Tim Wangelin

Freemasonry is the oldest, largest fraternal organization in the world. Freemasonry has brought together men of all religions and nationalities. Men of any religion that believe in one God may join.[1] Modern Freemasonry began in 1717 in England with the public announcement of the Grand Lodge of England. Since then, the Fraternity has spread world wide in its quest to promote brotherly love, relief to the distressed, and truth. It has played an important role in the formation of the United States of America. George Washington, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Winston Churchill are just a few of the great men in the past three centuries who have been Freemasons.

Freemasonry's universality has spread to Japan. Tadasu Hayashi, a Japanese statesman who lived from 1850-1913, was probably the first Japanese to be made a Freemason, although it was in England. He eventually had to resign from the Freemasons because of political pressure from those in the Japanese government.[2] Freemasonry in pre-war Japan and was mostly concerned with only foreigners and was met with resistance by the Japanese. During the war, Freemasonry was totally banned. After the war, General MacArthur helped to insure Freemasonry would have a safe place in Japan. This report will focus on the Japanese view of Freemasonry, Japanese who have become Freemasons, and what Freemasonry is doing for Japan today.

Freemasonry was brought to Japan shortly after the arrival of U.S. Naval Commodore Matthew C. Perry (who was a Mason and member of Holland Lodge #8, New York City, New York, U.S.A.[3] in 1853. It is reported that within a year of Perry's arrival the first Masonic meeting among Americans was held. There are no records to prove this meeting. However, Japanese historians indicate that there were meetings among American who used certain symbols. The description of these symbols can be identified as symbols used by the Masonic Order.[4] In 1867, the Yokohama Masonic Hall was constructed, which is believed to be the first all-stone structure of modern design in Japan. It was later completely destroyed in the Great Earthquake of 1923, along with its regalia, furniture, library, and records. The building survived an earthquake in 1870 without any damage. The lodge was rebuilt four years later in 1927.[5]

Freemasonry was not looked on favorably in Japan. It was considered to be "secret and subversive" by the Japanese. The Japanese government was very suspicious of Freemasonry. Japanese were forbidden to enter or organize any "secret or subversive" society, fraternity, or institution.[6] Japanese authorities did keep a "hand-off" policy even after extraterritoriality was abolished and the "secret" Masonic Fraternity came under Japanese law. Up until just before Pearl Harbor there were no noticeable interferences in Masonic activity.[7] However, Freemasonry was attacked by Jiro Imai, Assistant Professor of the Literature Department of Tokyo Imperial University at a meeting of nationalistic sociology professors of the same university on June 28, 1921. He said it was a dangerous, subversive, secret society. This was the first attack in the twentieth century on Freemasonry in Japan. Marshal Hisaichi Terauchi, Lt. General Nobutaka Shioten, and other high ranking Army officials fueled the anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic movements. As far as they were concerned, it was a crime for any Army officials to be Freemasons. The Japanese people could not understand what the problem with Freemasons was when American Presidents, Kings of Great Britain, and many other exceptional statesman were members of this Fraternity. Dr. Sakuzo Yoshido, a scholar, was accused of a being a Mason. He was brave enough to publish a booklet entitled, "The Study of Freemasonry" in which he strongly defended the Fraternity.[8]

By the spring of 1940, Masonic activity in Japan had slowed down considerably. Many members had left the country. In the summer of 1941 the U.S. and Japan froze each others' assets. In November 1941, the last Masonic meeting was held in Japan until after the war.[9] Articles were published in newspapers as a warning to what would happen to Masons if they didn't get out of Japan.[10] Tamotsu Murayama, the first Japanese to be raised to the Degree of Master Mason[11] (meaning the Third Degree of Freemasonry was conferred upon him and he was made a full-fledged Mason) in post-war Japan, recalled a story that on December 8, 1941 the police came to arrest him. They asked him if he had been associated with any secret organizations attempting to overthrow the Japanese government, and specifically mentioned the Freemasons. He was questioned because he was working at the Associated Press office in Tokyo and had been involved with the Boy Scouts.[12] The Freemasons along with the International Rotary Club and Boy Scouts were banned in Japan. The Rotary Club was said to be conspiring with the Freemasons against Japanese policies. The Freemasons were said to be the origin of the Boy Scouts' pledge of brotherhood and therefore banned. During the war, public exhibitions were held in a Tokyo department store where the "fearful secret" of Freemasonry was shown to the Japanese people. Equipment and Masonic regalia were displayed in a most shameful matter. Most anti-Masonic propaganda was translated from Hitler's materials and prepared by Lt. General Shioten.[13]

The Yokohama Masonic Temple was closed throughout the war. When Americans revisited the Lodge they discovered several items missing. One was the organ which was found in the home of a Japanese police sergeant who had been in charge of prosecuting Masons during the war. Another item was a magnificent clock presented to the Lodge by the Scottish Rite. The clock was found in the office of the Yokohama Chief of Police. The clock could be identified by a brass plate that was removed and placed in a less noticeable place on the clock by "Hiram" Miyakawa, who later became a Mason. Miyakawa saved all the records and jewels of the Lodge.[14] John Diesem (a Mason from Wisconsin, who served as the first State Senior Councilor of DeMolay in Japan during the mid-1950's) relayed a story that was being passed around during the 1950's in Masonic circles in Japan, in which an old man had lived in the Yokohama Temple throughout the war and waited for the American Masons to return. Shortly after the war they returned, he had them dig up the original charter and all the regalia from the Lodge which he buried in the backyard.[15] The research indicates that the old man was most likely Miyakawa.

Masonic lodges were once again formed in Japan by American soldiers during the occupation. At the time these Lodges came under the [Masonic] jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. All the lodges had the blessings of General Douglas MacArthur (a Mason himself).[16]

Boy Scouts (whose founder, Daniel Carter Beard, was a Mason) played a large role in bringing Freemasonry back to Japan after the war. In 1947, General MacArthur authorized the reactivation of the Boy Scouts in Japan. The Imperial HouseHold Agency and other top leaders in Japan were briefed by Tamotsu Murayama (then not a Mason) on the fundamental principles of Freemasonry, which are to build character and future citizenship. American Masons promised to get behind a project to realize "Building For A Better Tomorrow". They also promised Japanese leaders they would support Scouting, which was considered to be a very important post-war project to reconstruct Japan with the spirit of humanity and democracy in the minds of young people.[17]

Prince Higashikuni (uncle of the Emperor and post-war Prime Minister), showed his interest in becoming a servant to Freemasonry by becoming the first Japanese in post-war Japan to present an application to the Fraternity. Prince Eun Lee (whose wife is a cousin of the Empress), Naotake Sato (President of the House of Councillors), Ryutaro Takahashi (Minister of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry), Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama, Yahachi Kawai (President of the House of Councillors), Viscount Michiharu Mishima (a former member of the House of Peers who resigned to become Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of Japan), and many other leaders were among the first Japanese to petition the Masonic Order in early 1950.[18]

Freemasonry received extremely favorable endorsements from Japanese leaders such as Count Tsuneo Matsudairu (President of the House of Councillors and father of Princess Chichibu), who commented: "I know Freemasonry very well. I admire the principle of the fraternity that advocates and practices universal brotherhood. I am sure that Freemasonry alone can save this world from destruction. I am sorry to say that I was never able to be raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. Japanese misunderstanding and prejudice toward Freemasonry was one of the main causes of the last war. I am grateful Gen. MacArthur's special consideration to open the door of Freemasonry to Japanese. It will undoubtedly be a social revolution in Japan. It is wonderful to welcome liberty, equality and fraternity." Baron Kijuro Shidehara (Speaker of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister in pre-war Japan), also said: "I became acquainted with Freemasonry many decades ago in London. Then the Japanese Ambassador, Count Tadasu Hayashi, attired proudly in Masonic costume, told me that he had found friends in true spirit everywhere he traveled-because he was a Mason. I even studied Masonic principles through him. I had an opportunity of getting acquainted with Freemasonry. I desired to be initiated, but I was transferred to other posts from London before my desire was accomplished. There was an unwritten agreement that no Japanese was taken into Freemasonry in Japan due to some misunderstanding since Freemasonry was considered as a subversive organization. I am very happy to know that Gen. MacArthur is helping us to be raised socially equal with the spirit of fraternity by removing all social barriers and discrimination. This step is certainly a great social revolution in Japan. I welcome this opportunity to liberate Japanese. As the former Prime Minister to be responsible for the new Constitution of Japan, I welcome Gen. MacArthur's gesture more than anything else." General MacArthur was pleased with their statements and hoped that this would open the door for Japanese to begin joining the Fraternity.[19]

The question of allowing Japanese to become Freemasons was brought the Grand Lodge of the Philippines attention in 1949. They left the decision up to the individual lodges in Japan.[20] Some American Masons opposed this on religious grounds. They argued Japanese candidates must be Christians. However, there were many good Japanese leaders who were not Christian. John Cole, an American in Washington, D.C., drew a final conclusion that the Holy Bible should be used in place of all other sacred scriptures while a candidate takes his obligation. This simply ended minor arguments and oppositions. The initiation fee in Japan was ¥30,000. This was considered too high for most Japanese and in the beginning it was lowered to ¥5,000. It was then decided that some American Masons would become sponsors for Japanese candidates and after some loud discussions the fee was set at the original amount of ¥30,000. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Counter Intelligence Corps investigated the Japanese candidates to make sure they were worthy of living up to the high standards of Freemasonry.[21] All prospective candidates are investigated by the Lodge they are petitioning in the United States and investigated even more strictly in Europe. So bringing in the F.B.I. was not especially drastic, and the candidates didn't seem to mind.

On April 5, 1950 the first group of Japanese were raised to the Degree of Master Masons.[22] Takasho Komatsu became the first Japanese to occupy the position of Worshipful Master of a Masonic Lodge, Tokyo Masonic Lodge No. 125, F. & A. M. (Free and Accepted Masons).[23]

Almost immediately after Tamotsu Murayama's raising, he took the initiative to translate the Masonic ritual into Japanese.[24] By 1954 an all-Japanese degree team (a group of Masons who perform the Degrees on candidates) had been assembled and was headed by Prince Eun Lee. They gave a demonstration of the First Degree in Japanese to some American Masons. The American Masons were so impressed they permitted the conferring of First Degree on a candidate on the in Japanese. They also urged the completion of the translation of the Second and Third Degrees.

On March 26, 1955, Ichiro Hatoyama and Yahachi Kawai, both Entered Apprentices (First Degree Masons), were made Fellowcrafts (Second Degeree Masons), and raised to Master Masons. The Second and Third Degrees were conferred on Ichiro Hatoyama in his home due to his physical condition. Yahachi Kawai's Degrees were conferred on him in the Tokyo Masonic Temple. A tea party was held in celebration and many congratulatory messages were read from other Grand Lodges, and from General MacArthur, and Former President Truman (who was a Mason and Past Grand Master of Missouri).[25]

The Grand Lodge of Japan was formed in 1957, the charter was granted by the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.[26] The first Japanese Grand Master of Japan was Sadaichi Horiuchi, who served from 1959-1960.[27]

The Grand Lodge of Japan today consists of eighteen Lodges, four of which are Japanese speaking. These Lodges are Torri Masonic Lodge No. 6, Nagoya, Tokyo Yuai Lodge No. 11, Tokyo, Hokkaido Lodge No. 17, Chitose, and Wakkanai Centennial No. 21, Sapporo. There are approximately 2,300 members in the Grand Lodge of Japan, of which, 20-25% are Japanese, the remaining are mostly Americans. Other bodies of Freemasons also exist in Japan as in other countries, such as the Tokyo Scottish Rite Bodies, Tokyo York Rite, Torii Oasis Shrine Clubs of Japan (which includes the Kanto, Kanagawa, and Misawa Shrine Clubs), and the Santama Lodge of Perfection. Eastern Star, an organization for women which is associated with Freemasonry, exists in Japan.[28] Prince Eun Lee's wife was initiated into the Eastern Star in 1953.[29]Youth Groups also are present in Japan, such as DeMolay (for teenage boys) and Rainbow Girls (for teenage girls).[30]

Most of the Masonic activity that comes in the form of charity work is carried out by the Tokyo Masonic Association (T.M.A., or Zaidan Hojin), which is a corporate entity registered with the government. It is governed by a board of trustees for which Tokyo Masonic Lodge No. 2 and the Tokyo Scottish Rite bodies each send three members. The number of charities the T.M.A. sponsors is too large to list here. Some of the most notable are the Toy Library, which donates toys to retarded and handicapped children and their parents. In the first four years of the program, the number of T.M.A. centers grew from 32 to 200. The Grand Lodge Annual Picnic is a festival for children from various orphanages, child and maternal associations. From 1976 to 1987 the number of children attending grew from 200 to 800. Various local civic groups attend showing their support for the activities. The T.M.A. also supports the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society which has an eye bank in Kyoto. Since 1976 three Masonic Lodges have participated in an annual sports meet in Kunitachi for handicapped persons.[31] There are also countless local charitable projects carried out by the individual Lodges, such as donations to the distressed, and the support of orphanages.[32]

The Tokyo Masonic Association has its headquarters in Tokyo in a building called the Tokyo Masonic Building. Being dedicated in 1981, it is one of the most modern Masonic Temples in the world. There are Lodge and Scottish Rite Ritual Halls, along with offices for various Masonic bodies. All Masonic Bodies in Japan have access to the building.[33] The Tokyo Masonic Building is located on the site of the former Japanese Imperial Naval Officers Club. General MacArthur oversaw several Masonic projects, including the negotiations with the Japanese government to purchase that land.[34]

Freemasons in some countries keep their existence relatively quiet, even though they are permitted to exist, especially in Europe. For instance, they won't put Masonic symbols on their buildings or advertise their meetings in local newspapers. The Masons in Japan are more noticeable than that. They are more like American Lodges, since most Masons in Japan are American and General MacArthur worked to get Freemasonry on solid ground in post-war Japan. The Lodges advertise and place symbols on their buildings. They are visible but hardly even noticed. Clayton Robertson, a Past Master of a Lodge in Japan, estimates that about four-fifths of the Japanese people have absolutely no idea what Freemasonry is. Of the remaining fifth, there is everything from Japanese Masons, to people who have heard of it but do not know what it is, to Masonic haters. Those who hate the Masons in Japan hate them for the same basic reasons others do in the United States and elsewhere around the world. They are usually religious zealots, socialists, communists, or any one else involved in a tyrannical political movement. While Clayton Robertson was in Japan, he recalled two anti-Masonic incidents. One, a Japanese female socialist reporter/columnist said if she were found dead, find the Masons and her killers would be found. Two, a stained glass window was partially bashed by an individual who claimed that he did it because Masonry does not mention Allah or Mohammed in its ritual.[35]

In a recent trip to Japan and the Far East, C. Fred Kleinknecht (Sovereign Grand Commander of The Supreme Council 33º, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction, United States of America) met with Masons in Japan, among whom, many were Japanese. He had a discussion with them on the aspects of the Scottish Rite in Japan. Fred Kleinknecht reported in the March 1994 issue of the Scottish Rite Journal that Masonry is growing in Japan and the ties between Masons in the East and West are becoming stronger.[36]

Although Freemasons are still a very small group in Japan they will not let up and will continue to strive in their promotion of building a better future and bringing the world closer together. Perhaps T.W. Kinder said it best at the laying of the foundation stone of Kobe Masonic Hall in 1871: "Let us hope the day is not far distant when the foreigner may be free to penetrate to any part of this promising land. Then commerce will receive increasing impulse, and Japan will probably become the great and important Empire its well-wishers desire. Even our royal art of Masonry may find a welcome home amongst the Japanese themselves."[37]


  1. McPeake, Fred W., "Masonry", The World Book Encyclopedia, 1986, Vol. 13, p. 208.
  2. Johnston, James L., "Tadasu Hayashi: The Japanese Diplomat Who Became An English Freemason", Short Talk Bulletin, 1987-03.
  3. Paine, Bill. Member Holland Lodge No. 8, New York City, New York. Personal interview, April 27, 1994.
  4. Peck, Nohea O. A., Masonry in Japan, The First One Hundred Years, 1868-1968, Private Printing for the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Japan, Peter Brogen, The Voyagers' Press, Tokyo, Japan, 1969, p. 98.
  5. Johnston, James L., "The Great Kanto Earthquake and Freemasonry's Charity", Short Talk Bulletin, 1984-11.
  6. Peck, Masonry in Japan, p. 98.
  7. Ibid., p. 21.
  8. Ibid., p. 103-104.
  9. Ibid., p. 19.
  10. Ibid., p. 21.
  11. Ibid., p. 82.
  12. Ibid., p. 99.
  13. Ibid., p. 103-105.
  14. Ibid., p. 19-21.
  15. Diesem, John. First State Senior Councilor DeMolay of Japan, 1956. Personal interview, February 28, 1994.
  16. Peck, Masonry in Japan, p. 49.
  17. Ibid., p. 99-100.
  18. Ibid., p. 100.
  19. Ibid., p. 100-101.
  20. Ibid., p. 50.
  21. Ibid., p. 101-102.
  22. Ibid., p. 101
  23. Ibid., p. 59.
  24. Ibid., p. 102.
  25. Ibid., p. 87-92.
  26. Robertson, Clayton. Past Master of a Masonic Lodge in Japan. Personal interview, March 2, 1994.
  27. Ibid., p. 213.
  28. Robertson, Clayton, Personal interview, April 16, 1994.
  29. Peck, Masonry in Japan, p. 54.
  30. Robertson, Clayton, Personal interview, April 16, 1994.
  31. Tokyo Masonic Association, Tokyo Masonic Association, Pamphlet, Tokyo Masonic Association, Tokyo, Japan, p. 7-15.
  32. Robertson, Clayton, Personal interview, April 16, 1994.
  33. Tokyo Masonic Association, Pamphlet, p. 16.
  34. Robertson, Clayton, Personal interview, April 16, 1994.
  35. Ibid.
  36. Kleinknecht, C. Fred, "East Meets West", The Scottish Rite Journal, March 1994, p. 10-14.
  37. Peck, Masonry in Japan, p. 26-27.