Essays on the Modern Japanese Church: Christianity in Modern Japan

Article excerpt

Essays on the Modern Japanese Church: Christianity in Modern Japan.

By Yamaji Aizan. Translated by Graham Squires, with introductory essays by Graham Squires and A. Hamish Ion. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan, Center for Japanese Studies, 1999. Pp. viii, 196. L18.00/$28.95.

Yamaji Aizan's (1864-1917) Essays on the History of the Modern Japanese Church debuted in Japanese in 1906 and is the earliest study of Protestantism's crucial role in Japan's Meiji (1868-1912) transformation. The recent publication of the English-language translation by Graham Squires, lecturer in Japanese at Australia's University of Newcastle,brings Yamaji's vibrant eyewitness account to a much wider audience. The accompanying essays by Squires and A. Hamish Ion of the Royal Military College of Canada, as well as abundant biographical data and an up-to-date bibliography, enhance the book's usefulness.

Yamaji was among the first wave of Japanese youth-mostly former samurai educated in new mission schools-who swelled Protestant ranks from 1873 (when the postfeudal government rescinded the shogun's prohibition of Christianity) through the late 1880s. They saw Christianity as the spiritual engine of the West's material power and, as church leaders, worked hard to have Christian values perfect Confucianism and Bushido, guide Japan's Westernization, and inspire democratic institutions.

After 1890 nativist sentiments rose against Christianity. …