The Protestant Missions — September 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Japan changes to the Gregorgian Calendar in 1873!

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The second Japanese church was organised in Tokyo, September 20, 1873, by the American Presbyterian Mission. It had the same doctrinal and ecclesiastical basis as the one organised the year before by the Reformed missionaries, and from the latter church came seven of the eight members. Ogawa Yoshiyasu, who afterwards became a prominent minister, was the first elder.

It was a distinct understanding that, while the schools should be under native patronage, the teachers should have entire control of all instruction, leaving the way thus clear to make the schools entirely Christian, when the time should come to do so. It was felt that this could not be done so long as the edicts against Christianity were in force. In the course of a few weeks about fifty girls and thirty boys were in regular attendance.

Only the common English studies were taught in the city, but a Bible-class at the mission residence was regularly attended by a large number of the older boys in the evening. Soon the edicts were removed, and it was believed that the time had come for making the school openly Christian. The Bible was introduced into the boys’ department. An attempt at intimidation was made by those that had been most active in establishing the school’. The pupils, however, seemed to mind this but little, and the Bible-class was continued. Then the patrons summarily closed the school. The pupils were begging for instruction, and so the school was re-opened at the residence of the missionaries.

“Shortly after this, in connection with Mr. Bonnell, the teacher in the government school, a Sunday school was established, consisting of young men both from the government and private schools. For the work thus carried on in private rooms were found too strait; but by the kindness of Captain Janes, a Christian gentleman teaching in Kumamoto, a commodious Schoolhouse was built in 1873 and the schools carried on there. This building was well filled with an interested school, especially on Sundays. There also the first baptisms took place in 1873, the first native prayer-meeting was held, and the Gospel first publicly preached, in this part of the Empire.”

With the commencement of 1873, the old way of reckoning time by lunar months was changed so as to bring the months and days into correspondence with those of the Gregorian calendar; but instead of numbering the years from the birth of Christ, they were reckoned from the date assigned for the accession to the throne (660 B.C.) of the mythical Jimmu Tenno, the alleged founder of the Imperial Dynasty, or by the old system of year-periods.

Foreigners employed by the Government had hitherto been allowed to have Sunday as a day of rest; but in the summer of 1873 notice was given that there would be a return to the Japanese system, by which the first, sixth, eleventh, sixteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-sixth of each month were holidays. This action was taken in the absence from Japan of Mr. Soeshima, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who had been sent to China as an ambassador.

After Mr. Soeshima’s return, Mr. De Long, the United States Minister, objected to what had been done, saying that it was an act of special and invidious legislation against one class of reputable citizens of the United States. He went on to say:

“The effect of the edict will be disastrous to your own Government. You will lose the services of the most thoroughly qualified and efficient teachers who are now serving in your schools; and by your efforts to Ignore the Christian Sabbath you will make it impossible for any educated and honourable gentleman from Europe or the United States to enter the service of your Government.”

When Mr. Soeshima said that the order had been issued in his absence and that he would inquire into the matter, Mr. De Long added:

“The subject is of such importance that after retiring from this interview I purpose at once to wait upon the Minister of Education, and in his presence, enter my formal protest on behalf of the Government of the United States.”

” You need not do so,” responded Mr. Soeshima with energy, ” I will attend to the matter.” He did as he had said, and it was not long before Christian teachers were restored to their places.

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