Concluding the Report on Japan
This article continues the series that is following the travels of the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary, M. G. Henschel, in the South Pacific and Asia
AFTER discussing the Korean matters with the brothers, we discussed future expansion of the work in Nagoya, Japan. The company in Nagoya is very new, having been formed three months ago, but April saw a new peak of 37 publishers. All eagerly looked forward to the evening meeting. Many were unable to attend the Tokyo assembly. The Kingdom Hall is formed by taking out the sliding doors between three rooms. Everyone sat on the floor on his feet and lower limbs, which is the Japanese custom at home.
The meeting was opened by a Kingdom song sung in Japanese. The Japanese brothers read the words written in Hiragana, one of the several forms of Japanese writing in current use, from a large chart hanging in the front of the hall. Then Brother Henschel gave a very interesting talk on the proper use of time, which was especially appropriate for new publishers. I followed by explaining the importance of all servants of Jehovah becoming teachers, not just students, and told them about the new Japanese Watchtower as one instrument to be used in this teaching work. All the Nagoya publishers were happy over this new provision of Jehovah. It was a joy to see so many new people taking to the truth in this big field, Nagoya, and I felt there were great possibilities for expansion. This meeting greatly pleased the missionaries and company publishers alike. Here 128 persons had attended, the most yet to come to the Kingdom Hall.
The next morning, Wednesday, everyone went out into the advertising work using the few remaining handbills of the original 40,000 which began to be distributed on Monday, April 22. After all the handbills had been distributed the placard workers continued their work. That afternoon the eight Gilead graduates of Nagoya and myself had a meeting where problems were discussed which related to the missionary home and general preaching activity. I advised the missionaries to work very closely with the new Japanese publishers, training them to develop into mature servants of Jehovah. These would be the ones that eventually would do much fruit-bearing.
In the evening at the newly built auditorium of the Trade School Hall, situated near the main Nagoya railway station, the public lecture was delivered. At the opening time a good crowd had already gathered and during the first half-hour of the lecture an almost steady stream of people came in until the entire lower floor was filled and the ushers began to direct the people to the balcony. The attendance reached 396.
Although the Japanese have a habit of leaving immediately after a lecture has been completed, almost an hour passed before the missionaries and the visitors had finished answering all the questions of some who attended the meeting and who were hearing the message for the first time. Studies were arranged for, directions to the Kingdom Hall given and information given concerning the work.
Several new publishers are talking about entering the pioneer service as soon as they are eligible. Others are wanting to increase their service, while still others want to begin. The service talks on Tuesday night especially helped in this respect.
The next morning all rose early to have breakfast and accompany seven of us to the station where we departed for Osaka, the next stop. Osaka is situated four hundred miles southwest of Tokyo and is a great industrial city. The Osaka company of Jehovah’s witnesses was formed in November 1949 by some interested persons. However, later some of these people were led away from God’s organization by the company servant, who claimed he had powers of divine healing. In order to assist those who wanted to stick by the organization, the branch office arranged for a missionary to visit them from the Kobe missionary home every Sunday. Since that time the Osaka company has met in the City Hall building and conducted regular study and field-service activities in the same way as is done by Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the world. The Lord’s blessing has been on the work and the company has grown now to a peak of 38.
The Osaka publishers were very glad when five new missionaries arrived from Gilead School about six weeks before I reached there. A very nice Japanese home located in the center of the largest residential area of Osaka has been rented for the use of the missionaries, and just as soon as the missionaries learn some of the language the company will, without doubt, greatly expand and their presence will be felt. The arrival of these five sisters caused quite a stir; and this is what happened.
They were interviewed by a reporter upon their arrival and subsequently a photograph of them appeared in a Japanese newspaper along with a story about their ‘hardships’ in obtaining accommodation, not being able to speak the language, and what work they intended to do. In a couple of days they were inundated by a flood of letters written in Japanese from all over Japan, either sympathizing with them or expressing interest in their work and asking for information. The letters were translated and answered and many studies were started. One letter was from one of Jehovah’s witnesses who had been in prison in Japan during the war and who did not know that the work had started up again here until he saw the newspaper report. He was put in touch with the branch. More than a hundred letters were received and now the sisters are off to a good start in the midst of a good company.
On the evening of May 3, I addressed the company publishers (45 being in attendance) on the divine healing matter, and they appreciated it. The next night I spoke to 180 persons in a packed hall in the Osaka City Hall. Many persons obtained literature after the meeting and doubtless the work will continue to increase. Many persons who came to the lecture came as a result of an interesting article in the leading Japanese-language newspaper. Upon my arrival at the missionary home I was interviewed by a reporter of the Asahi newspaper, some pictures were taken and an excellent short article appeared concerning the work of Jehovah’s witnesses. The newspapers and radio stations have given much favorable publicity to Jehovah’s witnesses. I also received some mail from Japanese interested in our work.
Due to this publicity many persons associated with the organization before 1938 are now reassociating with the Society. In 1938 the work of the Society was banned by the Japanese government and the majority of the brothers were thrown into concentration camps. They were scattered and many thought the organization had ceased to exist and so were not able to actively work in harmony with Jehovah’s organized people. Unbounded is their joy now that they have at last found the organization and can work under the direction of the Society.
All of Jehovah’s witnesses are enjoying many thrilling experiences. Here is one as related by a pioneer brother. When witnessing from house to house he met an elderly Japanese man. He explained his purpose in calling and the man said he was very much interested in the Bible. In fact, for more than twenty years he had been a Protestant clergyman. This man is a learned scholar, reading Greek, English and Japanese. In addition to his clerical duties he had been a professor of English language at a large Japanese university. The two arranged to study the Bible in the man’s home. After several weeks of study the interested person began to go regularly to the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses. A little while later he expressed his desire to preach with Jehovah’s witnesses in the way that Jesus and the early Christians preached, namely, from house to house. This brother has now completely left the false religious organizations and is living the life of a true Christian.
The work in Osaka is now properly organized, the publishers appreciate the loving provision of Jehovah in sending missionaries to help them and they are determined to use their time and talents to preach the gospel among the two million of Osaka, “the Pittsburgh of the Orient.”
After the public meeting in Osaka we went directly to the Osaka railway station, using the modern subway system. The subway was not crowded at ten o’clock at night, but when we got to the railroad station, that was packed with people who were leaving the city. There was one gate marked “Foreigner”, which we entered, and we were thankful for this; otherwise we would have been in a long line. Some of the missionaries from Kobe had come over to Osaka that evening and they accompanied us to Tarumi. This trip was an experience. Getting into an interurban train in Japan in a crowd means everyone for himself. All of the graciousness and politeness that the Japanese people show in their homes is forgotten when they are trying to get on a train to go somewhere. The customary bowing is dispensed with. So we just had to crowd in with the rest of them and keep pushing, which was more of a problem for us who were carrying suitcases. It was about an hour and a half to Tarumi, a suburb of Kobe.
We stayed at the missionary home and had a delightful visit with the twelve missionaries. Ten of them had been there 18 months and their Japanese was quite good. They are getting along splendidly with their company. We were told that after six months of working in Japanese territory they felt quite at home in conducting Bible studies with the Japanese people. It was not natural for them to use the language, but their willingness to persevere and their helpful service were appreciated by the Japanese people, and these were glad to learn about the truth.
These brothers reported too that the best results were among the one-time Buddhists. This may seem strange because the Buddhists have to cast off many superstitions when they become Christian. The Buddhist is willing to investigate. After a year and a half of study with one Buddhist woman she has become an excellent publisher and she enjoys going from house to house. When someone says “I am a Buddhist” it gives her pleasure to say “I too was a Buddhist”, and then she starts to explain. This Japanese sister now has five Bible studies of her own and in one of these studies twelve different families are represented. This shows what a powerful force the Japanese witnesses will be in Japan when hundreds, and we hope thousands, will begin preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. It is going to take time, however, to wean the Japanese people away from their religious traditions and to establish them in the truth.
At the Tarumi company’s service meetings all the missionaries, brothers and sisters, take part in demonstrations in Japanese and the brothers give talks on Informant articles. Every one of the persons that have been sent to this home in Japan stated he wanted to work in no other territory. That territory is just right.
Our visit to Tarumi was climaxed by the one-day assembly on Sunday, May 6. The missionary home in Tarumi is of the Western type, with all wooden floors, two stories and basement, and around the home there is a large lawn and beautiful grove of pine trees. We were fortunate in being able to rent this home from the army and hope that we will have its use for a long period of time. In the morning at nine o’clock the brothers assembled for field service. This was followed by a baptismal talk by a missionary, in Japanese. Thirteen Japanese brothers and sisters were then taken to a public bathhouse and immersed.
After that all of us went out in the field service. We had the pleasure of advertising the public meeting. I went from door to door with one of the brothers who had just been immersed and I was able to see firsthand what we had already been told concerning entering the homes, and I observed the courtesy of the people. Brother Henschel was working with Brother Haslett at the railroad station, distributing leaflets, and he observed how many people would read the back of the handbill which announced the booklet The Joy of All the People and inquire if they could get it immediately. Brother Haslett made quite a few placements by persons’ asking for the booklet without its being displayed.
The afternoon public meeting was to start at two o’clock, and shortly before that time hundreds of people were coming into the yard at the missionary home on the hill. Benches had been set around, mats of straw and blankets were placed on the lawn for many of the people to sit on. Attendance was 454. The yard was filled with people and the joy of the Tarumi missionaries knew no bounds. This was an answer to their 18 months of service work and showed how richly the Lord was blessing them.
The doctor living across the way was very friendly and kind to the brothers. He calls the home “the lighthouse of Kobe”; and truly a lot of people came to this house to see the light from the Word of the Lord.
That night those of us who had come from Tokyo took the train back. We left Kobe at 8:55 and arrived in Tokyo at 9:15 the next morning. We got some sleep that night in our reclining chairs and were glad that we got seats at all, for the crowd was great. There was still much to do in Tokyo the remaining two days of our stay in Japan. Arrangements were made after hearing Brother Henschel’s report on Taiwan to try to send Brothers Steele and Tohara to Taipeh, the capital, for about a month to follow up on the work of getting the Kingdom service on a better footing. If all plans for the trip work out, after about a month in Taiwan they are to stop a week or two in Okinawa and visit the company there, which is made up of Filipino contract workers. There is some interest among those who speak Japanese, too; so public talks will be given. The brother who attended the Tokyo convention gave much helpful information on the position in Okinawa before he returned.
It was good to learn that during the week’s absence from Tokyo many things had happened. Four of the brothers who had been in Japan for only two weeks had obtained 30 subscriptions for the Japanese Watchtower during the past six days. They were certainly delighted, and this shows that if you put forth the effort and try things can happen. These brothers had already started Bible studies with a number of people in their own homes or they invite the people to come to the missionary home. All day long there is someone in the Kingdom Hall studying with one of the missionaries.
On Tuesday we went to Yokohama to see the fifth missionary home. This had been opened up just one week before. It is located on the top of a hill overlooking the city of Yokohama. The brothers had already been out in the field service and that day we met some of them a few hundred yards from the home; rain or no rain they were busy. They told us they had had a number of interesting experiences. They were just getting settled, but they were delighted with the assignment and arrangements were made to have one of the sisters spend two weeks with them giving them lessons in the language an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. After that the circuit servant will be visiting Yokohama and it will be part of his work to teach the new missionaries some of the language. With one month of hard study and the missionaries’ putting in two to four hours a day digging into books for 30 days, they should be able to pick up enough of the language to carry on their preaching work without too much difficulty. But the study of the Japanese language is going to be a lifetime job. I did want them to get off to a good start, so all of the new missionaries were given special help by setting aside definite hours for study and they were given teachers.
The two-week stay in Japan was a most interesting period. There were so many things to do and so much was accomplished. The 47 missionaries are certainly anxious to push ahead with their work. They are content in their homes, they are pleased with their assignment and they love the people. They know there are great prospects ahead and that the work in Japan is just beginning. At the four public meetings 1,731 persons had attended. Hundreds of names were turned in and many new studies started. Just as we were leaving Japan some reports for the month of April had been gathered together. Already 250 publishers had reported, including the 47 missionaries. That means there are now more than 200 Japanese publishers in the country. All of this was accomplished in a little more than two years. As we carried the baggage out of the Kingdom Hall to the jeeps that were to take us to the airport at Haneda, we said good-by to three groups studying the Bible simultaneously in different parts of the hall. One group had seven persons, another three, and another two. We had no doubt that these people were definitely interested in the truth, for outside the rain was pouring down and yet this bad weather had not turned these newly interested ones back. Yes, the Japanese people are looking for good news, they are anxious to learn, and with Jehovah’s witnesses being anxious to teach them a wonderful witness will be given in the months and years to come.