The Protestant Missions — September 28, 2010 at 4:07 pm

The year 1873, was a turning-point in the history of Christianity in Japan.


Paul Sawayama

The year 1873, was a turning-point in the history of Christianity in Japan. The attitude of the Government suddenly changed.

A few newspapers had been established, and in one of these that was published in Kobe there appeared, in April, an article written by a young man who was then a student in America, and who at a later date became one of the most ancient pastors in Japan, Paul Sawayama. The most remarkable thing about this article, which, after criticising Shintoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, urged the introduction of Christianity, is that such sentiments could be published and freely circulated in Kobe less than two years after Mr. Ishikawa had been arrested for having Christian books in his possession, and but five months after his death in prison.

Daniel Crosby Greene, (1843-1913) From June 1874, until May 1880, he resided in Yokohama, as a member of the committee for the translation of the New Testament into the Japanese language.

Moreover, in this year public preaching was begun in Kobe by Rev. D. C. Greene, of the .American Board Mission. On the principal street was secured a building, whose front part was used for a Bible and tract depository, while the remainder was fitted up as a chapel. At first, the service was little more than a Bible-class; but very soon the audience increased until the building was filled to its utmost capacity. Sometimes as many as two hundred people were in attendance. About the same time, Messrs. Gulick and Gordon, of the same mission, began to hold a public service in Osaka. It was attended by an average of fifteen persons, most of whom were students in the day-school that was taught by the same missionaries. What was probably the first Sunday-school conducted in the Japanese language was begun at Kobe in December, J. C. Berry, M.D., of the American Board Mission, being its superintendent.

Rufus Anderson was the General Secretary of the Board from the early 1830s through the mid 1860s. His legacy included administrative gifts, setting of policy, visiting around the world, and chronicling the work of the ABCFM in books.

In the spring of 1873, the Governor of Kobe obtained from the Central Government permission for Dr. Berry, who had begun medical work the year before, to teach anatomy by dissection in the provincial hospital.

Beginning with ten students, Dr. Berry soon had a large class under his instruction. He also opened dispensaries in some neighbouring towns. The following story shows how entrance was gained to one of these places. Rev.and Mrs. J. D. Davis, with an infant child, spent the summer of 1872 in Arima, a few miles from Kobe, and one day they visited the neighbouring town of Sanda.

Large numbers of people were attracted to the hotel to see these strange visitors. Mr. Davis writes:

“Among the rest came the wife of the ex-Daimyo of that little province, whose home was there. She brought with her three little children, dressed in foreign clothes. Soon afterwards the Daimyo and his family came to Arima and visited us every day; and there began an intimacy which has ripened into the warmest friendship. Soon after our return to Kobe last year [1872], this family came here [Kobe] to live, and we took into our family a girl who had lived with them for five years. Last spring one of the little children died, and the sorrowing friends wanted it buried in foreign style; so we worked out a casket, which was made of the best camphor-wood, and then loving hands trimmed it, laid the beautiful sleeping form within it, and crowned all with a wreath of the brightest flowers, and when, in reply to the eager enquiries of those sorrowing hearts, Mrs. Davis told them of Jesus and of heaven, and that she trusted their darling was forever safe there, a new world was opened to them, tears of joy mingled with those of sorrow, and an interest was awakened which we hope will end in heavenly bliss. … A month ago Dr. and Mrs. Berry spent five days in the Daimyo’s old home, Sanda. They found a great eagerness on the part of the people to read and hear the Bible, over fifty coming on one occasion.”

Notes furnished by Dr. Davis tell us more about Sanda. He says:

“About the first of September, 1873, we rented two rooms in Sanda and stayed there two weeks at the request of the young men, some twenty of whom came there three times a day to study the Gospel of John. I could speak the language only in a stammering way, but I did the best I could to make the meaning clear to them. After returning to Kobe, I bought a Japanese pony and rode over to Sanda, twenty miles, each Saturday, spending the Sabbath and coming back on Monday. The company of young men continued interested and for a few weeks I had no trouble. But arriving there in a pouring rain one Saturday night in the early winter, the hotel where I usually stopped refused to let me stay and I met a refusal from every hotel in the place. It was evident that an opposition to the ‘Jesus way’ had been developed. It began to look as if I should have to return whence I had come. I was leading my horse in the darkness on a back street, praying for guidance. I knocked at an unknown gate. A boy came and I made known my request to stay all night. Soon the response came that I could stay. It was a small Buddhist temple of the Shin sect. The father was dead, and the widow and her young son were poor and glad of the trifle I could pay for rent; and there we had our meetings for about six months.

I had the main room of the temple; eating, sleeping, and preaching before the images and sacred relics of the temple”


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A modern Paul in Japan; an account of the life and work of the Rev. Paul Sawayama (1893)

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