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Section I: East Asia Missions

Part 3: Japan, 1916-1949 and East Asia General - Japan and China, 1935-1949.

This material continues coverage of the Japan Mission, 1916-1949 and also includes East Asia General - Japan and China, 1935-1949.

At the end of the eighteenth century Japan was closed to outside influence. No foreign Christian had been allowed to enter the country for some 200 years and Christianity was a proscribed religion, largely because of antipathy to the influence of Jesuit missionaries who had reached Japan in the sixteenth century. In the 1850s, however, the United States of America, needing additional ports for its steamer run to Hong Kong demanded and enforced a treaty, and Great Britain followed suit.

So it was that in 1859 American missionaries were able to enter Japan, though their work was still restricted and extremely difficult. It was not until 1869 that the Rev G Ensor, the first English missionary, landed at Nagasaki; and he was sent by CMS thanks to an anonymous gift of £4000 received two years earlier for the founding of a Japan mission.

Ensor could only receive enquiries privately, but even so, some converts were made. By 1873, however, the government was pursuing a more liberal policy and CMS was able to place missionaries in five of the treaty ports. Osaka (occupied 1873), Tokyo (1874) and Hakodate (1874) remained the centres of CMS work until the end of the century; while from 1879 the work of Rev John Batchelor amongst the Ainu on the island of Yezu was outstanding.

Mission work spread through education and translation work as well as by the direct evangelism of the preaching chapels. The main educational centre was Osaka, where the most famous of the CMS girls’ schools, later called Bishop Poole Memorial School, was opened in 1879 though its real development began with the arrival of Miss Katherine Tristram in 1888, who was to be its principal until 1925. The comparable school for boys, Momoyama Middle School, was not founded until 1890.

In 1883 the Japan bishopric was established with Rev A W Poole, a CMS man, as first bishop, and the following year a divinity college for the training of Japanese clergy was set up in Osaka. In 1887 again in Osaka delegates of the Japanese Christians met and formed themselves into the Japan Holy Catholic Church, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai. At the time there were only about 1300 Christians but Edward Bickersteth, then bishop of Japan, was passionately concerned that the small Anglican congregations should be effectively cared for. Before his death in 1897 he and the bishop of the American Episcopal Church saw six dioceses formed.

From then on the missionaries were gradually integrated into the structure of the NSKK, which itself became a province of the Anglican Communion in 1930. Missionary institutions, such as the schools, remained independent, except for the Central Theological College at Tokyo, begun in 1910 and officially opened in 1914. CMS London was already in 1921 suggesting withdrawal from Japan and transfer of its mission property to the NSKK and although this did not immediately take place the very proposal stimulated the movement to a self-supporting church. The number of European missionaries was significantly reduced, partly because some found the new conditions difficult to adjust to. There were many single women missionaries, however, as they had greater freedom than clergy to find new patterns of evangelism, because they were outside any Japanese official or social pattern.

There had been specialised work among soldiers from 1894 onwards and also among the Chinese students in Japan, though this came to an end in 1928 as a result of the wars in China. There was a lack of progress in rural evangelism in the 1930s, but newspaper evangelism proved effective under the leadership of Rev Murray Walton and Rev M S Murao until radio replaced newspapers after the Second World War.

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