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

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 7

7. The Rebirth of the Faith in Japan

In the postwar period the first Bahá'í pioneer to come to Japan was Robert Imagire, an American of Japanese ancestry. He had relatives in Japan and felt a kinship with the country. He could also speak Japanese. Mr. Imagire, who settled in Tokyo, was not the first American Bahá'í in Japan after the war however; several U.S. Armed Forces personnel preceded him.

Mr. Imagire became a Bahá'í in Reno, Nevada, U.S.A. in 1942. In 1946 he was living in Chicago and he wrote to the Guardian asking for advice as to where to pioneer. In December of that year he received a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi encouraging him to go to Japan: "He [the Guardian] feels very strongly that it would be rendering the Cause a very great service if you could go to Japan and not only teach the Faith there but help to rally the existing believers and get them active in this work once more. This would be the ideal thing for you to do, and he urges you to make every effort to go as soon as possible. You could perhaps get a job out there with the U.S. civilian administration, or representing some business firm ... You may be sure that the beloved Guardian will pray for the way to open for you to go to Japan and render the Cause many memorable services there in the near future."

Mr. Imagire did go, arriving about the beginning of August, 1947. He found a job with the U.S. Army as a draftsman and did indeed render memorable services.

Just about the time of Mr. Imagire's arrival in Japan, three Bahá'ís, one from the time of Miss Alexander - former Buddhist priest Mr. Daiun Inouye - and two others who had recently become interested in the Faith, Mr. Goro Horioka, a prominent middle-aged businessman, and Mrs. Masako Urushi, went to Sendai to see an American Bahá'í, Mrs. Lorraine Wright, whose husband was attached to the United States Armed Forces. They had learned of Mrs. Wright's presence from a letter from Miss Alexander. They wanted to ask if a Bahá'í teacher could be sent to Tokyo. By coincidence, Mrs. Wright had just received a telephone call from Mr. Imagire saying that he had arrived in Tokyo.

According to a report written by Mr. Imagire about that time, Mrs. Urushi had previously visited Prince Takamatsu, a brother of Emperor Showa, and she happened to mention that her daughter's father-in-law, Mr. Daiun Inouye, had translated the book Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era into Japanese; she also mentioned some of the Teachings. Mr. Horioka, who was present at this gathering, was impressed and asked to read the book. He soon realized that it was the truth. He contacted Mr. Inouye, who was living in Hokkaido at that time, asking him to return to Tokyo, which he did. The small group started an investigation of the Teachings, visiting Mrs. Wright as mentioned above. Then Mr. Imagire arrived.

The group in Tokyo started meetings at the Shinagawa Girls' School where Mrs. Urushi worked. According to Mr. Imagire she was the founder of the school. Mr.

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Imagire also had English classes at the Shinagawa Police Station. Attendants were policemen, businessmen, and students; about 20 people. This was the beginning of the rebirth of the Bahá'í Faith in Tokyo (and indeed in Japan).


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This is the cover of the first postwar basic pamphlet, Bahá'í Faith no Shiori (guide). It was mimeographed in 1948 by the Bahá'ís in Tokyo.


Early Tokyo Bahá'ís

Mr. Yoshio Tanaka, Mrs. Yuri Mochizuki Furukawa and Mr. Daiun Inouye, Miss Alexander's friends from the early 1900s. This photo was taken in 1948 in front of the Shinagawa Girls' School where many of the early postwar Bahá'í meetings were held. These three persons were among the few Bahá'ís with whom contact was re-established after World War II.

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In March 1948 the few Bahá'ís, and friends, celebrated Naw-Rúz, the first such celebration for many years. It was held at the home of Mrs. Urushi with thirteen people attending.

Robert Imagire wrote that the situation was daunting, that although there were a few Bahá'ís they had no literature and no funds. However, they were sufficiently confident to form a Local Spiritual Assembly in June 1948. It was not on the proper date but the Guardian was pleased and it was the spark the Bahá'ís needed.

In 1937 when she last left Japan, Miss Alexander had stored her Bahá'í library with her old friend Dr. Rokuichiro Masujima. She asked Robert to try to find her books. When Robert arrived at the building where the books were stored, in Shinagawa, he found that the area had been bombed out with only two buildings left standing. One of those contained the books. There were 200 copies of Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era in Japanese which had been printed in 1932. These books were then used in the new study classes.

About 1948 Mrs. Yuri Mochizuki Furukawa, the first Japanese woman to become a Bahá'í, returned to Japan from Manchuria where she and her husband had been living. She joined in the Bahá'í activities.


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1948. This was the first public meeting held by the Bahá'ís in postwar Tokyo, at the Shinagawa Girls' High School. It seems that all of the Tokyo Bahá'ís attended, about a dozen. Mr. Robert Imagire, who was one of the speakers, took this photo. Mr. Goro Horioka, second from the right, was the other speaker.

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Resurgence of the Faith in the postwar years. This photo was taken about 1948. The Bahá'ís we can identify are, seated: Mr. Daiun Inouye; Miss Minori Inagaki; Miss Fusae Ichige; Miss Yuri Mochizuki; Mrs. Masako Urushi; Miss Shigeko Nakanishi; and Miss Fumiko Kondo. Standing: Mr. Yoshiharu Kushima, who was editor of the third series (three issues, 1952 and 1953) of the Star of the East; Mr. Naoki Yoshino; Mr. Koji Akizawa; unknown; unknown; Mr. Goro Horioka; Mr. Shozo Kadota; and Mr. Robert Imagire, pioneer to Japan. Only Mr. Inouye and Mrs. Furukawa were Bahá'ís from the prewar era.

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