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Traces That Remain:
A Pictorial History of the Early Days of the Bahá'í Faith among the Japanese

by Barbara R. Sims

edited by Sheridan Sims.
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Chapter 46

46. The Years Between and the Later Years

Miss Alexander left Japan in 1937 to make her long-awaited pilgrimage, not to return for many years. At the Guardian's direction, after her pilgrimage, she visited Bahá'ís in various parts of Europe and then went to the United States. Conditions in the world were worsening and it soon became apparent that any further journeys to Japan would have to wait.

Miss Martha Root was the last Bahá'í from abroad to visit Japan. This time, Miss Alexander had already gone, and the two good friends could not meet. However, Miss Root endeavored to meet every Bahá'í in Japan.

The political situation in Japan continued to disfavor many of the religious groups and even the Bahá'ís were suspect. The country was taken over by the militarists, and devastating World War II broke out.

The small Bahá'í community was rather scattered and, as the years went by, the few remaining Bahá'ís could not meet and the community became nonfunctional, not to come to life again until after the war.

In 1937 when Miss Alexander was in the Holy Land on pilgrimage, Shoghi Effendi told her, "The immediate future in Japan is very dark. Japan is going to suffer. The time is not now for great headway. The Pacific will become a great storm center in the coming war, great suffering." Indeed, the Guardian' s words were soon to become truth.

Japan emerged subdued and defeated. The rise of Japan as a first-world country and a powerful economic nation was a number of years off.

In the late 1940s the first Bahá'ís from abroad came to Japan, Americans with the American Occupation Forces. Names we can recall from the days immediately after the war are Mr. Michael Jamir, Mrs. Lorraine Wright and Mr. Robert Imagire. They managed to find some of the scattered Bahá'ís. Mr. Jamir wrote of his successful trips to find Mr. Torii and Mr. Fujita. Mrs. Wright was the wife of an Army officer. One of the early Japanese Bahá'ís, Mr. Yoshio Tanaka, fondly saved pictures of the Wrights which he put in an album and eventually gave to the National Archives.


The Faith Spreads from Tokyo

Not only is Tokyo the geographical center of Japan (and also the economic center), but it has always been the center of the development of the Faith in Japan. The American Bahá'ís who came to Japan in the late 1940s were all in the Tokyo area. It was natural that the Faith would start up again and flourish around Tokyo.

Mr. Robert Imagire came to Japan in 1947 at the Guardian's encouragement and spent about eight years in the country. He found work with the U.S. Forces which enabled him to stay. He started regular meetings with the early Bahá'ís that he could find, and newly interested people. A new foundation was being laid.

Miss Alexander, who was still in the United States, had asked Mr. Imagire to locate her Bahá'í books, which she had left in the care of her old friend, Dr. Masujima. The address Miss Alexander had given to Mr. Imagire was in an area in Tokyo that was completely bombed out. But he went anyway, and found only one building standing. Miss Alexander's books were in the basement of that building unharmed. There were two hundred copies of "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era" in Japanese, which were desperately needed as there was nothing in Japanese to use to teach and deepen.

In 1948 the first post-war local spiritual assembly was elected in Tokyo. When the Guardian was informed of it, a letter written on his behalf stated that it was "a historic and wonderful achievement." The members were: Mr. Goro Horioka (chairman), Mrs. Masako Urushi (vice-chairman), Mr. Shozo Kadota (recording secretary), Miss Fumiko Kondo (corresponding secretary), Miss Minori Inagaki (treasurer), Mr. Daiun Inoue, Mr. Sempo Ito, and two others (likely Miss Fusae Ichige and Miss Shigeko Nakanishi, who served on succeeding assemblies, as did Robert Imagire).

Most of the members were new Bahá'ís and within a few years became disassociated with the Faith for various reasons, mostly because they moved and lost contact, or married, or their working condition changed. Still the foundation was solid and survived, with ever-increasing new adherents, new believers in the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh. The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Tokyo has continued


to flourish ever since.

At that time, Mr. Imagire corresponded directly with the Guardian regarding the progress of the Faith in Japan. The Guardian told him not to be discouraged; he gave criteria for membership in the Faith; he suggested ways and means to deepen the Bahá'ís; he also gave guidance regarding what to translate, and other suggestions.

Shoghi Effendi wrote to Miss Alexander encouraging her to return to Japan. She was able to do so in 1950 after being sponsored by Lt. J.C. Davenport (USAF), to obtain the difficult visa as Japan was still under the Allied Occupation. Miss Alexander stayed in the Tokyo area until 1952, when she moved to Kyoto.

By 1951 four American pioneers were elected to the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly. The membership then was Miss Ichige, Mr. Kadota, Mr. Horioka, Miss Nakanishi and Mr. Yoshino. The Americans were Miss Alexander, Mr. Lane Skelton, Mrs. Barbara Davenport and Mr. Imagire.

Sometime during 1952 the membership changed to Mr. Imagire, Lt. Col. John McHenry, Mr. Goro Horioka, Mr. Tameo Hongo, Miss Ichige, Mr. Skelton, Dr. and Mrs. David Earl, and Mr. Donald Witzel. The Japanese friends in their deep affection and appreciation for the American Bahá'ís tended to elect them to the local spiritual assembly.

There are old records of 1952 and 53 which show the activity of Tokyo, Mr. John McHenry and Mrs. Joy Earl spoke at the YMCA on different occasions. There was publicity in the newspapers for various events. When Hand of the Cause Mr. Khadem came to Japan for the first time in 1953, the Tokyo Assembly arranged a public meeting for him.

In 1952 there was an Asian World Federation Congress in Hiroshima with fourteen Asian countries represented. Miss Alexander attended and spoke on the Bahá'í Plan for World Order. It was there she met Mr. Yan Kee Leong.

In 1952 there was only one local spiritual assembly in Japan, in Tokyo, six isolated believers, but no organized groups. The Bahá'í community totaled about 35 believers; of these, twelve were Americans, eight being attached to the U.S. Armed Forces; the rest were Japanese. There were no resident Persians yet, although that year Mr. Y.A. Rafaat had made a trip to Japan to look over the possibilities, but he returned to Iran, not to transfer to Japan permanently until the summer of 1953.


In 1952-53 the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo made three mimeographed issues of a magazine they called "Higashi No Hoshi" (Star of the East), but it was not continued. Miss Alexander chose the name, which was the same as the publication in the 1920s, but it was not otherwise connected.

However, in September 1953, the Bahá'í Geppo (News) was started by the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly and it continued for many years.

In 1952 the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo reported that it had extension teaching goals: Yokohama (there is a record of the first meeting there at which Mrs. Joy Earl spoke with Mr. Imagire translating), Sendai, Osaka, Hiroshima and Kofu. When the Guardian received this report, an answer written on his behalf indicated he was happy that extension teaching was being done and he mentioned that Tokyo, as the mother assembly, had great responsibility.

It was the same letter (October 30, 1952) that said that the Guardian was particularly glad to hear of the teaching being done in Hiroshima where the people had a special right to hear of Bahá'u'lláh's Message.

That year the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo ambitiously appointed eight committees and they all seem to have been working. One of the responsibilities of Tokyo was to accept enrollments from all over Japan.

In 1953 the Translation Committee of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo compiled and printed an English-Japanese glossary of Bahá'í terms. This made the translation work go smoother. The first introductory pamphlet written in Japanese, the "Bahá'í Shinkyo no Tebiki," was printed. Two years later Mr. Torii transcribed this into a Japanese Braille pamphlet.

A major achievement in Tokyo was the revision of "Baháu'lláh and the New Era." The original translation had been printed in 1932 as a result of Miss Alexander's endeavors. It not only needed reprinting but parts needed retranslation. Mr. Tameo Hongo and Dr. David Earl worked on this important project.

In 1953 the first permanent Persian pioneers arrived. The American Bahá' is, except for Miss Alexander, who by this time was living in Kyoto, were all of necessity in the Tokyo area. But when the Persians came in 1953 and 1954, with the exception of Mr. Rafaat, (Tokyo), and Mr. and Mrs. Mohtadi, (Nagoya), they went to the Kansai area around Osaka. The Faith


was expanding.

In the Guardian's Message to the 45th Annual Convention of the Bahá'ís of the United States (1953), he listed many tasks to be accomplished during the Ten Year Plan (also known as the Ten Year Spiritual Crusade) 1953-1963. He wrote that this Plan was the third and final epoch of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Master (Teaching) Plan. The American Bahá'í community was given most of the responsibility to accomplish the goals. Japan was listed as a consolidation goal; a National Spiritual Assembly in Japan was to be established during those years; to be incorporated; an endowment was to be purchased somewhere in Japan, and a Haziratu'l-Quds was to be acquired in Tokyo.

The American National Spiritual Assembly appointed the Asia Teaching Committee, whose secretary was Miss Charlotte Linfoot, to be the liaison between that assembly and the various Asian countries they were to help. Both the Asia Teaching Committee and the national assembly itself, whose secretary was Mr. Horace Holley, did everything they could to assist the Japanese community. There are dozens of letters in the Japan National Archives attesting to this. The Local Spiritual Assembly in Tokyo also corresponded directly with the Guardian.

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