Lodge Star in the East No. 640 [2]

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Outline History

The Lodge was organized at a meeting of M.M’s held in Yokohama on February 4th, 1879 called for the purpose of erecting a lodge under the constitution of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The petition was supported and recommended by the R.W.M. and a P.M. of the sister lodge in Kobe, Hiogo and Osaka No. 498, the D.G.M. of the English Constitution and the W.M’s of Yokohama Lodge No. 1092 E.C. and O’Tentosama Lodge No. 1263 E.C. The petition was forwarded to Grand Lodge on 12th March 1879 and presented to Grand Lodge on 1st May. A Charter was graciously granted, and at the meeting held on 16th September of that year, the Lodge was consecrated and the R.W.M. and his officers installed.

Due to the catastrophic earthquake of 1st September 1923 all the early records of the Lodge were lost in the fire which followed the destruction of the Masonic Hall, Ltd., then situated at 61 Main Street, Yokohama. It is therefore not possible to furnish information on the labours of the Lodge between the years 1879 to 1920.

The return to Yokohama of brethren who were resident prior to the earthquake was a slow process, but a small nucleus had returned by early 1925 and work was resumed. No proper accommodation could be found but Bro. H. H. Hall, then manager of the American Trading Co., placed their office at No. 255 Yamashitacho at the disposal of the Lodge for a meeting place. Office desks were shifted about so that the principal chairs could be placed in their proper positions, whilst the brethren made do with benches or packing cases. No electric lighting was available and there was no heating. It was a severe winter and the normal dress was heavy overcoats, mufflers and high rubber boots. Jewels and Regalia were mostly makeshift, yet the enthusiasm and sincerity of the loyal handful to keep the light burning amidst the discomforts and inconveniences they had to undergo, were examples of the highest order of Masonic tradition.

Later in 1925 Bro. E. W. Frazer built a warehouse and designed the second story to include ante-rooms and a large meeting ball. New furnishings were obtained, plain but adequate, and by the time it was ready for use, new regalia had been received. In the meantime contributions collected by the United Grand Lodge of England from its members, had been sent to Japan and the English Constitution Lodges bought a piece of property on the Bluff and erected a ferroconcrete Temple, which was dedicated to the Glory of God and to Freemasonry on the 12th February, 1927.

As the original Temple had been shared by all bodies then established in Yokohama including Lodge Star in the East and the Scottish Rite bodies of the Supreme Council, S.J., U.S.A. some difference of opinion arose when they were asked to sell back their shares as the new Temple was restricted (as to ownership) to Lodges holding Warrants under the English Constitution. It is regrettable that under these circumstances Lodge Star in the East decided to withdraw its tenancy and for approximately 31/2 years meetings were held in the banquet room of the Oriental Palace Restaurant at the entrance to South Pier in Yokohama.

This was not in the best interests of the Lodge, the Craft, or the owner at the establishment as by that time Masonry had come under the surveillance of the authorities and unwelcome attention was focussed on the Lodge activities. These circumstances dictated the return to the Temple on the Bluff in 1937 when differences were resolved and Harmony prevailed once more.

With the approach of World War II unpleasantness with the authorities again increased and all lodges in Yokohama, Kobe and Tokyo were objects of suspicion and newspaper propaganda. A passive attitude was decided upon, some lodges even going into recess. However Star in the East carried on and would have held a meeting on the 9th December, 1941 had not war broken out on the 8th (Japan time). The Charter of the Lodge was confiscated immediately. Fortunately Bro. C. Rodriguez-Jiminez was Secretary of the Lodge, and the Minute Book by chance, was at his home. As he had diplomatic immunity as the Consul-General for Venezuela he was able to persuade the authorities when they entered his home to seal up all his papers including the Minute Book without examination. Later he was allowed to take these sealed packages out of Japan on being evacuated in the MS Gripsholm in July 1942. These records eventually reached the Grand Lodge of Scotland through the courtesy of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.

Among the passengers evacuated at the same time were Bro. J. L. McSparran, R.W.M., and seven other members of the Lodge and an Emergency Meeting of the Lodge was held en route to Rio do Janeiro. It is interesting to note that two letters from Grand Lodge enclosing two M.M.M. diploma escaped censorship and were received by the Secretary in November 1941. These diplomas were presented at this Emergency Meeting.

During the war years Bro. Michael Apcar, R.W.M. in 1928 and Treasurer in 1941 was singled out for attention from the authorities because of his masonic affiliations. He was arrested immediately and subjected to continuous interrogations over a period of months and ultimately consigned to solitary confinement, the total length of his incarceration being over 14 months, during which time he steadfastly fulfilled all the points of his obligations to the Craft and refused to divulge anything. His persecution was indeed most severe and his health was impaired through mal-nutrition. The highest respects of the Lodge and the Craft are due him.

Immediately following the cease fire in 1945, Craft members of the armed forces formed a Club which was called the Tokyo Bay Masonic Club. Many of the Lodge members including Bro. Apcar joined. Shortly thereafter four boxes containing records of the English and Scottish Lodges were found and amongst the contents was the Charter of the Lodge. Bro. Apcar was importuned by many brethren to resume labour and through his efforts Gen. Eichelberger, CO. 8th U.S. Army and also a member of the Craft, had the Temple restored. The first regular meeting of the Lodge was held on April 9th, 1946 and from thence forward the Lodge had more work than they could cope with, even after holding four meetings a month.

Brethren of the armed forces in Yokohama and Tokyo then petitioned the Grand Lodge of the Philippines to erect Lodges throughout Japan and under that banner some 24 lodges were established in the District. Notwithstanding this, Lodge Star in the East continued to receive many applicants due to the esteem in which the Lodge was held and for its high standard of work and its rigid principles.

Late in 1947 Bro. Harvey Colton while sojourning in the United States, happily made contact with Bro. McSparran (who had been presumed to have passed away) and from him obtained the old Minute Book for our archives.

The Lodge was overjoyed to hear in 1948 that the M.W. Grand Master Mason had appointed Bro. Michael Apcar Honorary Junior Grand Deacon in recognition of the outstanding services he had rendered to his Lodge and to the Craft. Bro. Apcar is still a member of the Lodge and is now living in retirement in the United States. In 1949 Bro. George Colton was appointed Honorary Grand Bible Bearer.

In 1957 the Grand Lodge of Japan was formed and Bro. Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Jimenez was appointed the first Grand Master. He had previously been Grand Master (in 1947) of the Grand Lodge of Venezuela. The Grand Lodge of Japan was recognised by the Grand Lodge of Scotland on the 7th May 1959.

The Lodge was received into the District of Hong Kong and South China (later renamed the District of the Far East) on 1st May 1958 and was honoured by Bro. G. W. Colton being appointed Superintendent for Japan on 9th September 1958 and W. Substitute District Grand Master on 1st December 1958. On this date Bros. H. Colton and J. Levy were also appointed Honorary Senior District Grand Wardens.

Bro. G. W. Colton accompanied by Bro. T. W. Fripp, District Grand Secretary, and other District Grand Officers paid the first official District Grand Lodge visit to the Lodge on 10th March 1959. On the 30th November 1959 Bro. G. W. Colton was appointed W. Depute District Grand Master and Bro. H. W. N. Child was elected Junior District Grand Warden. The R.W. District Grand Master first visited the Lodge on 8th March 1960.

Bro. G. W. Colton was further honoured by the M.W. Grand Master Mason on 30th November 1960 when he was promoted to the rank of Honorary Junior Grand Deacon, and he had the great pleasure of receiving his Honorary Grand Diploma personally from the M.W. Grand Master Mason at the District Grand Lodge Communication held in Hong Kong on 23rd February 1961.

On 30th Nov. 1961 Bro. H. Colton (R.W.M. 1929) was appointed Hon. Grand Sword Bearer and Bro. J. Levy, Hon. Grand Marshal.

The Lodge meets on the second Tuesday of each month from September to June at the Masonic Temple, The Bluff, Yokohama.