Apcar Address 1945


Thanksgiving Day, 22 November 1945


I have been requested to give a short history of the MASONIC FRATERNITY in Japan, which I shall endeavor to do, but as all of our records were confiscated by the Japanese Authorities at the outbreak of the war on 8 December 1941, I do so purely from memory and my dates may be somewhat inaccurate. However, they are close enough to give you a general outline.

The first Lodge in Japan was Sphinx Lodge, which operated under the Grand Lodge of Ireland in the years 1862 to 1865, a few years after the opening of the ports of Japan by Commodore Perry. The roster consisted of members of the Occupation Forces with a few local residents to the total of about 20 members.

Upon the withdrawal of the Occupation Forces, the local residents petitioned the Grand Lodge of England and secured their Charter on 26 June 1866. This Lodge was called Yokohama Lodge No. 1092.

The next Lodge to be formed in the Yokohama area was the Lodge "STAR IN THE EAST" No. 640, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which received its Charter on 16 September 1879. This is my Mother Lodge.

Interest being shown to form a Lodge under the Scottish Rite Bodies, to incorporate the degrees from the 4th to the 32nd, a petition was made to the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America, and a Charter was granted dated 17 February 1883. Under the above Supreme Council, the following bodies were formed:

Our Deputy for the bodies in Japan is Illustrious Brother E.W. FRAZER, 33rd Degree, I.G.H., at present in New York.

Otentosama Lodge No. 1263 was Chartered on 28th July 1894, under the Grand Lodge of England.

Three other bodies, Orient Mark Lodge No. 304, Yokohama Chapter, and Otentosama Chapter were also under the English Constitution. All English bodies were under the district Grand Lodge of England, formed 15th August 1878.

In Tokyo there was but one Lodge; TOKYO LODGE under the Grand Lodge of England.

In Kobe there were two English Lodges; Albion in The Far East and Rising Sun Lodges, as well as one Scottish Lodge, Lodge Hiogo and Osaka.

The Kobe Lodges met in their own building, Corinthian Hall in Nakayamate Dori.

Nagasaki Lodge, No. 710 operated but a short time. When Nagasaki's foreign comunity transferred most of its business to the Kobe-Osaka area, about 35 years ago, the Lodge could no longer keep up its activities. It surrendered its Charter and closed.

In the Yokohama area the Lodges conducted their meetings in rented rooms from 1866 until about 1891 when a site was secured on lot No. 61 Yamashita-cho, Yokohama and a two story brick building was built and called Masonic Hall. It was held by Masonic Hall Ltd., shareholders being all lodges in the Yokohama area. All meetings were held there until September lst, 1923, when the building was demolished by earthquake and fire.

In order to keep up the Masonic activities after the 'disaster', meetings were hold in Kobe at the Corinthian Hall for a few months, and I clearly remember the first Masonic meeting held in Yokohama after the earthquake. It was held in the ruins of the American Trading Company Offices by Lodge "Star in The East" No. 640. Old shipping cases, etc., were used for the principal chairs, and lighting was by candle light, but a successful meeting was held nevertheloss.

Illustrious Brother Frazer, Deputy for the Supreme Council, A & ASR Masons for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, built his temporary office building and rented the upper story to the Masonic Lodge at which site all meetings were held until 1927.

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' now known as No. 3 Yamate-cho was bought and a new Temple built and dedicated on 5th June 2, 1927, where all Masonic meetings were held until the declaration of War on 8 December 1941, when the Japanese Government confiscated the building together with all Lodge furniture, regalia etc.

Before discussing the Government's seizure of Masonic property, it might prove interesting to look back on the previous relationship between Masonic Orders and the Japanese Government.

From the time of the opening of the ports of Japan by Commodore Perry until about the year 1869, residents of the foreign community of Japan were under the laws of their respective countries, and the Japanese Civil and Criminal laws did not apply to them. 1n other words, any law-breaking by a member of the foreign comnunity was tried by the consul of the lawbreaker's country. Those were the days of extra-territorial rights, and a portion of the business section of the town as well as the Bluff of Yamate was set aside for the exclusive use of the foreign community.

Upon abolition of the extra-territorial rights all members of the foreign community were placed under the laws of the government of Japan.

At this time the Ambassadors of the United States and England were approached by the Masonic Brethren to sound out the Japanese Government as to the status of Masonic Activities in Japan. The decision reached was to the following effect:

The Japanese Government would not interfere with the Masonic Activities, provided the membership was strictly confined to the foreign community, and no Japanese were admitted to membership.

This ruling was known as THE GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT.

The Masonic Fraternity in Japan kept strictly to the above ruling right up to the outbreak of the War on 8 December 1941.

No Japanese were made Masons in Japan and furthermore such Japanese as had received their degrees in foreign countries were asked not to attend our meetings owing to the understanding with the Japanese Government prohibiting Japanese Citizens from participating in Masonic Activities.

At the outbreak of the China Incident in 1937, the Japanese Government started its persecution of Masonry.

In 1940-1941 some of the Brethren felt that since Masonic Meetings antagonized the Japanese Government, it might be best to hold no more meetings. Another group felt that such action might appear to be an admission that Masonic Activities were not in keeping with the law. A group of Past Masters decided that meetings would be held as usual, and this decision applied right up to the outbreak of War.

On the morning of 8 December 1941 seven or eight policemen in plain clothes surrounded my home and placed me under arrest. A guard of three policemen took me and threw me in a cell. The other men who came to arrest me remained in the house and searched every nook and corner of my home, looting my personal belongings. They also raided my office and searched the entire building, confiscating cash as well as other valuables.

For twelve cruel days I was subjected to the most brutal tortures. Hour after hour and day after day I was kept awake and questioned endlessly. If I collapsed in a faint, I was brought back to painracked consciousness with a bucket of cold water.

But ever remembering the OBLIGATION entrusted to me before the ALTAR IN KING SOLOMON'S TEMPLE and to my FELLOWMAN, I remained silent. Not one one word of the whereabouts of my Fellow Brethren nor other secrets entrusted to me passed my lips.

From the police cell I was taken on 20 December 1941 to the Yokohama Prison and placed in solitary confinement until February 1943

At the time of my arrest, I was not informed as to the charge against me and it was not until several months had passed that I learned that the first charge against me was that of Espionage. No conviction on this score being possible, a second charge of having violated the "POLICE PEACE PRESERVATION LAW" was established, owing to my connections with the Masonic Fraternity, and I was made to represent the Fraternity for the whole of Japan and assume full responsibility; the ultimate decision being a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 10 months solitary confinement with a proviso that "NO APPEAL COULD BE MADE TO A HIGHER COURT".

On my release from prison I was informed that several exhibitions of the confiscated Masonic Regalia were held in Department Stores of Tokyo and Yokohama.

Through the very good efforts of Colonel Boan, Chaplain, of the United States Army, four boxes containing Masonic Records have been discovered in the former Yokohama Yacht Club. I have taken delivery of these boxes and placed them temporarily in safe-keeping at the British Consulate, through the kindness of the Commanding Officer. This is only a small fraction of the confiscated articles and I am sure the balance will be found at the Yokohama Prefectural Building or at the Yokohama District Court.

The Government Officers directly responsible for the confiscation and subsequent disposal of the Masonic Regalia, etc., are:

Mr. Sekimoto, Detective, Foreign Section of Prefectural Government police
Mr. Toshio Yoshihashi, Public Procurator, Yokohama District Court
Mr. Tsuchiya, Trial Judge, Yokohama District Court.

It is my most earnest desire, and I am sure I voice the desire of the remaining Brethren of the Fraternity in Japan, to once again establish our Lodge, particularly in the Yokohama area, and I now appeal to the Brethren of the Army of Occupation to assist us to unfurl our banners and enable us to carry on the noble work of Freemasonry which is so close to our hearts.

BRETHREN, I thank you for havlng so kindly invited me to this meeting, which is the first Masonic gathering it has been my good fortune to attend after four years of inactivity and darkness, and I trust that I shall be able to attend many more.

Should any of the Brethren present desire to ask me any questions, I shall be more than pleased to answer them if I am able to do so.

I thank you.