The Protestant Missions — March 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm

The Story of Tohoku Gakuin!

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The desire for Western civilization

Masayoshi_Oshikawawas naturally accompanied by increased interest in the study of the English language. In 1885 forty thousand books were imported from England and fifty-nine thousand from America; while in 1886 the numbers increased to eighty-five thousand and one hundred and nineteen thousand respectively. The efforts of the Government to have English taught in the public schools was hampered by the lack of teachers. Mission schools were crowded. In several places the native Christians established schools and urged missionaries to aid in the teaching. In other cities, companies largely or wholly composed of non-believers proposed to establish schools that should be taught by missionaries and native Christians, more or less freedom being given them to teach the Bible and to exert a religious influence upon the pupils.

A school is established in Sendai under the guidance of Mr. Neesima.

Among the schools was one established in Sendai. A wealthy and influential gentleman of that city, who had formerly been the Japanese Consul in New York, asked Mr. Neesima to lend his name to the founding of a school that it was hoped would gradually develop into a college like those of New England. This gentleman said that if the American Board would promise to furnish teachers for ten years, the people of Sendai would provide buildings, salaries for native teachers, and all other necessary funds. When Mr. Neesima with a member of the Mission visited Sendai, they were welcomed by the Governor and other prominent men, were told that five thousand yen was pledged for the new school, and were assured that its religious basis should be the same as that of the Doshisha. The Mission decided to accept the invitation. Rev. J. H. DeForest, D.D., was assigned to the work and others were at different times associated with him. The school was opened in October, 1886, the exercises including prayer and the reading of the Scriptures. Of the seven members of the faculty, six were Christians, though none of the patrons of the schools were professed believers. There were at first one hundred and twenty-two pupils. Twenty of these were baptised the first year. The Bible was one of the text-books, though its study was optional. The general exercises held each morning included a prayer.

A more formal opening of the school took place in June, 1887. It was attended by the Governor, Vice-Governor, Mayor, judges, generals, and leading citizens. Here, too, the Christian character of the school was openly declared.

At times the school was the object of severe attacks by the local press and by persons who were opposed to the teaching of Christianity. At last the prefectural government decided to establish another school of similar grade. This was in accordance with the policy of the Educational Department, which was opposed to private schools. Knowing that financial reasons would make it impossible to contend against this new difficulty, the teachers decided to resign. The closing exercises in 1891, like those that opened the school four years before, were attended by officials and prominent citizens, much regret being expressed that an institution which had done such good work must be closed. The experiment of a Christian school supported and governed by non-Christians was thus brought to an untimely end. It was felt, however, by the American Board Mission that the strength expended on it had not been lost. Several of the students had become Christians, some of them entered the theological or other departments of the Doshisha, and much evangelistic work had been done in the city by the teachers.

The humble beginnings of Tohoku Gakuin in Sendai

Another school was opened at Sendai in the same year as the one we have been considering; and the histories of the two institutions present points of comparison that perhaps are not without instructive lessons. The second school in its beginning did not attract much attention, nor did it enjoy the favour of prominent citizens. The prospects of permanence and future influence seemed less promising than those of the other. Some time previous to this, evangelistic work had been begun in Sendai by Rev. Oshikawa Masayoshi and another preacher. In 1886 Rev. W. E. Hoy of the Reformed (German) Church in the United States took up his residence in the same city; and in June of that year he and Mr. Oshikawa gathered seven young men, candidates for the Christian ministry, into a class that was at first held in an old dwelling house on the outskirts of the city. After one or two removals it had in 1888 a small building of its own, the pupils then numbering twenty-eight. When a new brick building was dedicated in 1892, there were seventeen theological and one hundred and thirty-three other students. Though not free from difficulties and vicissitudes, the school that began so humbly has in the main been prospered, and as the Tohoku Gakuin has become one of the most influential Christian institutions in the land.

Tohoku Gakuin’s homepage

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