The Protestant Missions — October 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Remarkable meeting held in the Public Park at Ueno, Tokyo.


Guido Herman Fridolin Verbeck (born Verbeek) (28 January 1830 – 10 May 1898) was a Dutch political advisor, educator, and missionary active in Bakumatsu and Meiji period Japan. He was one of the most important o-yatoi gaikokujin (foreign advisors) serving the Meiji government and contributed to many major government decisions during the early years of the reign of Emperor Meiji.

October 13 and 14 a remarkable meeting was held in the Public Park at Ueno, Tokyo. A restaurant with its pounds was rented and services held from nine o’clock in the morning until five in the afternoon. There were prayers, the singing of Christian hymns, and addresses by both Japanese and foreigners. Dr. Verbeck thus described the exercises:

“In the forenoon, moderately sized audiences were addressed in the rooms of the restaurant; but towards noon the rooms though pretty large, were found insufficient to hold the crowd of visitors then on the ground. The wide front veranda of the ground floor was now converted into a platform, the pretty gardens furnishing abundant room for the growing audience.

The whole of this made up an impressive scene. In full view in front were the miniature lake of Shinobazu and the northern suburbs of the city; on a little island in the lake stood the temple dedicated to the goddess Benten; within hailing distance towards the left might be seen the temple of the thousand-handed goddess of mercy; within a stone’s throw to the rear sat a bronze image of Buddha, twenty feet high; and in the midst of all these a large and orderly crowd stood attentively listening to the proclamation of the Gospel by a number of zealous preachers. While the principal work was done on the novel platform just described, a few preachers held overflow meetings under the summer-houses standing in different parts of the gardens. It is calculated that several thousand people, as they came and went, heard the preaching of the Gospel, many of them for the first time, on that day. It was gratifying to notice among the crowded audience the attendance of several representatives of the higher and official classes resident in the capital and the presence of Buddhist priests; the respectful bearing of all present, too, was a pleasant feature of the day’s performance. The next day’s local papers (Japanese) also, in their reports of the meeting, generally spoke of it with respect and approval The promoters of this new enterprise had every reason to be satisfied with the result For months afterwards one could hear, in Japanese churches, allusions made to the happy event, and thanks given to God for the blessings vouchsafed on this memorable day.

The Shinobazu Pond ( 不忍池, Shinobazu no Ike?) is a pond within Ueno Park (a spacious public park located in the Ueno section of Taitō, Tokyo, Japan), and a historically prominent Shitamachi feature often appearing in history and works of art. The park occupies the site of the former Kan'ei-ji, a temple closely associated with the Tokugawa shoguns, who had built it to guard Edo Castle against the northeast. The temple was destroyed during the Boshin War. The pond, although modified many times and even once drained, is natural.

When we remember that only eight or nine years before it was dangerous to attend a Christian meeting in a private house, we see how great was the change that had taken place.

The liberal views of the Central Government were shown about this time by the orders it sent to one of the local governors. Some Japanese evangelists of the Greek Church had visited the province of Tamba, when the police, under orders from the Governor of Kyoto, to whose jurisdiction the district belonged, forbade their preaching. As they would not desist, the Governor reported the matter to Tokyo, only to receive commands to let the preachers alone. The same Governor had in many other ways shown his hatred of Christianity. It was on account of his opposition that there had been trouble in getting passports for the American teachers in the Doshisha, and he had issued orders that made booksellers afraid to deal in Christian books. It was a great relief to those interested in missionary work when he was soon after removed.

Two Japanese pastors obtained permission in September to speak every Sunday in the Hyogo prison. The document granting this gave “Moral Science” as the subject of their addresses; but it was well understood that they were at liberty to speak on religious themes.

Inasegawa Seizoroi no Ba (“Act IV: Inase River Monologues) by Toyokuni Utagawa III, 1862 ---- From left: Sanjūrō Seki III as Nippon-daemon, Kumesaburō Iwai I (the future Hanshirō Iwai VIII) as Jūzaburō Akaboshi, Shikan Nakamura IV as Rikimaru Nangō, Gonjūrō Kawarazaki I (the future Danjūrō Ichikawa IX) as Rihei Tadanobu, and Uzaemon Ichimura XIII (the future Kikugorō Onoe V) as Benten-kozō Kikunosuke.

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