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

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 5

5. The First Local Spiritual Assembly in Japan

There is some reference to a Local Spiritual Assembly being established in Shanghai, China in 1928 and again reference to one in 1934. Aside from this, we can say that the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly formed in 1932 was the first in the Asian Pacific area.

In 1928 the Guardian had written to Miss Alexander, "I urge you to make a special effort to organize the believers there into a local Bahá'í Spiritual Assembly as a nucleus round which will gather and flourish the future Bahá'í community." And again, "My prayers 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." However, it was not until 1932 that Miss Alexander felt it was possible to form an Assembly.

To be exact, it was March 13, 1932 when the idea came to Miss Alexander that it was time to form the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo. So she sent letters to her friends to come to her house for that purpose. At that time there were eleven Bahá'ís in Tokyo: Rev. Sempo Ito, a Universalist minister who had accepted the Faith; Mrs. Yuri Mochizuki Furukawa; Miss Otoe Murakami; Mrs. Kanae Takeshita; Mr. Y. Kataoka (first name unknown), a blind Bahá'í "whose life had been changed from darkness to light through the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh" (according to Miss Alexander); Mr. Keiji Sawada, a teacher who was blind; Miss Agnes Alexander; Mrs. Antoinette Naganuma, an American woman married to a Japanese (her sister was a Bahá'í in the United States); Mr. Nakanishi (first name unknown); Mr. Hidehiko Matsuda; and Miss Keiko Eito, a dressmaker who had a staff of young women assisting her (once a month they put their work aside and held a Bahá'i meeting; Miss Eito also arranged meetings for Martha Root and Keith Ransom-Kehler when they came to Tokyo). The first nine names were elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly. At the first meeting Miss Alexander was elected chairman, recording secretary and foreign secretary and Mrs. Furukawa was elected secretary/treasurer. A few days later, after the Naw-Rúz celebration at Dr. Rokuichiro Masujima's garden, Miss Alexander sent a cable to the Guardian: "Naw-Rúz greetings Tokyo Assembly." To which he replied: "Loving remembrance Shoghi." Then on April 21, which was the proper day to officially elect a Local Spiritual Assembly, it was voted on again. This time the same group was elected except for Mr. Matsuda, who took the place of Mr. Y. Kataoka, who asked to be relieved. Miss Alexander was proud of the fact that there were five women on that first assembly.

In April of the next year, 1933, the Tokyo Bahá'ís elected the Local Spiritual Assembly again. The same Bahá'ís were elected with one change: Mr. Kanji Ogawa took the place of Mr. Keiji Sawada. Mrs. Furukawa was chairman, Mr. Matsuda secretary and Mr. Ogawa treasurer.

The Assembly was not elected again until 1948.

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