The Protestant Missions — October 2, 2010 at 9:52 pm

The first Christian newspaper in Japan: Shichi Ichi Zappo!

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In May, Rev. W. Dening, of the Church Missionary Society, opened a service in what had formerly been a large shop on the main street of Hakodate. On the second Sunday he baptised in the presence of a large crowd Mr. Ogawa, who afterwards became a prominent evangelist. Soon after this, active opposition began, Mr. Ogawa being annoyed and persecuted in many ways.

Mr. Dening wrote, June 24:

“The Governor and other local authorities were excessive annoyed that I had obtained the use of a house on the main street Hitherto all Christian services have been carried on in somewhat obscure quarters of the town — usually in the missionary’s house. This is the first time that Christianity has been exposed to public view, as it were, in Hakodate. The young convert Ogawa, who took the house on my behalf, was called up by the authorities, again and again threatened, and charged not to allow any teaching or preaching in the name of Jesus in his house. He informed them he could not obey their commands, that he believed in Christianity himself, and wished to make it known to others, and he could not interfere with my work. I have reason for believing that the whole matter was referred to Tokyo; but no steps have been taken to carry the opposition further. But the Governor forbade the people to attend the service, frequently sent spies, and once came himself to see who were present”

In March, 1875, a Shinto priest had addressed the following memorial to the Vice-Minister of Religion :

” It has been ordered by the Government that religious tenets are left to the option of the people, and directions have been given to the teachers of both Shintoism and Buddhism whereby they are caused to guide die people in accordance with the ‘ three articles of religion.’ I have, however, heard that of late in the foreign settlements in our country, foreign religious precepts are being incessantly promulgated, and that our people are in a friendly way enticed thereby. Now, such teachings as these, from the very commencement, hold lord and father in light regard, and eventually cause men to fall into the habit of setting at naught their ruler and of disregarding their parents. The fact of this teaching being pernicious to the Empire is a matter needing from the very first no discussion. I have been told of this, and am unfortunately too unworthily holding a minor office of religious instruction, and am thus unable to refrain from slight consideration as to whether it would be a source of trouble were I, at the time of my expounding religious precepts, to publicly throw open to reproach the foreign doctrines. I beg that you will promptly give me clear directions, and so humbly beg to make the above interrogation.”

To this the Department of Religion replied:

” Permission is granted according to the enquiry above. However, in matters outside the province of religion, careful attention must, of course, be paid that no hindrance shall arise of such a nature as to affect the public (i.e., international) relations of the Government.”

An elder and about ten members of the Shinsakae-bashi Presbyterian Church in Tokyo withdrew from it in 1875, and formed themselves into an independent body to which they gave the name ” Japan Church.” According to the historian of the Church of Christ in Japan (Presbyterian) : ” The motive of organising this new church consisted in enforcing an extreme anti-foreign principle of independence, because all the churches at those times were under the assistance of foreign churches and missionaries, who had naturally a great influence in those churches.” In 1883 these Christians united with others to form the Reinanzaka Church, the first of the Kumi-ai (Congregational) body that was organised in Tokyo.

In June Mr. Ing baptised fourteen young men in Hirosaki, the fruit of his own labours and those of Mr. Honda Yuitsu, a member of the Kaigan Church in Yokohama. These Christians wrote to that church in August asking that they might be organised as a church. The request being granted, the Hirosaki Church was formed and Mr.Honda was made its elder. In 1876 it became assciated with the Methodist body.

Besides these churches and the one in Sanda already mentioned, those organised in 1875 were one in Hoden, a suburb of Tokyo, that was connected with the Presbyterian Mission, and one in Tokyo connected with the Methodists. The Methodist Mission also organised its first quarterly conference.

December 27 1875, appeared the first Christian newspaper. It bore the name Shichi Ichi Zappo (Weekly News) and was edited by Rev. O. H. Gulick of the American Board Mission.

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