History of movemnets - 27

Origin and Growth— During the large part of the decade between 1880-90 the Japanese people actuated by a strong pro-foreign zeal, seemed about to undergo a complete Westernization. Among an influential few, of whom Yuknchi Fuknzawa was leader (1884) a movement was made for the acceptance by the nation of the Christian religion. This movement was ra­dically significant, although it was in its origin, chiefly one of practical politics. Soon afterwards (1883) Fumio Yauo, who had been closely associated with Fuknzawa, returning from a stay in England, set forth in some noteworthy newspaper articles, Christianity as the only means of moral salvation for his country. Mr. Yauo recommended Unitarianism as that form of Christianity in which the essential Christanity is freed from supernaturalism. Other active public men at about the same time had much to say in favour of Christianity in a rationalized form. From these cir­cles suggestions were made to the American Unitarian Association to send representatives to Japan to utilize the growing liberalism.

In compliance to these suggestions, Rev. Arthur May Knapp was commissioned to Japan in 1887. The next year Rev.Clay Macbauley joined him as colleague. At the same time the Keiogijikn University of Tokyo received three professors from America, Garretc Droppers, W. J. Liscomb and J. H. Wigmore, who had been also appointed assistants in the Unitarian mission. Rev. H. W. Hawkes of England in the winter of 1889-90 associated himself with the Mission as a volunteer worker. The first Unitarian Church of Tokyo came into existence in the spring of 1890, and numerous inland agencies for promoting public lectures and distributing literature were arranged for; a magazine, now the Rikugo-zasshi (cosmos), began its issues in the month of March; courses of lectures on religious, ethical and social science topics which developed in the next year into the Jiyu Shin Gakko (School for Liberal Theology), and later became the Senshin Gakuin (School for Advanced Learning), were begun.

In the next four years, Mr. Knapp and some of his assistants had to return home for one reason or other. But a large staff of Japanese assistants conducted the work much increased in scope and effectiveness. The Mission headquarters in Unity Hall, Shikokamachi Shiba, Tokyo, is a commodious building erected by the Unitarians of America and England : here religions services in Japanese are held weekly : rooms are provided for the officers of the Japan Unitarian Associa­tion; also offices and store rooms of the Postal Mis­sion and the editing of the magazine the Rikugo Zasshi, The Senshin Gakuin Lectnre courses, conducted by seven lecturers, were held in the Unity Hall through nine month Of each year.

Catholio Aims— The dominant purpose of this Mission as appear from its publications and its way of working is not the teaching of a fixed and authpritative body of doctrine or the reproduction among the Japanese of as pecific system of ecclesiastical organisation and government. When the Mission was established its founders stated that its aim would be to “express the sympathy of American Unitarians for progressive religious movements in Japan and give all necessary information to the leaders of religions thought and action in that country.” In consequence of this pur­pose, the workers of this Mission have sought to dis­cover, to encourage and to cooperate with any church association, group of persons, or with individuals, ir­respective of form of religion, sect or personal belief that might wish to know the most mature and advanc­ed thought of Christendom about any of the higher or spiritual problems and interest of man. Churches and associations distinctively “Unitarian” exist in Japan, and much “Unitarian” literature is published and distributed, but the Unitarian Mission disclaims any organic connection either in the origin or direction of these organisations and accompanies its publications with no authoritative or prescriptive endorsement of their contents. In short, the method of this Mission is to actively familiarize the new idea of the ‘Sympathy of Religions’.