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Unfurling the Divine Flag in Tokyo:
An Early Bahá'í History

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 13

13. Hands of the Cause and Other Eminent Bahá'ís Who Have Visited Tokyo

One Disciple of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and eighteen Hands of the Cause have graced our city. Of course, at the time they visited not all of them had had such a rank bestowed upon them. In two instances the rank of Hand of the Cause was conferred posthumously: Mrs. Ransom-Kehler and Miss Martha Root. Three were appointed after visiting: Mr. Siegfried Schopflocher, Mr. C.M. Remey, and Miss Agnes Alexander, who was living in Japan when she was appointed. Thirteen of the Bahá'ís had already been appointed Hand of the Cause when they visited. The title of Disciple of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was conferred upon Dr. George Augur (1853-1927) by the Guardian as reported in Vol. III (1928-1930) of The Bahá'í World.

As mentioned previously, C.M. Remey visited Japan in 1909. He was appointed to the rank of Hand of the Cause in 1951. He was expelled from the Faith in disgrace a few years later.

Dr. Augur came in June 1914 for the first time and Miss Alexander also for the first time in November 1914; Miss Martha Root in 1915 and three times after that: in 1923 she spent two weeks, in 1930 she spent two months, and in June 1937 three weeks. After that, Mr. Siegfried Schopflocher in 1927; Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehler spent six weeks in Japan in 1931. Mr. Zikrullah Khadem came twice, the first time in 1953 for one month, and the second in 1955 for two months, when his wife accompanied him. He was the first designated Hand of the Cause to visit Japan. He represented the Guardian at the Nikko Conference. Mr. Jalal Khazeh also came twice, the first time in 1957 when he represented the Guardian at the first Annual Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia. Mr. Shu'a'u'llah Ala'i came once in 1959 and Dr. Rahmatu'llah Muhajir visited Japan often (19 or 20 times), the first time being in 1961. Aside from Miss Alexander, Dr. Muhajir spent the most time in Japan of any of the Hands of the Cause.

Mr. A.Q. Faizi came several times, the first time in 1963. Mr. Collis Featherstone came several times, the first time in 1965. Mr. Tarazu'llah Samandari came once in 1966; Mr. Paul Haney came once in 1967; and Mr. John Robarts came once in 1968. Mr. Ali-Akbar Furutan came four times, the first time was in 1969. He also represented the Universal House of Justice at the North Pacific Oceanic Conference in Sapporo September, 1971. Mr. Enoch Olinga came once in 1970 and Mr. William Sears, with his wife, came once in 1974 to represent the Universal House of Justice at the first Annual Convention of the Bahá'ís of Japan. Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum came twice, the first time was for a week in 1977; the second time a year later for nine weeks.

Five Universal House of Justice members have visited Japan; one before he was a member and one after. Mr. Glenford Mitchell came to Japan in October 1970 to


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1965. Two Hands of the Cause, Dr. Rahmatu'llah Muhajir, third from the left, and Miss Agnes Alexander, rear second from the right, meet with the National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia. Front: Mr. Masazo Odani, Dr. Ikuo Mizuno, Dr. Muhajir, Mr. Rouhollah Mumtazi, Mr. Eugene Schreiber, and Mr. Philip Marangella. Rear: Mr. Ataullah Moghbel, Mrs. Barbara Sims, Miss Alexander, and Mr. Abbas Katirai. Missing NSA member is Mr. Hiroshi Yamazaki. The friends are facing the garden in the rear of the old National Hazíratu'l-Quds building in Tokyo.

attend the World Conference on Religion and Peace in Kyoto, representing the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, of which he was then secretary. Mr. Hushmand Fatheazam came to Japan in 1977 and again in 1987 with his wife. Both times he met with the National Spiritual Assembly representing the Universal House of Justice. Dr. and Mrs. David Ruhe came to Japan on a personal visit in 1986. Mr. David Hofman came on a personal visit in February 1990 after he had retired from the Universal House of Justice. Dr. Peter Khan visited in 1994 with his wife, Janet. All of these visitors held meetings at the Tokyo Bahá'í Center.

During Mr. Khadem's visit in 1953 he tried to personally meet every Bahá'í in Japan, who, at that time, numbered about 30 not counting the American servicemen. The Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly prepared for him a public meeting in December 1953 at the YMCA. Mr. Khadem also met with the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly, there being no National Assembly at that time. He was also present at the dedication of the Amagasaki Bahá'í Center.

During Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum's nine-week visit in 1978 meetings were planned around the country so as to be within easy traveling distance of all Bahá'ís, thereby giving every Bahá'í in Japan an opportunity to meet her. One of the gatherings was a two-day meeting to which all the pioneers were invited - only English was used.


Miss Agnes Alexander, who had left Japan in 1937, returned in May 1950 at the Guardian's urging and took up residence in Tokyo. She was elected to the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly in 1951 and 1952. With the Guardian's approval she left Tokyo to live in Kyoto in 1952. She was appointed Auxiliary Board Member for the Hands of the Cause in Asia in May 1954. In March 1957 after the passing of Hand of the Cause Mr. George Townshend, Shoghi Effendi appointed Miss Alexander to that esteemed rank.

Mrs. Mildred Mottahedeh and her husband, Rafi, first visited Japan in 1953 and 1954 and also later. In 1961 Mrs. Mottahedeh was elected to the International Council, the institution the Guardian called "the forerunner of the supreme administrative institution [The Universal House of Justice]." When the International Council was first formed in 1951 it was appointed by the Guardian.

Mr. Bernard Leach is well-known in Japan as one of the foremost potters of his time. He influenced a return to the Japanese folk craft art in the 1920s and 30s and he, in turn, was influenced by Japanese art. His booklet My Religious Faith, which he printed personally mainly to give to his friends, was one of the most popular pamphlets among Japanese Bahá'ís. His main pottery business was in England but he made many trips to Japan, often overseeing exhibitions of his pottery. He often spoke at meetings arranged by the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo, always successful. At one time he spoke about art and the Bahá'í Faith to an audience of 250 persons, which was a record attendance for a meeting sponsored by the Assembly in Tokyo. Usually the only way the Bahá'ís could get so large an audience was to join in another organization's program, such as a United Nations meeting. But the name Bernard Leach could draw such an audience. Usually he gave his talks in English, which were translated into Japanese, but sometimes he forgot and would lapse into Japanese, which he had learned through the years of association with Japan's foremost potters.

Mr. Leach attended meetings and Feasts at the Tokyo Bahá'í Center during his trips to Japan in the 1950s and 60s. He also came in the 1970s but at that time he was partially blind and could not get around by himself. His last visit was in the late 1970s. In 1966 the Japanese government awarded Mr. Leach the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Second Class and in 1974 the Japan Foundation Cultural Award. He died in England in 1979.

Tokyo, a crossroads in Asia, has had many Bahá'í visitors through the years, some well-known and some not. A few names that come to mind: Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Christian, Dr. Dwight Allen, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bishop, Mrs. Gertrude Blum, Mrs. Shirin Fozdar, Mr. and Mrs. Rex Collison and Mr. and Mrs. Jamshed Fozdar. Meetings were always planned, even on short notice. Tokyo has immeasurably benefited over the years from the presence of these many souls.


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This photo, taken in 1965, shows some of the Tokyo Bahá'ís who are mentioned in the text. Sitting: Mr. Philip Marangella and Mrs. Ayako Ogi. Standing: Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, Mr. Hideyasu Takashima and Mr. Tameo Hongo.

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Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum meets some Bahá'í women at the Tokyo Hazíratu'l-Quds in 1978. Front: Mrs. Marife Yazdani, Miss Machiko Iwasaki, unknown, Mieko Suzuki, Miss Yuko Nakajima holding Layli Schwerin, and Miss Tomo Fushimi. Standing: Mrs. Kimiko Schwerin, Ruhiyyih Khanum, Mrs. Haruko Hayashi, Mrs. Toshiko Seki, Mrs. Chiyo Suzuki, Miss Hiroko Nakajima, and Rieko Suzuki.


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1987 at the Tokyo Hazíratu'l-Quds Universal House of Justice member Mr. Hushmand Fatheazam meets with the National Spiritual Assembly of Japan, accompanied by two Counsellors. It was the second trip to Japan by Mr. Fatheazam to meet with the National Spiritual Assembly. The first time was in 1977.

Seated: Counsellor Michitoshi Zenimoto, Mrs. Barbara Sims, Miss Nobuko Iwakura, Mr. Fatheazam, Miss Tomo Fushimi, Counsellor Rouhollah Mumtazi. Standing: Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, Miss Yoko Ishihara, Dr. Toshio Suzuki, Mr. Yuzo Yamaguchi, Mr. Yuichi Hirano, and Mr. Abbas Katirai. In later years Miss Iwakura and Mr. Katirai were to be appointed to the Continental Board of Counsellors; Miss Iwakura for Japan and Mr. Katirai for Russia.


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