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

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 2

2. The First Bahá'í Teachers to Settle in Japan, 1914

The first two Bahá'í teachers to settle in Japan were sent there by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Dr. George Augur, an American Bahá'í from Hawaii, arrived in the summer of 1914. After going back and forth twice he left Japan with 'Abdu'l-Bahá's permission in 1919. He was named by the Guardian as a "Disciple of 'Abdu'l-Bahá."

A few months after Dr. Augur arrived, in November 1914, Miss Agnes Alexander came to Tokyo. She was also from Hawaii and had the distinction of being the first Bahá'í in the Pacific area, having accepted the Faith while on a visit to Rome, Italy in 1900. In 1957 she was appointed a Hand of the Cause by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Faith, for her exemplary service. In 1914 these two valiant Bahá'ís, Miss Alexander and Dr. Augur started meetings in Tokyo and did their best to spread the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh around Japan.

'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself sent directives to the Bahá'ís in Tokyo. In one of His Tablets to Dr. George Augur, He instructed him, "Trusting in God and while turning thy face toward the Kingdom of Abhá, unfurl thou the divine Flag in Tokyo and cry at the top of thy voice: Ye people! The Sun of Reality hath appeared and flooded all the regions with its glorious light; it has upraised the Standard of the Oneness of the world of humanity and summoned all mankind to the refulgent Truth. The cloud of Mercy is pouring, the zephyr of Providence is wafting and the world of humanity is being stirred and moved. The divine Spirit is conferring eternal life, the heavenly lights are illumining the hearts, the table of the sustenance of the Kingdom is spread and adorned with all kinds of goods and victuals. 0 Ye concourse of men! Awake! Awake! Become mindful! Become mindful! Open ye the seeing eye! Unstop the hearing ear! Hark! Hark! The soft notes of the Heavenly Music are streaming down, ravishing the ears of the people of spiritual discernment. Ere long this transcendent Light will wholly enlighten and East and the West!"

Miss Alexander lived in the Kudan Ue (literally meaning "above the nine steps") section of Tokyo, where Dr. Augur also stayed when he first came to Japan. Miss Alexander and Dr. Augur made friends, found interested people and started meetings. Dr. Augur left Tokyo for a few months in 1915. When he returned he was accompanied by his wife Ruth. Miss Alexander and the Augurs were very heartened by the teaching as every week brought new people to hear of the Faith.

In 1916 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote concerning meetings being held in Tokyo:

"Consider thou, what great favor God has bestowed that such spiritual meetings are being held in Tokyo and such heavenly gifts are being distributed."

Three Japanese had become Bahá'ís in the United States earlier. However, the first to become Bahá'ís in Japan were Tokyo friends of Miss Alexander. Mr. Kikutaro Fukuta, an eighteen-year-old student was the first to declare his belief in Bahá'u'lláh, in 1915. He wrote to 'Abdu'l-Bahá twice and received answers; two

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Tablets, the first to be received in Japan by a Japanese.

'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote to him (in part), "The Most Great Guidance is a crown the brilliant gems of which will shine upon all the future ages and cycles. If it is placed on the head of a servant, he will become the object of the envy of kings, for this is an imperishable crown and an everlasting sovereignty ... Praise be to God, that thou hast become especialized with Divine Favor and Bounty. Thou didst become awake, beheld the lights and harkened unto the Melody of the Supreme Concourse."

Mr. Fukuta eventually left Tokyo and moved to Toyohashi, near Nagoya, where he managed a business involving rice. He died in 1959. (Many years later this writer



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This is an invitation to a gathering in commemoration of the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Miss Alexander kept this copy in her diary and wrote the explanation on the back. Thirty-six people, including six women, were present. Eleven people spoke on that occasion.

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located Mr. Fukuta' s two sons in Toyohashi. One was a teacher and the other a rice importer. They were very cordial and recalled Miss Alexander with affection. She sometimes visited them when their father was alive.)

On November 28, 1921 'Abdu'l-Bahá passed away. His passing was a terrible blow to Bahá'ís around the world, but the steadfastness of His sister Bahiyyih Khanum, and the able leadership of His chosen successor, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, served to reassure and inspire the Bahá'ís.

In 1922 Shoghi Effendi asked for a list of Bahá'ís in Japan. Miss Alexander stated that there were nine Bahá'ís in Tokyo and nine in other parts of Japan. The Tokyo Bahá'ís were: Miss Alexander; Mrs. Ida Finch, an American Bahá'í who spent two years in Tokyo teaching the Faith; Mr. Kenji Fukada; Miss Mikae Komatsu (in later years she was Mrs. Tadako Arakawa); Miss Otoe Murakami; Miss Kimiko Hagiwara; Miss Kazuko Fukusawa; Miss Haruko Mori and Miss Yuri Mochizuki (Furukawa).

Miss Alexander and Mrs. Finch were in their home in Tokyo when the Great Kanto Earthquake of September 1, 1923 occurred. Suddenly a violent tremor shook the house and continued to grow in violence. They fled to the little street as some of the roofs of houses fell. As the tremor lessened Miss Alexander rushed back into the house to get her handbag in which she carried the prayer for protection, which 'Abdu'l-Bahá had revealed at the request of Bahá'í students in Beirut College. She wrote that when the earth trembled she read the prayer aloud and each time it quieted. Three times this occurred. The front of their house was thrown out and the plaster walls crumbled but as she wrote, "His love and protection was there." They could continue to stay in the house. Two-thirds of Tokyo was destroyed and thousands lost their lives in the catastrophe. The Bahá'ís of Tokyo helped take care of homeless children.

In July 1928 the Japan Religious Conference was held in Tokyo. Fifteen hundred people representing Buddhists, Christians, Shintoists and others were present. Miss Alexander was asked to represent the Bahá'ís. This was the first large religious meeting in Japan to which Bahá'ís were invited. Miss Alexander wrote to Shoghi Effendi about it and he sent a greeting to the conference.

In 1928 as a coronation gift to the new Emperor of Japan, Showa (Hirohito), the Tokyo Bahá'ís presented seven specially bound Bahá'í books, a donation from American Bahá'ís. Mr. Rokuichiro Masujima, a friend of Miss Alexander, assisted with the presentation. The gifts were, of course, presented to the Emperor indirectly, through one of the imperial chamberlains. Shoghi Effendi wrote a note to the Emperor to go with the books.

In 1930 when Martha Root visited Tokyo she also presented Emperor Showa with some gifts, including a cable from Shoghi Effendi. (The complete story is recorded in Japan Will Turn Ablaze!, revised edition.)

Miss Alexander originally arrived in Japan November 1, 1914 and left July 27, 1917. At 'Abdu'l-Bahá's urging she came again to Japan August 9, 1919 and left October 12, 1923. At the Guardian's suggestion she returned to Japan January 19, 1928 and left May 30, 1933. She returned again May 19, 1935 and left March 20,

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1937. During her trips to Japan she lived in Tokyo. During her stays out of Japan she either traveled or went to Hawaii. She returned again to Japan, at the Guardian's urging, in May 1950 and lived in Tokyo for two years, then moved to Kyoto where she assisted in establishing the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Kyoto (1956).


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The Japan Religious Conference, June 1928, Tokyo

This was the first religious conference in Japan to which Bahá'ís were invited to participate. Most participants were Buddhists, Shintoists, and Christians. The organizers expected about 700 people; however, the first day a total of about 1400 persons attended. Miss Alexander, who represented the Bahá'ís, was one of the three foreigners invited to speak.

The conference was quite progressive for its era. Some of the resolutions passed were: to outlaw war and support the League of Nations in its objectives; to protect the handicapped and establish a child welfare bureau in order to protect children; to establish a national hospital as a measure to prevent and exterminate leprosy; to let foreign religious creeds live in harmony; to remove racial discrimination and legal discrimination against ex-convicts; to abolish liquor from gatherings of religionists; to involve temples, shrines and churches in neighborhood welfare work; to put an end to anarchism which threatened the order of the world. They also approved religious instruction in teachers' colleges as they said religious faith is the foundation of character building.

In her speech Miss Alexander said she deeply appreciated being given the chance to speak as a representative of the Bahá'í Faith. She emphasized that all human beings are of one race and that religions should cooperate with one another. She told about Bahá'u'lláh and some of His Teachings.

Miss Alexander kept in touch with one of the organizers of the conference which resulted in her being invited to speak at various meetings through the years.

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