Interesting Japanese Christians! — March 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Uchimura Kanzō

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Uchimura Kanzō
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Uchimura Kanzō in 1918

Uchimura Kanzō (内村鑑三?, March 26, 1861 – March 28, 1930) was a Japanese author, Christian evangelist, and the founder of the Nonchurch Movement (Mukyōkai) of Christianity in the Meiji and Taishō period Japan.

Early life

Uchimura was born in Edo, and exhibited a talent for languages from a very early age; he started to study the English language at the age of 11. In 1877, he gained admission to the Sapporo Agricultural College (present-day Hokkaido University), where the language of instruction was mostly English.

Prior to Uchimura’s arrival, William S. Clark, a graduate of Amherst College, had spent the year assisting the Japanese government in establishing the college. While his primary role was to teach agricultural technology, Clark was a committed lay Christian missionary who introduced his students to the Christian faith through Bible classes. All of his students converted and signed the “Covenant of Believers in Jesus”, committing themselves to continue studying the Bible and to do their best to live moral lives. Clark returned to the United States after one year, but Uchimura felt his influence through the small Covenant group that was left behind. Under considerable pressure from his senpai (先輩, a term for senior peers), Uchimura signed the Covenant during his first year at the College at the age of sixteen and went on to receive baptism from a Methodist missionary in 1878.

Dissatisfaction with the mission church, however, led Uchimura and his Japanese cohorts to establish an independent church in Sapporo. This experiment turned out to be a precursor to what is now called the Non church Movement. Through Clark’s teaching and example, this small group believed that they could practice and live an authentic life of faith without the dependence on an institution or clergy.
Overseas career

Uchimura departed for the United States following a brief and unhappy first marriage in 1884. He was first befriended by Mr. and Mrs. Wister Morris, a Quaker couple, who helped him find employment shortly after his arrival in Pennsylvania. The faith and pacifism of these Quakers made a lasting impression upon Uchimura. He and his Sapporo friend Nitobe Inazo were influential in the establishment of the Friends School in Tokyo as a result of his sojourning in the Philadelphia area.

Tombstone of Uchimura Kanzō. It is inscribed "I for Japan, Japan for the World, The World for Christ, And All for God."

Following eight months of stressful work at a mental hospital in Elwyn, Pennsylvania, Uchimura resigned and traveled through New England, entering Amherst College in September 1885. Julius Hawley Seelye, the president of Amherst College, became his spiritual mentor, and encouraged him to attend the Hartford Theological Seminary. After completing his second bachelor’s degree (B.S.) in general science at Amherst, he enrolled in Hartford Seminary, but quit after only one semester, disappointed by theological education. He returned to Japan in 1888.
Japanese religious leader
NAKADA Juzi,Uchimura Kanzō,KIMURA Seimatu

NAKADA Juzi and UCHIMURA Kanzo, KIMURA Seimatu

After his return to Japan, Uchimura worked as a teacher, but was fired or forced to resign in several instances over his uncompromising position toward authorities or foreign missionary bodies that controlled the schools. The most famous such incident was his refusal to bow deeply to the portrait of Emperor Meiji and the Imperial Rescript on Education in the formal ceremony held at the First Higher School (then preparatory division to the Tokyo Imperial University). Realizing that his religious beliefs were incompatible with a teaching career, he turned to writing, becoming senior columnist for the popular newspaper, Yorozu Chōhō. Uchimura’s fame as a popular columnist became solid as he launched vocal opposition against Ichibei Furukawa over one of modern Japan’s first industrial pollution cases involving Furukawa’s Ashio Copper Mine.

His career as a journalist failed as well, largely due to his outspokenly pacifist views during the Russo-Japanese War. He started publishing and selling his own monthly magazine, Seisho no Kenkyu (Bible Studies) and supported himself by addressing weekly audiences of 500–1000 people in downtown Tokyo in lectures on the Bible. His followers came to agree with Uchimura’s attitude that an organized church was actually a hindrance to the Christian faith, and Christian sacraments, such as baptism and communion, are not essential to salvation. Uchimura named his Christian position as “Mukyokai” or Nonchurch Movement. Uchimura’s movement attracted many students in Tokyo who later became influential figures in academia, industry, and literature. His “prophetic” views on religion, science, politics, and social issues became influential beyond his small group of followers.

His writings in English include: Japan and the Japanese (1894) and How I became a Christian (1895), and reflect his struggle to develop a Japanese form of Christianity. In his lifetime, Uchimura became famous overseas. His major English-language works were translated into numerous languages. After his death, however, Uchimura’s reputation grew more, as his followers produced an enormous amount of literature.

Here are some books written by Uchimura Kanzō, ordering through my affiliate account will help support my site! Thank you!

2 Comments

  1. Dear Brother, thank you so much for your service for His Kingdom and for Japanese souls. I am a Japanese Christian and, by God’s grace, I found this inspiring site. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and your service. Amen.

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