Lodge 640 History [11]

The Bluff Temple 1946-1981

Having been confiscated by the Japanese authorities at the beginning of the Pacific War, the Masonic Temple at No. 3 Yamatecho was returned to the brethren of Lodge Star in the East in March 1946. By this time Masonic Hall Limited (MHL), the nominal owner of the building, had ceased to exist.

Although originally registered in Japan, MHL transferred its registration to Hong Kong when the Japanese authorities became increasingly hostile towards Freemasonry. During the War years this registration was allowed to lapse.

In a move reminiscent of the formation of MHL in 1911, the Masonic bodies sharing the post-War Bluff Temple (Lodge Star in the East No. 640, Far East Lodge No. 124 and Star of the Orient Chapter No. 2) joined together to form a Yokohama Masonic House Committee to administer the building. For the next ten years the three bodies shared the cost of maintenance.

In 1957 the idea of reviving MHL was raised by a small group of brethren in Kobe. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these brethren were unhappy with the increasing American Masonic presence in Tokyo and Yokohama and wished to gain control of the Yokohama Temple, sell it, and use the proceeds to build a new Temple in Kobe. The same Kobe brethren were also responsible for delaying UGLE recognition of the new Grand Lodge of Japan until as late as 1985.

On 4 June, 1958 MHL was re-registered in Hong Kong at a cost of ¥461,246.50. This money was provided by the two Kobe lodges: Lodge Hiogo & Osaka No. 498 (Scottish Constitution) and Rising Sun Lodge No. 1401 (English Constitution). Lodge Hiogo & Osaka later refunded Rising Sun Lodge's share of the money and in 1962 was in turn fully reimbursed by Lodge Star in the East. In an added twist, Lodge Star in the East obtained the reimbursement funds from the Tokyo Masonic Association (later renamed The Masonic Foundation of Japan) which, through its board of directors, was indirectly connected with the same Scottish Rite bodies that had shared the pre-War Bluff Temple.

Thus, with the aid of funds from the Tokyo Masonic Association, Lodge Star in the East gained control of MHL.

Bluff Temple Interior

By the late 1960s the Bluff Temple was in need of major structural repair. At one time a fault in the building's ancient electrical wiring blacked out a large part of central Yokohama and the city authorities threatened to close down the building.

In 1971 the Yokohama Masonic House Committee asked the Tokyo Masonic Association for ¥700,000 in financial aid but was informed that the ¥461,247 loan for the reconstitution of MHL, and part of a subsequent loan of ¥600,000 for Temple maintenance, were still outstanding and that no further loans would be considered.

Not for the first time, the directors of MHL began to consider sale of the Bluff Temple property. News of this reached Far East Lodge No. 1 (formerly Far East Lodge No. 124) and Star of the Orient Chapter 2, the other members of the Yokohama Masonic House Committee. Anxious over the future of Temple and fearing that the Kobe lodges were again behind these moves, they demanded full consultation. This MHL declined, taking the position that Far East No. 1 and Star of the Orient Chapter 2 were merely tenants of a property owned by MHL. Far East No. 1 and Star of the Orient Chapter 2 insisted that, through the Yokohama Masonic House Committee, they had shared administration of the property in the absence of MHL. Moreover, the reconstitution of MHL had been funded by money from Tokyo Masonic Association, an organization linked to the Grand Lodge of Japan, of which Far East Lodge No. 1 was a member.

As the dispute escalated, both sides were forced to hire lawyers and a court case seemed inevitable. Fortunately the differences were resolved before this happened. MHL was able to go ahead and sell the property to Sumitomo Corporation. The proceeds from this sale, whilst significant, were insufficient to purchase an equivalent plot of land in the same area and build a new temple thereon. Star of the Orient Chapter 2 having gone dark in 1981, for several years the two Yokohama lodges met in temporary facilities located behind the Hotel New Grand while MHL considered various options for investing the money.