On Monday, August 12, 1901, Heber J. Grant, a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, arrived in Tokyo Bay aboard the Empress of India, a steamship operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.Accompanied by missionaries Horace S. Ensign, Louis A. Kelsch, and Alma O. Taylor, Grant intended to organize in Japan the first permanent mission of the Church in Asia. After passing quarantine, this “quartet” took a steam launch for the Grand Hotel in the Yokohama Foreign Settlement. When the four missionaries checked in at the elegant hotel, which professed to be the “largest and most complete hotel in the Far East,” “second to none either in Europe or America,” they obviously had no conception of the extensive coverage they would receive in the Japanese press.
The amount of press coverage given the Mormon missionaries during the next month or so was unprecedented and has not been surpassed in the subsequent history of the Church in Japan. More than a dozen newspapers in the capital city of Tokyo, two nationally influential newspapers in the dominant commercial city of Osaka, and no less than twenty major regional newspapers throughout the country devoted considerable space—often on front pages—to articles and editorials reporting or otherwise commenting on the arrival of this new Christian sect with unusual doctrines (for a list of newspapers, see the appendix).From August 13, the day after the missionaries’ arrival, to September 10, not a day went by without something about Mormons being printed somewhere in Japan. During this time, no less than 160 articles, editorials, and letters appeared in the Japanese press. The scope of this massive newspaper coverage was reinforced and given greater permanency by articles about the missionaries’ arrival that were published in two of the most influential national magazines, the Chuo Koron (Central Review) and the Taiyo (Sun).
This paper presents a review and analysis of the press coverage of the arrival of Mormon missionaries in Japan during the ensuing month. The intention is (1) to show that the press spread knowledge throughout Japanese society of this important event in the history of the Churchand (2) to provide the historical and social context within which Mormon missionary work began in Japan. Specifically, the unusual degree to which Mormonism was discussed in the Japanese press was related to the nature and role of the resident foreign press, the competitive nature of the newspaper industry with its propensity towards sensationalism, and, most importantly, Japan’s own internal conflict regarding its social institutions.
Japan at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
After many years of political difficulties associated with the practice of plural marriage, the Saints in the United States had finally received some relief in part as a result of the Manifesto of 1890 and the granting of statehood in 1896. Perhaps for these and other reasons, Church leaders could afford to devote more attention and resources to missionary work outside the then established missions of the Church.The leaders must have noted the spectacular rise of Japan to the ranks of the more progressive nations of the world, propelled as it was by the promulgation of a written constitution in 1889 with guaranteed religious freedom and parliamentary representation, the defeat of China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, and the subsequent adoption of the gold standard in 1897. In fact, upon the announcement of his mission call at the April 1901 general conference, Heber J. Grant commented on his very positive impression: “The Japanese are a wonderfully progressive people. . . . Of the Oriental races they are without doubt the most enterprising and intelligent. . . . Some authorities say that when it comes to absorbing knowledge they eclipse any people in the world today.”
Perhaps little appreciated by the Church leadership at the time was a legal development of major significance to prospective Mormon missionary work in Japan. In 1894, the Japanese government agreed to revise the series of commercial treaties, collectively called the Ansei treaties, that the Tokugawa shogunate had signed with eleven Western nations in the late 1850s and the early 1860s.The Ansei treaties not only allowed the signatory countries access to major ports and commercial cities for trading purposes, but also gave their nationals the right to be tried in a consular court according to their own laws. In exchange for these extraterritorial privileges, however, the Ansei treaties and the associated domestic statutes limited foreigners freedom of access in Japan. In principle, foreigners were not allowed to travel in Japan without explicit permission and were required to live in designated foreign settlements established in the treaty ports and cities, most notably Yokohama, Kobe, and Tokyo. The foreign settlements were restricted areas, in which the Japanese government strictly controlled entrance by Japanese and exit by foreigners.
Attempts to change the Ansei treaties began a few years after the imperial government took over the governance of Japan from the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868. The new government of Emperor Meiji commenced the seemingly fruitless effort of renegotiating with the foreign powers the terms of what it had started calling the Unequal Treaties because of the system of extraterritoriality enjoyed by the foreigners in Japan. The revision of the fifteen Ansei treatiesremained the single most important objective of Japanese foreign policy during the subsequent quarter of a century. The end of extraterritoriality, even a modification of it, was opposed by the treaty port communities. They generally took a hostile and condescending attitude towards the natives and wanted to maintain their privileges and freedom from Japanese law. On the other hand, the Protestant missionaries were in favor of a modification. They were eager to proselyte in the interior without resorting to subterfuge or fearing harassment from the police.
The system of extraterritoriality was beset with problems and was not a sustainable arrangement anyway.First, in some countries, such as the United States, the constitutionality of consular courts was questioned. Second, there was a lack of experienced officers to administer justice. Third, the appeals process was so costly that many (mostly Japanese) were effectively deprived of justice. For example, those tried in consular courts had to file an appeal with a higher court located in foreign countries, such as Shanghai (Britain) or Saigon (France). Some serious crimes such as murder could not be tried in Japan in the first place. Fourth, some countries did not maintain consuls in Japan. Fifth, problems occurred when jurisdictions overlapped (as would happen when a case involved a Frenchman and a Dutchman). For these and other reasons, extraterritoriality in Japan was becoming increasingly unworkable by the late 1880s. Thus, the treaty powers were prepared to make concessions in return for commercial advantages, such as access to the Japanese market. In part to ease the apprehension of the foreign powers, the Japanese government took a series of measures to reform its legal system along Western lines, including its criminal, commercial, and civil codes.
After several failed attempts, Japan finally secured an agreement in 1894 with the British government that would abolish extraterritoriality in exchange for allowing foreign merchants to have access to Japan outside the treaty ports and cities. With the decisive British agreement in hand, the Meiji government succeeded in convincing the other countries to sign similar agreements, beginning with the United States in 1895. The revised treaties came into force for all fifteen treaty powers in the summer of 1899 amid some domestic furor over the prospect of allowing foreigners, especially Christian missionaries, to move freely among the populace.
Heber J. Grant and his associates arrived in Yokohama just two years after the foreign settlement there had been legally abolished and foreigners could live and travel in Japan as they pleased. This is not to say that missionary work could not have been conducted in Japan prior to 1899. In fact, several mainstream Christian denominations had already been established in Japan and had met with some success.However, their method of proselyting was not the kind the Mormons generally employed. Mainstream churches had established their bases of operation in the foreign settlements, notably in Yokohama, Tokyo, and Osaka, and had reached the Japanese by building mission schools, where religion could be mixed with secular instruction. Christianity was also spread by foreign teachers employed in Japanese schools; these teachers were given somewhat greater freedom of movement within the country. Most of the notable Christian converts of the Meiji period were social elites who were influenced by Christian teachers while studying at some of the country’s most prestigious institutions of secondary or higher education. Given the limited financial and human resources of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the second half of the nineteenth century, however, building schools probably would not have been possible for the missionaries in Japan.
Reactions of the English-Language Press
When Grant and his associates arrived two years after the segregation of foreigners had been lifted, Yokohama possessed a thriving foreign community along the harbor in the original settlement as well as in a newer settlement upon a hill overlooking the harbor. To meet the needs of the foreign community, estimated at between 2,000 and 2,400 in number,Yokohama maintained several foreign-language newspapers, including the Japan Advertiser, the Japan Herald, and the Japan Mail. Of these, the Japan Advertiser (founded in 1890) was the only notable newspaper under American management. Unfortunately, because all of these newspapers had a circulation of at most only several hundred, no known copies from this period exist in any Japanese public library. Thus, for information regarding the foreign press in Japan, we must rely on newspaper clippings in Elder Alma O. Taylor’s scrapbook, references in his diaries, and some weekly mail editions that have been kept in major libraries overseas.
The English-language press in Yokohama reacted immediately to the arrival of the Mormon missionaries. By this time, the Protestant missionaries, who were an important component of the foreign community in Yokohama, had already been informed by their headquarters that the Mormon missionaries would shortly be arriving in Japan.The elders’ arrival on August 12 was reported in the Japan Advertiser on the following day, with a comment that the Mormons would “find the native apparel better than their wares.” This rather unkind reaction of the Japan Advertiser possibly reflected the fact that the paper was at that time under the editorship of a Unitarian missionary, Arthur M. Knapp (editor, 1899–1902), who might have traveled on the same ship as the Mormon missionaries. The Advertiser’s reaction, however, may have exaggerated any lack of civility on the part of the Unitarian missionary, for Elder Grant wrote the following in his journal a few days later:
I got a letter to the editor of the Advertiser, Mr. Napp [sic], and called on him. He received us very kindly and promised us fair treatment at the hands of his paper. He published the address to the Japanese people and wrote an editorial that we need not look for much success in this land but said we would be kindly received by the Japanese people.
The significance of the Japan Advertiser reaction lies not so much in its message as in the fact that it was the first to report the arrival of the Mormon missionaries and consequently gave rise to a proliferation of newspaper reports, articles, and editorials on Mormonism during the following month.
At that time, both in terms of influence and readership, the Japan Mail and the Japan Herald were much more important in Yokohama and elsewhere in Japan.Of the two, the Japan Herald was more hospitable to the Mormons. On August 14, Grant visited the office of the Japan Herald and received a warm reception. The editor said that he would like to write a story about the Mormon missionaries and agreed to publish an eight-hundred-word official statement that Elder Grant had prepared. As the editor had promised, the next day’s Japan Herald carried the entire transcript, unedited, of Grant’s “Address to the Great and Progressive Nation of Japan,” which in part reads:
In company with my associates sent to you from the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Salt Lake City, Utah, an Apostle and minister of the Most High God, I salute you and invite you to consider the important message we bear. We do not come to you for the purpose of trying to deprive you of any truth in which you believe, or any light that you have been privileged to enjoy. We bring you greater light, more truth and advanced knowledge, which we offer you freely.
An account of the interview with Grant was published on the same day (August 15). After quoting the thirteen Articles of Faith in their entirety, the account explained the missionary program of the Church (in which some 1,600 missionaries worked without remuneration), the proper name of the Church (with Mormons being a nickname), its belief in the Book of Mormon, the termination of polygamy with President Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto, and the secular accomplishments of Utah Mormons. Grant wrote in his journal: “The Herald report of my interview is very fair indeed and the next day after its publication I called and thanked Mr. Harrison for it.”At that time, J. H. Brooke was both the owner and the editor of the Japan Herald; Harrison may well have been his subordinate. The elders’ cordial relationship with Harrison appears to have lasted for a long time, as Alma O. Taylor suggested in his journal on February 2, 1902: “In the evening [we] entertained at supper Mr. Harrison the editor of the Japan Herald.”
The Japan Mail, on the other hand, was not so hospitable but took a consistently hostile position towards the Mormons. For example, it accused the Mormons of believing in polygamy and thereby degrading women, of coming to Japan “in the guise of Christianity” to carry men to “the days of Lot and Abraham,” and of being “corruptors of morality” and “enemies of pure happiness”; it equated plural marriage with concubinage; it belittled the letters to the editor written by Grant; and it reprinted a rather lengthy anti-Mormon article entitled “The Mormon Menace,” written by a non-Mormon resident of Utah.At that time, the Mail was both owned and edited by Captain F. Brinkley, a retired British army officer who was connected somehow with the Japanese government. As will be explained more fully below, the Mail’s anti-Mormon stance reflected its Protestant missionary clientele. The Mail’s stance may also have been a reflection of its usual anti-American sentiment, which was quite strong in the foreign settlement community at that time. On August 17, the Mail called the Herald the “champion of the Mormon Mission” because of its favorable views of the Mormons. In response, that evening the Herald called the Mail’s editor “an amateur journalist.” The Mail asserted that the Mormons should not be allowed to remain in Japan to preach, a position echoed by the Japanese-managed Japan Times of Tokyo in its August 20 editorial.
From the vantage point of faraway Kobe, another large foreign settlement immediately west of Osaka, some 350 miles southwest of Tokyo,the editor of the Kobe Chronicle wrote this perspective on the press war in Yokohama:
[The] arrival of a Salt Lake City Apostle with a number of elders has aroused some attention in Japan, though it seems to have caused far more stir among the foreign newspapers than among the Japanese, who naturally regard the establishment of one more sect in Japan with more or less indifference. As was to be expected, the missionaries already established in this country are not pleased at such an encroachment on their preserves, and one ex-missionary now conducting a boarding-house in Yokohama even refused to give the Mormon missionaries accommodation. A Yokohama foreign journal which may be taken as representing the missionaries even went so far as to advocate that the preaching of these missionaries should be officially forbidden.
The editor then goes on to criticize the Japan Times:
It is not very surprising, perhaps, that such intolerance should be advocated by a foreign journal in touch with missionaries already established in the country, but we certainly were surprised to find the Japan Times, published in Tokyo and edited by a Japanese, taking up the same attitude a day or two later, and urging that the teaching of Mormon doctrines should be prohibited in this country.
Predicting that the Mormons “will find [that] their efforts at proselytisation in Japan will be received with stolid indifference,” the Chronicle editor concluded by calling for religious tolerance:
It is to be hoped that religious intolerance is not one of the innovations from the West which is to be introduced into Japan. . . . [We] hope that the Government will not be misled by the efforts of rival propagandists into a departure from the attitude of tolerance which has been so honourable a feature of the Meiji era, and in which Japan has set such a fine example to Christendom.
Strictly on rational grounds, the editor, probably an American named Robert Young, was not fond of Christianity.Thus, his opposition to Christianity in general was translated into his fair treatment of the Mormon missionaries who were being ill treated by Protestant missionaries.
The more substantive problem with the foreign press in Yokohama was the lack of professionalism, compounded by the small size of the foreign community itself. According to historian James Hoare, the “invective of the Yokohama papers became notorious not only in Japan but far outside the country. The lack of real news often meant that editors had little better to fill their papers with than personal attacks on their rivals. The smallness of the foreign communities meant that no such attacks could be ignored and so the cycle went on.”Moreover, the smallness of the foreign communities also meant that the newspapers depended heavily on subscribers for operating funds. Consequently, maintaining an impartial view on issues was difficult, and “switches in editorial policy, even under the same editor, were . . . a marked feature” of what has been called “treaty port journalism.” The controversy with which the Mormon missionaries were accosted by the Yokohama foreign press was a product of treaty port journalism, the very type of newspaper controversy the elders were later counseled by the First Presidency to avoid.
Reactions in the Japanese Press
Despite the Kobe Chronicle’s claim that the Mormons had been met with “indifference,” the elders also received wide, though by no means universal, coverage in the Japanese press. Likely, the Japanese press obtained the news of the arrival from the August 13 issue of either the Japan Advertiser or the Japan Herald.The Jiji Shinpo of Tokyo quickly responded on August 14 by noting the arrival. The Yamato Shinbun (also of Tokyo) published a similar report the following day. At the turn of the twentieth century, Tokyo had over a dozen competing newspapers, among which the Yorozu Choho had the largest circulation (at close to one hundred thousand), followed by such papers as the Hochi Shinbun, the Niroku Shinpo, and the Chuo Shinbun. The Kokumin Shinbun, the Tokyo Asahi Shinbun, and the Miyako Shinbun were also important. With a circulation of only about ten thousand, the Jiji Shinpo was considered to be a first-rate newspaper and was extremely influential because its readership was concentrated in the business community.
Beginning on August 16, the story of the elders’ arrival was picked up by a number of regional newspapers throughout the country. Probably the news was obtained from the wire services or from the papers’ Tokyo correspondents, who could communicate via telephone or telegraph, which had connected most major points of the country by that time.The Niigata Shinbun and the Tohoku Nippo (Niigata), the Kobe Yushin Nippo, and the Shizuoka Minyu Shinbun were the first regional papers to report the news. They were followed by the Osaka Asahi Shinbun, the Kyoto Hinode Shinbun, and the Hokkoku Shinbun (Kanazawa) on August 17. Subsequently, reports, articles, and editorials relating to the Mormon missionaries and their message were published extensively in many of the country’s major newspapers, including the Ryukyu Shinpo of Naha, Okinawa.
In Tokyo, correspondents of the Jiji Shinpo and the Niroku Shinpo both reported accounts of interviews with the Mormon missionaries. On August 16, the Jiji devoted the top two-thirds of page four (fig. 1) to an interview with Elder Grant held at the Grand Hotel. The interview summarized Grant’s business career and explained the history and beliefs of the Mormons, including their persecution, industry, and polygamy. This interview was picked up by the Kyoto Hinode Shinbun on August 18 and by the influential Kahoku Shinpo (Sendai), which published it in two parts on August 18 and 20. Another interview, conducted by a Niroku Shinpo’s reporter, was published in that newspaper in five parts on August 17, 18, 19, 21, and 23, again summarizing the history and beliefs of Mormonism. The Niroku also published on August 19 a cartoon depicting the four elders (fig. 2) and, more significantly, the entire English-language text of Elder Grant’s “Address to the Great and Progressive Nation of Japan,” with a Japanese translation, on August 19 and 20 (figs. 3a, 3b). All in all, at least fifteen Tokyo-based newspapers reported in one form or another the arrival of the Mormon missionaries during the months of August and September 1901.
Fairly extensive commentary including an exposition on Church history and doctrines was also found in the Kobe Yushin Nippo (August 16), the Yamato Shinbun (August 17–22, 24–27), the Osaka Asahi Shinbun (August 19), the Osaka Mainichi Shinbun of Osaka (August 21, 23–24), the Moji Shinpo of Moji (August 22), the Kyochu Nippo of Kofu (August 24, 27–28), and the Tokyo Mainichi Shinbun (September 5–6 and 8). The Kyochu Nippo series was a verbatim copy of the Osaka Mainichi series. Except for the Osaka Asahi article—which presented the thirteen Articles of Faith (see discussion below) and discussed in a factual manner the nature of the Book of Mormon, the proper name of the Church, the place of secular pursuits in Mormon religious life, and the reasons for and practice and termination of polygamy—all the rest were anti-Mormon in tone. For example, all but Yamato referred to the Spaulding theory as a credible explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon. Other frequently referenced topics included claims about fraudulent banking practices in Kirtland, the immoral and questionable character of Joseph Smith, the political ambition of the Church to establish an independent kingdom, the founding of a secret society to protect Joseph Smith’s life, the execution of oaths to demand absolute obedience to authority, the Mountain Meadows massacre, and other usual fares of anti-Mormon literature. The Mainichi (Tokyo) called the Mormon religion “superstitious,” “dubious,” “unworthy of an educated person’s attention,” and its teachings “incompatible with civilization.”
One religious newspaper gave particularly extensive coverage to the Mormons. The Kyogaku Hochi of Kyoto published at least twenty-nine articles on Mormon themes between August 18 and September 24. Founded by a Buddhist priest in 1897, the Kyogaku Hochi was informally affiliated with the Jodo-shinshu sect of Buddhism.Significantly, it was read not only by Kyoto’s citizenry but also by subscribing temples and other religious institutions throughout the country.
The newspapers contained translations of Mormon terms and texts that remained in the Japanese Church vocabulary for years. Of particular significance was the August 19 issue of the Osaka Asahi, in which the thirteen Articles of Faith and the expression Latter-day Saints were translated into Japanese. In the choice of words and sentence structure, the translation of the Articles of Faith is almost identical to the one the Church would subsequently adopt, indicating the possibility that the Church translator, Goro Takahashi, consulted the Osaka Asahi translation.The translation of the phrase “Latter-day Saints” (Batsujitsu Seito), is also the same as the one which was subsequently to be used by the Church. The Osaka Asahi’s translation of the Articles of Faith was reprinted in the August 26 issue of the Yamato Shinbun and the August 29 issue of the Ryukyu Shinpo. In the August 18 issue of the Yamato Shinbun, the expression “Book of Mormon” was translated as Morumon Kei, the same wording that would be used by the Church for over ninety years.
Next to the arrival of the LDS missionaries, the most widely reported event was the refusal of a Yokohama boardinghouse keeper—an ex-Protestant missionary named Staniland—to admit them. This event was described in Alma O. Taylor’s journal entry for August 13 as follows:
During this afternoon we had been hunting for a place to board which would be cheaper than at the hotel and at one place to which Bro[ther] Kelsch, Bro[ther] Grant and Bro[ther] Ensign were directed they found suitable rooms but when they were about to accept them, the landlord said: “We had been expecting some Mormon preachers from Utah” The Brethren said that they were the ones and had just arrived the day before on the steamer Empress of India. “Oh!” said he, “I cannot take you under any consideration.[”] After talking with him a few moments during which they asked him if he would not like to hear the other side of Mormonism, he said that he did not and would not have anything to do with them or their money, so they left him and sought elsewhere for acomidations.
This incident was first reported by the English-language newspapers. The Japan Mail covered the event on August 16 in a condescending manner by saying that the paper was “given to understand that the Mormon elders who recently arrived in Japan are not staying at Beverly House, No. 2, Bluff,” to which the Japan Herald sharply reacted in its evening edition. The Herald accused the “tenant of the premises in question” for appearing “to glory in his indefensible conduct” by reporting the incident to “the all too complaisant Mail,” and concluded that “to save trouble to future applicants for rooms, advertisements emanating from No. 2, Bluff, should be worded after this fashion: ‘Lodging to let, but only to persons deemed by the letter, to hold correct opinions. . . . Particulars to be had on the premises, at No. 2, also at the Japan Mail Office.’” The Associated Press carried the news with a commentary that the Mormon missionaries had received “a sample of the lack of Catholicity which characterises Christian workers in the Orient, and of the sectarian feeling which vitiates their work.”
Starting August 19, the boardinghouse incident was picked up by Japanese newspapers in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Moji, and Okinawa.For some reason, the story became distorted by the Japanese press to the effect that Staniland had admitted the missionaries but his wife, finding that they were Mormons, kicked them out. Some editorials, such as those in the Mainichi (Tokyo) on August 21 and in the Jiji on August 25, capitalized on this version, arguing that the sexual immorality of Japanese men was reinforced by the blind obedience of Japanese women, who should be more like American women. Undergirding the reaction of the Mainichi and other papers to the Staniland incident was the antiprostitution movement, a major social force at that time, as well as the conflict in Japanese society over the proper role of women.
The Question of Polygamy
The Mormon missionaries, representing a religion whose recent history included belief in and practice of polygamy, arrived during a time of national debate over antiprostitution and monogamy. From the mid-1880s on, Christians led a movement to abolish the system of licensed prostitution in Japan, in part responding to a similar movement in leading countries of the world.Earlier, in 1872, the Meiji Government had abolished the system of licensed prostitution that involved slavery by issuing the Anti-Slavery Law and the Prostitute Liberalization Law. The following year, however, yielding to pressure from brothel owners, the government allowed prostitutes to engage in the profession of their own free will and brothel owners to offer their facilities to such prostitutes.
The antiprostitution movement regained momentum in 1885, when a women’s magazine called Jogaku Zasshi was inaugurated and began campaigning against licensed prostitution. In December 1886, the Tokyo Women’s Temperance Union was founded with the broader objective of promoting the liberalization of women and a charter that included (1) promoting the establishment of a wholesome association between husband and wife, (2) improving the status of women in the family, (3) abolishing prostitution, and (4) establishing the system of monogamy. Three years later, it filed a petition with the government, stating that the prevalent practice of concubinage was adultery. Also, in 1890, a move toward consolidation began. Local antiprostitution organizations joined together to establish the National Anti-Prostitution League, and in 1893 the Tokyo Women’s Temperance Union absorbed other Christian women’s organizations throughout the country to become the Japan Women’s Christian Temperance Union.By the late 1890s, the antiprostitution movement was a major national movement and a significant social force.
In this social movement, a significant role was played by the Mainichi of Tokyo and the Salvation Army, which had arrived in Japan in 1895. The Mainichi, an antiprostitution newspaper, set up a daily column in which it reported the names of prostitutes who left the profession.The Salvation Army, on its part, preached against the evils of prostitution in the August 1, 1900, issue of its magazine Toki no Koe (War cry), calling for licensed prostitutes to leave the profession and offering assistance and asylum to those who did so. On August 5, as a group of Salvation Army volunteers were walking through the red light districts of Tokyo with copies of the magazine, they were attacked by mobs hired by brothel owners. This incident was reported in newspapers throughout the country.
Thus, the Mormon missionaries arrived in Japan at a time when Japanese society was debating the evils of its social institutions that subjugated women, including licensed prostitution and, more broadly, the marital relationship between husband and wife. In this light, it is easy to understand why almost all of the editorials on Mormon themes published in Japanese newspapers at that time discussed the Japanese practice of concubinage in the context of Mormon polygamy. For example, in a two-part front-page editorial published August 16–17, the Yamato Shinbunmade a far-fetched suggestion that the people of nobility (who frequently practiced concubinage) should all become Mormons and that the commoners be forbidden to become Mormons. This way, the editorial argued, the evil practice of concubinage could be eliminated in Japan. On August 21, the Tokyo Mainichi Shinbun wrote a front-page editorial entitled “Foreign Mormonism and Domestic Mormonism,” arguing that Japan’s elite society did not have the moral qualification to reject Mormonism and that the practice of concubinage should be abolished. Other negative editorials were even introspective. For example, on August 24, the Kyoto Hinode Shinbun published an editorial stating that prohibiting the preaching of Mormonism by legal means would be useless unless the system of monogamy was firmly established first. Otherwise, a “type of Mormonism” would continue to flourish in Japan.
Heber J. Grant fought the perception that the Mormons had come to preach polygamy. In his interviews with the Japanese press as well as in his letters to the editors of the Japan Mail and the Japan Herald, he vehemently denied any suggestion that the Mormon missionaries had come to preach polygamy, referring to the Manifesto of 1890. He was not entirely persuasive, however. For one thing, he simultaneously made rather laudatory remarks about polygamy, including the logic behind the Mormon practice of polygamy, phrases such as “beautiful” polygamist families, and comments about the social and biological virtues of such practice. Perhaps more importantly, Grant admitted that he himself was a polygamist.Probably for these and other reasons, many newspaper articles continued to claim that the Mormons still believed in polygamy, while fully acknowledging the official termination of the practice in the Manifesto.
The image of the Church as a polygamist institution lingered for years. In October 1901, Kajiko Yajima, the president of the Japan Women’s Temperance Union, and Chiseko Seda, the President of the Tokyo Women’s Temperance Union, filed with the Home Ministry a petition to ban the preaching of Mormonism on the grounds that the Mormons still believed in polygamy and that there were still polygamists in Utah.As late as March 1907, Alma O. Taylor, then the president of the Japan Mission, felt compelled to write for the Jiji Shinpo an article stating there was “no fear of polygamy.” Likewise, E. D. Thomas, who succeeded Taylor, devoted considerable space to the topic of polygamy in an article published in the May 1911 issue of the Seiko (Success), a monthly magazine.
Hirobumi Ito and the Legal Prostitution Controversy
The Mormon elders carried at least one letter of introduction to Hirobumi Ito (1841–1909), perhaps the single most important political leader of the Meiji period and one of the founding fathers of modern Japan.The letter was written by Angus M. Cannon, the younger brother of George Q. Cannon and the manager of the Deseret News office during 1867–74. Cannon’s association with Ito resulted from the visits Ito made to the United States in 1870 as a part of his responsibility at the Ministry of Finance to study the monetary system of the United States and in 1872 as a member of the mission led by Prince Tomomi Iwakura, Junior Prime Minister, to begin preliminary renegotiations of treaty revision with the treaty powers and to study their modern institutions.
One thing Elder Grant had not been informed of was the fact that Hirobumi Ito was known in Japan as a womanizer and an advocate of licensed prostitution.In 1896, in an interview with the Tokyo correspondent of the London Daily News, Ito stated that he supported licensed prostitution as a realistic way of controlling vice and protecting the public. A summary of this interview was published in the September issue of the Fujin Shinpo, the monthly magazine of the Tokyo Women’s Temperance Union, and Ito’s position on prostitution became widely known in Japanese society. Thus, the August 24, 1901, issue of the Yonezawa Shinbun called Ito “a Mormon in deed” and a “good representative of Mormonism in the Orient.” The August 27 issue of the Yamato Shinbun, referring to Grant’s letters of introduction to Ito, stated that Ito was the “overlord of the sexual world, and the supreme ruler of carnal desire.” The fact that Grant had a letter of introduction to Ito sent a wrong and unintended signal to the Japanese public.
Apparently, Elder Grant had every intention of meeting Ito upon his arrival in Japan. His intentions were implied in a short Deseret Evening News article under the headline “Arrive at Yokohama, Apostle Grant and Companions Now in the Mikado’s Empire.” The article stated:
President Snow received a cablegram today from Apostle Heber J. Grant announcing that he and his companions arrived safely at Yokohama last midnight. The cablegram merely stated the fact, giving no further particulars but those who are familiar with his plans say that Apostle Grant will first call on the highest government officials including the mikado himself, and will lose no time in getting the work started in Japan.
The Japanese press was more explicit. The August 16 issue of the Jiji Shinpo quoted Grant as saying that he would visit Ito with letters of introduction. On the same day, the Shizuoka Minyu Shinbun speculated that Ito might be the first person to be baptized by the Mormons.
However, Elder Grant was probably unsuccessful in meeting Ito in Tokyo. According to the August 21 entry of the journal of the Japan Mission, “President Grant went to Tokyo again, not having been successful in meeting the parties yesterday for whom he has letters.”On January 19, 1902, Alma O. Taylor wrote in his journal, “Another [of the Japanese students who visited us was] the nephew of Marquis Ito to whom we have letters of introduction from Bro[ther] Angus Cannon, who, with his Brother Geo[rge] Q. Cannon, had met the Marquis a number of times.” The fact that the missionaries still possessed the letters from Angus Cannon seems to suggest that as of January 1902 the letters had not yet been given to Ito. A more definitive statement comes from the October 19, 1909, journal entry of Alma O. Taylor:
After dinner we were favored with a call from Mr. Akimoto a Japanese who has been engaged in beet raising in Idaho for a long time. . . . A friend of his who is a high official in the government told him that when Apostle Grant and his companions came to Japan, Marquis (now Prince) Ito proposed welcoming officially, by public reception, the Mormon missionaries. All Buddhist and Shinto sects approved the suggestion but the Christians (?) were unanimous in their opposition and said they could not accept an invitation to such a reception. This manifestation of ill will caused the Marquis to withdraw his proposal.
If this story is true, it establishes that Ito was willing to see Grant but, for reasons unknown, did not.
Constitutional and Legal Questions
Another topic frequently treated in the newspapers concerned the limits to the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Meiji Constitution. Chapter 3 article 28 of the constitution reads, “Japanese subjects shall, within limits not prejudicial to peace and order, and not antagonistic to their duties as subjects, enjoy freedom of religious belief.”The key expression is “peace and order,” which can restrict the exercise of religious freedom. Many newspaper articles and editorials used this restriction to argue that the government should prohibit the preaching of Mormonism. The first newspaper to take this line of reasoning was the Japan Mail, which argued in its August 17 issue that the Mormons should be officially forbidden to preach in Japan because their teaching threatened peace and order. Over subsequent days, this position was adopted by Japanese newspapers, including the Chugoku, Hinode, Osaka Mainichi, Moji Shinpo, Kyushu Shinbun, and Yonezawa Shinbun.
These arguments may have some validity as a Home Ministry ordinance stipulated that a religious organization must file an application before it could be authorized to preach. On August 24, the Tokyo Asahi and the Osaka Asahi (both under the same management) became the first newspapers to take a look at this issue, noting that the Mormons had not yet filed an application with the authorities. Possibly in response to this Asahi report, which was picked up by the Japan Herald in the evening, Elder Grant decided to go to Tokyo on August 27 to consult with the Home Ministry about securing a permit to preach and to distribute tracts in Japan.He returned again to Tokyo on September 2–3, in order to “attend to some business with the Home Department.”
As Elder Grant discovered, the procedure to secure a permit was quite simple, requiring only that an application be filed with the local authorities, in this case, with the Kanagawa Prefectural Government. The press closely followed the actions of the Mormon missionaries in this matter. Between August 25 and 29, the newspapers frequently made references to the possible decisions of the authorities.Curiously, the only thing which the Ito-affiliated Tokyo Nichinichi reported during August was the fact that, as of August 28, the Mormons had not filed an application. The Tokyo Nichinichi may have considered it wise to distance itself from the controversy surrounding the possible relationship between Ito and the Mormon missionaries.
Elder Grant and his companions continued their attempts to meet the legal requirements. On September 6, they visited the chief of the Kanagawa Police Department to determine the requirements of the law. The chief told them he would consult with the governor before informing them of the particulars. This incident was noted in the September 10 issue of the Kyogaku Hochi.In the event, on September 17, application was made to the governor to preach the gospel. On September 20, the missionaries received a communication from the governor’s office, requesting them to reappear and answer questions regarding their intentions. On September 21, when they called again at the governor’s office, they were told that they “did not have to make such an extensive application as [they] had done in order to get permission to preach and establish a mission, and that there were some points which the law required that had not been mentioned in the application.” These developments were reported in the September 21 issue of the Tokyo Nichinichi, the September 23 and 24 issues of the Kyogaku Hochi, and possibly other newspapers, as well as the October issue of the nationally influential Chuo Koron magazine. On October 5, after a few more attempts, the missionaries completed the bureaucratic formalities.
The Osaka Controversy
As previously noted, some of the newspaper editorials used the arrival of the Mormon missionaries as an occasion to discuss the contemporary social issues of Japanese society. Other editorials, however, took definite positions for or against the idea of allowing the Mormon missionaries to preach in Japan, with the Japanese press being roughly split between antagonists and defenders. The antagonists were led by the influential Jiji Shinpo, which on August 20 argued that Mormonism was a “perverse” religion and should be banned in Japan “as in the United States.” On August 23, the Chuo Shinbun likewise argued that Mormonism should be banned in Japan as the Mormons had not truthfully given up the practice of polygamy. These articles were followed by the August 27 issue of the Kyushu Nippo, which supported the idea of banning Mormonism for being against Japan’s morals.
There were defenders of Mormonism as well. On August 21, the day after the Jiji published its devastating editorial, the Shizuoka Minyu Shinbun defended the right of the Mormons as a Christian sect to preach in Japan, saying that the mysterious stories associated with Mormonism were not unusual in religion. On August 25, the Dokuritsu Shinbun, noting the earnestness of the Mormon missionaries in traveling thousands of miles to come to a country with a totally different culture, stated that complacent Japanese religionists could learn much from Mormonism. The Chukyo Shinpo of August 27 devoted part of its front page to appeal to those who were advocating the idea of banning Mormonism, saying that the Mormon missionaries could not be so stupid as to preach the illegal practice of polygamy. It went on to say that what should be feared was not foreign Mormonism but domestic Mormonism, namely, those wealthy Japanese gentlemen who practiced the evil of concubinage.
The most spectacular debate took place in the commercial city of Osaka between its nationally influential Osaka Asahi and the Osaka Mainichi, which fiercely competed with each other and were often known to take opposite positions on issues that came up. The debate began on August 20, 1901, when the Asahi devoted two front-page columns to an editorial entitled “Mormon Missionaries Arrive,” which read in part:
Mormonism is distinguished by its practice of polygamy. Although it professes to uphold Christian teachings, it is despised by other Christians. . . . Several years ago, the United States Government enacted a law to prohibit [polygamy], but the practice has not yet disappeared. Its teachings still approve [polygamy], and the state of Utah, in which the headquarters are located, is a stain in the United States of America. Now, the missionaries of a religion which is considered perverse, feared and despised by the people of America and Europe, have come to Japan and set out to preach.
The writer then went on to say that he objected to Mormonism because the polygamy it promoted could “degrade the public morals of Japan.” As Japanese society was just beginning to recognize the evils of concubinage and public opinion was rising against such practice, he continued, allowing a polygamist religion to be preached might “rekindle” the dying practice. He recognized the constitutional freedom of religion but argued that the freedom of religion was guaranteed only insofar as religious practice did not violate the law. Inasmuch as polygamy was prohibited by law, it was constitutional to prohibit the preaching of Mormonism in Japan. “Hence,” he wrote, “Mormonism is a perverse religion that disrupts social ethics and endangers public peace. It is thus appropriate from the standpoint of national policy to prohibit it today and to cut off the penetration of the vicious practice before it spreads.”
The Mainichi immediately responded to the editorial. On August 21, it devoted two front-page columns to an editorial entitled “What in the World Should Prevent Them?” After noting the wide coverage the Mormon missionaries had received in the Western-language newspapers in Yokohama and others in Tokyo and Osaka, the editor stated:
I believe that there is no need to prohibit the preaching of Mormonism. . . . Inasmuch as it recently made a public declaration that it would give up polygamy, by the order of the U.S. Government, there should be no fear that it will dare to break the law of the land even in Japan. Moreover, although our ancient custom may allow concubines to be kept, it does not permit the stupid act of having several legal wives. How could the teachings of the Mormon sect change it by themselves?
The editor then explained the existence of many religions in Japan by saying, “It is because the Japanese people are broad-minded and do not show particular dislike for any of them. Why should the Mormon sect be the only exception?” Although the editor noted the Mormon “tactics” of resorting to supernatural phenomena, he brushed them away by saying that Mormonism was not different from any other Christian, Buddhist, or Shintoist religion in this regard. He did not necessarily compliment Mormonism, however, because he said it was a foolish religion. He simply argued that education, and not legal sanction, should be used to make sure that such a religion not be accepted by the ignorant populace. As to the right of the Mormon missionaries to preach, however, his position is clear:
Constitutionally, Japan upholds the freedom of religion. As long as it is not prejudicial to public peace, any religion is permissible, be it Buddhism or Christianity. Among the ignorant public, even Tenrikyo or Renmonkyo is allowed to exist. Then, what in the world should prevent the coming of Mormonism?
The impact of this debate should not be underestimated for at least three reasons. First, Osaka was (and, to a lesser extent, still is) an important economic center of Japan, the principal city of the historic Kansai region extending from Kyoto to Kobe. During the pre-WWII period, the economic might of Osaka was unmatched by any city, including Tokyo, in terms of manufacturing and finance. Second, the Osaka Asahi and the Osaka Mainichi were both newspapers of national significance. Their influence went beyond the fact that they were both read widely within the greater Kansai region. In 1888, the Osaka Asahi had expanded to the Tokyo market by purchasing the Mezamashi Shinbun and changing the name to the Tokyo Asahi Shinbun.Although in 1901 the Osaka Mainichi did not have an explicit Tokyo presence, its management and editorial board included nationally prominent figures. Third, the Osaka newspapers were the first in Japan to assume a modern corporate form of management and, as such, quickly expanded their scale of operations, aided by their efficient sales and advertisement departments. In 1897, for example, the Osaka Asahi had begun to subscribe to the Reuter wire service. In response, in 1897, the Osaka Mainichi appointed Kei Hara, a prominent diplomat and future prime minister, to become the editor-in-chief (and, later, president of the company). Hara used his diplomatic connections to appoint foreign correspondents in various parts of the world. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Asahi had a readership of about 120,000, while the Mainichi claimed 100,000.
A Voice of Reason: Eitaro Okano
One member of the press who was particularly helpful to the Mormon missionaries’ cause was Eitaro Okano, a prominent journalistand the English-language editor of the Niroku Shinpo. The Niroku Shinpo promoted social justice and, as such, naturally defended the rights of prostitutes to leave the confinement of forced servitude. The Niroku also had a tendency towards sensationalism and quickly gained in readership after it was restarted in 1900. By the end of 1903, it had the largest circulation in Tokyo, with a peak readership of about 150,000 people.
Okano first visited the missionaries on August 14, 1901, when they were still at the Grand Hotel.Elder Taylor’s journal entry on that day states, “In the evening a Japanese editor of the largest Japanese newspaper in Japan published at Tokyo came from Tokyo to interview us.” It has already been mentioned that, as a result, the Niroku published a five-part article based on that interview plus the full text of Elder Grant’s address to the people of Japan.
Apparently, the relationship between Okano and the missionaries became even more cordial. On August 23, Elder Taylor recorded:
We found two representatives from the “Niroku Shimpo” [sic] newspaper published in Tokio. These gentlemen had called to learn more concerning our doctrines than what [they had] published already. . . . They had come to learn particularly of the difference in doctrine between our Faith and the beliefs of other Christians.
It was also Okano who arranged and assisted Elder Grant’s initial meeting with the Home Ministry official in charge of the religion bureau.It is possible that his association with the missionaries continued for some time.
Okano’s greatest contribution to Mormon proselyting work, however, was the editorialhe published on August 22. Amid the frenzy caused by the voices of the influential Jiji and Osaka Asahi calling on August 20 for the authorities to prohibit the preaching of Mormonism, Okano defended the rights of the Mormons and encouraged readers to look at positive aspects of Mormonism. He began by reminding readers of the finiteness of human wisdom, so that only unlearned people are “proud of the low level of our present civilization and are satisfied with the shallow state of our present knowledge.” He then went on to say:
It may be that what a majority calls good is evil and what a majority calls evil is good. . . . I am not advocating an unnecessarily skeptic view. . . . I am only a man who cannot blindly follow the opinion of a majority. . . . Mormons have come. They have come for the first time since the opening of Japan. I welcome them. We must first find out (what they believe). During the sixty some years since the establishment of their religion, they have withstood extreme opposition and persecution and now claim the membership of 300,000 and 1,200 teachers. They virtually control the entire state of Utah, which has come to be called the most prosperous region in the United States. This is a fact. In (Mormonism), there must be something that is appealing. . . . Four missionaries have come across the vast ocean to enter Japan, which has been influenced by the civilization of Christian nations of the West for a long time. We must say that they are brave. As we hear, they are supporting themselves with their own funds. Their spirits are to be admired. I cannot bear mistreating them with a bitter face. I will instead welcome them with a smile of good will, and desire to listen to their doctrines.
Undoubtedly, Okano’s August 23 visit to the missionaries was a fulfillment of his own public declaration. His was indeed a voice of reason amid the hysteria of the day.
From mid-August to mid-September 1901, at least forty newspapers throughout the country devoted considerable space to articles and editorials on issues surrounding the arrival of Mormon missionaries. When we recognize that there were only about one hundred respectable newspapers in Japan at that timeand that the arrival of the Mormon missionaries was also covered by two of the leading national magazines, we realize that the extent of the press coverage was massive indeed.
To be sure, the extensive press coverage was initially triggered by the generally hostile resident foreign press, which received much of its subscription revenue from the Protestant missionary community. Fuel was added by the culture of the treaty-port newspapers, which were managed by amateur journalists who took delight in petty arguments among themselves. The resident foreign press was frequently used as a source of foreign news; as such, the foreign language newspapers in Japan at that time exerted greater influence than the number of subscribers might have indicated. The foreign press’s story of the arrival of Mormon missionaries was quickly picked up by the Japanese press. The ensuing fervor with which the subject of Mormonism was treated in the Japanese press was undoubtedly related to the tendency of Japanese newspapers towards sensationalism (designed to outrival their competitors) as well as to the sheer curiosity of the Japanese public concerning the Mormon practice of polygamy.
On a more fundamental level, however, the zeal with which the arrival of the Mormon missionaries was covered emanated from Japanese society’s own internal conflict regarding the morality of its own marital and related social institutions, which was a major social issue dividing the country at the turn of the twentieth century. In this respect, the reaction of Japanese society to the arrival of the Mormon missionaries, as reflected in its press coverage, provides a means of understanding the fabric and dynamics of that society. Against the dominant sentiment calling the authorities to ban the preaching of Mormonism, there were voices of reason and fairness, which indicated the (increasingly) pluralistic nature of Japanese society.
In terms of proselyting work, the impact of the extensive press coverage was likely more positive than negative, if there was any effect at all. For one thing, the Japanese public was by then quite tolerant of religious diversity and probably did not care one way or another what the Mormons believed or practiced. Hence, whatever the negative message the press coverage might have contained, it was more than offset by the positive benefit of mere publicity. Second, responding to this publicity, there were some positive developments for the Church, such as an offer of speaking opportunities for the missionaries and the publication of a major treatise on Mormonism entitled “Morumonkyo to Ramakyo (Mormonism and Lamaism)” by an influential Christian writer named Goro Takahashi.Third, as another consequence of the publicity, the Mormon missionaries received numerous letters and visitors from all over the country. Although these visitors did not immediately result in convert baptisms, the missionaries did, as a result, meet in late August with Tatsutaro Hiroi, who agreed to serve as their translator, interpreter, and Japanese teacher. Be that as it may, when newness wore off, the interest in Mormonism waned. Nonetheless, through both newspapers and magazines, the press was instrumental in making sure that the news of the arrival of Mormonism in Japan penetrated every region and sounded in virtually every ear.
A Partial List of 1901 Japanese Newspapers and Magazines That Discussed the Mormons, with Their Depositories
Chuo Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Dokuritsu Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Hochi Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Japan Times, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Jiji Shinpo, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Mainichi Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Miyako Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Niroku Shinpo, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Tokyo Asahi Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Tokyo Nichinichi Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Yamato Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Yomiuri Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Yorozu Choho, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Osaka Asahi Shinbun, Osaka University Library, Osaka
Osaka Mainichi Shinbun, Osaka University Library, Osaka
Chugoku, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Chukyo Shinpo, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Hokkoku Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Kahoku Shinpo, Kahoku Shinposha, Sendai
Kobe Yushin Nippo, Kobe Municipal Library, Kobe
Kyochu Nippo, Yamanashi Prefectural Library, Kofu
Kyogaku Hochi, Ryukoku University Library, Kyoto
Kyoto Hinode Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Kyushu Nichinichi Shinbun, Kumamoto Prefectural Library, Kumamoto
Kyushu Nippo, Fukuoka Municipal Library, Fukuoka
Kyushu Shinbun, Kumamoto Prefectural Library, Kumamoto
Moji Shinpo, Kitakyushu Municipal Library, Kitakyushu
Niigata Shinbun, Niigata Prefectural Library, Niigata
Ryukyu Shinpo, Okinawa Prefectural Library, Naha
Shinano Mainichi Shinbun, Matsumoto Municipal Library, Matsumoto
Shizuoka Minyu Shinbun, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Tohoku Nippo, Niigata Prefectural Library, Niigata
Yamanashi Nichinichi Shinbun, Yamanashi Prefectural Library, Kofu
Yonezawa Shinbun, Yamagata Prefectural Library, Yamagata
Chuo Koron, monthly, National Diet Library, Tokyo
Taiyo, monthly, National Diet Library, Tokyo