Notes presented at Conference in Hong Kong

R.W. Child. P.D.D.G.M.

8th September 1969


  1. It is easy to get off the tracks in this discussion, as past discussions and correspondence have shown. What are the facts?
  2. The present situation is that the U.G.L. believes it has the right to sell the property, since all Directors of Masonic Hall Ltd., Hong Kong, are English Masons and (after 1926 but not before) all 100 shares of the pre-World War II Masonic Hall Ltd., H.K., were held by the pre-war English District Grand Lodge, Japan. On the opposite side, the Scottish Lodge “Star in the East”, No. 640 S.C., and the A. & A. Scottish Rite Bodies (formerly of Yokohama, now of Tokyo) wish to maintain the status quo, so that the Yokohama Masonic Temple may continue to be used for Masonic purposes, as it has since its erection in 1926 and consecration in 1927. (The previous Temple in a down-town Yamashita-cho site, was demolished in the Great Earthquake, 1st. September, 1923).
  3. It is the contention of the Lodge “Star in the East”, Yokohama, that U.G.L. is under a misapprehension as to the extent of its jurisdiction over the property, and that the powers of the Masonic Hall Ltd. do not extend to sale of the property.
    1. The funds used in 1926-7 to purchase the land at 3 Yamatecho and erect the present Temple derived from the following sources:-
      1. Funds in the possession of M. Hall Ltd. prior to 1st. September, 1923.
      2. Proceeds of the sale of the previous Temple site in downtown Yokohama.
      3. Gifts and donations from Masonic sources other than U.G.L. and English Lodges and brethren.
      4. (By far the largest). The unused portion of the Earthquake Relief Fund made up of contributions from individual English Masons. This Fund was administered by English D.G.L., Japan, which also received contributions from other Masonic organizations throughout the world.
    2. None of the four listed sources of funds used to purchase the land and erect the Temple can be said to have emanated solely from U.G.L.
    3. The Earthquake Relief fund was intended specifically for the relief of Masons and their families in distress because of the Earthquake. The need was fortunately not so great as anticipated, and was in part taken care of by local Masons and Lodges. When English District requested U.G.L. for permission to apply the unused balance to rebuilding the destroyed Temple, it was originally thought to rebuild on the same site. The idea of selling the old site and buying a new site up on the Bluff was a separate one. If the move had not been made, the present confusion as to U.G.L.’s right to sell would not have occurred. The fact that a move was made, ¡n the opinion of Lodge “Star in the East”, does not confer upon U.G.L. an exclusive title to the new site, since U.G.L. did not have exclusive title to the old site. Substantially, the U.G.L. donation to Freemasonry in Japan from the Earthquake Relief Fund can be seen to have been limited to the building of the Temple itself, and not to the land.
  4. In the early 1860’s an Irish Military Lodge worked in Yokohama, and in the late 1860’s Yokohama Lodge, E.C., was petitioned for and consecrated. In the Spring of 1870 “Hiogo and Osaka”, No. 498 S.C. came into being. By the time of the 1st. September, 1923, ‘Quake five or six bodies were using the previous Masonic Temple in down-town Yokohama, which was administered by Masonic Hall Ltd., which had been set up around 1912, and officially located in Hong Kong as a hedge against the vagaries of Japanese Governmental policies. There was a nominal capital value of ¥10,000, broken down into 100 ¥100 shares. About two-thirds of these were subscribed to by English bodies, the balance by “Star in the East” and the four Scottish Rite Bodies. The ¥10,000 figure was far less than the actual value of properties held, even in 1912, and by 1926, when D.G.L. took over all the shares, as a condition of their building donation, the real value of a share was about ten times the face value of ¥100. This last was testified to in a Minute of D.G.L. at that time. The important fact is that the non-English users of the Temple turned their shares over to D.G.L. at original face value. It was a Masonic (not a commercial) transaction, honouring a Constitutional requirement of U.G.L. that the places wherein English Masons meet shall be wholly bereft of non-English control. The word is “control” and not ownership, according to the contention of Lodge “Star in the East”.
  5. It is also necessary to look closely at the history of the Yokohama Masonic Temple and its predecessors. From 1870 to 1926 (56 years) all jurisdictions shared premises and whatever control or ownership existed. From 1927 to 1941 (13 years) all shares in Masonic Hall Ltd. were held by D.G.L. and all using bodies, including the two English Lodges that did not re-open postwar, were tenants paying rental. From 1945 to date (24 years) the Temple has been operated by local Yokohama Masons. Masonic Hall Ltd. was defunct as of 1941, and only in 1957 was it reformed in Hong Kong, the bill being paid, not by U.G.L., but by the using Lodge “Star in the East”.
  6. Bro. A. R. Catto, P.D.G.Sec, D.G.L., E.C., informs us in a pre-war pamphlet that “In February 1900 a Masonic Permanent Committee was formed, representing all the Masonic bodies working in Yokohama....” which over a decade later acquired the perpetual leasehold on Lot No. 61. He says.. “It was taken over by Masonic Hall Ltd., duly incorporated and registered as owners of the property in 1911, and the Craft resumed work therein”. No. 61 was the site of the Temple destroyed in the Great Earthquake of 1st. September, 1923, and the immediate predecessor of the property we are discussing.
  7. It must not be thought that the controversy is of recent origin. Bro. Catto wrote: “In 1932, owing to regrettable friction with one of the directors of Masonic Hall Ltd., Lodge “Star in the East” removed from the Masonic Temple and held meetings from December, 1932, to June, 1936, in the premises of the Oriental Palace Hotel.Reconciliation with the Directorate of Masonic Hall Ltd. speedily followed the decease of the brother who originated the trouble”. The trouble referred to is the same basic issue we are discussing today.
  8. I would be remiss if I did not report that some senior Brethren in Yokohama are quite indignant that anyone should even consider trying to sell the property, and point out that Japanese law and practice give preponderant strength to a tenant, especially a long term tenant, and that even if a sale could be effected, taxes and a major share for the tenant would materially reduce any proceeds.
  9. At the very last extremity, the non-English shares surrendered at par would be required to be returned at par. Above and beyond this, the tenant’s proportion of sales proceeds would have to be established in a Japanese court. The results of such a confrontation would be disastrous for Masonry.
  10. Basically, then, Yokohama wants the present status to continue. Masonic Hall Ltd. was conceived as a security measure for all the users in Japan; the 100 ¥100 shares never purported to represent the property value; the fact that the tenant English Lodges did not choose to reopen postwar does not diminish the rights of the surviving users to continue working on the current basis.



What sum payable over how many years will U.G.L. accept as quit claim in view of:-

  1. Land was already available.
  2. Actual impossibility of sale if present users continue to occupy.
  3. Past surrender of shares at par.
  4. Equity if x 70 (80?) of tenants if taken to Japanese Court.
  5. Other considerations elaborated in recorded correspondence.