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

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 3

3. Early Bahá'í Literature

In 1915 the first newspaper article about the Bahá'í Faith in Japanese was written by a woman reporter for the Asahi newspaper. At another time a news reporter visited Miss Alexander resulting in a newspaper article on the Faith which contained a photo of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the first time a photo of Him had appeared in print in Japan. Within a few months articles about the Faith had appeared in nine Tokyo publications.

In 1916 Miss Alexander wrote an article in the form of a letter to the blind women of Japan. Mr. Kyotaro Nakamura, a teacher of the blind and editor of the only religious journal for the blind in Japan, translated Miss Alexander's article Message of Light to the Blind Women of Japan (Nihon no Mo Joshigata ni) into Japanese Braille as a pamphlet and also printed it in his magazine. Miss Alexander wrote that it was not only the first of the Bahá'í teachings to be circulated among the blind in Japan but also the first pamphlet to be published in the Japanese language.

That same year Dr. Augur was requested to write an article on the Bahá'í Faith for a theological magazine. The next year he had it printed in booklet form with the addition of the message to the people of Tokyo which 'Abdu'l-Bahá had sent to him in a Tablet. It was called What Is the Bahá'í Movement? (Bahá'í Undo to wa). It was also put into Japanese Braille.

During those early years Miss Alexander was able to have a number of newspaper articles printed in both Japanese and English. Also many articles were printed in the Esperanto magazines. Miss Alexander concluded that all Esperantists in those early days heard about the Faith.

Through the years Miss Alexander had connections with the blind of Japan, of which there were many, because of her friendship with Mr. Vasily Eroshenko and Mr. Tokujiro Torii, both blind. When Miss Alexander was in Switzerland before going to Japan she met a Russian Esperantist who asked her to look up Eroshenko in Tokyo. Eroshenko was a Russian Esperantist associated with the School for the Blind. He knew Mr. Torii, who was a student at the school, and introduced him to Miss Alexander. She taught the Faith to both of these friends. Eroshenko did not commit himself to becoming a Bahá'í but Mr. Torii did, becoming the fifth Japanese to accept Bahá'u'lláh. Through the years Mr. Torii worked tirelessly to improve the conditions of the blind and provide them with literature of the Faith in Japanese Braille, thus offering spiritual salvation.

Miss Alexander also wrote a pamphlet called A Message of Love to the Women of Japan (Nihon no Fujingata ni). It was translated by Miss Ichi Kamichika, a friend of Miss Alexander, and printed in 1916.

In 1915 Mr. Eroshenko translated the Arabic portion of The Hidden Words (Kakusaretaru Kotoba) into Esperanto and it was printed about 1916. Miss

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Alexander read the book to him and he first took it down in English Braille. (The Hidden Words in Esperanto has more recently been reprinted by the Esperanto association in Tokyo in connection with a book on Eroshenko.)

In 1916 a 77-page pamphlet called Religion of Love (Ai no Shukyo), a compilation of things published in English from the United States, was translated by Mr. Ujaku Akita and Mr. Shusei Kawaii, friends of Miss Alexander, and printed in Tokyo. The same year an original pamphlet was written by Mr. Kenzo Torikai, a Bahá'í from Seattle who visited Japan. The pamphlet called The New Civilization (Sekai Shin Bunmei) was printed by the Tokyo Bahá'ís.

In 1920 two pamphlets were added to the literature in Japanese, Mashriqu'l-Adhkár translated by Daiun Inouye, the Buddhist priest who became a Bahá'í, and The Call (Gendai no Sakebi) written by George Latimer, translated by Mr. Torii.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's Teachings About Peace was translated by Mr. Inouye. This was first published in a Buddhist paper and later printed in pamphlet form. A Message of Light which consisted of Words of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá was translated by Mr. Inouye and Mr. Saiki. The latter pamphlet was printed in 1920 by the generosity of Mr. Roy Wilhelm who had compiled the original pamphlet. This pamphlet was also put into Japanese Braille by Mr. Torii.

In 1927 Miss Yuri Mochizuki translated a basic two-page pamphlet What Is the Bahá'í Movement? (Bahá'í Kyo Undo to wa) and the Bahá'ís of Tokyo printed 2,000 copies for distribution.

Miss Alexander collected all the Tablets written by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to Japanese including one to Koreans. They were printed in pamphlet form in English in 1928. The small yellow book was called Tablets to Japan. These Tablets had been translated and put in the journal, Star of the East, but were not printed in book form in Japanese until years later in the 1970s when they were included in the Japanese translation of the book Japan Will Turn Ablaze!.

In December 1931 Miss Alexander received a letter from the Guardian which had been written in October. He wrote that he was eagerly awaiting the news of the publication in Japanese of John Esslemont's book, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era. Miss Alexander had written to Mr. Inouye in Kobe but as she had received no answer she decided to go and confer with him. She wrote that it was a "blessed meeting" and that he agreed to do the work and would have some help with the translation. After delays, the book was finished and printed in Tokyo, 1000 copies, in December 1932. Miss Alexander wrote how thankful they were for this bounty.

The Guardian had ordered 100 copies, which arrived in Haifa in February. He wrote that the books were placed by himself side by side with the fourteen other printed versions in different languages. These books can still be seen there.

Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era was revised by Mr. Tameo Hongo and Dr. David Earl and reprinted by the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly in 1956 and has been reprinted twice since then, in 1978 and 1984, by the Bahá'í Publishing Trust of Japan. The Japanese Braille edition was done by Mr. Torii in 1936. Miss Alexander

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sent the book, in three volumes, to the Guardian who placed them in the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh in Bahjí.

One of the advances in literature in the early days was the excellent translation into Japanese by Mrs. Yuri Mochizuki Furukawa of The Hidden Words. This was printed in Tokyo in 1937, paid for by an American Bahá'í friend, Mrs. Louise Bosch. This translation has survived through the years and was revised and reprinted in 1970 and 1976.


click here for larger image

This is a photo of the original book The Hidden Words translated by Yuri Mochizuki (Furukawa) and printed by the Bahá'ís in Tokyo in 1937. There was one page in the back of the book informing readers of the availability of the book Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era which was printed by the same company.

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