Bahjí for the day and the women had a meeting in the afternoon in the little building near the monument to the Greatest Holy Leaf. It was a new experience for me. The Tablets and Prayers were chanted in Persian. I noticed that they did not bow their heads and close their eyes, as is done in western countries in prayer. When I spoke of it they said, "We were listening to the words." After the meeting we walked across to the Shrines.
Fujita accompanied me to the Shrines the next day, as I wanted to learn the way in order to go alone in the early morning.
I was eager to share the Guardian's soul inspiring words of wisdom with others, especially the friends in Honolulu, and May Maxwell told me the Guardian permitted the friends to take notes at the dinner table. I then took a note book to the table, but found it very difficult to write the first evening. After that every evening before dinner I supplicated the Beloved for His assistance that I might be able to write the words of knowledge which flowed from the Guardian, and only through His help was I enabled to write. I realized afterwards that it was a spiritual matter which depended on one's spiritual condition and not the outward ability to write. When I left Haifa I felt great regret that I had not done better. [These "pilgrim's notes" are online at bahai-library.com/alexander_notes_presence_shoghieffendi. -J.W.]
The early morning of April twenty-third, I went up to the Shrines alone, as I felt time was precious and would not come again. Whenever I went the radiant gardener always gave me a bouquet of flowers to carry away. In the afternoon Adelaide Sharp arrived from Tihran. It was eight years since she had been in Haifa. That afternoon we went to the Master's house and had tea with the ladies. There I met for the first time the Holy Mother who was ninety-three years old, and it was my privilege to sit by her side.
A Japanese Scroll
One day I decided to give the Japanese scroll I had brought from my home in Tokyo to Shoghi Effendi. Knowing that he received many presents, I hesitated thinking I would only be burdening him. The evening after I gave it to him, he spoke of it at the table and said he was going to hang it in the hall in Bahjí. I was deeply touched and said, "It is a great honor to the nation of Japan!" Another evening when he came to dinner he said he had been to Bahjí that afternoon and had hung the scroll in the hall there, on either side of which he had placed paintings of Dr. Herman Grossmann's, and he
On April twenty-ninth, the women went to Bahjí where they had lunch together and a meeting in the afternoon. It was my first visit there and I had the joy of going with Zia Khanum and Ruhiyyih Khanum. While there Ruhiyyih Khanum and I prayed in the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh for the friends in Japan. At the lunch I shared with the ladies some special pickles I had brought from Kyoto.
One evening at dinner I told Shoghi Effendi about the incense which he had given me to take to the Shrine of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and he said I might give it to the caretaker of the Shrine, and he would tell him he could burn it in the Shrine, and also that I might burn it in the hall at Bahjí when I visited there. I told May Maxwell about the incense and she said: "What a blessing for that blind man!"
Every Sunday afternoon the men met at the Shrine on Mt. Carmel where the Guardian chanted. The women had their meeting in the house near the monument to the Greatest Holy Leaf. On May second, after the women's meeting, we went to the Shrine where we could hear the Guardian chanting. In his voice there was a power which was different from all others.
Visit to Jerusalem
I could not leave Palestine without having my passport renewed and it was necessary for me to go to Jerusalem to see the American Consul. At the dinner table Shoghi Effendi announced that he would send his brother with me and Adelaide Sharpe to Jerusalem. I asked him what he thought we should see in Jerusalem, and he said the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Mount of Olives and the Mosque of Omar, and then we should compare them with the Shrines in Haifa and Bahjí. What a privilege it was for us to go as his guests! We traveled third class on the train which gave us the opportunity to see the interesting young Hebrew workers and the Arabs in their costumes. In Jerusalem we stayed for two nights at the modern YMCA which was a gift from an American. On the way to the church of the Holy Sepulcher we passed through the Jaffa Gate to the old city. One felt the utter spiritual darkness of the place and was glad to leave and never return again. On the Mount of Olives we found the trees so very old that they no longer could bare fresh young foliage. These places were in extreme contrast to the spiritual peace and beauty and freshness of the Shrines in Haifa and Bahjí.
Visit to ‘Akká and Bahjí
On Friday, May seventh, the Guardian directed Hussein Rabbani to accompany Adelaide Sharp and myself to ‘Akká and Bahjí where we were to spend the night. On the way to the ‘Akká prison, we stopped at the Bahá'í cemetery where ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's two young sons and Nabil are buried. Reaching the prison we waited outside the gate until permission was given us to enter. As we sat in the auto, the breeze from the ocean and the sound of the waves, reminded me of Hawaii. Entering the prison we were shown the room which had been occupied by Bahá'u'lláh. It was then vacant, as that part of the prison was kept for a hospital. Over the door of the room was a brass plaque on which was inscribed, "Bahá'u'lláh 30th August 1868 — 11th September 1870." Then we visited the garden of Ridvan where the gardener picked mulberries for us.
When we reached Bahjí we were each assigned a room for the night. There the surrounding country seemed pervaded with an atmosphere of peace. It reminded me of Makawao, Maui, on the slope of the mountain Haleakala. In the Esslemont room, in the Mansion, I saw the Japanese edition of Esslemont's book which had been sent from Tokyo, and also the clippings from Japanese newspapers carefully placed in a drawer. In the hall of the Mansion, I burned the incense which blind Mr. Watanabe had sent by me from Kyoto which Shoghi Effendi had told me I might do. From that blessed place we wrote letters to friends. I had started a letter to George Beatty in Japan, but could not finish it, as the auto arrived to take us back to Haifa. That evening at dinner I spoke to the Guardian again of George, and asked if I should write him that he must give up drink. A laughter started which went around the table, the beloved Guardian joining in it. He answered me, "Wait until he is a Bahá'í."
May Maxwell, was then staying in Nazareth and sent word for me to come see her. Hussein Rabbani went with me. It was the last time I saw beloved May until we met in New York in September. On the return to Haifa, Ruhiyyih Khanum accompanied us. It was an evening never to be forgotten at sunset time. The next year as I rode from San Francisco to Geyserville, I was impressed with the resemblance of the landscape to that between Haifa and Nazareth.
The day before I sailed from Haifa, Shoghi Effendi sent Hussein Rabbani with Adelaide and myself to visit the Archives in the Shrine on Mount Carmel and the cave of Elijah. At the dinner table that evening he asked me when my steamer was to sail, and then said he would see me the next afternoon. The afternoon of May twelfth, I sailed from Haifa on the steamer Jerusalem for Treiste. My roommate was a young Jewess girl who showed interest in the Cause.
Words of Shoghi Effendi
When I reached Haifa my heart was full of many things which I wished to speak to the Guardian about concerning Japan. In his presence I felt self-conscious when I spoke, and as Adelaide Sharp spoke only of Persia, I found it difficult to speak. God did not deprive me, though and when I left Haifa there remained nothing in my heart which had not been answered. All I could say then was, "It is all-satisfying!"
Whenever I was able to speak, the Guardian would immediately answer with soul-satisfying replies. I spoke of George Beatty, that he said he could not be a Bahá'í because he drank. Ruhiyyih Khanum had met him in Montreal where her blessed mother taught him. Shoghi Effendi said: "Any person considering to become a believer must make up his mind to give up drink.
I spoke of the brother, Mr. Daiun Inouye, that he was a Buddhist priest. Shoghi Effendi said that he could not be a Bahá'í and remain a priest, that he should make every effort to find other means of livelihood even though it were less money, and that it should be explained to him: "Bahá'u'lláh is the Bearer of a New Revelation which abrogates the old, the Founder of a New Dispensation. We have our own laws. We must not be members of any organizations but we must cooperate with all provided cooperation does not imply acceptance. We must do just what others do who enter our meetings, reciprocate like people who address Bahá'í meetings. We must make distinction between association and affiliation. Our Faith abrogates the laws of previous revelations, therefore we cannot be members of other organizations."
I spoke of Confucius, that in his writings he mentioned his return. Shoghi Effendi said: "Confucius was not only a philosopher but a saintly man, and any person who has saintly attributes, their attributes will return. Ninety per cent of the scholars have said that Buddha [sic — Confucius? -J.W.] was not a prophet. Hinduism and Buddhism are the only existing true religions of the Far East."
One day as I was writing to the blind friends in Japan, I spoke of the spread of the Cause among them and asked the Guardian what he would suggest for me to write them. He said: "The effect of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets to the blind in Japan we are now beginning to witness. The Braille Committee has been internationally extended. The blind should be told that the Cause will be the greatest comfort and the words of Helen Keller should be quoted, and they should be told what the Bahá'ís are doing for the blind in particular that it is international in scope. There will be many more blind after the war."
I asked Shoghi Effendi what he would suggest to write in a newspaper article. He said: "Stress the oneness of humanity in almost every newspaper article. It is the call of humanity to the unity of mankind. We must identify it with the coming of age of the whole race. This is a new teaching which the world is now ready for. 'He will guide you into all truth,' the maturity of the age. The forces are now released and are preparing humanity to attain that stage. The principle of the oneness of humanity is the cornerstone of Bahá'í civilization. It is the call to the Bahá'í teachings. Unity of mankind is new. Christ could not have taught it. The world was not ready. Forces have now been released and are preparing humanity to attain that stage. The child is not yet born. Now is the stage of incubation. The child is world civilization."
He said: "The immediate future in Japan is very dark. Japan is going to suffer. The time is not now for great headway. The Pacific will become a great storm center in the coming war — great suffering."
I spoke of Yuri Furukawa, that she had wished to have a school. He answered, "It is useless to have a school. Make her realize the need of the study of the Cause, the Bahá'í World especially, and to associate with the Bahá'ís. What we require in Japan is a recognition of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and of His Station."
The last afternoon in Haifa the Guardian sent for me and I went across to the Master's house and waited in the parlor for him. When he came, he carried in his hands something folded in a white silk kerchief. He said he was sorry he had kept me waiting, but he was preparing this for me. Then he opened the covering and showed me a beautiful photograph of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. He said, "This is for you to keep until you have the archive in Japan, then it is to go to the Japanese archives." He said the photograph was the original taken in Paris and pointed out how clearly one could see the lines in the Master's face. There was also in the kerchief a large copy of the Greatest Name which the beloved Guardian presented to me. In place of the one stolen in Tokyo, I received this precious gift from him!
That last afternoon Shoghi Effendi spoke rapidly inspiring words which I took down as far as I was able in a note book. In referring to Japan he said: "Japan has a very great future. It is very much like Germany, full of vitality and in the future it will be devoted to the Cause. Now it is the transition time. They need a rude awakening. They must be shaken before they awaken. Nationalism and militarism are all instruments which God is utilizing for the use of His purpose. This turmoil is a preparation . . . If you are able to, encourage friends not only to visit Japan but to settle there. Travelers have not been able to achieve what was wanted . . . Come again with Japanese Bahá'ís, not only interested but Bahá'ís, for I do want the Japanese Bahá'ís to take an active share in the international affairs here in the future when the International House of Justice is formed. Its seat will be here in Palestine. I hope we will have pilgrims from Japan."
Shoghi Effendi had said one night at the dinner table that someone from Hawaii might return to Japan with me. That last afternoon he said to me, "You may choose whom to go."
When I left Kyoto on my way to Haifa, Mr. and Mrs. Torii gave me a photograph of Akira printed together with that of a young girl who had died. They had not met in this world, but their parents felt they were together in the other world. I showed the photograph to Shoghi Effendi one evening at the dinner table, and he asked if he might keep it. That last afternoon I told him that the parents felt these two were united in the other world. He said: "There is no doubt that the souls in the other world are in closer touch than in this world for the body is an obstacle."
At another time Shoghi Effendi had said, when speaking of the friends in Japan: "Impress upon the friends the need of the establishment of a Local Assembly. It doesn't matter where, in the city or village. Because their faith is not deep enough they are liable to lose interest and join other movements."
Shoghi Effendi's mother, Zia Khanum, gave me, as I was leaving Haifa, a beautiful small Persian rug on which was woven the Greatest Name. It deeply touched my heart. How marvelous were the ways of God!
From Fukushima province, the blind teacher, Mr. Yasuharu Nakayama, sent me a letter which had been translated by a friend. He wrote in part: "Mr. Torii told me that you will come again to Japan about the end of this year. I must study hard, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, by that time. Please teach me this religion when you return. I wish to be a perfect follower of the Bahá'í and then propagate it in our province . . . For this purpose I must study more English . . . It is my earnest hope that you return to Japan as soon as possible . . ."
Martha Root's Fourth Visit to Japan
In June, 1937, Japan had the great blessing of a visit from beloved Martha Root. The story of her fourth visit has already been published. (See B.W. Vol. VII, pages 90-93). She was in Japan from June third until the twenty-seventh, and visited the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, where she met all the Bahá'ís and brought them spiritual fragrance. It was at the time when Helen Keller visited the country. While I was in Haifa, Shoghi Effendi had told me that the words of Helen Keller about the Bahá'í Revelation, which were published in the Bahá'í World, should be given to the blind, and so I copied them and sent to Japan. There beloved Martha gave them to the Press.
Martha wrote: "Mr. Torii is lovable like St. John and so is his wife. He has such great capacity and he has done solid, glorious foundation work. I felt his helpful influence in each city in Japan that I visited. He knows how to take responsibility; he is scholarly, a good speaker, a fluent Esperantist and is always smiling and pleasant." Beloved Martha was the last Bahá'í to water the Divine seeds which had been planted in Japan.
The following are portions of letters to me from friends who met Martha in Japan. Mrs. Yuri Furukawa who had met May Maxwell and her daughter in Paris in 1923, wrote: "My dear Bahá'í mother, I thank you very very much for your letter and cards. I am so glad to know that you have had the good time at Haifa. I think it is wonderful that Mary Maxwell is now our Guardian's wife. I am very happy to know it . . . Do you know that Miss Martha Root has come on her way to Tokyo last month, and we had a happy time with her . . . I have the Bahá'í meeting of women every month. They are very interested in the Cause . . . We wish to do something for the poor and helpless mothers and going to translate the Hidden Words. When will you return to Japan? I wish to have many and good members for our meeting and do something for the good of mankind. We meet on the nineteenth at my house. We are waiting for you."
Mr. Torii wrote: "My dearest spiritual mother! . . . Always with great joy I received your cards and letter from almost every port . . . I have shared them among the friends in Kyoto, Kobe and Tokyo. Every time they brought us happiness, as if we were with you. We are anxious to hear all and more of your visit in the Holy Land. Miss Root arrived at Yokohama June third, and stayed in Tokyo until the seventeenth. She met there Kagawa, Mr. Noma and of course the Bahá'í friends and had a meeting at Sawada's home to which gathered eighteen blind students. She was very sorry that you and Dr. Masujima had gone to America. She came to Kyoto in the evening of the eighteenth and attended the Esperantists' meeting that night, where gathered about thirty, some from Osaka, and she spoke to them about the Bahá'í teachings. The following day, the nineteenth, I think you will be much surprised to hear, Mr. Fukuta came to see us from Toyohashi. We received him at the station and had a very good time, indeed, and spoke of you and everything altogether. (Mr. Fukuta was the first Japanese in Japan.) He spent that night with me at my home. How happy we were to see him, you can imagine. The next day, as it was Sunday, we invited Miss Root to my home and had a lunch together, and in the afternoon we visited Mr. Nishida's Ittoen of Yamashima, where we met Mr. Tagita, a member of Ittoen who became much interested in the Bahá'í teachings. In the evening we invited Mr. Kawai and Mr. Watanabe to the hotel and also Mr. Fukumi, a writer of the Chugai Nippo. Fukuta San left us for his home that evening. The next day, the twenty-first, we met a writer of the Asahi Shimbun, who wrote of Miss Root and me and took a photograph of us. In the evening Miss Root left Kyoto for Kobe. On the twenty-sixth, I went to Kobe to see her at the Fuji Hotel and met Mrs. Arakawa, Mr. Misawa, Mr. Inouye and some other blind friends. We spent a night in Kobe and had a happy time again. Sunday morning we went to the ship, Asama Maru for Shanghai . . . I am distributing now and then the Braille book of Esslemont, whenever I have money to do so. I pray for peace of the world, peace of the orient especially . . . Please give our love and good will to everyone you meet everywhere you go . . ."
Mr. Keiji Sawada of Tokyo wrote: "In April there was an enthusiastic welcome for Dr. Helen Keller. She and Miss Polly Thompson came to visit our school on April twenty-ninth, our Emperor's Birthday. Their speech inspired us with love and courage. In May I received a letter from America in which I was very glad to learn that the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Mass., U.S.A. where Miss Sullivan, teacher of Helen Keller, was educated will assign me a scholarship covering room, board, laundry and tuition, from September, 1938 till June, 1939. I hope I shall be able to visit your country next year. In June I was surprised to receive a letter from Miss Root. I went to see her at the Marunouchi Hotel and Yuri San also came there and we had supper together. When I visited Miss Root one evening I met with Mrs. Naganuma and Mr. Ogawa. I think they are still very much interested in the Bahá'í teachings . . . In the beginning of this month the seventh Convention of the World Federation of Education Associations was held at the Tokyo Imperial University. I listened to the speeches broadcast from there by radio. They were very interesting to me, the spirit being quite Bahá'í . . ." The blind friend, Mr. Iwao Watanabe, of Kyoto wrote: "I have the honor to inform you that I have received your very kind letters and I thank you ever so much for your kindness to report several things. Your very kind letters are all like good guides. All your letters and post cards are kept in my chest with great care. My brother said it was a great opportunity for me to study
Mr. Torii wrote August 30, 1937, after the attack on Shanghai. "O how often we think and talk of Miss Root in China. We only pray for her that she may be safe and protected . . . Your letter from Paris is circulated among the friends."
In November, 1937, an American friend paid for the publishing of the Hidden Words in Japanese which Yuri Furukawa had translated.
In August, 1938, our dear brother, Mr. Daiun Inouye resigned from the Buddhist priesthood. When I was in Haifa the beloved Guardian said that he should make every effort to find other means of livelihood, even though it were less money, and that he could not be a Bahá'í and remain a priest, so it was a great joy to know that he had taken the step. He wrote: "I send you the news regarding my life's important change, that is, in August this year I have completely retired from my church in Kobe, giving up its position and profession as a priest, and I have become entirely free in action and idea, so hereafter I will be able to fearlessly do any action. This is a great change for my own life. Thus on the nineteenth day of the same month my family moved to the present house in Tokyo from Kobe, and my son is studying music to become a pianist, and also my wife and I are now at ease, while I am intending to become a teacher in a women's school next year. It has been my long expected aim and idea to stand up for the Bahá'í Movement in Japan during my last life. Indeed it was during your first visit that I learned about the Bahá'í teaching, even the days of His great ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's lifetime. What a very mysterious thing! I reflect it with deep impression . . . Once in Kobe Miss Root told me she wished that I will strive for the Bahá'í Cause, so she may feel pleasure when she knows of my renewed life."
Mr. Keiji Sawada received in 1938 a scholarship for a year at Perkins Institution for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. There he was visited by our brother, Harlan Ober, who spent several hours with him and his American roommate. In a letter to me Mr. Sawada told how deeply he was impressed with the sincerity of Mr. Ober's Faith; and added, "I never forget your friendship and kindness in helping me spiritually."
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Miss Alexander sought opportunities to speak before English-speaking clubs and Esperanto groups. The top photograph shows Miss Alexander with women Esperantists. The bottom one is with an Esperanto group in Tomakomai in 1932, when the Faith was first mentioned in Hokkaido.
Through the guiding hand and loving care of the Beloved Master, the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh was established in Japan. After His passing the seeds which have been sown were invigorated by the dynamic power released in the ceaseless flow of letters from the beloved Guardian Shoghi Effendi.
The first Bahá'í seeds were sown in Japan by Mr. H. C. Struven and Mr. C.M. Remey when they spent six days in Tokyo in December, 1909, and the last, before the world conflagration, by beloved Martha Root in her fourth visit to Japan in June, 1937, when she met with the friends in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kobe.
Dr. and Mrs. G.J. Augur assisted the Cause in Japan in their visits there between the years 1914 and 1919. Through the directions of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and after Him, Shoghi Effendi, I spent fourteen years in Japan during four sojourns between the years 1914 and 1937 when I left to go to the Holy Land.
‘Abdu'l-Bahá's only address to a Japanese audience was given in the Japanese YMCA in Oakland, California. In Japan also the first public lecture on the Bahá'í Cause was given in the Japanese YMCA in Tokyo by Mr. C.M. Remey in December, 1909. It was in the same YMCA Dr. G.J. Augur spoke to a group of ministers 1914. Here also Martha Root in her first visit to Japan in July, 1915, spoke to the English Speaking Club and in each succeeding visit she was invited to speak to the club. Here Keith Ransom-Kehler in the summer of 1931 spoke several times to the club. Many times I was welcomed to speak in the club and also in the English Conversation classes of the night school opportunities were given me to speak of the Cause until I felt the stones of the building must vibrate with God's Message.
James A.B. Scherer concludes his book, Japan Defies the World, with the statement that Japan will ruin herself by her own means and thus save herself since her people will rise to shape a new life.
The great Japanese Buddhist apostle, Kobo Daishi, said: "Fragrant flowers are very sweet, but one day they fade away. Who can say, 'This world is unchanging?' Crossing over the mount of change today we shall find no dreaming nor illusion but enlightenment."
In a Tablet to the beloved brother, Mr. S. Fujita, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá wrote: "Japan hath made wonderful progress in material civilization but she will become perfect when she also becometh spiritually developed and the power of the Kingdom becometh manifest in her."
The Guardian said that now was not the time for headway in Japan, yet his words and those of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá assure us of the brightness of the distant future in that country.
References in Bahá'í Literature to Japan
EDITORIAL AND HISTORICAL NOTES
Sometime after Miss Alexander's passing in 1971 parts of the manuscript were found in her effects, which were willed to the Archives in Japan. After the complete manuscript was located, the National Spiritual Assembly of Japan started to prepare it for publication. The format and design have been followed as closely as possible as she had typed it, with the exception of setting off the Words of Bahá'u'lláh, ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and letters of the Guardian in italics.
Throughout the text of this book are the word "Bahá'í Cause," and sometimes "Bahá'í Movement." These days the Bahá'í religion is generally referred to as the Bahá'í Faith. However, as this is a historical document we did not want to change the title of the book as designated by Miss Alexander.
It may be observed that in the early days of the spread of the Faith in the West, great emphasis was placed on the Words, Life and Personality of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. The believers at that time had caught only a glimpse of the towering Figure of the Manifestation of God, Bahá'u'lláh, and had but a few translations of His matchless Words. What the early believers did have were the Tablets of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in which He answered their questions, taught and encouraged them, guided them to service and action, always leading them to His Father's Message. Is it any wonder that their hearts poured out to the Master and that He truly exemplified the Faith to them? It was their love and obedience to ‘Abdu'l-Bahá which motivated them into action. This history is the story of one such individual and those who were taught by her.
Early translations of the Hidden Words and other Words of Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá which are quoted in this book have been superseded by Shoghi Effendi's translations. However, the old translations were what the early believers had at the time and were written into the manuscript. We did not feel we should change them.
Miss Alexander has quoted from the Tablets which she received from ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. She received at least one other. It is quoted here.
O Thou seeker of the Kingdom!
There is a record of a Bahá'í woman, Beatrice Erskine Lane, 1878-1939), whose mother was Emily Erskine Hahn, a Bahá'í on the East Coast of the United States. Miss Lane came to Japan in 1911 to marry the well-known Buddhist scholar and writer in English, Daisetz (his preferred spelling) Suzuki. The famous British potter Mr. Bernard Leach, wrote recently, "Beatrice Lane, I met more than once at Dr. Suzuki's but didn't then know about the Faith. Since then I've met him and he told me his wife was a Bahá'í. He was Dr. Yanai's principal teacher — both profound Buddhists." Mrs. Hahn visited Japan in 1917, we can presume to see her daughter, and also met the Tokyo Bahá'ís.
In Chapter I of this book there is an account of the first travelers to Japan, Mr. Struven and Mr. Remey. After Japan, they went to other countries and then into ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's Presence in Haifa. Mr. Struven wrote an account of that visit to a friend in 1952, "How well I remember sitting in ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's bedroom with Him and He gazing out the window . . . when He turned and said, 'You did not know how ‘Abdu'l-Bahá was watching over you while you traveled and met the hardships to spread the Cause.'"
In Chapter III there is an account of Mr. Tokujiro Torii, (1894-1970). Blind himself, he spent most of his life helping to alleviate the situation of the blind in Japan, and was decorated by the Emperor for his work with the blind. He translated many of the Writings into Braille.
Mrs. Torii, now over 80, tells of her husband's dream, (translated from Japanese). "In the first year of our marriage (1916), we were living in Shizuoka (about 100 miles southwest of Tokyo), and it was there that he had the dream. He described it to me thus: 'I dreamt that it was autumn, and I was in the serene forests of Shizuoka. Someone approached me, and in His company were several others who followed quietly behind Him. He came to where I stood and a silence ensued which no words could match in sweetness and strength. I stretched my hands out towards Him, and He took me into His embrace. His arms around me, I felt the warmth and strength of His chest, and His full beard covered my face. No words were spoken, the silence being interrupted only by the rustling of fallen leaves and the chirping of birds. Suddenly I knew that He must be ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, but in the excitement of that thrilling moment I awoke.' The memory of that dream was the source of great comfort through his life, and in times of sorrow and disappointment."
In Chapter 4 there is mention of Miss Mikae Komatsu, one of the three Japanese women to receive a Tablet from ‘Abdu'l-Bahá. She is now Mrs. Tadako Arakawa and is 74 years old. She said the name Mikae was a literary pen name she used for a time. She recalls the early days quite well — and was extremely fond of both Miss Alexander and Mrs. Finch. She said her original Tablet from ‘Abdu'l-Bahá was lost in the chaotic condition just after World War II as she was forced to abandon most of her possessions when she and her family moved to Tokyo.
Mrs. Yuri Furukawa (Mochizuki), the first Japanese woman to become a Bahá'í is still living in Tokyo.
In Chapter 6 Miss Alexander makes mention of "Mr. Yanagi, who was stirring through the means of art to bring better understanding between (Japan and Korea) . . ." Mr. Bernard Leach has confirmed that this was Dr. Soetsu Yanagi, founder and leader of the Japanese folk craft movement, Mr. Leach and Dr. Yanagi were close friends and colleagues. Mr. Leach once had a kiln on Dr. Yanagi's property in Abiko.
Mr. Leach suggested that the initial "M" which Miss Alexander used before Dr. Yanagi's name, came from an alternate reading, Muneyoshi, of the character used for his first name.
This story takes the reader up to Miss Alexander's departure from Japan in 1937. A continuation of her story of Japan would pick up again in 1950 when she returned. She spent another 17 years in Japan. During that time she was appointed Auxiliary Board Member by the Hands of the Cause in Asia. In 1957 the Guardian appointed her Hand of the Cause. During those years she lived in Kyoto but traveled extensively in many countries of Asia — teaching, deepening and encouraging. She was especially kind to the army of pioneers who went to Asian countries in response to the call issued by the Guardian during the Ten-Year Crusade, 1953-1963. With those she could not see regularly, she carried on a correspondence. Her notes were always full of encouragement — often quoting appropriate passages — and they helped to sustain many lonely but striving pioneers. She undoubtedly realized they were ". . . those who after you will tread your path . . .," to quote the Guardian's words to her.
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Japan
(by) Barbara Sims, 1977