Lodge 640 History [15]

On the Move

The original cross-rental agreement between Masonic Hall Limited (MHL) and Yokohama International School (YIS) was due to expire in 2006, by which time YIS would have paid, in rent, the equivalent of MHL's original investment in the gymnasium. It was expected that a new arrangement would then be negotiated and the two lodges would continue to use the basement area. In late 2001, however, YIS asked MHL to consider vacating the premises before the end of the agreement. An increase in student enrollment had necessitated expansion of facilities and there were plans to use the basement as a dance studio and PTA store.

Although MHL and the members of both lodges were unprepared for this new development, they agreed to move out by July 2002, thus giving the school sufficient time to refit the basement before the start of the new academic year. This schedule left MHL with two daunting tasks: finding alternative facilities before September 2002, and finding interim storage space for the lodge's furniture, fittings, and office equipment.

One major problem was lack of funds. Most of the money received from YIS as rent for the building had been misappropriated by Gustav Swanson, a former MHL director, and his wife Eiko. After a prolonged legal battle that resulted in the Japanese Supreme Court upholding the High Court ruling in favor of MHL, only a fraction of the stolen money was recovered.

MHL considered various options such as purchasing an existing building and converting part of it for lodge use, or buying land and building a new temple. It soon became clear that MHL's meager financial resources would not cover the purchase of property in the Bluff area. A suitable plot of land was eventually found in Midorigaoka, close to Yamate Station and within a few yards of the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club, one of the oldest sports clubs in Japan and the social centre of the foreign community in Yokohama.

Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Building work commenced with a traditional Shinto groundbreaking ceremony held on May 11, 2002. Preliminary boring revealed, however, that the substratum was weaker than expected and that deeper foundations were required. This additional work pushed back the estimated completion date from September to November 2002.

The problem of interim storage was solved when the United Seamen's Service Club in Honmoku agreed to rent part of its facilities to MHL. The problem of where to hold both lodges' September and October meetings was solved when Bro Qureshi, owner of The Tiffin in Yamashitacho, offered free use of the banquet room above his restaurant.

Construction of the new temple proceeded on schedule and both lodges were able to move into the temple in November 2002.