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

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 6

6. The Mid and Late 1930s

In May of 1933 Miss Alexander decided that she had to return to Hawaii. Shortly after she reached there she received a letter written on behalf of the Guardian saying "He firmly believes that such a visit will give you a chance to rest and will enable you, on your return to Japan, to better serve the Cause. There should always be a limit to self-sacrifice."

Miss Alexander had lived in Tokyo for five years since her last visit to her homeland, Hawaii. This time her stay in Hawaii was two years. As it was the Guardian's wish that she return to Japan she did so in May 1935. During the time she was in Hawaii the Faith in Japan did not go forward nor hold its own. The Bahá'ís were not ready to function on their own. However, as Miss Alexander wrote "My heart has never faltered for an instant, for how could it when this is God's Plan and He is Our Helper under all conditions."

In Tokyo she engaged a house in Kudan and moved into it in September. She stayed there until she left Japan in March 1937. The first gathering in her new home was a celebration of the Birthday of the Báb. Some of the old friends came and also some new ones. Attending were Mr. and Mrs. Takeshi Kanno. Mr. Kanno, who was a poet, had met 'Abdu'l-Bahá in California in 1912 and had been shown great love by Him. Mr. Kanno is sitting beside 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the well-known photograph taken of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the friends in Oakland, California in 1912. Mr. and Mrs. Kanno did not become Bahá'ís, however.

Miss Alexander made the acquaintance of a young man who worked for the Japan Times newspaper. Some years before, he had known Mrs. May Maxwell when he was at school in Canada. He was attracted to the Faith but he had not become a Bahá'í. It occurred to Miss Alexander that she might have something published in the newspaper about the Faith through this young man. She was able to have a number of articles published in the Japan Times and also in a Buddhist newspaper and a Braille weekly paper edited by her friend Mr. Kyotaro Nakamura.

After she became acquainted with a professor who was teaching at Meiji University she was often invited by the students to speak at their weekly English meeting. She wrote that they would talk of the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. She belonged to the Pan-Pacific Club, a cultural club in Tokyo which met weekly. She spoke about the Faith before Blind Association meetings and Esperanto groups.

In spite of the activity there was no Bahá'í group functioning in Tokyo but a letter written on behalf of the Guardian advised Miss Alexander that "patience, perseverance and hard and continued efforts are needed in order that your mission may meet with complete success." The Guardian added that future generations would reap an abundant harvest of the seeds she was sowing.

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Mr. Tokujiro Torii decided to publish a Japanese Braille edition of Bahá'u'llah and the New Era in memory of his son Akira, who had died at age 17 in 1935. Akira was the first second-generation Bahá'í in Japan. Thirty copies of the book, which had 770 pages, were distributed, of which thirteen were sent to libraries of the principal schools for the blind. Others were sent to blind workers for the blind.

In the fall of 1935 Mr. Hossain Ouskouli (Uskuli) from Shanghai visited Tokyo for business. He was the second Iranian Bahá'í to visit Tokyo. The first was Mr. H. Touty who came on a business trip in 1932 and who Miss Alexander said "brought the spiritual fragrance of the Master."

Miss Alexander left Japan in 1937 to go to Haifa for her long-awaited pilgrimage and then to her home in Hawaii. She was not to return to Tokyo again until 1950.

Martha Root paid her fourth visit to Japan after Miss Alexander had left, June 3 to June 27, 1937, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. She met all the Bahá'ís and had several meetings arranged for her. She was the last Bahá'í from another country to visit Japan before World War II began. Bahá'ís of Japan would not have another foreign Bahá'í teacher until Mr. Robert Imagire came as a pioneer in 1947.

After Miss Root left Japan, and in the absence of Miss Alexander, there seems to have been virtually no Bahá'í activity.

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