History of Masonry in Japan

Leo L. Noel, PM, Secretary

The First Lodge in Japan

The first known Lodge in Japan was Sphinx Lodge which operated under the Grand Lodge of Ireland during the years 1862-1865, a few years after the opening of the ports of Japan by Commodore Perry of the United States Navy. The roster consisted primarily of members of the military forces with a few local foreign residents, for a total of about 20 members.

According to the memory of an old resident, the Lodge Charter once blew out of the window of the Lodge. After a day or two it was discovered by a pedestrian and safely restored to its rightful owners. This incident no doubt prompted the Brethren to have the document framed.

This Lodge was situated at No. 80 Settlement, now known as Yamashita-cho. The Bluff, where the Temple is now located, was then a thickly wooded chain of hills, extending from Yokohama Bay (Mississippi Bay as it was then called) separating the Motomachi Shopping District, as we see it now, from Areas 1 and 2, then a small fishing Village called Honmoku.

Masonry in Yokohama

When Commodore Perry’s forces withdrew, Sphinx Lodge was inactivated and the local foreign residents petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for a charter which it received on June 26, 1866. This Lodge was called Yokohama Lodge No. 1092 and was very active for many years. They held their first meeting in 1867 in the private home of Mr. J. R. Black who was editor and proprietor of the Japan Gazette, the first English language newspaper to be printed in Japan. The first issue of this newspaper was a two-paged affair of great interest; apart from general and local news, shipping notices and advertisements, it warned foreigners to exercise extreme caution when travelling beyond the limits of the Settlement, as Japan during that period was in a state of unrest. It was not unusual for residents to go about armed. One Masonic brother, as a child, remembers his father shooting off a pistol in the garden before he retired at night, to remind any prowlers that he possessed a gun. In 1868 Yokohama Lodge 1092 moved to new premises at No. 38 Yamashita-cho, just about where Yato-bashi spans the canal into Motomachi Shopping Center. They occupied the rooms above the auction hall belonging to Messrs. John W. Hall & Company. The Charter which had been granted to this Lodge was signed by the Earl of Zetland who was then Grand Master of England. Prior to World War II it went into darkness and it has not been reactivated as of this time. Its Masonic banner is presently hanging on the wall of the Masonic Temple in Yokohama.

Otentosama Lodge No. 1263 was chartered in June 1869, also under the Grand Lodge of England. They met in the Yokohama Masonic Temple for many years. However, this Lodge also went dark prior to World War II and has remained in darkness since. Their original banner is also hanging on the wall of the Yokohama Masonic Temple.

Lodge Star in the East No. 640 was chartered on September 16, 1879 under the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

All Lodges in Yokohama formerly conducted their meetings in a building at No. 61 Yamashita-cho called the Masonic Hall which was a two storied brick building built in about the year 1890 with shares which were issued to the Lodges by the Masonic Hall Ltd. All meetings were held there until when practically the whole of Yokohama was wiped out in the Great Earthquake of September 1, 1923.

The Great Earthquake

The Great Earthquake was perhaps the greatest catastrophe (before the atom bomb) in the history of Japan. “Imagine two great cities,” said one witness, “comparable to Paris, Berlin or Chicago, wiped out within two minutes. At two minutes to twelve you had everything; at twelve o’clock a vast plain of rubbish, stone, charred wood, indistinguishable litter, and blackened motionless forms, with arms outstretched, lying in the hot sun, and all you owned was the suit you were wearing and the umbrella which you were surprised to find you were still carrying.” The two-storied brick building called the Masonic Hall which housed the Lodges on Lot No. 61 Yamashita-cho, fell like a pack of cards and was completely demolished by the earthquake and fire.

In order to keep up the Masonic activities after the disaster, meetings were held in Kobe at the Corinthian Hall for a few months. The first Masonic Meeting held in Yokohama was in the ruins of the American Trading Company offices by Lodge Star in the East. According to WB Michael Apcar “old packing cases and boxes were used for the principal chairs, and lighting was by candles, the atmosphere shared by those Brethren present demonstrated the true character of Masons, poor and penniless, but rich in Brotherly love, Relief and Truth.” Another example of the sincerity of our fraternity was that of Illustrious Brother Frazar 33°, Deputy for the Supreme Council, A & A.S.R. Masons for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, who built his temporary office building and granted the upper story to the Masonic Lodge at which site all meetings were held until 1927.

The recovery after the devastation of the Great Earthquake in Yokohama was slow. Even as late as 1963, in the area comprising the Bund and Main Street, there are vacant lots which were never rebuilt; not because of the bombing, the result of World War II as one would suppose, but they are, in effect, the scars left by that terrible earthquake which had wiped Yokohama, a thriving city, completely off the map.

Following the disaster, and for a short period, Lodge Star in the East held their meetings in the burnt-out shell of the American Trading Co., near Hanazonobashi. Otentosama Lodge met in the office room of Messrs. Butterfield & Swire Company of the Bund, while Yokohama Lodge held their meetings in Kobe. However, they all assembled in the warehouse of Messrs. Sale & Frazer Company and operated there until 1927.

The Masonic Temple

In the meantime activities had been started to build a permanent Masonic Home, and funds were received from the Grand Lodge of England to enable the Masonic Temple to be built. The site chosen was at No. 3 Yamate-cho on the Bluff where the temple as we see it today was erected. It was owned by the Masonic Hall Ltd. and administered by a group of high ranking masons belonging to the lodges of the English Constitution and dedicated on February 12, 1927. There are two bronze plaques at the entrance, the first bears these words

The Masonic Temple
Dedicated to the Glory of God
and to Freemasonry
Yokohama, 12th February 1927
Stanley Edward White D.G.M. P.G.D.

The cost of the land and of the temple were defrayed out of funds generously donated by United Grand Lodge of England to replace the Masonic Hall destroyed in the earthquake of the 1st September 1923.

The second, which was placed after the war reads:

Commemorating the resumption of labours on 9th April 1946 and in grateful appreciation of the invaluable assistance rendered by Lt. Gen. Eichelberger and the members of Tokyo Bay Masonic Club in restoring this building for the benefit of the Craft. 14th Sept. 1948.

The lodges that held their meetings within its portals were Lodge Star in the East No. 640 S.C., Yokohama Lodge No. 1092 E.C., Otentosama Lodge No. 1263 E.C., Orient-Mark Lodge No. 304 E.C. the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; and Far East Lodge No. 1, of the order of Odd Fellows, (it is coincident that we have now a Far East Lodge No. 1, F&AM) and all these lodges paid dues to the Masonic Hall Ltd. for the use of the building. Due to financial reasons Lodge Star in the East separated from Masonic Hall Ltd. for a few years and occupied an antechamber in the Oriental Palace Restaurant which was located on a corner lot by the entrance to South Pier but returned a year or two later to the Temple on the Bluff.

The War Years

On the declaration of war on December 8, 1941 the Japanese Government confiscated the building together with all lodge furniture, regalia, jewels, tools, implements and books; but even before, at the outbreak of the “China Incident”, in 1937, the Japanese Government had already started a campaign of putting on pressure. This was the beginning of the storm against Masonry and all who happened to be connected with the Craft.

Robert L. Eichelberger

Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger
[See Temple Portrait]

After September 1945, prewar members of Lodge Star in the East with the assistance of Masonic Brethren of the American Occupation Forces reactivated this Lodge on April 9, 1946. Lt General Robert L. Eichelberger, Commanding General of the Eighth United States Army and a Brother Mason materially assisted in the reactivation. Since 1946, many members of the Occupation and Security Forces, both military and civilian, have joined or affiliated with Lodge Star in the East. Prewar and postwar members of Lodge Star in the East have and are still playing a very important part in the furtherance of Masonry here in the Far East.

Tokyo Lodge No. 2015 was chartered by the Grand Lodge of England on August 10, 1883 and its meeting place was also in the Yokohama Masonic Temple prior to World War II. It has not been re-activated since the war. Its banner hangs on the wall of the Yokohama Temple. Tokyo Lodge of Instruction formerly met in Shiba Park at the San Yen Tei.

At one time there were four Masonic Lodges which met at Corinthian Hall in Kobe. Two, chartered under the English Constitution, known as Torii Mark Lodge 837 and Lodge Albion in the Far East 3729 are no longer active; the other English Lodge, Rising Sun 1401 is still active. The Lodge chartered under the Scottish Constitution, known as Lodge Hiogo and Osaka 498, is again active and flourishing. This Lodge sponsored the Han Yang Lodge in Korea in 1906.

Nagasaki Lodge No. 710 operated in Nagasaki City, Kyushu for a short time. However, when Nagasaki's foreign community transferred most of its business to the Kobe-Osaka area about 1911, it surrendered its charter and closed.

The Japanese Imperial Rescript dated December 25, 1887 forbade any meetings of a secret nature. In 1894 the American Masons residing in Japan, apprehensive lest Japan would extend its laws regarding secret societies to foreigners and close all Masonic Lodges, sent an appeal to the United States Government. The Secretary of State took the matter up with the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the decision was that Masonry would not be interfered with, but that no Japanese National would be permitted to join. This was the so-called, “gentlemen’s agreement” which was religiously observed until after the end of World War II. Under General Douglas MacArthur, permission was requested from the Japanese authorities to allow Japanese Nationals to join Masonic Lodges, which permission was freely granted. A well-known Japanese Mason says that when the Japanese Government was questioned about the “gentlemen’s agreement” after the war, the Government disclaimed any knowledge of such an agreement, therefore the Japanese officials said the Japanese Nationals could join the Masonic Lodges, if they so desired.

After the War

During the early days of the Occupation of Japan by the Allied Forces, many Masonic Clubs were started and in due time dispensations were requested from the Grand Lodges in the United States; an example was the Tokyo American Lodge.

This Lodge was instituted about 1947 and operated under dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, but upon the Grand Lodge of the Philippines assuming an active part in the furthering of Masonry in Japan, Tokyo American Lodge returned its dispensation to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut. They then applied to the Philippines for a dispensation and its name was changed to Tokyo Masonic Lodge No. 125 (now known as Tokyo Lodge No. 2 under the Grand Lodge of Japan).

Yokosuka Naval Masonic Lodge No. 120 was the first lodge to be instituted in Japan after World War II under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. This Lodge was instituted in 1947. Following this, fifteen other lodges were instituted under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, as follows:

  1. Far East Lodge No. 124, Yokohama, Honshu
  2. Tokyo Masonic Lodge No. 125, Tokyo, Honshu
  3. Square & Compass Lodge No. 126, Tachikawa, Honshu
  4. Kyushu Lodge No. 127 Kokura, Kyushu
  5. General John J. Pershing Lodge No. 131, Kyoto, Honshu
  6. Torii Masonic Lodge No. 132, Nagoya, Honshu
  7. Moriahyama Lodge No. 134, Camp Drake, Honshu
  8. Sendai Masonic Lodge No. 135, Sendai, Honshu
  9. Nippon Lodge No. 138, Sasebo, Kyushu
  10. Aomori Lodge No. 139, Misawa, Honshu
  11. Kanto Lodge No. 143, Tokyo, Honshu
  12. Kansai Lodge No. 145, Kobe, Honshu
  13. Sagamihara Lodge U.D., Camp Zama, Honshu
  14. Cherry Blossom Lodge U.D., Itazuke, Kyushu
  15. Rising Sun Lodge U.D., Camp Drew, Honshu

All of the above listed lodges with the exception of Numbers 120, 143 and Rising Sun U.D. are, as of this writing (1963), under the Grand Lodge of Japan.

Far East Lodge No. 124

When Brother Herbert Wolff arrived in Japan late in 1947, he immediately looked around the Yokohama area where he was stationed for an outlet for his Masonic interest. He discovered that there was a Lodge named “Star in the East 640” that was working under the Scottish Constitution and which held its meetings in a temple located in the Bluff area of Yokohama. This Lodge had been formed mostly by Americans who had picked up the Charter of the original Lodge that had to go dark during the war days, and which had started up again. A visit to this Lodge revealed work that was entirely different from his American ritual and therefore, did not appeal to him. A further search revealed the presence of Yokosuka Naval Masonic Lodge functioning as a chartered Lodge under the jurisdiction of the Philippines at the Yokosuka Naval Base. A visit to this Lodge revealed that the ritual used was similar to that of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of California of which he was acquainted and most of the line officers were Marines (the Worshipful Master was Master Sergeant). The work was performed with all the perfection and preciseness that Marines are noted for. However, this Lodge was some miles away from Yokohama. He learned that there were several Masons in Yokohama and on being approached they eagerly signified their willingness to assist in forming a Lodge in the Yokohama area. Those approached were Brothers Jacobson, Piercey, Ellison, Barrash, Radcliffe and Hinman and their response was enthusiastic. During several discussions on the matter it was brought to their attention that there was a Brother William Eichorn in the area who had expressed an interest along the same lines. Brother Eichorn’s work carried him frequently to Manila in the Philippines and he was well known in Masonic circles in that city. Brother Eichorn was approached, and joined their formative group. His advice was invaluable in directing their course towards making plea for a Dispensation and latter a Charter. He further agreed that he would gladly hand-carry all supporting papers to the MW Grand Lodge of Philippines if they emanated from some responsible group and in the proper form.

They accordingly announced in the Stars and Stripes that on a given night a meeting of all Master Masons in good standing would be held in the Yokohama Masonic Temple, for the purpose of forming a new Masonic Lodge in the area. Lodge “Star in the East 640” had graciously tendered the use of their rooms for the purpose. On the appointed night some fifty Master Masons attended the meeting and a Masonic Club was formed to give authority and a unison to all actions leading up to the consummation of their purpose. The evening was given to electing Club Officers and planning a step by step program leading up to the formation and presentation of a plea for Dispensation and Charter to the MW Grand Lodge of the Philippines. It was decided that Yokosuka Naval Masonic Lodge should be acquainted with their intent as a matter of jurisdiction might be involved, and also, their need for a sponsor. It was further agreed that Brothers Jacobson, Ellison and Wolff should attend the next meeting of Yokosuka Naval Masonic Lodge some three days later and secure the permission of the Worshipful Master to present their case from the floor to ascertain their reaction and willingness to act as their sponsor. A meeting of the Club was scheduled for the following week to acquaint the membership with the outcome of the Yokosuka visit.

On arrival at Yokosuka Lodge they were examined and received by the Worshipful Master and committee, and in an informal talk with the Master, they informed him of their purpose and asked his permission to present their case from the floor of the Lodge at the meeting, and also, to beg their sponsorship. The request was graciously granted and after a session of questions and answers from the floor they were assured of the support of Yokosuka Lodge and their willingness to sponsor.

At the scheduled meeting of the Club a week later the membership was made acquainted with the results of the Yokosuka visit, and work was immediately begun to complete all the elements required to accompany a plea to the MW Grand Lodge of the Philippines for a Dispensation, and later a Charter. These elements considered were a name for the new Lodge, a set of By-Laws, a slate of proposed Officers, a more or less certified list of proposed Charter Members, and a written intent from Yokosuka Naval Masonic Lodge of their willingness to sponsor. The latter, of course, they already had in their possession but the other matters took considerable time and the meeting ran far into the night. Haste was necessary because Brother Eichorn was slated to go to Manila two days from their meeting date.

At that meeting Brother Wolff was chosen as Worshipful Master, with Brother Ellison as Senior Warden, and Brother Jacobson as Junior Warden. It was found at this meeting that several of the Brothers who had signified their intention of becoming Charter Members would have to demit from their Mother Lodges due to a ban on dual membership by their parent jurisdictions. However, they were willing and eager to assist in every way in bringing the new Lodge into being. There were twenty-four Charter Members who submitted paid up dues cards from their respective Lodges indicating their good standing and the regularity of their constituted Lodges. These cards were photostated and the certified photostatic copy was included in the material sent to Manila with Brother Eichorn as proof of authenticity of the proposed membership of the new Lodge.

Brother Eichorn left for Manila as scheduled and returned in about 10 days with the Dispensation empowering Far East Lodge to work as a Lodge. Without Brother Eichorn’s help and interest, months might have passed before they could have functioned as a Lodge.

The elected and appointed officers then appealed to their mother lodges for needed paraphernalia and the response was most generous. Jewels, Aprons, Staffs and Working Tools were received and Brother Piercey personally donated a beautiful Bible for our Altar.

On October 26, 1948, the MW Grand Lodge of the Philippines issued a Dispensation to “certain brethren therein named, and residing in Yokohama, to form, open and hold a Lodge.” Far East Lodge U.D. opened and held meetings until December 31, 1948, at which time the Lodge submitted all records and transactions of its activities, with the Dispensation to the MW Grand Lodge of the Philippines, praying that a Charter be granted at the Annual Communication to be holden in Manila, in January 1949. The Grand Lodge approved the petition for a Charter on January 26, 1949 and Far East Lodge was granted Charter number 124.

Brother Herbert Wolff, Master of the Lodge, was reassigned to the United States, therefore an election was held and Brother Abraham Jacobson was elected as WM, Brother Herbert L. Ellison as SW, Brother Elmer O. Hinman as JW, Brother Richard B. Eldridge as Treasurer, and Brother William J. Eichorn as Secretary.

Worshipful Brother “Pat” Pearson has this to say about the early days of the Lodge:

Sitting in Lodge, one evening I gazed around the Lodge Room, and a flood of memories engulfed me, and a parade of faces and names passed in review, I was carried back to the year 1948 when I made my first visit to Far East Lodge U.D., Worshipful Brother Elmer O. Hinman examined me and upon learning I was from a California Lodge gave a whoop of joy, and declared that the California Masons now outnumbered the Kentucky Masons in Far East Lodge. As the Lodge was young and just formed, there were members from many jurisdictions, and each seemed to feel that the ritual of his particular home Lodge should prevail. This was particularly evident in a very friendly manner in the rivalry which existed between the Brethren from California and Kentucky, who seemed to be in the majority, however there were enough Brethren of other jurisdictions to keep us on a steady footing and we eventually got around to conforming to the Philippine ritual in the proper manner. In recalling Brothers who were diligent workers and stalwarts within the Lodge, memory turns to Brothers Wolff, Ellison, Jacobson, Hinman, Kurtz, Coe, Beauchamp, Eldridge, Cartwright, Eichorn, Stevens, Wolitarsky, Spiegel, Radcliffe, Piercy, Halliday, Ehrlich, Deserano, Martin, Wilcher, and many other, whose names for the moment escape me. At the end of Masonic Year 1948, Far East Lodge U.D. had a membership of 27 Master Masons. On March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day), 1949, Most Worshipful Brother Estaban Munarriz, Grand Master of Masons in the Philippines constituted Far East Lodge No. 124, and installed its first elected Officers, and on that date was born a Lodge which has since became a shining light in the Masonic sphere, particularly in this part of the world, and many of the good Brethren raised in Far East Lodge have moved to other fields to spread the Masonic philosophy and have in several instances became Masters of the Lodges, both within and without our Grand Jurisdiction. Most Worshipful Brother Carlos Rodriguez-Jimenes, Most Worshipful Brother George Sadaichi Horiuchi and Most Worshipful Brother Nohea O. A. Peck have served the Grand Lodge of Japan as its Grand Masters, several Brothers either have or are holding positions as Grand Lodge Officers, and others have received high honors in the Scottish and York Rites of Freemasonry; all in all, a record for which Far East Lodge No. 1 can justly be proud. The stroll down memory lane brought recollections of the request which came from Brother General Walton H. Walker that Far East Lodge take the initiative to activate the DeMolay in Yokohama, and the call was answered by Brothers Kurtz, Kihlgren and Halliday who devoted much time and effort to organize the boys and get DeMolay started in Japan — they were ably assisted in the early days by Brothers Weaver and Harding, and numerous others who carried on the work to the present time.

Walton H. Walker

Gen. Walton H. Walker
[See Temple Portrait]

Further memories, January 4, 1950, and Masonry in Japan opened its doors to receive those worthy Japanese who sought Masonic Light, and though the initiation was conducted by Tokyo Lodge No. 125, at the time under dispensation, the majority of the day was performed by Officers of Far East Lodge No. 124. By Special Dispensation eight Japanese candidates were initiated, five of whom were obligated by Officers of Far East Lodge, and I had the extreme pleasure of delivering the lecture of the First Degree (in English of course). The first Japanese Member of Far East Lodge was Brother Juzo Seo who came to us as a Mason, he having been a Mason of many years standing in a Lodge in New York City, and joined our ranks by affiliation in 1949. I am pleased to say he is still in our midst. The first Japanese to apply for admittance was Souji Yamamoto who was initiated on April 26, 1950, however I regret to say he never advanced beyond the First Degree. Presently, the Lodge can well be proud of the many Japanese Brethren which now grace its rolls and lend support through their attendance and labors. Truly they are the backbone of the Lodge and their efforts will result in the Lodges’ perpetuation.

On October 1, 1952, Rt WB W. J. Eichorn, PM of Far East Lodge No. 124 was appointed Grand Master’s Deputy for the Territory of Japan by MW Brother Sidney M. Austin, who has then the MW Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. This action might be considered as the first step toward the formation of a Grand Lodge of Japan.

During the period from October 1952 to 1954, an Advisory Board for Japan, consisting of the Installed Masters and Past Masters, met at various times to resolve Masonic matters pertaining to the subordinate lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, and also to determine ways and means to further and strengthen the growth of Masonry in the Far East, particularly here in Japan.

District Grand Lodge of Japan

At the Annual Communication of the MW Grand Lodge of the Philippines in 1954, a petition was read which stated that all the Lodges in Japan under the Philippine Jurisdiction desired to form a District Grand Lodge. That request was granted and RW Brother W. J. Eichorn was appointed the first District Grand Master for Japan for the Lodges in Japan under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. Again, this was a step nearer to the possible creation of a Grand Lodge of Japan in the not too distant future.

During the period of 1954 to 1956, many very important Masonic events took place which can undoubtedly be considered as cornerstones in the permanent foundation of Masonry in Japan. First, was the instituting of Kanto Lodge U.D., comprising primarily Japanese Brethren, who conducted the ritualistic work in the Japanese language, this being a first time event in the entire Masonic World. Secondly, was the complete translation into the Japanese language of the ritualistic work of the three degrees, thus insuring that qualified Japanese who only spoke Japanese, desiring to become Masons would not be hindered by the language difficulties. In October 1957 a Masonic Brother of Japanese ancestry in Brazil requested that copies of the Monitors in Japanese be furnished him. Thus it is very possible that Masonic Lodges will be instituted in other parts of the world in which the work will be conducted in the Japanese language. Again, Japanese Masonry is contributing its share in strengthening the bonds of friendship and brotherly love in the various parts of the world). Thirdly, key and influential personnel in the Japanese Community were applying for membership in the Fraternity and were being accepted, thus indicating that Masonry was taking a firm footing here in Japan and would without question become an influence in the Japanese activities in the future.

Grand Lodge of Japan

On January 16, 1957, Moriahyama Lodge No. 134 passed a resolution calling for a convention to consider the formation of a Grand Lodge of Japan. A meeting of the District Grand Lodge was held on January 26, 1957. Because of the resolution passed by Moriahyama Lodge, and the convention call issued by the Master of that Lodge, this was the principal subject of discussion. The convention was called for February 16, 1957, to be held at the Tokyo Masonic Building. Each Lodge was asked to send four delegates, with authority to act for their Lodges. Further, each Lodge was to discuss the resolution at its next Stated Meeting and act favorably or unfavorably as the case may be.

The Grand Lodge of the Philippines was notified immediately on each event as it look place and was informed that a convention was to be held February 16, 1957 in Tokyo. At the Convention sixteen lodges were represented of which eleven lodges reported that their lodges had unanimously endorsed the resolution. At the convention held on March 16th four additional lodges unanimously endorsed the resolution, thus fifteen lodges out of sixteen were in favor of the formation of the Grand Lodge of Japan immediately. The Grand Lodge of the Philippines was currently informed on all transactions in writing, to preclude their receiving any inaccurate data thru unofficial channels.

At the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines in April 1957, a motion was presented to the Grand Secretary, that (1) the Grand Lodge of the Philippines extend recognition to the Grand Lodge of Japan, (2) the Grand Lodge of the Philippines assist the Grand Lodge of Japan to obtain recognition from the Grand Lodges with which it was in Fraternal Communication, and (3) the Grand Master of the Philippines with such Grand Officers as he might deem necessary, come to Japan to install the Officers of the Grand Lodge of Japan.

The delegation from Japan was received and recognized as delegates from the subordinate lodges at the Convention, however when it came to voting on the Grand Lodge Officers for the ensuing year, it was determined by the Grand Lodge, that as they were members of the Grand Lodge of Japan, they could not qualify to vote. This in their opinion was tantamount to informal recognition of the Grand Lodge of Japan.

The Grand Lodge of Japan was instituted on May 1, 1957. By the end of that year seven Grand Lodges had recognized the Grand Lodge of Japan and at least ten other Grand Lodges were in fraternal communication with the Grand Lodge of Japan. The Scottish Rite and York Rite Bodies were accepting Master Masons from the subordinate lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Japan. Since the Grand Lodge of Japan was soon to be instituted, on March 16, 1957, Far East Lodge No. 124 surrendered its charter to the MW Grand Lodge of the Philippines and received its new charter on that date.

Kiyoshi Miyagawa

No history of Masonry in Yokohama would be complete without mentioning the name of the Masonic Temple caretaker Kiyoshi (Hiram) Miyagawa. Hiram is now 71 years of age, of which, it might be well said, that 50 years of his life has been in the service of the craft in the capacity of caretaker. It all started in 1881, shortly after Lodge Star in the East was instituted in Yokohama by Brother Oscar Otte Keil, and Hiram’s father, Mankichi Miyagawa, became the first caretaker. Hiram’s father remained in this position while the Lodge moved three times, resting finally at No. 61 Yamashita-cho in 1911 — it was here that he passed away in 1916, after 30 years of service, and it came to pass, that his third son took up his responsibilities.

Kiyoshi Miyagawa

Kiyoshi Miyagawa 1892-1966

Hiram was born in 1892 and became the second Miyagawa to take everything Masonic to himself without knowing any of its mysteries. Hiram took the Lodge through the earthquake of 1923, and into the present Temple which was erected in 1927.

It was Hiram who took the Temple through the difficult war years — who hid documents and records in order that they might not be confiscated — who underwent the investigations conducted by the Japanese Government — it was he also who stayed near during the many air raids. There were no doubt many other difficulties not known to anyone but the recipient of the hardship. The craft can surely thank the Great Architect for the services of such a personage during these trying years.

Since the end of World War II, Hiram has continued to serve the craft — not only as caretaker of the Temple and grounds, but prepares the Lodge Room for every organization meeting and is always on-hand to assist in serving refreshments in the Collation Room in the Temple (Blue Lodges, O.E.S., DeMolay, Rainbow, etc.).

In all, the Miyagawa family has contributed almost a century of service to the craft — a record which probably has no equal in the World of Masonry, in light of the circumstances. There have been many men who have suffered hardship because of their Masonic affiliations, however, it is an odd case where the man is not a Mason, and yet, receives and accepts the hardship. His devotion and fidelity is indeed one to be imitated.

At the 71st Stated Meeting of Far East Lodge No. 1 of March 6, 1963, 33 days following his 71st birthday, Hiram was elected to receive the Degrees of Masonry. On the evening of March 20, 1963 more than 80 Masons from Yokohama and the nearby communities were present to see Hiram receive his EA Degree, for the first time in Far East Lodge, exemplified in the Japanese language.

Among those present were our PGMs Sadaichi Horiuchi and Nohea O. A. Peck, and four other Grand Lodge Officers, RWB Chester O. Nielsen, Grand Treasurer, VWB Alexander T. Forester, Grand Chaplain, WB Floyd J. Robertson, Senior Grand Lecturer, and WB Mahlon E. Seese, Jr., Jr. Grand Steward. Three other sister Grand Jurisdictions were represented — The Grand Lodge of Scotland by RWB Myron Bettencourt and the Grand Lodge of the Philippines by WB Royal Strickland, Worshipful Masters of Lodge Star in the East 640 of Yokohama and Rising Sun Lodge No. 151 of Camp Zama, respectively, both of whom, together with several officers and Brethren, were on that evening making official visits to Far East Lodge. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was represented by WB Harold Oppenheim, PM of Sinim Lodge in Tokyo. Also present were RWB George W. Colton, PDDGM of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and VWB Robert W. Seeley, DDGM of District #22 under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, together with 20 first time visitors from the Grand Lodges of California, Arkansas, and Delaware and from Hawaii.

The Japanese Ritual was exemplified by WB Yoshio Yamada, PM of Far East Lodge in the East, assisted by Brothers Shinichi Shigenobu of Sagamihara Lodge No. 13, Sadao Fujita of Yokosuka Lodge No. 120 and Brothers Voyce, Noel, Seese, Robertson, Oliver, Nishiyama, Harrison and Cowe of Far East Lodge.

Several Brethren spoke of how the evening had demonstrated the true “universality of Masonry”. All present were of the common opinion that this was truly a milestone in the history of Far East Lodge No. 1 as we approached our 15th Anniversary, and hoped that in the not too distant future the Grand Lodge of Japan would predominately consist of Japanese members.

Material for the foregoing article was compiled from articles previously appearing in the Friendly Tips written by MWB Nohea O. A. Peck, WB Herbert Wolff, WB Kenneth R. Pearson, Bro Shigeru Nishiyama and the late RWB E. V. Bernard, of Lodge Star in the East No. 640.

From the booklet published in 1963 to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of Far East Lodge No. 1, F & AM