JAPAN is a land of variety. Comprising four main islands and many smaller ones, its mountainous terrain stretches in a long crescent from Hokkaido’s snow country in the north to subtropical Kyushu in the west. Only 15 percent of the land is flat enough for cultivation. For the most part, the people are packed into coastal cities and towns. Terraced paddy fields provide rice. There is also a variety of fruit in season and the ocean yields an abundance of fish, seaweeds and other delicacies for the table. To a large extent, Japan is self-supporting as to food, even though the population now exceeds 105 million.
The people are generally small of stature, industrious, hardworking and proud of their Japanese tradition. One language, with very little dialectic variation, is spoken throughout Japan. The writing, for which 1,850 Chinese characters are commonly used, is quite complicated. But 99 percent of the population is literate. They love to read. Japanese inventiveness, and the ability to improve on others’ inventions, has also helped the nation to develop into one of the major industrial powers of the twentieth century.
In Japan today, Western-style clothes are much more in evidence than the Oriental. Bread is replacing rice at many meals. Ferroconcrete apartment houses, called “mansions,” rise up twelve to twenty stories where wood and paper homes once stood. But with this industrial development the pollution problem has become a big one.
RELIGION IN JAPAN
The Encyclopædia Britannica has stated: “The ancient history of Japan, as recorded in the native annals, is so completely shrouded in mythological legend as to be absolutely untrustworthy.” In this mythology, the first emperor, Jimmu, is supposed to have come to the throne in 660 B.C.E. He and the dynasty of 124 emperors down to Hirohito are said to be descendants of Amaterasu Omikami, the sun-goddess—the one who brought light into the world when she was enticed to leave her cavern through the artifice of letting her glimpse her beauty in a mirror. Over the centuries Shinto (“The Way of the Gods”) was developed, primarily as a system of worshiping the ancestors and the forces of nature. To this day, each local community holds its annual Shinto festival, when half-naked men and boys march around noisily, carrying on their shoulders a portable shrine. In this the mirror, the jewel and the sword hold the places of honor as Shinto symbols. Until the end of World War II, Shinto was the state religion, focusing very much on emperor worship.
But in Japan many people belong to more than one religion. They feel that they can thus take the best out of a number of religions. Starting from the sixth century C.E., when Buddhism entered Japan from China and Korea, many Buddhist practices were grafted onto the lives of the people. The Shinto and Buddhist religions became coexistent. It is not uncommon to find the local Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple standing side by side. Many Japanese homes display the Shinto god shelf in the entrance porch, while the family Buddhist altar is prominent in an inner room. At either place, fruit, flowers, and so forth, are set out for the pleasure of the ancestral spirits.
Traditionally, couples are married—and their infants are blessed—in a Shinto ceremony, but funerals and the memorial services that follow are conducted by the Buddhist priest. Shinto is mainly concerned with purification from ceremonial defilement, but Buddhism with rites for the dead. There are literally hundreds of different Shinto and Buddhist sects.
During the era that state Shinto held sway, people’s minds were very much bent toward emperor worship. Many were imbued with the strong militaristic, nationalistic fervor that reached its peak in the heat of World War II. Lives were freely sacrificed on the altar of emperor worship, and those who surrendered rather than die for the honor of the emperor were often regarded as outcasts. As Japan went down in defeat, whole armies chose annihilation rather than surrender. In the heyday of militarism, and prior thereto, the Japanese scene did not present bright prospects for success in preaching the good news concerning the “Prince of Peace.”
Indeed, the entire history of Japan has been marked by internal warfare, assassination and harakiri, revolution and swordsmanship. Few countries have had so violent a history, and much of this is still glorified in stage plays and movies featuring samurai knights and the cult of bushido (“the way of the warrior”). During bitter feuds between rival Buddhist sects, the streets of Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, literally ran red with the blood of these priestly fighters and their henchmen.
THE COMING OF CHRISTENDOM’S MISSIONARIES
Could Christianity get a foothold among the conglomeration of Buddhist and Shinto sects, and especially with the state Shinto so prominent a factor in their lives?
The religions of Christendom started to send missionaries to Japan in the mid-sixteenth century. In the Nagasaki area, some 150,000 are said to have been converted to Catholicism. However, after stating that the Roman Catholic religion became to the Japanese more of “a symbol of European civilization,” the Encyclopædia Britannica comments: “While some of the oppressed peasantry welcomed the gospel of salvation, the merchants and trade-conscious warrior lords regarded Catholicism as an important link between themselves and the expanding European continent.” The Catholic religion became the pawn of traders and gunrunners, and shortly the Japanese shogun, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ordered its suppression by cruel persecution. In desperation, the Catholics of western Japan rose in armed insurrection, only to be virtually annihilated by 1637. Survivors either renounced their faith or were driven underground as the “hidden Christians,” who camouflaged their Catholic images under Buddhist symbolisms.
Until Japan’s “great re-awakening,” which started with the Meiji era in 1868, most foreign influences, including religion, were forbidden entry into Japan. However, when the doors to the outer world were again thrown open, the sects of Christendom sent their missionaries by the score. How did these fare? There was no mass conversion of the Japanese. These felt that their Shinto and Buddhist beliefs were good enough for them, as they had been good enough for their ancestors. Did not Buddhism have a good moral code? What did Christendom have to show, with its long record of wars and colonial oppression, that recommended its religion as superior? So the Japanese took from Christendom’s religions whatever they considered to be beneficial, adding this to their own traditional beliefs, much in the same way that they had grafted on something of Confucianism and Buddhism in earlier centuries.
Finding that they could make little progress with a “gospel of salvation,” the missionaries of Christendom sought to make their mark by establishing hospitals, schools and universities, thus giving indirect encouragement to adopt the religion of Christendom’s sects. Did they succeed in this? Many of the Japanese have been grateful for medical and educational benefits received, and they have made good use thereof, but very few have seen a reason for adopting Christendom’s religion. Today, in a population of more than 100 million, only half a million profess to be Christians.
Many of the Japanese today have a Bible, and they will tell you that they attended Bible instruction at one of Christendom’s schools. But now, if they have a religion, they are content to go along with that of their ancestors, senzo dai-dai (“from generation to generation”). The biggest impression that Christendom’s sects have made on the Japanese appears to be in the celebration of Christmas, with its glitter and tinsel, merrymaking and throwing off of restraints. A Japanese storekeeper once told a Watch Tower missionary: “I am a good Christian and a good Shintoist. I sell Christmas trees for Christmas, and Shinto trees for New Year.” Christmas has not succeeded in making the Japanese Christians.
KINGDOM MESSAGE ENTERS JAPAN
At its convention held September 1-10, 1911, the International Bible Students Association appointed a committee “to tour the world and supply an unvarnished report of the true condition of affairs in Oriental lands amongst the peoples usually termed ‘heathens.’” This was a follow-up to the proposition of a certain Laymen’s Missionary Movement that $30,000,000 be collected for the immediate conversion of the world. The committee appointed, comprising Pastor Russell, R. B. Maxwell, Dr. L. W. Jones, Gen. W. P. Hall, J. T. D. Pyles, Prof. F. W. Robison and E. W. V. Kuehn, promptly set forth and, after a stop in the Hawaiian Islands, continued on to Japan.
Brother Russell and his companions made a 700-mile trip through Japan, visiting Yokohama, Tokyo and other cities on to Nagasaki in the west. In Tokyo, where Brother Russell gave two addresses, he noted that the missionaries of Christendom were considerably discouraged. Brother Russell reported the trend of religious sentiment as being “toward infidelity, doubt and atheism,” and cited a recent survey of three departments in the University of Tokyo, that had resulted in the following religious census among students: Christians, 4; Buddhists, Confucianists and Shintoists, 17; noncommittal, 46; atheists, 60; agnostics, 282; total, 409. Brother Russell summed up the situation, saying:
“Christianity in Japan is in much the same condition as in America and Europe, in two respects. (1) A certain number are true worshipers, devout believers, but they are few. (2) A larger number associate for the advantages they gain in one way or another—as, for instance, the privilege of night schools, Y.M.C.A. gymnasiums, etc., etc.”
Pastor Russell’s sermons gave the Japanese more food for thought than they had ever before enjoyed. His report said: “What the Japanese need is ‘the Gospel of the Kingdom,’ announcing the second coming of Jesus as the Messiah of Glory, to rule, heal and instruct all the families of the earth.”
A further fine witness was given in the area of China, Korea and Japan in 1915, by Sister F. L. Mackenzie, a colporteur of British nationality. Sister Mackenzie placed or loaned many copies of the Studies in the Scriptures, and made a second series of visits through the Orient in 1918. A letter she wrote to interested persons in the area called attention to chapter 15 of The Divine Plan of the Ages, as dealing “with the great trouble that has already begun in the world, which was pointed out nearly 40 years ago from the Bible.”
THE ERA OF THE “TODAISHA”
On September 6, 1926, an American-Japanese, Junzo Akashi, arrived in Japan as the Society’s missionary to Japan, Korea and China. He established a branch in Kobe, but this was later moved to Ginza, Tokyo, and finally to Ogikubo, then on the outskirts of Tokyo, where a printing plant was set up. Until the outbreak of World War II, Japan, Korea and Taiwan were covered by full-time Watch Tower colporteurs from Japan. The number of these in Japan reached a peak of 110 in 1938. It seems that there were no congregational meetings, such as the Watchtower study, but emphasis was placed on street meetings and distribution of the Japanese edition of The Golden Age (later, Consolation). In 1938 alone, 1,125,817 magazines were distributed. Akashi gave the organization the name “Todaisha,” meaning “The Lighthouse.”
From the time of the “Manchurian Incident” of September 18, 1931, militarism was very much on the ascendancy in Japan. Accordingly, on May 16, 1933, Akashi and a number of others were arrested and examined by the public procurators on suspicion of having violated the 1925 Peace Preservation law of Japan’s police state. However, they were soon released because of lack of evidence. But further difficulties loomed on the horizon!
After Japan joined Germany in an anti-Communist pact in 1936, all religious bodies came under heavy pressure from the government. As a result, the Roman Catholic Church changed its position with regard to doing obeisance to Shinto shrines, permitting this as a “nonreligious” ceremony! The government asked all religious bodies to send their representatives to the front to pray for Japan’s victory, and most complied. Under the Religious Bodies law of 1939, Buddhist sects and Christendom’s sects respectively were compelled to unite their denominations. In 1944, both the Protestant alliance (Kyodan) and the Roman Catholic Church joined the Japan Wartime Patriotic Religious Association, along with the Shinto and Buddhist sects. How were Jehovah’s witnesses treated during the oppressive rule of the Shinto warlords, supported by their pantheon of “eight million gods”?
A summary report prepared by the Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs in 1947 describes those turbulent days: “In May 1933, Akashi and several of his associates . . . were arrested on lese majesty charges in Chiba Prefecture and the Todai-sha was dissolved. It was reorganized and many members . . . (some 200 in all, including 50 residents of Tokyo) were dispatched throughout Japan, Manchuria, Korea, Taiwan, etc., making speeches and distributing literature [translated] by Akashi. They asserted that the doctrine of the Trinity was false and advocated a ‘Jehovah’ monotheism; that all religions other than that of the Todai-sha were inventions of Satan, and that the political organization of the world was also an invention of Satan causing oppressive war, poverty and disease; that Christ would rise and destroy these satanic inventions in Armageddon and construct the Kingdom of God. Finally, and this was the crux of the case as far as the Japanese courts were concerned, because otherwise they would have had no interest in the doctrines of this or any other religious body, ‘the Todai-sha was assisting in the establishment of Jehovah’s organization and system.’ Since this assertion was considered as a plan to overthrow the Japanese state structure (Kokutai), the members of the Todai-sha were arrested on June 21, 1939, and some were found guilty.”
Volume I of Study of Resistance in War Time, edited by the Institute for Study of Cultural Science, Doshisha University, Kyoto, and published in 1968, gives an extensive report on the activity and persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses in Japan prior to and during World War II. This report is based largely on actual court records. Some of Jehovah’s witnesses, as well as some who have left the truth, were also interviewed. The report mentions the earlier court order of 1933, prohibiting the distribution of The Watchtower and most of the other Society publications, but says that, by 1938, more than 105,000 publications were being produced each month. (These were mostly The Golden Age, later known as Consolation magazine.) Then a description of imprisonments and court trials is given, as detailed in the following paragraphs:
In January 1939, three members of the Todaisha were brought before the draft board. These stated, “We will not worship any creature above Jehovah, nor will we bow toward the Emperor’s palace or his photograph.” They also said: “Since the Emperor is a creature of the original Creator of the universe, Jehovah God, and since today the Emperor is no more than an instrument of the Devil’s wicked rule, we have no desire to worship the Emperor or to swear allegiance to him.” They were sentenced to from two to three years in prison.
On June 21, 1939, in one swoop, 130 others of the Todaisha were arrested—ninety-one (including Junzo Akashi) in Tokyo and eighteen other prefectures in Japan, thirty in Korea and nine in Taiwan. The Todaisha headquarters in Tokyo were surrounded by more than one hundred armed police, and a thorough search was made. Here, twenty adults and six children were arrested. Akashi, his wife, and second and third sons were put in the lockup at Ogikubo police station.
In August 1939, Junzo Akashi alone was transferred to the Ogu police station. For seven months he was investigated there by special police of the religious department. They used violence in order to extract “confessions” from him. He was tortured day and night, and had as his cell mates poisonous insects, mosquitoes, lice and bugs. He was kicked and thrown repeatedly to the floor, and his face beaten until it was unrecognizable. His whole body was covered with wounds. Finally, according to this Doshisha University report, he gave up and put his seal to anything the police asked of him. After increasingly violent cross-examinations, the police completed their report on Junzo Akashi on April 1, 1940.
On April 27, 1940, Akashi and fifty-two others were charged formally with violating the Peace Preservation law. Akashi himself was also charged with sedition against the government and disrespect for the emperor. On August 27 of the same year, the Todaisha was banned as an illegal organization that incited public disorder. The trial of Junzo Akashi and the fifty-two others continued through 1941 and 1942, during which time one died of illness. Finally, all but one, who responded to the military call-up, were convicted and sentenced. Junzo Akashi received a sentence of twelve years and the others from two to five years of imprisonment.
Police investigations were accompanied by all kinds of violence and torture. Less severe treatment came in the form of cursing and beating, but often sadistic handling resulted in crippling and maiming. Due to the long period of living in unsanitary cells, many became ill or incapacitated. Some died in prison. Families were scattered or disappeared, and many fell into pitiable circumstances.
One of the Todaisha was first confined in Tokyo Yoyogi Military Prison in June 1939, and later released on December 16, 1940. Rearrested in Kumamoto on December 1, 1941, he was held in a small, dark cell for two months with his arms tied up behind his back. He was repeatedly beaten. In August 1942, two military policemen beat and kicked him for an hour and a half before the eyes of his father, and left him half-dead. This was on account of his refusal to bow in the direction of the emperor’s palace. While in the same prison, in midwinter, December 1944, he was stripped of his clothes, his arms were tied behind his back and he was laid out on a wet concrete floor. Bucketsful of water were poured over his face and nose until he was unconscious, and then he was left for several hours until he revived. The same process was repeated again and again. When finally released from Fukuoka Prison in October 1945, he was more dead than alive.
The book Study of Resistance in War Time concludes its report: “But even through persecution of this kind, many of the Todaisha continued to keep their faith, awaiting their release that came in 1945.”
Yes, many kept their faith, and a number of these are serving loyally as Jehovah’s witnesses to this day. However, it appears that the majority of the Todaisha were following a man, Junzo Akashi. For example, the person that underwent the hard prison experiences just described above was interviewed on May 18, 1971, on the Tokyo Channel 12 TV program. After he had described the activities and persecutions of the Todaisha, the interviewer asked him: “What about the activity of the Todaisha today?” To which he answered: “It has achieved its purpose, and so it no longer exists.”
And how about Junzo Akashi himself? Within two years of his release from prison, Akashi wrote the president of the Watch Tower Society a letter, dated August 25, 1947, in which he indicates that he did not agree with what the Society published as far back as 1926. This was actually before he accepted his assignment as branch overseer to Japan. Thus Junzo Akashi, by his own confession, had been playing the part of the hypocrite for more than twenty years.
STERLING EXAMPLES OF INTEGRITY
The faithful survivors of those difficult times included Brother and Sister Jizo Ishii. In 1928, while operating a tailor shop in Joto-Ku, Osaka, young Ishii obtained a copy of the book The Harp of God. Very soon he was convinced that he had found the real truth of the Bible. He and his wife were baptized March 23, 1929, and in September they were appointed as colporteurs. In their preaching they used The Harp of God, Deliverance, Creation, The Watchtower (which was banned in 1933) and The Golden Age, as well as five kinds of booklets, in Japanese. They covered a territory that extended over three quarters of Japan, including Osaka, Okayama, Tokushima, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, Tokyo and the Kanto district, Sendai and Sapporo.
In the summer of 1930, Brother and Sister Ishii were appointed to work at the Tokyo branch of the Todaisha. Here they took care of tailoring, mending and pressing for the workers in the field. At times, those at the branch set out in teams of four to work nearby territories, even traveling by bicycle over the Hakone Pass as far as Numazu. One of Brother Ishii’s early memories is the announcement of the “new name” Jehovah’s witnesses in 1931. A brother at the Tokyo branch built a shortwave radio, so that they could listen in to the assembly at Columbus, Ohio, while Junzo Akashi explained. They heard Brother Rutherford call for the adoption of the “new name,” and the great shout of acceptance by all the brothers. Those in Tokyo joined in that shout at the same time!
The Tokyo brothers heard that mobile sound cars were being used extensively in the United States. So, a brother who was a carpenter built a big box with windows and a double door at the back, and mounted it on an axle and car wheels. There were shelves inside for storing sleeping hammocks, literature, pots and pans and food. One brother pushed the vehicle by a handle behind, and others pulled it by a rope tied to the shaft. It was called the “Great Jehu.” By means of “Great Jehu,” they preached along the 700 miles from Tokyo to Shimonoseki. There were also small wagons pulled by bicycle, and named “Little Jehu,” numbers 1 to 5. Two young brothers witnessed as far as Hokkaido with a “Little Jehu.”
In time, Brother and Sister Ishii were reassigned to colporteur work. On June 21, 1939, they were arrested along with all others of the Todaisha. At that time they were in Kure. They were taken first to Hiroshima, and then sent north to Sendai. Here they were subjected to repeated cross-examinations. The investigating inspector of police told them: “Todaisha has the name of Christian, but actually it is a Jewish secret organization, the KKK.” In their concrete cells the summer heat was unbearable, and in winter they were frozen through and through. Conditions were most unsanitary, with plenty of fleas and lice, and they were permitted to go to the toilet only at set times. They wasted away and had spells of dizziness. They could hear the crazed cries from a nearby cell of a soldier who had been driven out of his mind on the battlefield. For a whole year, they were forbidden to read anything.
It was a pleasure for them to breathe fresh air whenever they were taken out to be examined. On one such occasion, Brother Ishii tried to use the Bible, but the officer said: “Do not answer from the Bible. Answer in your own words. You are demonized, because you always want to use the Bible.” As he tried to explain in his own words what the Bible said, the officer’s face grew angry. He said: “Then we will stop the examination, and you will have no supper tonight. Think it over in your cell.” They were returned to their dark cells. Next day, they were taken out for further investigation. The assistant inspector came in to hear the testimony. “Why don’t you get free from this demonism?” he shouted, at the same time striking Brother Ishii on his head and face with a rope. They heard the noise of other brothers’ being beaten with bamboo fencing swords and being thrown on the ground.
One day the inspector got angry, threw Brother Ishii’s Bible on the floor, stamped on it and, looking him in the face, said: “Aren’t you angry?” “I don’t feel good about it, but I’m not angry,” Brother Ishii replied. The inspector could not understand that, so Brother Ishii explained: “The Bible is a book. We are not saved by that book. But our salvation is promised from our following the things written in the Word of God, having faith in them and carrying them out.” The inspector picked up the Bible, took a handkerchief from the pocket of his uniform, politely wiped the dirt from the Bible and put it back on the desk.
As Brother Ishii’s investigation proceeded, the police showed him a report on testimony given by Junzo Akashi, and which astonished him in that it was a clear departure from the truth. They asked him: “Do you believe Akashi?” He said: “No. Akashi is an imperfect man. So long as Akashi follows the principles of the Bible faithfully, he may be used as God’s vessel. But because his testimony is now entirely different, he is no longer my brother. Therefore, I do not have any relation with him.” Akashi had stated in this testimony that he himself was Christ.
In cross-examining Brother Ishii, the officer tried to make him say that Japan would be defeated by September 15, 1945. Brother Ishii said: “I am not such a prophet, that I can prophesy anything about the year, the month and the day. But victory will not come through the alliance of the Axis Powers.” This police inspector was later purged, but Brother Ishii was released. He returned to Kure. After the war, he made contact with Jehovah’s organization again when, along with his six-year-old son, adopted after his release, he attended the first postwar assembly at Tarumi, Kobe, in December 1949.
In recent years, Sister Ishii has been a very active regular pioneer, and Brother Ishii has served as a temporary pioneer. In true colporteur style, he placed 147 bound books in one month. Brother Ishii wrote: “We have rejoiced to continue receiving the spiritual food at the proper time. When young special pioneers came here to Kure, a congregation was established. The congregation is progressing and expanding. Now there are two special pioneers, seventeen regular pioneers and thirty-six publishers—a total of fifty-five Witnesses in all. On Sunday, 133 attended the public talk of the circuit servant’s visit.” That was in 1971, and in June 1972 Brother Ishii died, after giving a splendid witness in the hospital on the blood issue. His son has grown up to serve as special pioneer and overseer in the Kobe Tarumi, and, more recently, in the Hiroshima West Congregation.
One of the families contacted by Sister Ishii during her early colporteur work also has a splendid record as regards the truth. This is the Miura family, who lived in the small town of Ishinomori, about twenty-five miles north of Sendai. When Katsuo Miura married in the spring of 1931 he was twenty-four years old, and his bride, Hagino, seventeen years. From Sister Ishii, Katsuo Miura obtained The Harp of God, Deliverance and other books, and readily recognized that these contained the truth. He paid a visit to the Todaisha headquarters in Tokyo, and, in turn, Junzo Akashi visited the Miuras in Ishinomori. There, in October 1931, Akashi “baptized” them by sprinkling water on them in their private bathtub. (Thus, like many others, they had later to be rebaptized.) In November, Katsuo and Hagino Miura became colporteurs.
The Miuras sold all their belongings by public auction, and went down to the Todaisha headquarters in Tokyo. They rented a room nearby in Suginami-Ku. The next day they started in door-to-door work, without anyone to train them, but keen and anxious to distribute the message of the Kingdom as contained in The Watchtower and The Golden Age. There were no meetings to attend, and they worked on their own. They went from door to door each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except on rainy days, when they stayed home and did personal study together.
Brother and Sister Miura thus covered large sections of Tokyo, and then in 1933 they moved to Kobe. It was here, in 1934, that Sister Miura gave birth to her son, Tsutomu. Very zealous for the work, she kept pioneering right through the nine months of her pregnancy. From the spring of 1935, the Miuras moved to Western Honshu, where they pioneered in Kure, Yamaguchi and Tokuyama cities, and settled finally in Hiroshima, where they shared a rented house with two other families.
The Miuras were among those arrested by the police on June 21, 1939. They were put in jail in Hiroshima, and their young boy was sent back to his grandmother in Ishinomori. After eight months, Sister Miura was released, so that she, too, could return north to care for her son. Brother Miura was detained for more than two years before he was brought to trial. His first and second trials were in camera, and his appeal to the higher court was rejected. Since the courtroom now provided his best opportunity for giving a witness, he did his best to testify concerning God’s kingdom. The investigating officer was very angry with him, regarding him as unpatriotic. He had to submit to hair pulling and other mistreatment. After three years in prison, he was found guilty of violating the Peace Preservation law, and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. The judge told him that, unless he gave up his faith, he would be in prison all the days of his life. However, the Bible continued to give him strength and comfort.
Finally Katsuo Miura was released from Hiroshima prison. How? Let him tell the story in his own words. “It was the morning of August 6, 1945, seven years after I was arrested. . . . All of a sudden, a weird light flashed and sparkled on the ceiling of my cell. It was like lightning or magnesia flashlight. Then I heard such a terribly loud roar as if all the mountains had collapsed at one time. Instantly the cell was shrouded with a thick darkness. I shoved my head under my nearby mattress, to escape what appeared to be a dark gas. After seven or eight minutes had passed I pushed my head out from under the mattress and . . . looked through the back window. I was thunderstruck! The jail workshops and the wooden buildings had all been crushed flat. . . . On the morning of the third day after the explosion, forty-five of us prisoners were tied together with ropes, and we were led in our prison garb two miles to the railway station for transfer to another city. It was then that I saw the terrible plight of the community. The whole city was a ruined field as far as the eye could see. . . . Everybody looked depressed and without hope. Two months after the atom bomb I was finally released from jail.” Brother Miura then rejoined his wife and son in the north of Japan.
When, in March 1951, a group of five missionary sisters started to work in Osaka, the nationwide Asahi newspaper published a story and picture, showing them living Japanese-style. Through this newspaper article, Brother Miura again made contact with Jehovah’s organization, after twelve years of isolation. For several years until his death, he served again as a regular pioneer, and his wife later as a special pioneer. Their son, Tsutomu, grew up to become a regular pioneer, special pioneer, circuit overseer, district overseer, and, since graduating from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, in New York, he has been serving as a translator at the Society’s Tokyo branch office.
A NEW START AFTER WORLD WAR II
There were revolutionary changes in Japan in the post-World War II period. With a new peacetime Constitution, Japan set itself to find a destiny by peaceful, rather than warlike, means. Shintoism, Buddhism, Catholicism and the Protestant Christian Alliance (Kyodan) had all lost face with the people because of going along with Japan’s lost cause in the war. Many people were looking for something to fill the religious vacuum. In the space of a few years, literally hundreds of new Buddhist and Shinto sects were brought forth, each following some human leader. One of these sects, Soka Gakkai, a militant politically minded offshoot of Nichiren Buddhism, now claims ten million adherents, many of them obtained through forced conversions. But there are also many people who yearn to know the truth.
Emperor Hirohito had been taken off his “god” pedestal on January 1, 1946, when he himself renounced his divinity by proclamation. It has been reported that the emperor himself suggested to General MacArthur that Christianity be made the state religion in Japan. The general wisely rejected this proposal, but made the suggestion, instead, that the American people send 10,000 missionaries. Thus the way was opened for Watch Tower missionaries to enter Japan. Conditions were now far different from those described by Pastor Russell before 1914, when “missionaries were considerably discouraged.” Fanatical Shinto worship had been downgraded and people were permitted to think for themselves. They could now feed upon Bible truths, and gain a heart appreciation of Jehovah and his kingdom. Moreover, they themselves had actually shared in many of the bitter events that Bible prophecy foretold for these “last days.” They were in a favorable position to understand the Bible’s powerful message for our day.
Late in 1947, the branch overseer in Hawaii, Donald Haslett, received a letter from the Watch Tower Society’s president, Brother Knorr, asking: “Who in Hawaii is willing to go to Japan—after graduating from Gilead School?” When Shinichi and Masako Tohara (who had three small children), Jerry and Yoshi Toma and Elsie Tanigawa volunteered, Brother Haslett asked Brother Knorr, “And how about the Hasletts?” So Donald and Mabel Haslett joined the eight Japanese-Hawaiians on the long trip from tropical Hawaii to New York in midwinter, arriving at South Lansing in January 1948. In that eleventh class of Gilead, Brother Tohara taught Japanese to a group of twenty-two students, who were selected from more than seventy who volunteered to go to Japan. He was assisted by Elsie Tanigawa.
The Society provided Brother Haslett with a red jeep, and he and Mabel drove across the United States in the fall of 1948. Then they took ship to Hawaii, where Mabel had to stay behind for awhile as Don sailed on to Japan. He arrived in Tokyo in early January 1949. Hotel accommodations were not to be found, but the United States Army kindly permitted Brother Haslett to stay for a month at General MacArthur’s headquarters at the Dai-Ichi Hotel. He toured Tokyo daily in the jeep, searching among the ruins for a suitable branch property. Army men told him he would never find a place. However, after a month’s search, he was able to purchase a substantial Japanese-style home near Keio University, in Minato-Ku, Tokyo.
During the cold month of February, Brother Haslett camped out in the new home, with only a charcoal brazier for heating and cooking. There was strict food rationing. He would stand in line with the neighborhood people to receive his allotment of rice and a long carrot or some cabbage leaves. During this time he arranged to meet with some of Junzo Akashi’s followers. The first meeting was cordial, but the second meeting ended with this group showing angry, bitter opposition to the Society. In order to secure their release from prison, most of these had signed a paper renouncing Jehovah and his service. It was apparent that they had lost Jehovah’s spirit completely.
Now Mabel Haslett received her permit to enter Japan. She arrived by plane on March 7, 1949. In the big, empty house, Brother and Sister Haslett became adjusted to sleeping on futon mattresses, under a mosquito net, and they had the company of some rats. Later in March, Jerry and Yoshi Toma arrived by ship. The Tohara family and Elsie Tanigawa arrived in August.
From March onward, Kingdom witnessing was carried out in the immediate neighborhood of the Tokyo branch. However, there was practically no literature with which to work, and even the Hawaiians had to adjust to the type of Japanese spoken in Tokyo. A mimeographed paper, entitled “The Bible Clearly Teaches,” was distributed, with the simple verbal invitation, “Please read.” Sister Haslett clearly remembers her first return visit. An old lady had requested extra copies of the mimeographed paper. “Ah, she’s interested,” thought Sister Haslett. But, on calling again, she found the precious papers propped up over some plants in the yard. The lady had thought that these “holy papers” would help the plants grow!
One day, two Japanese men, schoolteachers, stopped at the branch and asked Brother Haslett if he would teach the Bible to the children at school. So every Saturday morning the Hasletts made the trip by jeep to the Toride Second High School. Here Don taught the older students and Mabel the younger ones. As textbooks, they had one copy each of the Japanese Harp of God, together with the English book. The lessons were later discontinued, but more than twenty years later, Sister Haslett had a pleasant surprise. A mother with a child approached her at the Tokyo branch Kingdom Hall. She had a picture, and Mabel has the same picture in her own album, of those children at the Toride school. This mother was one of them, and now, many years after, she is a Kingdom publisher. The seed sown away back there had borne fruit!
By the end of the 1949 service year, seven missionaries and eight local publishers were reporting service in Tokyo. But this was only a beginning. Today, in that part of Tokyo that was first worked from the Japan branch there are twelve congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses, and in July 1972 these congregations reported a total of 613 Kingdom ministers, of whom 123 were in pioneer service.
Six more missionaries, Percy and Ilma Iszlaub, Adrian Thompson, Lloyd and Melba Barry and Lyn Robbins, arrived at Yokohama October 31, 1949, bringing the total of missionaries, including the three Tohara children, to sixteen. Of these “49ers,” thirteen are still in full-time missionary service in Japan and Okinawa. They would not want to be anywhere else.
MISSIONARY WORK EXPANDS TO KOBE
Five of the October arrivals were assigned to open up a new missionary home in Kobe, some 250 miles southwest of Tokyo. The SCAP war properties custodian rented to the Society the spacious home of a former German Nazi, and the Society later bought this fine property. Here, at Tarumi, on the edge of Japan’s Inland Sea, the missionaries set to work to clean up the property, the Hasletts and Toharas contributing their vacation time to this. Quaint ships chugged their way along the coast below the home, and glorious sunsets were to be seen over Awaji Island. It was a lovely setting for a missionary home.
However, for several weeks there were only bare wooden floors on which to sleep. This problem was partly overcome by cutting the tall grass from the garden for use in place of mattresses, while the missionaries slept fully clothed. There was an open fireplace in the dining room, but the smoke would go any place except up the chimney. For a time, cooking and heating were accomplished by Japanese brazier, but this proved to be dangerous, several of the missionaries being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes. Happily they survived these and other problems.
In those days there was no “crash” course for learning the language. Textbooks were few and inadequate. There was hardly any literature for use in the field service, so that mimeographed copies of “Let God Be True” chapters in Japanese were loaned around. Some prewar Japanese publications were available for a time, including Light, Book II, but it was a problem to convince people that they did not need to read Book I first. Witnessing from door to door was hard for the missionaries—and hard on the householders.
Missionaries had learned at Gilead School that yoroshii means “good” but had not learned the regional application of yoroshii-wa, which means a very definite “no thank you!” So at first they persevered with those who said “yoroshii-wa” until some of these took literature in desperation. So soon after World War II the people were very interested in knowing about things Western, and Bible studies could be started in many homes, including those of persons who really were not interested in the Bible. Some missionaries were soon conducting over thirty studies a week.
A number of those early studies bore fine fruit. Melba Barry relates that on her first morning of witnessing in Japan, at one of the very first houses, the lady, Miyo Takagi, received her kindly. She was impressed because the missionaries had walked over a muddy field to reach her home. On return calls they struggled with the help of Japanese-English dictionaries to understand each other, until a fine study developed. To this day Miyo Takagi and her neighbor who joined the study are serving as Kingdom ministers, one of them having spent more than ten years in regular pioneer work.
Witnessing in Japan had its unusual problems. The missionary has to become accustomed—if possible—to sitting cross-legged on the floor before a low table at Bible studies. Since shoes have to be taken off at the porch when entering a house, he has to watch that his socks are in good shape—without holes. And one missionary, Lloyd Barry, on making his departure at the porch after a study, found that a thief had made off with his shoes.
Soon after the arrival of the Kobe missionaries, the first theocratic assembly was arranged for Japan. The location? The Tarumi, Kobe, missionary home, with its spacious rooms and more than an acre of ground. Over forty persons stayed in the home on this occasion. The grounds and porch served for cooking and cafeteria, and the large living room as assembly hall. Three new publishers were baptized, Don Haslett doing the immersing at a nearby bathhouse. The Japanese take their baths piping hot, and when Brother Haslett entered the water it was so hot that he jumped straight out again, his legs as red as lobsters. Only after many buckets of cold water had been added was he able to enter the bath again to baptize the new brothers.
Though the assembly was arranged from December 30 to January 1, the busiest period of the year for the Japanese, the support given was outstanding. On Sunday, January 1, 1950, 101 persons turned out to hear the assembly public talk, which was given in the auditorium of the Tarumi, Kobe, primary school. Some who attended this first assembly continued to advance right along from that time. These included a young Tokyo schoolgirl, who now serves at the Japan branch as Mrs. Yasuko Miura, wife of Tsutomu Miura, mentioned earlier.
In February 1950, the five Australian missionaries in Kobe were joined by five more New Zealand and Australian sisters, Lois Dyer, Molly Heron, Moira Wesley Smith, Grace Bagnall, and Nora Stratton. If all the experiences of this group could be written down, they would occupy many volumes. Lois Dyer, from Western Australia, made a shaky start when she thought she was telling the people, “I am preaching from house to house.” But her faulty pronunciation made it, “I am coughing from house to house.” She did have a cold at the time.
Due to the language problem, meetings in Kobe were held for several months in English only. But for the Memorial meeting, April 1, 1950, an interested person was available as interpreter. So everyone was invited. The unexpected attendance of 180 persons packed out three rooms and the hallway of the missionary home. Some had to listen through the windows. Field service arrangements were announced after the talk, and to the missionaries’ surprise thirty-five new persons turned up the next morning to share in field service. Each missionary took along three or four companions, but this all helped to make an impression on the people met.
Because of the fine progress of the work in Kobe, it was possible to organize a congregation there in April 1950. By the end of the service year this congregation was reporting sixty publishers, some of whom are in special pioneer and circuit work until this day. As meetings soon outgrew the living room in the missionary home, these were held for several months on the spacious lawn in front of the home, with the dome of heaven as roof and fresh breezes from the Inland Sea as ventilation. Service meeting attendances grew to 120, and more than twenty local men enrolled in the Theocratic Ministry School.
The first overseer of the Kobe Congregation, Percy Iszlaub, struggled valiantly with the language. One of his talks that no one who was present will ever forget was based on John 21:15-17. Not being a grammarian, Brother Iszlaub gave the language a slight twist and built up to a powerful climax in telling his audience three times that Jesus said to Peter—no, not, “Please feed my sheep”—but, “Please eat my sheep.” Everyone got the point!
In June 1950, with the outbreak of the Korean War, eight missionaries who had been airlifted from Korea suddenly appeared on the doorstep of the Kobe home. Yes, there was room to accommodate a missionary family of eighteen, and what a fine coverage was given to the Kobe territory! Though vast stretches of the city were just stones and rubble, due to the bombing raids of World War II, the Lord’s “sheep” were hunted out from caves, shanties and rebuilt homes. In August 1950, the sixteen missionaries who were still in Kobe reported 359 home Bible studies.
The first typhoon of the 1950 season is remembered by those missionaries as the worst they have ever experienced. Sunday morning all were out in the door-to-door preaching work. But as the wind began to moan louder and louder, all set out for home from their respective territories. Some of them made it, but other bedraggled missionaries did not arrive home till after midnight. One sister was marooned in a train for seven hours, and others took shelter in strong windproof railway stations. At the missionary home, more than forty tiles were blown off the roof, and sheets of corrugated iron roofing were seen flying past outside on the wings of the storm. The windows on the stairway were blown in, and makeshift boards were nailed in their place to try to hold out the cascading waters. It was indeed a relief when the storm was over and the last missionary arrived home safe.
Ilma Iszlaub studied with a doctor and his family, who were neighbors. When Nora Stratton, one of the missionary sisters, took ill, the doctor cared for her for more than a year until she died, and then donated the payment of medical fees to the Society. He it was who pointed to the lighthouse that twinkled day and night in the sea opposite the missionary home and said: “This missionary home will become just like that lighthouse, as a source of spiritual light to the people in this vicinity.” How true that has been! Breaking through Buddhist superstitions, the truth has experienced a remarkable expansion in the Kobe area. And this has continued since the missionary home was moved to a more central location in April 1954. In the territories that have been witnesses to from the Kobe missionary homes there are now eleven congregations, and in July 1972 these reported 730 publishers, of whom 76 were in full-time pioneer service.
MISSIONARIES OPEN UP NAGOYA
From October 1950, Don and Earlene Steele, Scott and Alice Counts, Gladys and Grace Gregory, Norrine Miller and Flo Manso, the eight missionaries who had come from Korea, were assigned to a newly purchased home in Nagoya, about a hundred miles from Kobe. This spacious home was typically Japanese, with strawmatting floors, paper doors, and so forth. In paper-walled Japanese rooms, privacy is achieved by a kind of philosophy of ignoring those nearby or pretending that they are not there. This took a while to adjust to, and the missionaries used to speak jokingly of “the semiprivacy of our room.” Like the other early missionaries, those in Nagoya had to learn the language mostly by trial and error in the field.
The Nagoya missionaries found the family feudal system still very strong. A man (or woman) over fifty years old would say that mother or father did not permit him to study the Bible. The elderly person might be eighty or ninety years old and completely helpless, but still ruling the family. A girl who married into a family became virtually her mother-in-law’s slave. One elderly sister has made practical but kindly use of this custom by having her daughter-in-law do the household chores while she does regular pioneer service, extending now over fifteen years. In time her husband, son and daughter-in-law all accepted the truth, which really united the family.
Gladys Gregory tells of her study with a family that lived very close to the missionary home. During the war, the husband was in the army and the mother grew vegetables in little garden patches near her home. Also, with her baby strapped to her back and leading two other children by the hand, she used to walk miles into the countryside to get rice. Brown-faced, kimono-clad and with hair piled up Japanese-style, she looked much older than her thirty-odd years. When the missionaries called, the entire family was found waiting, and as a family they started to study. They were among the first publishers in Nagoya, and Sister Gregory and the mother in this family became inseparable. She learned the truth from Sister Gregory, and Sister Gregory learned Japanese from her. At first, it was said that Sister Gregory’s Japanese sounded like hers, but later that her Japanese sounded like Sister Gregory’s, with a foreign twang. This family had been Buddhist, but when the nearby temple was bombed out and the images proved to be of no protection, they had started to look for the truth elsewhere. When the Watch Tower missionaries came, they found it!
One young man arrived at a public meeting just as it was ending, but a missionary arranged to study with him. Today Eiji Usami is the city overseer in Nagoya and prints large quantities of handbills for the Society. Another missionary started a study with a young man, Isamu Sugiura, who had learned English by radio lessons. He was one of the early publishers in Nagoya. Since then, he has been trained at Gilead School, has served as circuit and district overseer and instructor in the Kingdom Ministry School, and now he is a member of the Tokyo Bethel family.
The second theocratic assembly for Japan was held in Nagoya, in October 1950. Again, most of the accommodations were arranged at the missionary home, and to be assured of some comfort a number of Japanese publishers even brought their bedding with them, from as far away as Kobe. It became known as the “sweet potato” assembly. And why? The rice ration was all used up for the first meal, so that for two days thereafter the main course at the cafeteria was sweet potatoes.
After doing splendid service for just on ten years, the Nagoya home was sold in August 1960, and the missionaries moved to other homes. As testimony to the fine witness given through this home, there are now, in the territories that the missionaries first served from this home, the congregations with a total of 608 Kingdom publishers reporting in July 1972, of whom 71 were pioneer ministers.
INTO THE INDUSTRIAL CITY OF OSAKA
Osaka, to the east of Kobe, has had a long history of contact with Bible truth. It was here, in 1928, that Jizo Ishii and his wife first learned the truth, as reported previously. However, the first Watch Tower missionaries that came into this area met up with a problem. A group from Osaka that professed to have the truth attended the first assembly at Tarumi, Kobe, over the 1950 New Year period, but their noisy celebrating of the New Year and general way of life showed that they were far removed from Bible standards. Their “leader” baptized by sprinkling and for a handsome fee. When it became necessary to disfellowship him, most others of the group went their own way. It was arranged for Adrian Thompson, one of the missionaries in Kobe, to go to Osaka several days each week to oversee and strengthen the small congregation there.
On March 21, 1951, five missionary sisters from Gilead’s fifteenth class arrived in Japan and went to Osaka to open a missionary home. In welcoming them, an article in the Japanese Asahi newspaper described them as “angels come down from heaven in the midst of the cherry blossoms.” In the wake of this newspaper article, the missionaries were swamped with letters, and by visiting students, businessmen and others, all requesting Bible studies. Of an evening, studies were in progress in practically every room of the missionary home. Though the people were very poor in those days, their generosity and willingness to share were heartwarming. They brought flowers and the vases to go with them, and arranged these to delight the missionaries’ eyes and hearts. According to custom, they also brought a present if for some reason they wished to discontinue their Bible study. One day a man came to cancel his study because, as he put it, his wife “was multiplying herself,” and he had to attend to her. Out from a large urnlike vase he drew forth his farewell present—a live octopus, lashing out wildly with its tentacles!
Right at the outset in Osaka, the missionaries were joined by a new Japanese sister, Natsue Katsuda, who was encouraged by them to share in pioneer service. To this end Sister Katsuda sold her business and now she has completed twenty years of pioneering. Other early ones are likewise pioneering down to this day. About ten brothers who had survived the shake-up in Osaka were rebaptized (this time by total immersion and free of charge), and these really set their hearts on conforming to the right principles of Jehovah’s Word. One of these, Otokichi Shiga, is still city overseer in Osaka and several others are congregation overseers.
From June 1951, Shinichi Tohara and his family moved from Tokyo to the Osaka missionary home, Brother Tohara taking oversight also of the congregation. Much good work was accomplished by the missionaries up until the time of their departure from Osaka in February 1953, and the work in Osaka has continued to grow. In the area originally served by the missionary home, there are now eighteen congregations, from which 746 publishers reported in July 1972, 132 of them as pioneers.
IN THE PORT CITY OF YOKOHAMA
In the spring of 1951, fifteen English and Australian missionaries from Gilead’s sixteenth class arrived in Japan. Four single brothers were assigned to the Tokyo branch home. Three married couples and five single sisters moved into a large Japanese-style home that the Society purchased in Myorenji, Yokohama, on May 1. Here they met up with some problems. For seven weeks the home’s previous owner continued to occupy three of the eleven rooms. So when he returned from work each night the missionaries would ask him questions. For example: “Where can we buy rice?” That seemed like a very simple question. Yet he had to call his wife. His wife conferred with her mother. The mother went off to inquire of a neighbor. Then, two nights later, back came the answer: “It’s rationed.” Indeed, much of the food was rationed. The missionaries had to go to various offices, with photos in triplicate, to make applications, and so they could get ration books for items such as rice, sugar and tea.
At the outset, all the interested people would come to the missionary home to study. One sister had as many as eleven studies in one day! Later, the missionaries concentrated on house-to-house work in the mornings, but, even so, the eleven missionaries reported as many as 300 home Bible studies in some months. There was very little printed literature. For studies, each missionary had three or four mimeographed sheets of chapters of “Let God Be True” in Japanese. These they exchanged among themselves as they needed to take up further subjects at studies. Since these sheets were so much in demand, interested persons could not have copies for preparing the studies.
The original home servant in Yokohama, Gordon Dearn, has vivid memories of his first study in Japan. The man knew very little English, and Brother Dearn, very little Japanese. It seemed they were studying the dictionary more than the mimeographed sheets.
The Yokohama Congregation was formed on March 1, 1952, and it met at the missionary home. Very soon a call went out for pioneers. A young student, Keijiro Eto, came to Brother Dearn saying he wanted to quit college and become a pioneer. However, he was a cripple, with one leg braced. Brother Dearn asked him if his leg hurt. “A little,” he replied. Brother Dearn did not think he could do it, but the young man “gave it a go,” and soon he was even appointed as a special pioneer along with his widowed mother and his sister, Yuriko and Hiroko Eto. This family group did a marvelous work in helping to establish new congregations in the cities of Kawasaki, Yokosuka, Shizuoka, Mito and Odawara. Later, the crippled brother was able to serve as a circuit overseer for seven years. In the congregations that he served, no one could ever make the excuse that ill health was a reason for staying out of service.
The missionary home in Yokohama was sold in September 1957, and the missionaries moved to other places. However, in the territories originally served by the missionaries from this home, there are now four Kingdom Halls and eleven congregations, from which 646 persons reported service during July 1972, including 135 pioneers.
WATCH TOWER PRESIDENT VISITS JAPAN
This took place from April 24 to May 8, 1951, and proved to be a milestone in the organizing and developing of the work in Japan. When Brother Knorr arrived at Haneda Air Base that Tuesday evening, he was greeted by an enthusiastic group of forty-five missionaries, and other well-wishers. Though it was late, he went to the Kingdom Hall at the Tokyo branch and regaled those present with an account of his trip through the Orient. From Thursday, April 26, Japan’s third theocratic assembly was in session at the Nihonishikai Kaikan, in Kanda, Tokyo, and for four days missionaries and local brothers presented a most instructive program through talks and demonstrations. A highlight of the assembly was the release of the Japanese edition of The Watchtower on the first evening. The entire 1,000 copies of this May 1, 1951, issue of The Watchtower were quickly taken by those in attendance for use in field service during the assembly. It was announced that 2,000 copies of each issue would be printed henceforth. Twenty-one years later, the printing of the May 1, 1972, issue of the Japanese Watchtower was 230,000 copies.
On the Sunday morning of the assembly, fourteen new brothers and sisters were baptized. Then, for the public talk at the Kyoritsu Kaikan, in Kanda, the crowd kept rolling in until 700 people were present, fully 500 being newly interested ones that had been drawn to the meeting by the extensive advertising. Brother Knorr’s public talk was ably interpreted, as were all his talks during this visit, by Kameichi Hanaoka, a Hawaiian brother who had come to Japan late in life to help open up the work. Brother Hanaoka continued thereafter in the Japan field, serving at the branch office and then for many years in the special and regular pioneer work, assisting in forming many new congregations, until his death on April 22, 1971, at the age of eighty-two years.
After the assembly, Brother Knorr followed up his visit to the Tokyo branch missionary home by a whirlwind tour of the other four missionary homes in Japan. This also gave him an opportunity to see just how the people in postwar Japan lived and worked. By this time, his secretary, Milton Henschel, had also arrived in Japan, after an extended visit to Taiwan, and he accompanied Brother Knorr on the trip.
During Brother Knorr’s two-week visit much was accomplished in organizing the missionary field in Japan. The forty-seven missionaries were now ready to push ahead with the work as never before. At four public meetings, 1,730 persons had attended, and already a peak of 260 publishers had reported in April, including the missionaries. But the fields were ripe for an even grander harvest!
CIRCUIT WORK ORGANIZED
At the time of his Japan visit in 1951, Brother Knorr arranged for one of the Kobe missionaries, Adrian Thompson, to start work as the first circuit overseer for Japan. Brother Thompson had excellent ability in the language, and was well qualified, also, to teach it to the new missionaries.
Shall we travel with Brother Thompson in his circuit, stretching 1,870 miles from top to bottom of Japan? First, there is the visit to the small Tokyo congregation, comprising thirty publishers as well as nine missionaries. Some in the congregation travel great distances to the central Kingdom Hall, at the branch, including a retired American sea captain, Joe Kopec, who lives an hour-and-a-half train ride away in Chiba Prefecture.
From Tokyo, Brother Thompson travels north to the small town of Ishinomaki, near Sendai, where happy association is had with the Miura family that had served so faithfully even before World War II. Then, on up to Wakkanai, at the northernmost tip of Hokkaido, for a visit with the one interested person on all of that large island. Standing on the beach at Wakkanai, Brother Thompson can look across the ocean to the faint outline of the Soviet territory of Sakhalin. Will the good news yet be preached in Siberia? Of more immediate concern, will the Kingdom message be preached fully in this land of Japan? At that time in 1951, with just one or two exceptions, Jehovah’s purposes were being proclaimed only in Japanese cities with a population of a million or more inhabitants.
The 970-mile return journey, made by train from Wakkanai to Yokohama, takes Brother Thompson one hour less than two days. In Yokohama, he conducts an intensive study of the language with the missionaries, for an hour each morning and again in the evening, as well s sharing with them in field service each day of his two-week visit. Then, on for a visit to the Nagoya missionary group, where a similar program is carried out. Next to be visited are the congregations and missionary homes in Osaka and Kobe.
In Kobe, the first postwar native pioneer, Keisuke Sato, has been in full-time service since August 1950. Later, others join the pioneer ranks, including Asano Asayama, who learned the truth from Pastor Russell’s books during World War II while serving as a maid in the home of an elderly American sister, Maud Koda. Brother Sato and Sister Asayama, as well as others from Kobe, later attended Gilead School.
A day’s train journey carries Brother Thompson west from Kobe to Kure, near Hiroshima, where several days are spent studying and preaching with Jizo Ishii and family—faithful servants from prewar days. From Kure it is several hours’ journey by ship to Beppu, where an American sister, wife of an officer in the American occupation forces, is making a fine effort to witness to other American personnel, as well as to the Japanese—by using her maid as an interpreter. Brother Thompson’s final visit is to Japan’s southernmost city of Kagoshima. Here, Brother Higashi has been in contact with the truth since before World War II and he, his wife and young family of five children drink in further information, also opening their home for meetings.
Though there were only eleven visits to make, Brother Thompson’s circuit ranged over this vast area from Wakkanai to Kagoshima. Today there are thriving congregations in both these terminal cities, as well as hundreds of congregations in between. The rapid increase in new congregations has made it necessary to expand to twenty-five circuits and two districts for the 1973 service year.
CIRCUIT ASSEMBLIES IN JAPAN
In between each series of circuit visits, circuit assemblies were arranged. The first of these was held in October 1951, in Osaka. The second was held in April 1952, in Kobe. After this, two assemblies were held for the circuit, one to serve the north, and the other the south and west. These early assemblies were never-to-be-forgotten events. Though missionaries were far from proficient in the language, all programs were handled entirely in Japanese, and this was much appreciated by the new brothers and interested persons present at each assembly. In 1951, practically all foodstuffs were either rationed or in short supply, and the Japanese brothers were not well off financially. But for the equivalent of twenty cents or less, wholesome meals were provided. There were no free meal tickets for pioneers or missionaries in those days. Missionaries learned to break a raw egg over their morning bowl of rice, became accustomed to soup for breakfast and ate their fish and rice with chopsticks. They learned, too, to sleep on matting floors among the native conventioners in crowded dormitories.
All who shared in those early assemblies look with amazement and joy at the attendances today. Whereas just 410 persons attended the all-Japan circuit assembly in Kobe in the spring of 1952, with eleven being baptized, the public meeting attendance at the assemblies for all of Japan’s twenty-five circuits during March to June, 1972, totaled 22,286, with 921 being baptized. Jehovah has truly blessed the circuit visits and assemblies, and those who pioneered this activity in Japan have great happiness in seeing the prosperity that has resulted.
KINGDOM WORK DEVELOPS IN OKINAWA
After World War II, the Okinawans came to hear the truth from a group of Filipino brothers who went there to work for the American administration. This was in 1950. The first Okinawan to accept the truth was Yoshiko Higa, who now serves as a special pioneer in Kyushu, Japan. Though she knew practically no English, and the Filipino brothers practically no Japanese, they instructed her by having her read a series of scriptures from the Bible treating on a particular theme. During the war, Sister Higa, along with many other Okinawans, had sheltered in the large burial caves that are so common on the hillsides. Here, contemplating the human bones, she could not help but conclude that the dead return to the earth and that man is not immortal. So she readily accepted the Bible teaching on the dead, along with the hope of the Kingdom and the resurrection. When she received the one Japanese booklet available at that time, The Joy of All the People, its cover and contents further aroused her hope. Very soon she was preaching from door to door as the first native Okinawan Witness.
Since the local clergy were slow in offering their services, the “Voice of the Ryukyus” radio station invited Sister Higa to give regular broadcasts on the Bible in Japanese. For these programs she read appropriate material from the newly published Watchtower in Japanese, including the article “God’s Way Is Love.” These broadcasts continued from November 1952 to the spring of 1953.
From April 1953, Lloyd Barry, the branch overseer from Japan, was able to make annual visits to Okinawa. At his first visit, it was possible to go in the field service with the publishers and train them on each of the two days of the visit. Meetings were held, including a public talk in Japanese, and two new publishers were baptized. Also, two visits were paid on three young soldiers who had been imprisoned in the American Army stockade, due to taking a stand on the issue of neutrality. The visits were also welcomed by the Army chaplain at the stockade. The young men had gotten the idea that taking a stand for the truth meant that they should refuse to cooperate in any way with their superiors, and also they were singing Kingdom songs at the top of their voices day and night. When the meaning of neutrality and of proper Christian behavior were explained to them from the Scriptures, they quickly adjusted accordingly, to the great relief of the authorities. Soon afterward they were shipped back to the United States.
Entering the pioneer work in May 1954, Sister Higa soon found that she “could do it”—in her first month she reported 174 hours, 260 return visits and fifteen studies. Many of her early studies were in Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, and her activity made inroads into the Shuri Church. Many quit the church to become Jehovah’s witnesses. Some of these were baptized at the time of the first circuit assembly held in Okinawa, in January 1955, and some became pioneers.
In 1963, the native circuit overseer for Okinawa, Chukichi Une, attended Gilead School. On his return, in 1964, he took the lead in arranging to build Okinawa’s first Kingdom Hall, in Naha City. The work continued to expand, so that 234 publishers reported in the 1965 service year, including an average of thirty-seven pioneers. Okinawa was too far distant for all of this activity to be fully cared for from Japan, and so from January 1, 1966, a separate Okinawa branch was formed. The Tohara family moved there from Japan, Shinichi Tohara being appointed as the branch overseer.
MISSIONARY HOMES EXPAND IN JAPAN—KYOTO
With the arrival of seven more missionaries in April 1952, a new missionary home was opened in Kyoto, near the “Christian” Doshisha University, and this home served the Kingdom interests well for five and a half years. At the outset there were just four local publishers. Since this missionary group had not studied Japanese at Gilead, they had to study together very hard as a family before and after field service each day.
Kyoto being very much a part of the traditional Japan, with hundreds of temples, Buddhas and Goddesses of Mercy, some of the older folk showed considerable animosity toward the “foreigners.” It was quite a test to maintain a calm spirit when a grandmother or grandfather appeared during a witness to an attentive young person, and without a word just waved the missionary away.
However, people with whom they studied showed much hospitality in putting out local delicacies for the missionaries. One of the new missionary brothers found that when he courteously thanked his host for the fine food, it continued coming and, since he did not yet know how to refuse politely in Japanese, he had to continue eating. So, the next subject in missionary Japanese study covered the handling of this problem.
At first, it seemed very strange to the missionaries to sit on the floor at Bible studies and meetings, but they found that in this way they could keep their feet warm in winter. Meetings were held from the very beginning at the missionary home, in Japanese, even though the missionary conductor knew practically nothing of the language. One of his early problems was to get the Watchtower study reader to stop reading at the end of each paragraph. As attendances grew, the meetings were moved from the home to an upstairs room over the local market, and later to a better building. One of the original missionaries in Kyoto, and who still serves in this capacity in Tokyo, Elizabeth Taylor, recalls studying with a churchgoer who came to a meeting to see what it was like and never missed after that. It was Sister Taylor’s joy to see her become a publisher and later a pioneer, and she helped her entire family—husband and three children—to become Witnesses, two of her daughters going on to become special pioneers.
Shortly before the missionaries left Kyoto for other assignments, one of them, Shozo Mima, studied with a former soldier of the Imperial Army. He was bedridden at the time and had not previously known the Bible. However, he is now in the best of physical and spiritual health and has been a regular pioneer for more than twelve years. His wife is also a regular pioneer, and he serves as city overseer in Kyoto. In this area that was first served by the missionary home when there were only four local publishers (and three of these are now regular pioneers), there are today eight congregations, for which the July 1972 report showed a total of 452 publishers, of whom eighty were in pioneer service.
EXPANSION INTO THE NORTH—SENDAI
In October 1952, Don and Mabel Haslett moved to Sendai, to open the first missionary home outside the cities of a million and more population. Even so, Sendai has a population of more than 500,000. When the Osaka missionary home was closed, Shinichi Tohara and family also moved to Sendai, and these former Hawaiians soon got acclimatized to the colder winters in the north. Later, missionary sisters from Hawaii and Canada joined them there. For six and a half years the Sendai home performed a splendid service.
One of the Canadian missionaries, Margaret Pastor, recalls arriving in Sendai just in time for an assembly there. They did not know five words of Japanese, but someone had printed up assembly badges for them. Though they could not read these themselves, the local Sendai publishers could, and these came up and with gestures showed the missionaries that what was written on their badges was the same. So, they quickly got acquainted with their new congregation.
When the missionaries left, there were many local publishers to take over their study interest. Today, in the territory originally served by the Sendai missionaries, there are three congregations.
WATCH TOWER PRESIDENT VISITS JAPAN AGAIN
Accompanied by Don Adams, Brother Knorr paid his second visit to Japan, April 21-27, 1956. Although arrival time was 1:10 a.m., some twenty missionaries were at the airport to meet them. The assembly arranged to coincide with the visit was held April 21 to 23, at the beautiful new Nakano-Ku Kokaido, in western Tokyo. As yet, this part of Tokyo had scarcely been witnessed to, but now 200,000 handbills, 2,500 window cards, 20,000 copies of a special issue of the Japanese Awake! (which magazine had proved to be very popular since first released in January 1956), plus an intensive house-to-house rooming work, resulted in a fine testimony to the people of that neighborhood. Newspapers also gave good publicity, announcing the assembly and Brother Knorr’s arrival.
On Saturday afternoon, April 21, an audience of 425 thrilled to hear Brother Knorr’s talk on “Christians Must Be Happy.” Though this was a majority of the 567 publishers reporting service in Japan at the time, the audience looked lost in the spacious hall. How delighted the brothers were, then, when 974 eager listeners practically filled the hall for the public talk on “Making All Mankind One Under Their Creator”! Eleven years later, in April 1967, when just one of fourteen circuits in Japan used this hall for its assembly, 814 attended the public talk. How the work in Japan has grown through the years!
A highlight of this visit by Brother Knorr was a call that he made as the result of a witness previously given by him 12,000 miles away, while crossing the Atlantic by plane. On that occasion Brother Knorr was seated beside President Ohama of Waseda University, Tokyo, which has an enrollment of 25,000 students. Hearing of the work of Jehovah’s witnesses, President Ohama invited President Knorr to address the faculty and students of Waseda University when he came to Tokyo. This was arranged for the university auditorium, Wednesday afternoon, April 25, and here Brother Knorr spoke through an interpreter to an appreciative audience of 386 professors and students. Later, the professors entertained Brother Knorr and his party at tea, and they asked many questions, indicating that they had indeed been impressed by Brother Knorr’s talk.
Tokyo, as the world’s largest city, with a population in excess of 11,475,000, requires a multitude of Kingdom publishers to give an effective coverage with the truth. At the time of Brother Knorr’s visit in 1956, Tokyo had just 111 publishers, together with sixteen missionaries and pioneers, organized in three congregations. How could this vast territory ever receive a thorough witness?
FURTHER EXPANSION IN TOKYO
In May 1954, Don Haslett had helped to establish a new missionary home near Iidabashi railway station, in the Chiyoda-Ku area of Tokyo. The group of new missionaries that first served there had the usual problems with the language. There was no one to teach them, and there were no Japanese publishers in that area. It was only by the help of Jehovah’s spirit that they were able to start studies with their halting use of the Japanese language, and some of these people started to attend meetings in the missionary home. In due course, these missionaries formed the seventeenth congregation in Japan. Now there are thirty-three congregations in Tokyo city alone!
Don and Mabel Haslett served faithfully from this home from 1954 until Brother Haslett’s death on February 20, 1966. He spearheaded the building of Japan’s first Kingdom Hall to be erected outside the branch and the missionary homes. This is the Shinjuku, Tokyo, Kingdom Hall, which serves also the Ichigaya Congregation in Tokyo, and which has recently been enlarged to accommodate the crowds that attend there. Other congregations have followed suit, and fine Kingdom Halls in the Tokyo area have now been built at Shibuya, Kugahara, Mitaka, Kamata, Okusawa, Omori, Katsushika and Asagaya.
One of the original missionaries in the Chiyoda home, Adeline Nako, relates that ancestor worship was one of the big problems with which the missionaries had to contend. A woman that she met thought that she could appease the ancestor gods by torturing her body, and so she would get up at four or five o’clock each morning and, even in the cold of winter, pour buckets of cold water over herself. When her husband’s father died, she would offer up rice and tea before his altar each morning before serving her husband and children, and this led to a division in the family. However, a home Bible study with Sister Nako showed her that she should be serving the living, and not the dead. She destroyed the altar, and the family was united around the Bible. The husband became presiding overseer, and he and his wife have often pioneered for short periods. The daughter served as a special pioneer for ten years, and now accompanies her husband in the circuit work.
Adeline’s partner, Lillian Samson, tells of a Bible study that she conducted at a store where Takashi Abe, a lad of twenty years, made deliveries. He noticed the study in progress, and asked about it. Very soon he himself was studying and making remarkable progress. He changed his job to one with less pay, in order to attend meetings, and because of this his family disowned him. But a brother who had taken note of his integrity now offered him a part-time job so that he could be a pioneer. He never looked back, and today after twelve years of rich experiences, he and his wife serve is the district work.
Many who learned the truth from Don and Mabel Haslett and the other missionaries in the Chiyoda home have entered pioneer work. Some later served at the Tokyo Bethel. The original congregation in this area has divided, and divided again, so that today in the area originally served by the Chiyoda missionaries there are nine congregations.
Following Brother Knorr’s visit and the very successful assembly in Nakano, Tokyo, the president arranged for buying a new home in that area. Missionary stalwarts Jerry and Yoshi Toma moved into the Nakano home on October 1, 1956, and six days later, eight new missionaries arrived to live on bare boards and mattresses until their furnishings came. But the missionaries were soon very busy in field service, greatly encouraged by the Tomas. It seems that wherever that outgoing couple, the Tomas, are assigned, it is the signal for a big expansion. And this was so in Nakano. When the home was established, the missionaries had to travel almost an hour to meetings in the Shibuya, Tokyo, Congregation, while only a small group met in Nakano, at the missionary home. But less than sixteen years later, it is observed that fifteen congregations have grown out of that small group, and they report more than 890 publishers.
Four years after Brother Knorr’s visit, Milton Henschel served the Japan branch as zone overseer, and a most successful assembly was held April 7-10, 1960, at the Setagaya Kuminkaikan, in another little-witnessed-to area of Tokyo. Attendance at the public talk was 1,717, and that same Sunday evening Brother Henschel gave the Memorial talk with 1,397 in attendance. For the first time, a tremendous witness had been given in the Setagaya area, and there was a big follow-up work waiting to be done. The Society now bought a new missionary home in Setagaya, and six missionaries continue to work out of this home to the present day.
EXPANSION INTO NEW AREAS OF JAPAN
From 1949 until 1957, the main endeavor had been to establish the Kingdom work in the large cities of Japan’s main island of Honshu. But other places were waiting! In 1957, the Society’s large missionary homes in Yokohama and Kyoto were sold, and the missionaries were dispersed to smaller homes in other cities. During 1957, the Society rented new homes in Hiroshima (in western Honshu), in Sapporo (capital of the northern island of Hokkaido) and in Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Sasebo (all on the southern island of Kyushu). By this time, there were sixty-two missionaries serving in Japan—in twelve missionary homes, in district and circuit work and at the Tokyo branch.
How would the Kingdom truth be accepted in Hiroshima, the famed city of the first atom bomb? When the missionaries started work there in January 1957, there was already a small group of six publishers, the fruit of six months’ work by special pioneers who had preceded the missionaries in that territory. All six are zealous and active to this day. One of these can relate very vividly the story of the devastation caused by the atom bomb.
But would not the bombed-out people show prejudice against the message brought to them by foreign missionaries? One of these missionaries, Audrey Hyde, who served with others in Hiroshima for six years and ten months, states that in all that time she can remember only a few people waving the hand back and forth in front of the face—the Japanese way of saying, “Go away!” The missionary home itself was a typical prewar middle-class Japanese house, and though it had been far enough from the bomb’s hypercenter to escape catching fire, yet the impact of the bomb had caused it to lean out and away from the center of the blast.
In those days, modern conveniences, such as flush toilets, were practically unknown in Hiroshima. Sewage disposal vans toured the streets, accompanied by their distinctive aroma, and men conveyed “the goods” from house to van in large wooden pails, suspended at either end of a bamboo pole carried over the shoulder. These are known as the “honey-bucket” men. One of the missionaries’ very early studies was with a “honey-bucket” man. He had a fiery personality, and was well known in the city for his drinking, fighting and gambling. He got interested in the truth through violently opposing his wife’s studying. It was not long before big changes took place in his life, and he amazed his associates by quitting his former ways. In time he put on the Christian personality, and now he shares in oversight of a congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses.
It is not difficult to find hearing ears when one talks in Hiroshima about the peaceful New Order. The word “Peace” is written all over the city. The new 330-foot-wide road that runs the length of the city is called Peace Road, the Atom Bomb Museum is located in Peace Park and nearby there is the new Peace Bridge. Every year on August 6, the anniversary of the “bomb,” agitators for “peace” come to Hiroshima from all over the world, but they accomplish nothing, due to their arguments and lack of unity. The missionaries often used this point to show how useless are man’s efforts in bringing peace. The missionaries have moved from Hiroshima to other fertile fields, but they left behind three thriving congregations.
When the Yokohama missionary home was sold, the Society purchased a new home in Sapporo, in the frigid northern island of Hokkaido, and this home proved to be a center of fruitful missionary activityy from September 1957 until it was sold in March 1971. The first missionaries in this home were three married couples. One of this group, Douglas Beavor, relates that preaching in wintertime was a new experience for them. Snow piled up in many of the narrow lanes, and people added to this by shoveling snow off their flimsy roofs, so they would not collapse. Walking along these lanes, the missionary would often find that his path was level with the roofs of the one-story houses. Entrance to the houses was made by descending icy steps cut into frozen snow. Until they found their “snow legs” they had many bruises from falls. But people were friendly and readily asked them into their warm homes. They can look back on many studies conducted around a roaring coal stove.
Brother Beavor remembers calling at a little one-room house on a snowy day. A small elderly man opened the door. He was a widower living on his own, and his work was giving treatment by acupuncture and moxa. Business was slow and he spent most of his time waiting for patients. A study was started with him, and from the start, no matter how snowy or cold it was, he came to every meeting. Though timid and shy, he made fine progress. Brother Beavor can remember him giving his first talk as a student in the Theocratic Ministry School, with his notes shaking like leaves in the wind, and the audience fascinated by the perspiration rolling down his face and dropping off the end of his nose. However, he “made it,” and later he became a regular pioneer and the Bible study overseer. Even though he was away much of his time in field service, he found that his customers who came for hari (needle) treatment increased.
In September 1959, a separate circuit assembly was held for the first time in Hokkaido. The assembly meetings were held in a nearby home of one of the sisters, and the missionary home was used as the cafeteria. A hall was rented for the public meeting, and all were delighted to see seventy-five in attendance. At the May 1971 circuit assembly, held in the isolated city of Obihiro in central Hokkaido, 761 attended the public talk. Two circuits have recently been formed in Hokkaido. The Sapporo Congregation, where the missionary home operated, now has grown to four congregations.
South into the island of Kyushu! Though this area is very strictly Buddhist and the feudal family tradition runs strong, the four missionaries who started work in Fukuoka City found that the only opposition they received was from the so-called “Christian” churches.
A condemned murderer in the Fukuoka prison contacted the Society, and it was arranged for the missionaries to visit him. Brother Iszlaub conducted a study with him, and so great was the change in the prisoner’s behavior that the prison superintendent soon permitted the study to be held in a room next to his office, with no wire netting in between. In due course, this man was baptized in the prison. He learned braille so that he could prepare Japanese booklets for the blind, and also assisted in the Kingdom work by writing letters out to interested persons and publishers that needed encouragement. Brother Nakata studied hard and strengthened himself spiritually against the day when he would have to pay “life for life” for his crime.
That day came on June 10, 1959. At the condemned man’s request, the jail superintendent called Brother Iszlaub to the place of execution. Brother Nakata greeted him cheerfully and said: “Today I feel strongly confident in Jehovah, and in the ransom sacrifice and the resurrection hope. Never have I felt stronger in my life than I do today.” In fact, the visiting brother felt he was very much the weaker of the two that day. They sang a Kingdom song together, read from the Bible and had a final prayer, all of which was a fine witness to the twelve officials present. After asking that his love be conveyed to Jehovah’s organization and the brothers throughout the earth, the condemned brother was led to the gallows, his face shining with appreciation of his hope of sharing in Jehovah’s new order through the resurrection.
In 1957, missionaries went to Japan’s southernmost city, Kagoshima. One of these, Tom Dick, relates that when they arrived they not only received a warm welcome from the handful of local publishers, but were also treated to an eruption of Sakurajima volcano, as it belched out its own welcome. Since shopping in Japan is invariably done by the womenfolk, and the missionary brothers were all very tall, the brothers looked very conspicuous when they took their turn at marketing, and the more so as shopkeepers found it difficult to understand their limited Japanese.
Foreigners were few in these parts, so crowds of children followed the missionaries from door to door. One day, our missionary sister, who was blond and tall, counted over one hundred children in her train, and some of these would run ahead and tell the next householder that if they did not want to take the subscription they could get just two magazines. After more than three years of solid work in building up the congregation from five to twenty publishers, the missionaries left Kagoshima, and that day the volcano erupted again, as though in farewell salute.
NOTEWORTHY ASSEMBLIES IN KYOTO
The colorful city of Kyoto, so typical of the old Japan, has been the scene of many joyful assemblies of Jehovah’s people. One of the first of these was held at the Minsei Kaikan, July 29-August 1, 1954, and this district assembly for all of Japan drew 536 persons to the public talk.
Early in 1957, the vice-president of the Society, Fred W. Franz, paid the first of his several visits to Japan. In the cold of winter, January 22-24, the brothers from throughout Japan assembled at the Okazaki Kokaido, Kyoto, and attendances mounted at each session until 605 persons were present to hear the vice-president’s public talk on Sunday evening. Later, on the evening of January 30, Brother Franz gave a further talk to the Japanese brothers at the Shibuya-Ku Kokaido, Tokyo, with 446 in attendance. Did the Japanese publishers appreciate this special visit? From January through to August, publishers in the field increased from 645 to 843, and this brought up a record 54-percent publisher increase for the 1957 service year!
Another milestone in the Kingdom expansion in Japan was the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly, held in Kyoto, August 21-25, 1963. With a population of more than 1,400,000, and with 1,500 temples and 3,500 shrines, Kyoto is renowned as one of the cultural centers of Japan, and for this reason it was spared bombings during World War II. Though Kyoto is a modern city with wide streets and boulevards, it also retains much of the old-time atmosphere of Japan in its quaint homes and beautifully landscaped gardens. It was an ideal convention center for visitors from all around the world. During their various tours, the visitors were intrigued to see that many of the beliefs and ceremonies of Christendom have their counterpart in Buddhism—such as the belief in a fiery hell of torture, the chanting of repetitious prayers in an unknown language, the use of the rosary and of holy water and of candles, and the worship of nimbus-crowned “saints.” Truly all sectarian religion stems from the one source—ancient Babylon!
By the time of this assembly, Japan was reporting a peak of 2,884 publishers in the field. However, from the opening day of the assembly, 2,221 were in attendance at the beautiful, modern city hall, the Kyoto Kaikan. During the first two days of the assembly, Brothers Knorr and Ronald Bible thrilled the audience with their talks, given in English with interpretation into Japanese. On Saturday morning 292 persons, the largest number at any baptism to date, were immersed in the Hozu River, against the lovely backdrop of wooded Arashiyama (“Storm Mountain”). As the climax to the assembly, 3,534 persons attended the public talk, delivered by the branch overseer. This attendance was more than double the previous peak assembly attendance, which was at the time of Brother Henschel’s visit, just forty months previous. But more increase was to come!
SPREADING OUT INTO MORE CITIES
The period from 1963 to 1969 was one of ‘building and planting,’ bringing the many new ones on to maturity, and sending special pioneers forth to open up new territories. From the time of the Kyoto International Assembly to that of the next big assembly six years later, the publisher peak increased from 2,884 to 7,889, and the pioneers in the field from 379 to 1,573. It could be seen that if all Japan were to receive a thorough witness before the “great tribulation” broke, many more pioneers would be needed, and the privilege of sharing in this service has been stressed to the brothers by every possible means. What a grand response there has been! But while the pioneer ranks have mushroomed, the force of seventy to eighty missionaries, many of whom have been in Japan for about twenty years, has remained as a foundation and anchor of the work. What a wonderfully zealous and theocratically minded organization has built up around the original missionary groups! While missionary activity has been limited to about then different locations at one time, native regular and special pioneers have moved out into many new territories. Thus, in these six years until 1969, the number of congregations increased from 105 to 206. Today, most large cities of over a million population have around eight congregations, while Tokyo alone has thirty-three.
In Matsuyama, it is unheard of for two people to meet, fall in love and then marry. Arranged marriages are the order of the day, with professional “go betweens” making a good living. The whole neighborhood where the missionaries lived became most concerned that the two young sisters in the missionary group there had reached the age of twenty-five and were not yet married. This concern was not limited to words. They racked their brains on the missionaries’ behalf in order to make suitable introductions, even offering their relatives. When the missionaries told them that they would prefer to find their own partners someday, this was duly considered, and they were told they had better go to some big city, best of all Tokyo, if they wanted to go about marriage in that way.
The presence of the four missionaries became a witness to the entire island of Shikoku. About a year after arriving there, they attended a circuit assembly on the other side of the island. A storekeeper, from whom they bought some fruit, there asked them: “Are you the four foreigners from Matsuyama, the ones that ride bikes?” The bikes seemed to be known all over the island, and later the missionaries found out why.
At the close of World War II, when the local people returned to Matsuyama after hiding in the mountains, they had nothing. Their clothes were in rags. Their food had been grass and the birds that they could kill. At the same time Christendom’s foreign missionaries came back, too, driving around in big cars, living in luxury and still demanding money from the people to build churches. So it was a sharp contrast that the Watch Tower missionaries rode around on old “boneshakers.” As a result they overcame local prejudice and were accepted. The entire island of Shikoku, where the missionaries were so favorably talked of, now has 310 publishers reporting and eleven congregations; at least 25 percent of these publishers report as pioneers each month.
From the forty-seventh class of Gilead, in which a native Japanese brother taught Japanese, ten more missionaries came to Japan in July 1969, and they, along with veteran missionaries, have helped in opening up other new cities. One of these cities is Okayama, a gateway to the Inland Sea, where it had taken several groups of special pioneers fifteen years’ work finally to get a congregation started. When the missionaries arrived, they found this congregation of twenty-three publishers and six special pioneers well established in a spacious, central Kingdom Hall that one of the new sisters’ husbands had built for the congregation.
Okayama people are renowned for being good business people, but they have few friends. They are self-satisfied and curt. They are suspicious of outsiders, especially of foreigners, of whom there are very few in the city. So the missionaries decided to greet everyone they met in their territory, and to smile at them until they smiled back. Over the period of a few weeks they were able to become really friendly with their neighbors. The “smile” campaign broke down the prejudice and forced the people to get to know them. As a result, even the next-door neighbor and his wife are now studying.
Apart from the language, these missionaries found that one of their basic problems was to overcome the fact that the Japanese have no concept of an almighty God. They have first to be convinced that there is a personal God. Also, since they are good students, they can easily fool the missionary into thinking that they believe what they are learning, when really they do not. This presents a formidable task for the new missionary, but there have been fine helps, such as the arguments in articles prepared for children in The Watchtower and other magazine articles explaining God’s personality and his relationship with man. The splendid increase in Okayama testifies to the zealous work of the missionaries and the other pioneers there.
In 1967, in June, the Society opened up a new missionary home in Nagasaki, in the west of Kyushu. This city is known world wide as the target of the second atom bomb, and in Japan as a Catholic stronghold. It is built around beautiful mountains surrounding a natural harbor.
The rivalry between the Catholics and the Buddhists make witnessing in Nagasaki a little different from other parts of Japan. The missionaries hear such objections as: ‘I’m a Catholic . . . We have our church and literature . . . Go to the Buddhists who don’t know anything yet.’ They are indifferent, and do not seem to know about the upheaval that is going on in the churches elsewhere in the world. The Buddhists, on the other hand, sometimes view the Witnesses as Catholics or some other church group looking for converts, and so they do not want to get involved.
Though special pioneers had done excellently in establishing congregations in the two sections of Nagasaki, as the result of work that they started in 1957, there had now been many years without further increase. When the missionaries arrived, there were fifty-eight publishers and five regular pioneers working here. But with the missionary stimulus, three missionaries being located in one congregation and two in the other, meeting attendances began to climb rapidly and as many as 130 have been attending the meetings in recent months. In addition to sending out several special pioneers, the Nagasaki congregations have increased during the past three years to the point where they now have ninety-seven publishers, including twenty pioneers, reporting in July 1972. The missionaries and their companions surely rejoice over this increase.
When the circuit overseer paid his first visit to the island of Kyushu in 1951, he called only on an isolated American sister in Beppu and an interested family in Kagoshima. But spearheaded by the missionary effort in five of Kyushu’s cities, the Kingdom work in that island has grown to the point where two circuits in 1971 could report a total attendance of 1,529 at their circuit assemblies. And with many more isolated cities being opened up by pioneers, Kyushu has become three circuits in the 1972 service year.
“PEACE ON EARTH” ASSEMBLY, 1969—AND AFTERWARD
The second round-the-world assembly, held October 14-19, 1969, found us assembled at the Tokyo Korakuen Cycling Stadium for our first large open-air assembly. On the green lawn of the stadium, a thatched-roof Japanese cottage served as platform, while thousands of flowers spelled out the name of the assembly against a Mount Fuji backdrop. A huge cafeteria stretched along behind the shelter of the stands. Kingdom songs were played on the koto (Japanese harp) by sisters clad in kimonos seated on the edge of the grass, and this added to the delight of the occasion.
Including the brothers from Okinawa, approximately one thousand were in attendance from other lands. The conventioners were thrilled to hear talks by brothers representing the Society’s governing body. Brother Suiter gave the address of welcome, Brother Franz presented three of the principal talks, and Brother Knorr also gave three talks, including the public talk. On this occasion Brother Knorr spoke to a crowd of 12,614, many more than the 2,479 that he had addressed at the last assembly he had attended in Japan, at Kyoto, just six years previous. The number baptized at this assembly was also a record—798—and the total baptized during the 1969-1970 service year came to a new peak of 2,245.
Less than two years later, at the same stadium, and without the presence of great numbers of overseas visitors, there was an attendance of 16,508 at the “Divine Name” District Assembly, with 879 being baptized. This brought the total baptized for the year to 2,088. In July and August of 1972, four “Divine Rulership” District Assemblies served the brothers throughout Japan, and this time attendance was 21,921, with 931 being baptized. This brought the total baptized for 1972 to 2,569, the highest to date, and the third successive year with over 2,000 baptized. The total of 6,902 baptized during the past three years in Japan is more than 48 percent of all publishers here!
What will the future hold? In the summer of 1973, an international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses will again visit Japan. Though it is too early to make definite announcement, a very fine assembly site is under review in the Osaka area, and it is hoped that we may have an open-air location that will comfortably accommodate 30,000 persons. Whatever Jehovah wills in the matter, we look forward to an outstanding assembly, with many overseas brothers as our guests.
For fourteen years, from January 1949 until September 1962, the wooden Japanese-style house at 5-5-8 Mita, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, did good service as the Japan branch headquarters. However, the rapid growth of the organization brought increased placements of literature, magazines and subscriptions. The following table indicates how tremendous this increase has been:
Placements: Bound Books Magazines New Subscriptions
Service year of 1950 2,026 2,626 51
Service year of 1955 4,050 105,671 3,399
Service year of 1960 15,605 538,088 7,444
Service year of 1965 53,937 1,575,597 32,193
Service year of 1972 797,423 5,907,404 123,567
In September 1971, an all-time peak of 114,133 bound books was placed by the publishers in the field in just one month.
During the course of the years, the flimsy two-story Japanese house became entirely inadequate for the work. So Brother Knorr gave permission for replacing the old branch with a new, modern building. Construction took just six months, and by October 1963 the new six-story ferroconcrete structure was ready for moving in the family of ten branch workers and six missionaries. How things continued to grow! When the Kingdom Ministry School was held, with the visiting brothers being accommodated in the Japanese-style tatami mat rooms, as many as fifty persons have lived in this home at one time.
Brother Haslett had had a big part in planning the new Tokyo branch building. Indeed, the service of Japan’s two original missionaries has been an inspiration to all who have known them. Baptized together on December 2, 1916, at Brooklyn, New York, Don and Mabel Haslett truly devoted their lives to the expansion of Kingdom interests. In 1947, when well into their fifties, they volunteered to pull up roots in Hawaii’s tropical “paradise,” go through Gilead School, and set out to open up the work in a country devastated by war, poverty and hunger. But they found a grander “paradise” in Japan, a spiritual paradise. They were the pioneers who got things started. When Don Haslett died of a stroke on February 20, 1966, the six brothers who carried the casket at his funeral were all young men with whom he had personally studied, and who had entered pioneer service to go later to Bethel. Mabel Haslett continues to work as a missionary out of the Tokyo branch home, and at seventy-seven years of age she still put in close to a hundred hours of service each month, bringing new ones to a knowledge of the truth.
But further expansion is afoot. What the foreign missionaries started has now been taken up by a great army of native pioneer ministers. Almost every month sees a new peak of regular pioneers, and in some months more than a hundred new pioneers have been enrolled. Some idea of the growth in branches of the pioneer service may be gathered from the following table, which shows the peak number serving in April of the years listed:
Missionaries Circuit Tem-
(in full-time Special Overseers Regular porary Total
Year field service) Pioneers and Wives Pioneers Pioneers Pioneers
1952 51 - 1 4 - 56
1957 59 43 2 25 - 129
1962 42 157 15 39 71 324
1967 43 362 29 157 377 968
1972 53 453 47 1,896 1,009 3,458
A peak of 3,515 pioneers was reached in May 1972, when more than one out of every four publishers was in this service. Many of these pioneers are now responding to the call to go out into as yet unworked cities in the 30,000 to 50,000 population range. Moreover, the congregation publishers are working with a real pioneer spirit, as shown by their field averages for July 1972: 16.7 hours, 8.4 return visits, more than 1.1 Bible studies and 14.7 magazines placed in the field. This was a month when they were attending or preparing to attend district assemblies. Jehovah is blessing this zeal. Whereas there were 106 congregations when the present Tokyo branch started to operate in October 1963, Jehovah’s witnesses are now working in 538 locations in Japan, and almost all of these will be congregations under the new organizational arrangements. So the branch work is about five times as big as it was nine years ago. And in kindly arranging to help handle this growth, the Society’s president, Brother Knorr, is arranging to make the Japan branch operation far bigger than we had ever imagined!
NEW PROJECT AT NUMAZU
During the “Peace on Earth” International Assembly, in October 1969, Brother Knorr announced that the Society was purchasing a new property at Numazu, seventy-five miles southwest of Tokyo. From April 1970, a group of four missionaries, the Society’s shipping department and the Kingdom Ministry School moved into the nine Japanese-style houses on this acre of ground. Another 400 brothers were trained here in the school. This area, lying between Mount Fuji and a beautiful shoreline, is a real paradise for preaching the good news of the Kingdom. When they took up their missionary service in the nearby Fuji Congregation, all the servants’ duties were being handled by sisters. At that time they were averaging seven publishers in the field each month, but now they have thirty-seven publishers, including eight baptized brothers.
On a visit to Japan in July 1971, Brother Knorr laid the foundation for a great new project at Numazu. He drew up plans for a three-story factory and a five-story Bethel home. In the latter part of 1971, all buildings except the two-story “missionary home” in one corner of the property were demolished. Construction began in earnest from January 1972. The Japanese brothers contributed most generously by loans and direct donations, so that it was possible to finance this huge undertaking without calling for funds from overseas. By arrangement with the construction company, the brothers also undertook all the electrical work for the new buildings, all the painting, and all the tiling and carpeting. A Canadian missionary, Eustace Kite, has very capably supervised all this work.
At the same time, manufacturers in Kawasaki City and in Osaka commenced the construction of three forty-ton rotary printing presses and auxiliary printing equipment. One press is for the Numazu branch, and the others for the Australian and Philippines branches. By early June construction had proceeded to the point that the rotary press and other equipment could be installed on the first and second floors of the Numazu factory. Brother Milan Miller came from the Society’s Brooklyn factory to supervise this installation. When Brother Miller walked into the Numazu factory for the first time, he described it in one word: “Stupendous!” Measuring it out, he said eight rotary presses could be installed on the first floor of the factory, if it were ever required. However, we are very happy for the present to have just the one rotary press turning out the magazines in one small corner of the factory. And already it is operating beautifully, printing up to 21,000 magazines an hour. Its first product was a sixteen-page color brochure containing principally the 1972 district assembly public talk. How delighted the brothers were to receive this surprise release at the conclusion of the assembly!
On August 15, 1972, the completed factory and Bethel home were handed over to the Society by the construction company. Painting and other finishing work will keep the brothers busy for another month or two, but already they are occupying the sixteen completed bedrooms on the third floor of the home. The fourth and fifth floors provide for another thirty-two bedrooms, and the second floor is occupied mainly by a spacious library, dining room and kitchen. Office, laundry and boiler room, as well as a lovely Kingdom Hall, are on the first floor. Three container shipments of literature have already arrived from Brooklyn, to vanish into the spacious storage space of the factory. A large freight elevator and battery forklift make it easy to move large items round the factory building. The carpenter shop is working to capacity in turning out furnishings for the home and factory.
The elevator motor and windlass are housed in a watchtower that rises above the two buildings. From this watchtower there is a magnificent view, not only of the buildings, but also of the pine-fringed shoreline and of a luxuriant countryside dominated by the towering Mount Fuji. The works of Jehovah are indeed beautiful to behold. Greatly appreciated, too, is the work of the “faithful and discreet slave” class and the splendid lead that the governing body is giving from the headquarters of Jehovah’s organization on earth. The supply of spiritual food, for use at the congregation meetings and in the field, keeps coming in ever greater quality and abundance, and all rejoice to have a part in this grand organization that is so loyally upholding the matchless name of our God Jehovah. As the number of publishers multiplies everywhere, and as more and more persons throng the meetings and assemblies, we recall Brother Knorr’s comment at the Tokyo assembly in April 1951, that he looked forward to the day when there would be so many native Japanese ministers that it would be hard to find a missionary among them. Truly, ‘a little one himself has indeed become a thousand.’—Isa. 60:22.
WHERE THE MISSIONARIES WORKED
Period of Peak Ministers Number
Operation Number of Now in Area (July
City Population of Home Missionaries (July 1972) 1972)
Tokyo 11,476,860 Mita Branch 12 613 123
Chiyoda 8 550 104
Nakano 10 899 157
Setagaya 6 174 28
Kobe 1,304,405 from 11/49 18 730 76
Nagoya 2,050,412 10/50-8/60 12 608 71
Osaka 2,908,507 3/51-2/53 8 746 132
Yokohama 2,325,848 4/51-9/57 14 646 135
Kyoto 1,438,634 4/52-11/57 7 452 80
Sendai 556,475 10/52-9/59 6 131 27
Hiroshima 575,539 1/57-10/63 4 247 50
Sapporo 1,026,706 9/57-3/71 6 277 41
Fukuoka 1,049,942 from 9/57 6 246 37
Kumamoto 453,627 12/57-9/63 4 66 12
Kagoshima 418,621 12/57-5/61 4 80 20
Sasebo 261,567 12/57-3/59 5 41 7
Hakodate 239,291 9/59-8/61 4 58 13
Matsuyama 329,683 11/66-11/69 4 53 13
Okayama 473,480 from 5/69 6 64 14
Nagasaki 423,019 from 6/69 5 97 20
Numazu 195,484 from 4/70 6 76 18
Niigata 389,019 from 9/71 6 64 12
Kochi 245,428 from 5/72 6 33 14
TOTAL 28,142,547 6,951 1,204
Publishers in other parts of Japan 7,210 1,771
Thus the missionary work has been represented among more than one quarter of Japan’s population of 105,281,070.
[Picture on page 254]
Numazu printing plant and Bethel home