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

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 8

8. The First Postwar Local Spiritual Assemblies

In June 1948 there were eleven Bahá'ís in Tokyo, including one youth, Mr. Naoki Yoshino, who was a "Manchurian Nisei" (according to Mr. Imagire), attending Tokyo University of Commerce. The group knew that a Local Spiritual Assembly could only be formed on April 21 but they were very eager and decided to elect a temporary Assembly. On June 19, at the Shinagawa Girls' School, where Mrs. Urushi was principal, the eleven Bahá'ís assembled and elected the following members: Mr. Goro Horioka, chairman; Mrs. Masako Urushi, vice-chairman; Mr. Shozo Kadota (a 21-year-old student of law at Tokyo University), recording secretary; Miss Fumiko Kondo, corresponding secretary; Miss Minori Inagaki, treasurer; Mr. Daiun Inouye; Mr. Sempo Ito; and two other Bahá'ís. They did not elect Robert Imagire to the first Local Spiritual Assembly as they said they were keeping him, as the pioneer, "in reserve." In later years Miss Fusae Ichige could not recall clearly but thought that she and Miss Shigeko Nakanishi were also elected to that Assembly as they and Miss Kondo and Miss Inagaki, the two who were elected, were close friends and attended everything together. Miss Inagaki was an office worker for an automobile company. Miss Kondo worked for the Shinagawa Ward office. Miss Ichige and Miss Nakanishi were both dressmakers at that time. Miss Ichige went on to become a teacher of ikebana (flower-arrangement) in later years.

Miss Alexander's old friends Rev. Sempo Ito and Mr. Daiun Inouye were among the early Bahá'ís who could be found in Tokyo. Mr. Keiji Sawada and Mrs. Antoinette Naganuma were also in Tokyo. The latter two had been active as Bahá'ís in the 1930s; however in the later years they did not consider themselves Bahá'ís although they met with the believers on a social basis.

Other Bahá'ís in Japan were: Mr. Tokujiro Torii who was from Tokyo but was now a teacher at the School for the Blind in Kyoto; Mr. Saichiro Fujita in Yanai, Yamaguchi Prefecture; and Mr. Yoshio Tanaka in Chiba. Mrs. Ito Torii, wife of Mr. Tokujiro Torii, was not mentioned and it is not known if she was considered to be a Bahá'í at that time. However, Mrs. Torii was on Bahá'í lists in the mid-1950s.

Even though the Tokyo Assembly election in 1948 was not on the proper date the Guardian responded with a letter written on his behalf dated September 21, 1948:

"To know that a Spiritual Assembly of all Japanese believers was formed in Tokyo greatly inspired him [the Guardian]. This is a historic and wonderful achievement. At present it might seem to people of the world that these few devoted souls are insignificant when compared to the millions of people residing in Japan - but we who have recognized the Power of Bahá'u'lláh, and that His teaching is God's Message to men in this day, know that the seed of the Tree of Life has at last germinated in your land, and that it will grow to overshadow all those who dwell in the islands of Japan.

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"The love of the Japanese people for truth and beauty is very great, and our Guardian feels sure that gradually many souls will become attracted to the Cause of God through your persevering and devoted labours.

"Your loyalty and determination touches him deeply, and he assures you all that for each one of you he will pray for guidance and blessings. He urges you to work together for the Cause as one soul in different bodies, and show by your love and unity what a force lies in our Faith for the regeneration of mankind."


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Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Tokyo 1950-1951

Local Spiritual Assemblies were elected in 1948 and 1949 but left no photos that we can find. This is the first photo we have of a postwar Assembly. Seated: Miss Fusae Ichige, Mr. Goro Horioka, Miss Shigeko Nakanishi. Standing: Mr. Robert Imagire, Mr. Kinya Saito, Mr. Toshio Hirohashi, Mr. Naoki Yoshino, Mr. Yoshiharu Kato, and Mr. Shozo Kadota. Mr. Imagire, an American of Japanese ancestry, was the first postwar pioneer to Japan. He arrived in 1947 after being encouraged by the Guardian. There were also Bahá'ís attached to the United States Armed Forces in Japan at the time.

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[in the Guardian's handwriting]

"Dear and valued co-workers:

I was thrilled by your message and I greatly value the sentiments it expressed. I urge you to persevere and be confident, and labour unitedly for the spread of the Faith and the formation of new centres, however small, in the vicinity of your capital. I will, from all my heart, supplicate for you divine guidance and blessings, that your historic work may flourish, your numbers increase and your highest hopes be fulfilled in service of His glorious Faith.

Your true and grateful brother, Shoghi"


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A meeting in Tokyo probably in late 1950 or in 1951. Front: Miss Alexander, Miss Ichige, Miss Shigeko Nakanishi, and Mr. Shozo Kadota. Standing: unknown, Lt. Lane Skelton, Miss Fumiko Kondo, next two unknown. Although the names of three of the U.S. servicemen are unknown, their support and that of others in the U.S. Armed Forces was very important to the Faith in postwar Japan. The Guardian had words of praise for the activities of the Bahá'í servicemen in Japan and Korea.

There is a report of a three-day religious conference in Tokyo in September of that year, 1948. Mr. Horioka, the chairman of the Assembly, was invited to speak on the Bahá'í Faith during the last day of this conference. Also during the same month a Bahá'í public meeting was held which was attended by 35 persons, including the vice-chairman of UNESCO in Japan and the editor of the Yomiuri Press.

The next year, 1949, a Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in Tokyo but we cannot find information as to the membership except that Mr. Goro Horioka was chairman. There is evidence that Mr. Shozo Kadota was also on the Assembly as secretary. A report shows that there were 14 Bahá'ís at the time.

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There is a photograph of the 1950 Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo. The members were Mr. Robert Imagire, Mr. Kinya Saito, Mr. Toshio Hirohashi, Mr. Naoki Yoshino, Mr. Yoshiharu Kato, Mr. Shozo Kadota, Mr. Goro Horioka, Miss Fusae Ichige and Miss Shigeko Nakanishi, a dressmaker, who also worked at night as a telephone operator for a hotel. Nevertheless she was as active in the affairs of the Faith as she was able to be, according to Mr. Imagire.

Miss Alexander, at the Guardian's suggestion, came back to Japan in May of that year. It was difficult to obtain a visa as Japan was under American Occupation but one of the friends, Lt. Jacob Davenport, sponsored her. She stayed in Tokyo for two years.

After she returned to Japan Miss Alexander spent a week in Kyoto with Mr. and Mrs. Torii, whom she had not seen for thirteen years. She quickly returned to her active life in Japan. That year she was invited to speak about the Faith at the Unitarian Church in Tokyo three times and she again made contact with the Esperantists.

In 1951 the membership of the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly was as follows: Mr. Robert Imagire, chairman; Mr. Goro Horioka, vice-chairman; Miss Fusae Ichige, recording secretary; Mr. Naoki Yoshino, corresponding secretary; Miss Shigeko Nakanishi, treasurer; Lt. Lane Skelton (with the U.S. Armed Forces); Mrs. Barbara Davenport (whose husband was with the U.S. Air Force); Miss Agnes Alexander; and Mr. Shozo Kadota. In July of that year Mr. Kadota left the country (he was assigned abroad in the diplomatic service) and Mr. Kinya Saito was elected to fill the vacancy.

The community was quite active. They had regular Assembly meetings, Feasts and Holy Days. They appointed several committees, made 50 mimeographed copies of a much needed prayer book (it sold for 30 yen) and had at least two farewell parties, one for Mr. Kadota and one for Miss Alexander, who was expected to leave Tokyo to move to Kyoto. They had a birthday party for one of the members, Mrs. Davenport. They had study classes for new Bahá'ís and sponsored several public meetings.

On World Religion Day, January 20, 1952 the Tokyo Assembly sponsored a public meeting at the YMCA, with an audience of thirty people. Miss Alexander was the featured speaker, her talk was translated by Mr. Tameo Hongo, who worked in the Foreign Ministry. He had become a Bahá'í in 1951. Publicity had been given in English and Japanese newspapers.

In March 1952 the first official youth meeting was held at the Shinagawa Girls' High School. Miss Ichige was the chairman of the meeting and Mr. Yuji Kikuchi the speaker, and a young American serviceman, Miles Mahan, also spoke. About 12 people attended the meeting.

At that time we can find the names of 14 Japanese Bahá'ís in Tokyo, two American pioneers, Mr. Imagire and Miss Alexander, and 4 Americans attached to the U.S. Armed Forces.

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In 1951 the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly mimeographed fifty copies of this prayer book which contained nine prayers. It seems to have been the first prayer book in Japanese.

In April 1952 the Assembly elected was as follows: Mr. Robert Imagire, chairman; Lt. Lane Skelton, vice-chairman; Miss Fusae Ichige, recording secretary; Mr. Tameo Hongo, corresponding secretary; Mr. Goro Horioka, treasurer; Mr. Naoki Yoshino; Mr. David Earl; Mrs. Joy Earl; and Miss Agnes Alexander. Mr. and Mrs. Earl, pioneers to Japan, had arrived in March. He had a position teaching at Meiji University.

The Assembly meetings were usually held once a month and Feasts and Holy Days were always observed. The Assembly appointed eight committees that year: a Teaching Committee; an Extension Teaching Committee; a Feast Committee; a Library Committee; an Archives Committee; a Translation Committee; a Publicity Committee; and the Youth Committee. According to the minutes, all were working. In July 1952 the Assembly sent a letter to the Guardian in which they gave the following statistics for Tokyo: 17 Japanese Bahá'ís; four American pioneers, Mr. and Mrs. Earl, Miss Alexander and Mr. Imagire; and eight American Bahá'ís attached to the U.S. Armed Forces. The Assembly also mentioned six Japanese Bahá'ís living in other areas of Japan.

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Their minutes were full of positive action. For example, in June they decided to make official membership cards. Then they decided upon a one-day teaching conference; discussed obtaining books for their library; and discussed donating to the fund and translation projects.

Extension teaching was being done in Yokohama and Kofu. In July the first meeting was held in Yokohama with Joy Earl speaking and Robert Imagire translating, with eight inquirers and five Bahá'ís present. A report states that 16 people attended another meeting in Yokohama. In July there was a public meeting at the YMCA with Miss Ichige as the speaker, Mr. Hongo the chairman and Mr. Imagire the translator into English.

In August there was a youth picnic enjoyed by 20 young people; Bahá'ís and their friends.

In September of that year an Esperanto Congress was held in Kyoto, with about 300 Esperantists attending. Miss Alexander attended as a Bahá'í Esperantist and presented greetings from the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Tokyo. Miss Alexander moved to Kyoto that year.

In February 1953 Mr. Imagire left Japan to visit his family in the United States. He returned to Japan the next year. In March, Mrs. Mignon Witzel, whose husband was in the U.S. Army, was elected to the LSA to fill the vacancy.

A Bahá'í public meeting sponsored by the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly was held at the YMCA on World Religion Day, January 20, 1952. Miss Alexander is speaking with Mr. Tameo Hongo translating. The meeting was given publicity in newspapers in both Japanese and English and brought about 30 people.

In 1953 the Tokyo Local Spiritual members elected were: Mr. Tameo Hongo, chairman; Mr. David Earl, vice-chairman; Miss Fusae Ichige, corresponding secretary; Mr. Goro Horioka, treasurer; Mrs. Yuri Furukawa; Mr. Shozo Kadota; Lt.

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Col. John McHenry; Mrs. Elizabeth McHenry; and Miss Shigeko Nakanishi. Mrs. Yuri Mochizuki Furukawa, who had been living in China for several years, was back in Tokyo helping with the Bahá'í work. Lt. Col. and Mrs. McHenry left Japan in September of that year and in a by-election Mr. Yadollah Rafaat, an Iranian pioneer, and Mr. J. Sandusky, an American serviceman, were elected. Mr. Sandusky left Japan and Mr. Yuzo Yamaguchi was elected to fill the vacancy. Mr. Earl moved out of Tokyo and Mr. Philip Marangella, a new American pioneer to Japan, was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly.

In March 1952, the first Bahá'í youth meeting was held at the Shinagawa Girls' High School. Mr. Yuji Kikuchi (left) was the speaker, Miss Fusae Ichige, the chairman, and American serviceman Miles Mahan also spoke. Miss Ichige recalls that about 12 people attended.

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The LSA appointed several committees: a Feast Committee; a Teaching Committee; an Extension Teaching Committee; a Translation Committee; a Publishing Committee; a News Committee; a Library Committee; a Youth Committee; and an Archives Committee. It seems as though all the Bahá'ís in Tokyo were on one committee or another. According to the Local Spiritual Assembly minutes the committees were quite active.

The Assembly had weekly firesides, at Mrs. Furukawa's and Mr. Rafaat's, and deepening classes, and was doing extension teaching in Kofu, Yokohama and Kyoto. There were nine isolated believers and a group was listed later in the year in Amagasaki, in the Kansai region, where Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi had donated a house to be the local Bahá'í Center, the first Hazíratu'l-Quds in Japan.

In November 1953 Hand of the Cause Mr. Khadem visited Japan and other Asian countries. He had just attended the Asian Teaching Conference in India. Among the meetings organized for him by the Local Spiritual Assembly was a public meeting at the Unity Church in Tokyo with about forty people present. Mr. Khadem spoke on World Unity, with Mr. Hongo translating.

According to a report, Mr. Khadem also went to Amagasaki to dedicate the Bahá'í Center.

In 1953 Mr. Rafi and Mrs. Mildred Mottahedeh visited Japan for the first time, and at least twice after that. Mrs. Mottahedeh was elected to the International Bahá'í Council in 1961.

In 1953 the Ten Year Crusade, which constituted the third and final stage of the initial epoch in the evolution of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's teaching Plan, was launched by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith. There were several goals which involved Japan:

    * to consolidate the Faith in Japan
    * to incorporate the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo
    * to elect a National Spiritual Assembly, and incorporate it
    * to establish a National Endowment
    * to establish a National Hazíratu'l-Quds in Tokyo
There were also expansion goals.

That was quite a task for the Bahá'ís, who at that time numbered only about 30 total, not including American Bahá'ís attached to the U.S. Armed Forces.

A word should be said about those Americans. They were usually stationed in the Tokyo area for a year or two. Those who made the effort to find the Tokyo Bahá'ís and involve themselves in activities were usually young, devoted, active and eager to help in any way. The Guardian had words of praise for the Bahá'í American servicemen in both Japan and Korea during those years.

In April 1954 members of the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly elected were: Mr. Tameo Hongo, chairman; Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, a businessman, vice-chairman; Miss Fusae Ichige, recording secretary; Mr. Robert Imagire, corresponding secretary; Mr. Goro Horioka, treasurer; Mrs. Barbara R. Sims, a new pioneer to Japan; Mr. Yadollah Rafaat; Mr. Yuzo Yamaguchi; and Mrs. Yuri Furukawa.

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Mr. Imagire, who had returned to Japan in March, was elected to the LSA in April. However, he left Tokyo in June to live in Kansai and Miss Kotoko Mochizuki (unrelated to Mrs. Yuri Mochizuki Furukawa) was elected to fill the vacancy on the Tokyo LSA. Also Mrs. Barbara Sims was then elected as corresponding secretary.

The 1954 LSA appointed eight committees: a National Teaching Committee; an Extension Teaching Committee; a Feast Committee; a Translation Committee; a Library Committee; a Publishing Committee; an Archives Committee; and a Youth Committee. The Teaching Committee was called the National Teaching Committee as it had the responsibility of teaching throughout Japan, in keeping with the LSA of Tokyo functioning as an National Assembly, as directed by the Guardian. It also kept records of membership from all over Japan and met often with the goal of spreading the Faith to far-reaching areas. That year there was a regular weekly fireside at Mr. Rafaat's house and a weekly deepening class at Mrs. Sims'. The Tokyo Bahá'ís sponsored a well attended meeting every month in Yokohama as part of a goal to spread the Faith to outlying areas. The Guardian had mentioned that the Faith should spread out from Tokyo so various cities were designated as extension goals.

That same year, during the summer, a two-day national teaching conference organized by the National Teaching Committee of the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly was held in Atami, the first time such a conference had been attempted in Japan. About 30 people attended, half were Japanese and the rest American and Iranian pioneers. It was stimulating for all the Bahá'ís to get together. In April of that year the second Local Spiritual Assembly in Japan was elected, in Hyogo Prefecture. So for the first time Japan had two Local Spiritual Assemblies. Until that time Tokyo was the only Local Spiritual Assembly in the North East Pacific, the nearest being Singapore.

Mr. Takano, who was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly in April 1954, had returned to Tokyo in March of that year after a year abroad in the United States, England and Germany, during which time he became a Bahá'í. He was encouraged to request a pilgrimage to Haifa on his way back to Japan. It was granted in February and he became the only Japanese Bahá'í aside from Saichiro Fujita to meet the Guardian.

The 1954 Local Spiritual Assembly started the process for obtaining official registration (incorporation) of the Bahá'í Faith. Incorporation status was granted April 22 of the next year, 1955. Incorporation of the Faith was an important goal for various countries during the Ten Year Crusade.

On May 1, 1954 Miss Alexander was appointed an Auxiliary Board Member by the Hands of the Cause in Asia. She was living in Kyoto at the time. This was the first appointment of an Auxiliary Board Member in Japan and it brought Japan closer to the Hands of the Cause in Asia, who were based in Teheran, Iran.

In July 1954 statistics given were that Bahá'ís resided in 15 localities in 10 prefectures with a total of 52 believers. Twenty of them resided in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly appointed a committee to try to find a

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suitable building which could become a Hazíratu'l-Quds. In December 1954 the Assembly purchased Mr. Rafaat's house in Shinjuku Ward for that purpose and another goal of the Ten Year Crusade was accomplished.

In December 1954 the Tokyo Community had a commemoration party at a hotel for Miss Agnes Alexander, as it had been 40 years since her initial arrival in Japan. The LSA chairman, Mr. Hongo, was master of ceremonies at the party. Miss Alexander's old friends and contacts were invited, many of them speaking of her with admiration and affection. Miss Alexander spoke of the early days of the Faith in Tokyo.


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Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo elected April 1954

Seated: Miss Kotoko Mochizuki; Mrs. Barbara Sims, secretary; Mrs. Yuri Furukawa; and Miss Fusae Ichige, recording secretary. Standing: Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, vice-chairman; Mr. Yadollah Rafaat; Mr. Tameo Hongo, chairman; Mr. Goro Horioka, treasurer; and Mr. Yuzo Yamaguchi.

In 1955 the members of the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly were as follows: Mr. Tameo Hongo, chairman; Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, vice-chairman; Miss Kotoko Mochizuki, recording secretary; Mrs. Barbara Sims, corresponding secretary; Lt. Lawrence Hamilton, a newly arrived American serviceman, treasurer; Mrs. Virginia Hamilton, Lt. Hamilton's wife; Mrs. Yuri Furukawa; Mr. Yuzo Yamaguchi; and Miss Lecile Webster, who was attached to the U.S. Embassy. During the year Mr. Hongo

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resigned from the LSA as he was assigned overseas by the Foreign Office. In a by-election Mr. Haruo Nekomoto was elected to fill the vacancy. Mr. Takano then became chairman and Mr. Yamaguchi vice-chairman.

In April 1955 there were 26 Bahá'ís in Tokyo, which included four Americans. There were 63 Bahá'ís in Japan in fourteen localities.

In August 1955 Bahá'ís were invited to participate in the Conference of World Religionists which was held in Tokyo with some sessions in other cities. Mr. David Earl was the Bahá'í representative, with Miss Alexander and Mr. Marangella also attending. Present at the conference was Rev. Michio Kozaki, whose father was the interpreter for 'Abdu'l-Bahá when He spoke to a Japanese audience in Oakland, California in 1912.

In September 1955 the Asian Regional Teaching Conference was held in Nikko, Japan. The conference was sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States but hosted by the LSA of Tokyo. It was the first such conference in Asia. It was to have far-reaching effects, not only for Japan but for all of Asia. It was the 1954 and 1955 Tokyo Local Spiritual Assemblies that made all the arrangements. An effort was made to assist every Japanese believer to attend and 19 of the 39 Japanese believers in Japan at that time were able to attend. Nearly all of the American and Iranian pioneers attended as did several Bahá'ís from other countries.


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Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Tokyo 1955-1956

Seated: Miss Kotoko Mochizuki, recording secretary; Mr. Yuzo Yamaguchi; Miss Lecile Webster; Mr. Tameo Hongo, chairman; and Mrs. Yuri Mochizuki Furukawa. Standing: Mrs. Virginia Hamilton; Mrs. Barbara Sims, corresponding secretary; Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, vice-chairman; and Lt. Lawrence Hamilton, treasurer.

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Hand of the Cause Mr. Khadem, who was the Guardian's representative, and his wife, took part in the conference. After the conference Mr. Khadem met with the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly and he stressed that translating and printing literature in Japanese should take precedence.

In November 1955 a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States commented on the Teaching Conference in Nikko. He was "delighted" with the results of the conference. He also stated that the help of the American Bahá'ís was essential and that he hoped it would not be necessary for any of them to leave Japan. The American pioneers were uplifted by Shoghi Effendi's words.

On the advice of Mr. Khadem the Assembly decided to appoint a National Treasurer which it could do, because according to the Guardian's direction, the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly was acting as a National Spiritual Assembly. Iranian pioneer Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi, who lived in Kobe, was appointed. He was also actively helping to get more Bahá'í books published in Japanese.

The Assembly that year appointed five committees: a Translation Committee; a Teaching Committee; a Library/Archives Committee; a Publishing Committee; and a Feast Committee. In an effort to expand, two firesides a month were held in Yokohama. Weekly deepening classes were held at the home of Mrs. Sims, and the usual fireside which was held at the Bahá'í Center. That year the first teaching was done in Nagasaki arranged by Miss Inatsuka who had relatives in that city.

The Tokyo Assembly wrote to the Guardian in 1955 asking for permission to change the boundaries where Local Spiritual Assemblies could be formed. As mentioned before, in 1954 a Local Spiritual Assembly was formed in a prefecture, but it was felt that this was too large a jurisdiction. The change was approved, and from 1956 the area of jurisdiction would be the shi (city), machi (town), and mura (village). Activities outside of those areas would be handled by the National Teaching Committee. This was similar to the situation in other countries.

On September 26, 1955 the Tokyo Hazíratu'l-Quds was officially dedicated. Miss Linfoot, who represented the NSA of the United States at the Nikko Conference, was still in Japan and she participated along with 40 other persons.

In 1955 Saichiro Fujita left Japan to reside again in the Holy Land after an absence of 17 years. During those years he lived with relatives in Yanai, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The Tokyo friends had a farewell party for him.

In January 1956, 27 believers were reported in Tokyo and the Faith was growing in other areas. At that time there were 69 believers scattered in 16 localities in Honshu and one in Kyushu.

In March a Naw-Rúz meeting was held at the Kudan Kaikan, a meeting hall in the Kudan district, at which Mrs. Furukawa and Mrs. Earl spoke.

The Faith grew considerably nationally, especially during the next year, as a result of more teaching by the Japanese friends and the American and Iranian pioneers. At that time few, if any, pioneers could speak Japanese so they relied on

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Japanese believers to help them teach the Faith. Classes and/or firesides were being held in ten cities. Indeed, the Faith was expanding outside of Tokyo.

The 1956 Local Spiritual Assembly members were: Mr. Shozo Kadota, chairman; Lt. Lawrence Hamilton, vice-chairman/treasurer; Mrs. Barbara Sims, corresponding secretary; Miss Kotoko Mochizuki, recording secretary; Mr. Haruo Nekomoto; Miss Yukiko Inatsuka; Miss Yoko Majima; Mrs. Jean Eaton, whose husband was with the U.S. Armed Forces; and Mrs. Virginia Hamilton.

At Ridván 1956 the LSA of Hyogo Prefecture was disbanded and a total of eight Local Spiritual Assemblies, with cities as the areas of jurisdiction, were elected or formed by joint declaration. They all made their reports to the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly which had responsibility for all of Japan until the next Ridván when the new National Spiritual Assembly would be elected.

The 1956 Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly had to make most of the plans for the historic first National Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, which was to take place at Ridván 1957. The National Spiritual Assembly of the United States corresponded frequently with Tokyo about this important coming event, helping with the preparations.

In October 1956 the Bahá'ís were invited to participate in the International Congress of World Fellowship of Faiths in Tokyo. It was inaugurated by the Vice-President of India, Mr. Radhakrishnan. The Bahá'í Faith was represented by two Tokyo members, Mr. Marangella and Lt. Hamilton, but the conference was attended by a total of twelve Bahá'ís at different times.

In October 1956 there were 28 Bahá'ís in Tokyo; a total of 120 throughout Japan in 22 localities.

In January 1957 the Tokyo/Yokohama Bahá'ís started a 9-week study class to prepare themselves for more effective participation in the formation of the new National Spiritual Assembly. Nine to 16 Bahá'ís attended the class. In March of that year there was a total of 138 believers in Japan, in 24 localities, including 29 Bahá'ís in Tokyo.


In April 1957 members elected to the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly were: Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, chairman; Mrs. Barbara Sims, secretary; Mr. Yadollah Rafaat, treasurer; Mr. Haruo Nekomoto; Miss Kotoko Mochizuki; Mr. Frederick Suhm, an American civilian attached to the U.S. Armed Forces; Miss Yukiko Inatsuka; Mr. Philip Marangella; and Mr. Shozo Kadota. One of the goals of the Ten Year Crusade was to elect a Regional Spiritual Assembly (also referred to as a National Spiritual Assembly) for North East Asia, with its seat in Tokyo (see Ch. 10). The 1956 and 1957 Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly, in collaboration with the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, worked very diligently to bring about this important advance of the Faith in Asia.

The Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo had been valiantly serving all of Japan

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and, before the election of the new National Assembly, corresponding with the other countries which would be a part of the new North East Asia jurisdiction. But it happily turned over the files and responsibility for the area to the new National Assembly. Interestingly enough, four members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo were elected to the new National Spiritual Assembly: Mr. Takano, Mrs. Sims, Mr. Rafaat and Mr. Marangella. It probably made the transition of responsibility for the Faith in Japan from the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly to the new National Spiritual Assembly easier.

As part of the activities of the convention there was a public meeting at which Miss Charlotte Linfoot, representative of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Mr. William Maxwell, representative from Korea, spoke with the talks summarized by Mr. Takano, chairman of the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly. Invitations were sent out in Japanese and English and it was reported that 70/80 people attended.

One of the first actions of the new National Assembly was to assign the continuation of the Japanese Geppo (monthly news) to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo.

In November 1957 the Bahá'í world was devastated by the news of the sudden passing of Shoghi Effendi. The Tokyo Bahá'ís held a commemorative meeting. Despite the loss, the Bahá'ís turned to the Hands of the Cause for guidance and continued with their work of establishing and spreading the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. The Hands guided the affairs of the Faith until the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963.

The International Congress of World Fellowship of Faiths held in Tokyo October 1956. Lt. Lawrence Hamilton and Mr. Philip Marangella spoke on behalf of the Bahá'ís. Among the Bahá'ís attending, Mr. Marangella, Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi and Miss Agnes Alexander can be seen in the front row to the left.

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The Tokyo LSA continued its teaching activities in Sendai, Kofu, and helping Yokohama. The teaching was usually done by pioneers and Japanese believers together. That year in Tokyo three weekly firesides were held, a weekly deepening class, two Tokyo-Yokohama teaching conferences, and a children's class, the first for Tokyo, was held twice a month. Naw-Rúz 1958 was celebrated with a public meeting, at which Mrs. Earl was the speaker.

1958. Although Tokyo no longer had national responsibility the Bahá'ís carried on as usual. That year Local Assembly members were: Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, chairman; Mrs. Joy Earl, secretary; Mr. Y.A. Rafaat, treasurer; Dr. David Earl (who had by this time received his doctorate from Columbia University in New York); Miss Yukiko Inatsuka; Miss Kotoko Mochizuki; Miss Yoko Majima; Mr. Haruo Nekomoto; and Mrs. Barbara Sims.

In October there were 34 Bahá'ís in Tokyo. During the year there were two weekly firesides, three well attended public meetings and three joint meetings with the Yokohama community.

That year the Tokyo LSA started a Public Meeting Practice class for Bahá'ís to learn how to speak publicly.

Mrs. Shirin Fozdar from Singapore visited Japan in August of that year. The Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly planned a public meeting for her at Kudan Kaikan to which 50 people came.


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1954. This was the first teaching conference in Japan. About 40 Bahá'ís attended, half were Japanese and the rest American and Iranian pioneers. It was held at Atami, an oceanside resort near Tokyo, and lasted two days. Miss Alexander can be seen wearing a hat.

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This photo was taken in early 1954. We do not know the occasion. Shown are Mr. Robert Imagire, Mr. Y.A. Rafaat, unknown, Mr. Bernard Leach, Miss Agnes Alexander, unknown, unknown, Mr. Tameo Hongo, Mr. Philip Marangella, and Miss Kotoko Mochizuki (Honma). Some of the present old-time Bahá'ís say the unknowns look familiar but they can't remember the names.

The Naw-Rúz celebration in 1959 consisted of a public meeting to which 70 Bahá'ís and friends came. Mrs. Earl played the piano and Mr. Kim Kyong Whan, a Korean friend of Miss Alexander, sang. Mr. Takano spoke about Naw-Rúz.

1959. The Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly consisted of: Mr. Takano, chairman; Mrs. Joy Earl, secretary; Mr. Eiichi Okuhara, treasurer; Mrs. Sims; Miss Inatsuka; Mr. Marangella; Mr. Nekomoto; Miss Yoko Majima; and Dr. Earl.

There were Bahá'ís in eight localities in Japan with 25 isolated believers. Tokyo had 38 believers.

That was the year the first Bahá'í wedding was held in Tokyo (see Ch. 11), although there had been two Bahá'í weddings earlier in other cities.

Hand of the Cause Mr. Ala'i visited in late 1959 and had meetings in Tokyo and Kansai. Two meetings were held at the Tokyo Bahá'í Center. As notification was short only 15 Bahá'ís attended both times. Still that was fairly well attended for a meeting not regarded as a public meeting. Mr. Ala'i spoke in Persian, translated into English by Mr. Rafaat, and translated into Japanese by a Japanese Bahá'i, Mr. Eddie Oji, a member of the Tokyo community. A United Nations meeting was held at Toshi Center attended by 40 people. The Birthday of the Báb was commemorated with about 30 people present. Tokyo had firesides, deepening and study classes and a fireside for women. There was also a three-month training class for teaching Bahá'ís to be chairpersons at meetings.

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One thing noticeable in the activities in the 1950s is that the Tokyo friends had as many public meetings or parties as they could in addition to the regular deepening and fireside activities. For example, every year during the 1950s they had a carefully planned Naw-Rúz public meeting or party. Instead of the usual public meeting at a hall, the Naw-Rúz parties of 1956 and 1957 were held at the Sims' home, with food and interesting talks by Tokyo Bahá'ís, with everyone welcome. United Nations Day, World Religion Day, etc., were events that were always celebrated. The same pioneer had a year-end Bahá'í party every year. All Feasts and Holy Days were observed. These events combined with plenty of firesides and deepenings classes boded well for the advancement of the Faith in the Tokyo area especially. There was always some event to attend, to bring friends to, and this gave a sense of unity and camaraderie which attracted more people to the Faith.


click here for larger image

Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo, 1956-57

The photo was taken at the old Bahá'í Center. Front: Miss Yukiko Inatsuka; Miss Yoko Majima; and Miss Kotoko Mochizuki, recording secretary. Middle. Mrs. Virginia Hamilton; Mrs. Barbara Sims, corresponding secretary; and Mrs. Jean Eaton. Standing: Mr. Shozo Kadota, chairman, Mr. Haruo Nekomoto; and Lt. Lawrence Hamilton, vice-chairman/treasurer.

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