The Protestant Missions — March 4, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Reaching the Ainu in Japan!


Group of Ainu people, 1902 photograph.(cortesy Wikipedia)

Three new missions in Japan

In 1885 three new missions began work in Japan. They were those of the Presbyterian Church of the United States, of the American Society of Friends, and of the Evangelical Protestant Missionary Society (German and Swiss). As this last society is not well known by American and English Christians, and as its principles and methods differ in some respects from those of others working in Japan, a few words concerning it will not be out of place. The society was organized in 1884, being “the first attempt of Liberal Christianity to co-operate in mission work in accordance with its own convictions.”

One of its promoters expressed the principles of the society in the following theses:

“We must bring the Gospel to the civilized heathen nations :

1. Not as human wisdom, but as a divine revelation;

2. Not as the sole, but as a perfect revelation;

3. Not as a new culture, but as a help in moral distress;

4. Not as a party or denominational matter, but as a testimony of the one and only Savior;

5- Not as a collection of remarkable doctrines, but as an act of God for our salvation;

6. Not as the history of something past, but as a power of God experienced by the Christian in his own heart”

Its representatives in Japan, as described by one of their number:

“Aim at a reconciliation of Christianity with the modem view of the world by striving after an up-to-date expression of the eternal truth of the simple Gospel of Jesus, adapted at the same time to the particular needs of the Japanese, instead of offering ancient but transient formulas of Western dogmatics and worship.”

Pastor Wilfred Spinner arrival in Japan

The first missionary of this society was Pastor Wilfred Spinner, D.D. Almost immediately after his arrival; he began to publish a monthly magazine, entitled Shinri (Truth). This was sent gratuitously to many of the leading preachers, among whom it soon exerted a strong influence. Dr. Spinner himself was invited to teach history in a school preparatory to the Imperial University. His scholarly attainments attracted many to the addresses on religious and philosophical subjects that he soon commenced to give. In 1887 the first church was organized, taking the name, Fukyu Fukuin Kyokwai, or General Evangelical Church. A theological school was opened the same year.

Bishop Edward Bickersteth arrival

Bishop Poole, who had come in 1883, to supervise the work carried on by the missions of the Church of England, spent but ten months in the country before ill health made it necessary for him to return to England. There he died in 1885. The next year Bishop Edward Bickersteth succeeded to the office. He was the son of the Bishop of Exeter and, like his predecessor, had been a missionary in India.

Work among the Ainu

Work among the Ainu, the aborigines living in Yezo, had been begun by Rev. J. Batchelor of the Church Missionary Society. It was attended by many difficulties. The language had to be studied without help from books.

The Ainu were addicted to strong drink, and the Japanese that dwelt among them and often tyrannized over them tried to keep them from coming under the influence of the missionaries. In 1885 the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the hymn “Jesus Loves Me” — ‘the first things ever printed in the Ainu language ” — were struck off by Mr. Batchelor on a small hand-press. At later dates he published translations of the Scriptures and the Prayer Book. He has also published in English, books upon the Ainu language, as well as descriptions of the people and their customs. On Christmas Day, 1885, the first Ainu was baptized. He was the son of a village chief. After this, a few baptisms occurred from time to time, until in 1893 there was an ingathering of one hundred and seventy-one persons. At the time of the Tokyo Conference in 1900, there were more than eleven hundred and fifty Ainu Christians. In addition to direct evangelistic work Mr. Batchelor and his associates opened schools and established in Sapporo a “Rest-house” to accommodate Ainu out-patients that come to receive treatment at the Japanese hospital in that city. A sad feature of the efforts made for the evangelization of the Ainu is the knowledge that, as Mr. Batchelor says, “The race is a dying one, and nothing that can now be done can save it.”

For the acknowledgment of the  Bible translated in Ainu language on Wikipedia click here

To learn more about the Ainu people click here

One Comment

  1. Hello, are there any Ainu Christians today? Ron Netsu

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