Report on Japan and Korea
This article continues the report on the service tour of the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary, M. G. Henschel.
HAVING seen the missionary home in Tokyo and having had a good breakfast with 45 Gilead graduates, I met in the Kingdom Hall with the missionaries. Those who had been in Japan for over a year and who were able to offer some helpful suggestions to the new missionaries to familiarize them with many of the problems encountered in the field spoke out. They described the general habits of the people. Fifteen new missionaries had just arrived the previous week and five others six weeks before, and all needed a lot of help. It was pointed out that when one goes to the door in Japan he does not knock at the door, but slides it to one side and calls inside, “Gomen kudasai” (Excuse me, please!), and the householder calls back, “Hai” (Yes). Then the publisher steps inside and presents his testimony. This is done just inside the door, as one is very seldom invited right inside the house. It is not unusual for a weekly Bible study to be conducted on a person’s doorstep for many weeks until the householder really gets to know the publisher. The people are very kind and courteous, bowing politely as often as the occasion affords, and appreciating the effort put forth to teach them. They are patient while the missionary struggles through his Japanese presentation, using the wrong post-position and puzzling the people with wrongly stressed words. It makes a big impression though that the missionaries come down to the level of the people and try to speak to them in their own tongue. Bible studies are easy to obtain, but one has to be careful that the student is not pretending to be interested so he can learn to speak English. Some who have started to study with this idea in mind have later become interested in the truth; but a lot of time can be wasted, too. It is interesting to note that the majority who come into the truth are not those who already claim to be Christians, but Buddhists; so-called Christians are the most difficult to deal with.
I enjoyed their many experiences and then stressed the need of really trying to learn the language. I gave them examples of other missionaries, who in fourteen months were speaking Siamese and others Spanish, and told how the work was being done in Burma, Hong Kong and Singapore, where problems are similar to those in Japan. The Eastern mind thinks differently from the Western mind, and the missionaries must learn to be patient. You cannot give all the truth at once. Let them think over what you told them and do not be discouraged if you must explain it all over at the next study. This was a very practical meeting.
There was business to take care of downtown now, and it was warm and bright in the Japanese springtime, and I was able to get a better view of life in Tokyo. Brother Haslett in just two years handles the language well and he has no trouble in getting around or making his needs known to Japanese people. I saw that as we went through the city. Japan is a strange mixture of Oriental and Western life; kimonos and suits, oxcarts and automobiles, chopsticks and knives and forks, wooden sandals, leather shoes, kurumas (rickshas) and taxicabs, electric trams and trains, and so on. And you should see the bicycles! Not just the bicycles, but the loads they carry: furniture and all kinds of things are piled onto the back-carrier and handlebars or dragged behind on a trailer or cart. In the main shopping center of the city one pushes his way through a very cosmopolitan crowd which seems endless and is made more congested by rows of small stalls lining the sidewalk, where selling of anything from brightly colored kimonos and goldfish to leather cases and candy goes on. There is certainly no shortage of people in Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan, for that matter, and this fact made itself felt later in the week when we hung onto a strap in a filled-to-bulging tram car and tried to get in or out of an electric train during rush hours.
The assembly was opened on Thursday morning at the Nihonishikai Kaikan in Kanda, Tokyo, by Brother Thompson, a missionary who spoke quite fluently in Japanese for about half an hour. He used no notes. Considering that he had been in Japan for only eighteen months, he had made commendable progress in learning one of the world’s most difficult languages. This surely made my heart glad, because it showed it could be done. The Japanese brothers appreciated it, too. He will be a circuit servant for Japan beginning June 1 and will spend two weeks with each company. Where there are missionaries he will hold school for two hours each day to teach Japanese.
Following his talk on the service work the day was spent in advertising the public talk to be given on Sunday. Eighty were in attendance at this opening session. All could eat at the assembly cafeteria. Rice and Japanese tea figured prominently in the hundreds of meals served.
Then came the evening program, beginning at six o’clock with songs. A mimeographed songbook containing twenty-eight Kingdom songs translated into Japanese had been prepared and was released at the assembly. Brother Barry, another graduate of Gilead from New Zealand, spoke in Japanese for a half-hour, to the delight of everyone. Then I spoke, taking up the time assigned to Brother Henschel, who was in Taiwan, as well as my own time, using Brother Hanaoka, recently arrived from Hawaii, who did a wonderful job of translating for me every time I spoke at assemblies in Japan. I was very grateful for his help and his untiring zeal, which was an inspiration to all of us.
That evening, at the close of the meeting, amid a tremendous burst of applause, The Watchtower in Japanese was released. It was just what everyone wanted. One thousand copies of the first issue were available; each one in the audience of 128 was given a free copy and could obtain additional supplies for the field. Two thousand copies of each issue will be printed in the future, and more will be made as the demand increases. Almost everyone in attendance expressed himself that this was the most important forward step to sustain the inevitable expansion of true worship in Japan.
Setting up Japanese type is a big job, there being, for example, about six thousand characters used in the Japanese Bible; so, as the Society does not have any Japanese type anyway, an outside firm will do the printing, and although it will be a little more expensive that way it will be worth it to supply this up-to-date spiritual food. The first day of the assembly ended with everyone’s making a beeline for the magazine department. Everyone wanted supplies for the field work and copies for their Bible studies.
With the year’s subscription for The Watchtower being 500 yen (about $1.50 or 10/-), some thought that it would be difficult to get people to subscribe; but this was not the case, for even the missionaries who had been in Japan for only one week and could say only three sentences in Japanese were successful in obtaining subscriptions the next day.
The rest of the convention moved along smoothly, with Japanese publishers and Gilead graduates taking part in demonstrations and in giving talks. It was so good to see the excellent progress made by the missionaries in the language. They tried hard to learn, and they were blessed. An average of a hundred and twenty brothers attended the convention meetings, and on Sunday morning fourteen were immersed in a Japanese public bath. Brother Henschel arrived on Saturday morning and shared in the convention activities for the last two days.
The big event that everyone was looking forward to was the public meeting. The Kyo Ritsu auditorium had been hired for the public meeting on Sunday, a large, well-known building that would have more than enough room for the expected crowd. Thousands of handbills had been printed and were being distributed, and we wondered how many would act upon the invitation to attend. The talk was scheduled to begin at two o’clock. About fifteen minutes to two the people started to come in; and, believe it or not, a few people were still coming at three-thirty when the talk ended! And with the aid of my interpreter I was pleased to speak to seven hundred people. That means over five hundred were strangers or people of good will. This shows what potential there is for increase in Tokyo, not to mention all the rest of Japan. Even those converted to “Christianity” had not entertained such a hope as they gained when I spoke of living on the earth forever in the new world. This was something new to the people of Japan. Five hundred and fifty copies of the Japanese booklet The Joy of All the People were given away after the talk, and many left their names and addresses behind, desiring to study the Bible further. Kyo Ritsu Kodo was not rented in vain.
Three more talks were given after the public meeting to the 200 that remained—witnesses, Bible study persons and newly interested. They would like their love conveyed to the brothers in other parts of the world that I would visit in the near future, they said, and I was glad to agree to comply.
We returned to the Tokyo missionary home that evening, and the branch servant, keeping my nose to the grindstone, arranged an informal meeting where a discussion was held on part of the Lord’s prayer which says: “Bring us not into temptation.” At the close of this meeting the missionaries and other publishers made their way home. The convention was a great stimulant and joy, as all had time to get better acquainted with each other and to know personally with whom they were working shoulder to shoulder in this land “white unto harvest”. And there was a Filipino brother from Okinawa, representing the brothers in the company there, who rejoiced to be able to attend the convention. All of us were happy people. A new field of service had been opened, and the work was being blessed by Jehovah. All know there is still much more work to do.
ON TO NAGOYA
On Tuesday night after the convention we set out to visit the other missionary homes in Japan, to serve the companies that were established and to deliver public talks in the cities of Nagoya, Osaka and Tarumi, a suburb of Kobe. At eight o’clock in the morning our party pulled out of the Tokyo Central Station, and from there on we enjoyed the very scenic trip to Nagoya. As we traveled through Tokyo and Yokohama we could see the effects of the bombing raids of World War II on Japan. In many places the only thing standing would be a tall chimney. Everything else, where a factory had been, was flattened to the ground. On many of these sites temporary shacks or some form of homes had been built for the housing of the Japanese people. There is a great shortage of housing facilities in Japan. In other places bombed factories were being reconditioned for use again. These reminders of their defeat are ever present for the Japanese people, as well as the strict rationing of foods and shortages of many things they might like to have. They are living under adversity, but that is cause for them to think and reason on the future, and it is a help to those who are busy proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.
It took about 45 minutes to leave the city limits. I was greatly impressed with the abundant vegetation in Japan. There is no wasted space. All the land that can be farmed is under cultivation. The innumerable rice paddies are kept in excellent condition. The ground was being prepared for the spring rains and the rice planting. Other fields were green with winter wheat. All the crops were in perfectly arranged rows and there were no weeds to be seen at all. The hills are terraced. Even the steep hills are cultivated to their peaks. Generations of farmers had done all this. As we rode along we had many wonderful views of the seashore. There are numerous tunnels. We saw the base of Fujiyama, the prized cone-shaped mountain of Japan, but we did not see the whole mountain until our return a week later. It is a beautiful sight. We saw tea estates, and to our surprise the bushes were very low, close to the ground. The way of country life in Japan is very interesting.
Wherever one goes in Japan there are people; too many people are alive to be supported by what can be produced in Japan. Cities and towns are close together, and there were not any sections where the farms stretched for miles without a break. There are tiled roofs and thatched roofs and the ever-present temples of the Buddhists and Shintoists, with their groves. Everything is colorful in the country in the spring because of the very green hills and gardens that are sprinkled with the beautiful flowers that Japan produces. There are women with brightly colored kimonos. Above the homes, suspended on long poles, large and small cloth fish (carp), constructed something like a wind sock at an airport, fluttered in the wind. These were indicative of the fact that some boys lived in the home. The Japanese were preparing to celebrate Boy’s Day, May 5. They are very proud of their sons; and the bigger fish they can afford, the better they like it.
What we saw of Japan from the train and in all of our travels was like a well-kept garden. The only evidence of destruction by war was in the cities. The rubble has been cleared away, but there are unsightly places yet to be rebuilt. At the stations some disabled veterans of the war might be seen begging, for the government cannot afford to provide them with life’s necessities, another token of the adversity brought on by the warlords of Japan, the losers of World War II.
We arrived in Nagoya at 2:20 p.m. Eight Gilead graduates assigned to Nagoya and two graduates from the Tokyo home, as well as some of the local publishers, met our party at the station. Some were in the advertising work. The group numbering 17 managed to squeeze into the bus. As we crossed town to the missionary home various places of interest were pointed out to us. Nagoya was largely destroyed during the war. For that reason it is undergoing a reconstruction program and is efficiently planned for convenience and better all-around living conditions. We were surprised at finding so many modern buildings, so many wide avenues (most of them not yet paved) and so many new buses and trolleys in Japan’s third city. It was indicative of the progressiveness of the Japanese people to better their living conditions. New streets’ being cut through many places where streets have never been before has necessitated the moving of many houses, causing much inconvenience; but the government pays most of the moving costs and the people are willing to do it in order to have a better city. A subway is planned for Nagoya as a part of their five-year reconstruction plan.
The local company publishers had made a large welcome banner and hung it over the gate of the home, and this colorful greeting met our eyes as we approached the Japanese-style house where the missionaries live. This house was one of a few in that part of Nagoya that had not been destroyed by bombs. As soon as we were located in our rooms a tour of the home was made. The house is an old Japanese house and one of the largest in Nagoya. It provides comfortable accommodations for the missionaries as well as space for the Kingdom Hall and is located convenient to transportation. Although the afternoon began to slip away rapidly, I was anxious to get a firsthand report on the work in Korea, where the Nagoya missionaries had been first assigned. Here are a few things I learned:
REPORT ON KOREA
Brother Steele told me that in their final conversation with them before the missionaries were evacuated the brothers in Korea stated emphatically that they would not stop preaching this time no matter what circumstances came their way. Information received since that day in June, 1950, gives ample evidence that the brothers have kept their word and have proved to be stable servants of Jehovah during this world’s change.
As the communist army was completing its first occupation of the city of Seoul some of the brothers tried to save some of the Society’s property out of the missionary home by taking it to their own homes. This material was lost later by confiscation, looters and destruction of the brothers’ homes. Some of the brothers decided to stay in the city and do what they could, while others decided to go south with the teeming millions of refugees. One group of four, three pioneers and a company publisher, were cornered by the communist soldiers and ruthlessly machine-gunned. Two were killed. The other two were seriously injured but somehow made their escape and finally recovered. These two pioneers are now working in Pusan, Korea’s southernmost city and the only city not devastated by the war.
The company servant of the Seoul company lost his home in the bombing and was forced to go to the country near Seoul for a place to live. During the Red occupation of Seoul a certain day was appointed for all the inhabitants to march out into the streets and fields while the soldiers searched their houses. In spite of this the brothers were able to save their Bibles and most of their preaching equipment. One man of good will who had not yet consecrated when the missionaries were there had to flee into the country also and hide in a concealed place for three months of Red control. He writes that he could carry few things with him but he did take his Bible and “Let God Be True”, studying them constantly during his hibernation. He came out a consecrated brother ready to go to work, and lost no time getting associated with the brothers after Seoul was liberated, and began his preaching work.
Another, a young sister who was baptized just before the beginning of hostilities, disguised herself as an old lady and preached from house to house under the very noses of the communists. Most of those who remained behind were preserved. One blind brother and his wife were very zealous workers but they had their home destroyed, the wife being buried by the wreckage. The blind brother was able to rescue his wife with little injury to her. Another brother’s entire family were killed by the invaders, but he was preserved.
After Seoul was liberated the brothers went to the Kingdom Hall in the missionary home on October 3 to find the house standing with only the windows out. Everything had been taken away by the Reds except the Bible literature and preaching supplies, which they had not bothered to destroy in their haste. The brothers took possession of the house and immediately began holding their meetings again. Day by day the people of good will came back to inquire of the work and of the missionaries. By the third Sunday the attendance had grown to 50 again. As they went from house to house they found the people much more receptive to the soothing message of God’s kingdom. Later a South Korean navy officer took over the second floor of the home and repaired all the windows of the house, but he allowed the brothers to continue to use the first floor for the Kingdom Hall.
The Lord provides spiritual food for his people even in war-torn Korea. A brother found a sympathetic GI whose family had sent him “This Means Everlasting Life”, and so the brothers in Korea were supplied with the book almost as soon as the missionaries in Japan. A brother has been translating this a chapter at a time for the use of the brothers, and it is encouraging to see them use the up-to-date expressions in their correspondence.
During the United Nations’ stay in Seoul the brothers were able to receive the New York Assembly Report, and this was wonderful news for them. Air-mail service was maintained for a time between Seoul and Japan. During this time the brothers reported their Kingdom service time to the missionaries in Nagoya, who in turn sent reports of the work to them.
Came December and the Chinese communist army threatened Seoul again. Many of the brothers decided to go south, but others remained in Seoul. Those remaining told the ones leaving, “We will see you in the new world after Armageddon.” The brothers who went south organized a new company in Taegu and have been reporting regularly since. Three pioneers and several company publishers are working in Pusan. Communication between themselves is difficult but they are able to send word to Nagoya. Their letters are always filled with Bible questions and experiences they are enjoying among the refugees. They all have suffered terribly for lack of food, fuel and shelter, but their requests are not for their personal comfort—only for more spiritual food. I made arrangements for them to receive copies of The Watchtower and Awake! in English and The Watchtower in Japanese by air mail. I hope they can reproduce copies of the chapters they have translated from the Society’s books.
When the brothers heard that we were visiting the Orient they sent their love, but were very sorry that we were not able to visit them. So were we.
In April when Seoul was liberated for the second time word was anxiously awaited from the brothers left behind in Seoul, and finally word was received. The brothers had terrifying and wonderful experiences, but again those remaining in Seoul were preserved. Again they had returned immediately to the Kingdom Hall the day the communists withdrew, where they found the house standing but the windows, ceilings and doors were gone. Again the remaining supplies of literature were intact, actually being the only things left.
The eight missionaries would like to return to Korea to aid the brothers there, but that is not possible now. In the meantime the Korean brothers have shown their willingness to accept their responsibility to preach the Word. Our prayers ascend to Jehovah in their behalf.