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

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 9

9. Literature in the Early Postwar Period

Apparently the only Bahá'í literature available in Japanese in the late 1940s, when the Faith sprang into activity after the war, was the 1932 printing of Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era (Bahá'u'lláh to Shinjidai). However, some of the more archaic written forms of the prewar Japanese language were difficult for the new generation of interested Japanese. Mr. Hongo and Mr. Earl undertook to revise the book. It was reprinted by the National Publishing Committee in Kobe, which was under the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly, in October 1956: 1000 copies. The book has been reprinted twice since then, in 1978 and in 1984, by the Bahá'í Publishing Trust of Japan.

In 1948 the Bahá'ís of Tokyo issued a carefully hand-written 10-page mimeographed pamphlet called Bahá'í Faith no Shiori (guide). It seems to have been the first basic pamphlet in the early postwar years.

The Hidden Words (Kakusaretaru Kotoba) had been printed in 1937 but it is not mentioned in the early postwar era so it is likely that there were few, if any, copies for use. In 1951 Mr. Torii had a Japanese Braille edition of The Hidden Words printed, sponsored by Miss Alexander.

In 1951 fifty copies of a prayer book in Japanese were mimeographed by the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly. It was called simply Inori (Prayers) and contained one prayer of the Báb; five of Bahá'u'lláh including the short Obligatory Prayer, The Tablet of Ahmad, a fasting prayer, a healing prayer and a prayer for unity; two prayers of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and one by the Guardian.

In November 1953 a small basic introductory pamphlet called Bahá'í Shinkyo no Tebiki (Bahá'í Faith Introduction), or more familiarly, the Tebiki, was written by a committee of the Tokyo Assembly and printed by mimeograph in 1953: 2000 copies. About the same time the Local Spiritual Assembly hastily mimeographed 500 copies of what they called an "emergency pamphlet" to pass out free of charge at meetings. They used material from the Shiori and Tebiki. The Tebiki was put into Japanese Braille by Mr. Torii and a notice inserted in the Braille edition of the Osaka Mainichi newspaper which brought 15 requests. The second printing of the Tebiki was done by the regular printing method in 1954: 1000 copies. That small pamphlet has been updated and reprinted many times through the years and the Bahá'ís are still using it.

At the urging of Miss Alexander the Tebiki was again printed in Japanese Braille, 700 copies, under the auspices of the National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia in 1963. Mr. Torii arranged to have the Braille pamphlet sent to 500 addresses of blind persons.

At the end of 1953 the well-known British potter, Bernard Leach, who was a Bahá'í, wrote a pamphlet titled My Religious Faith (Watakushi no Shukyoteki Gainen). It was printed at his expense in two versions, English and Japanese, on

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attractive washi paper. Of course it was a personal explanation by Mr. Leach primarily for his Japanese acquaintances, but as he was so famous and respected the pamphlet became a very successful means of promulgating the Faith. Mr. Leach gave the Bahá'ís permission to reprint it when all the copies were gone.

A Glossary of Bahá'í Terms (Bahá'í Shinkyo Yogoshu), Japanese/English, was mimeographed by the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly in August 1953 and passed around. It was an attempt to standardize the language used by Bahá'ís. In 1955 the glossary was expanded and a second version edited by Mr. Hongo and Mr. Earl of the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly was professionally printed in Osaka.

In 1955 the Tokuhon (Ten Lessons) was printed, 1000 copies with both soft and hard covers. It was originally written by Mrs. Mamie Seto for another country but the LSA felt it was suitable for Japan. It was translated by Mr. Kadota and provided much needed deepening for the new Japanese believers.

In 1956 the first hard cover prayer book was printed, Bahá'í no Kitosho, 500 copies, by the National Publishing Committee in Kobe, a committee of the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly. The 60-page book came with both a hard blue cover and a soft cover. It had prayers by Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and one by Shoghi Effendi. Interestingly, it contained the Tablet of Carmel.


click here for larger image

1953. The cover and first page of the first mimeographed glossary, of Bahá'í terms in English and Japanese. Two years later it was expanded considerably and printed in Osaka under the direction of the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly.

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That year there was a reprint of a one-page statement of the Bahá'í stance on the atom bomb. The original was apparently taken from a statement issued by the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. The first Japanese version was printed in Tokyo about 1953 or 1954.

In the mid-1950s an American pioneer hired professional translators, with review and printing being done by the Tokyo LSA, thereby increasing the literature. So by the end of the 1950s there were several pamphlets and the first edition of Paris Talks ('Abdu'l-Bahá no Pari Kowashu) printed in 1959, which had a second printing in 1976. Additional pamphlets available in Japanese were Shigo no Sei (Life After Death), Bahá'í no Seiyaku (Bahá'í Covenant), Bahá'í Shinkyo Mondoshu (Bahá'í Answers), Kami wa Jitsuzai-suru (Existence of God, in both hard and soft covers), Kunan Gyakkyo no Seishinteki Imi (The Meaning of Spiritual Adversity) and Seishin no Shori (Victory of the Spirit). In 1961 the book Some Answered Questions ('Abdu'l-Bahá no Shitsugi Ohtohshu) was printed for the first time. The second printing was done in 1989.

Printing of books and pamphlets increased through the years; however, it was to be several years before Japan would have its own Publishing Trust. In 1974 at the direction of the Universal House of Justice the Bahá'í Publishing Trust of Japan was established. The first book printed under its auspices was Japan Will Turn Ablaze! in English. It sold well internationally and the profits helped get the Trust established economically. The Japanese version of that book, Ryogen no Hi - Nihon, was printed in 1978. After the establishment of the Publishing Trust many pamphlets and books, predominantly in Japanese, were published.

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