Masonry in Japan 1864–1941

Many who know that the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Japan was founded within the last decade, and that the membership of its Lodges are composed mostly of American Brethren connected with the Defense Department, are inclined to think that Freemasonry must have come to Japan with the Occupation Forces of Gen. MacArthur in 1945.

The first recorded Masonic activity in Japan was connected with a military unit, it is true, but at a much earlier date. A treaty of Peace and Amity was signed between Japan and the U.S. on 31 March 1854 at Kanagawa. On 4 September 1856 Townsend Harris hoisted at Shimoda the first consular flag ever seen in Japan, and on 30 November 1857 Harris entered Yedo as the first diplomatic representative ever to be received in that city. A new Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed 29 July 1858, and was in effect for forty full years from 4 July 1859. Fifteen other “Treaty Powers” soon obtained similar Treaties from the Shogun. In 1864 a detachment of the British 20th Regiment arrived in Yokohama for garrison duty under the Treaty terms, and brought with it Sphinx Lodge No. 263, under the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

Meetings held by this regimental Lodge led the Brethren of the foreign community to consider the formation of a local Lodge. Many of these Brethren had arrived in the newly laid-out town of Yokohama from various port cities in China, where several Lodges already had been established.

These included: Amity No. 407, E.C., Canton, 1767; a Swedish Lodge “Elizabeth”, Canton, 1788-1812; Royal Sussex No. 735, E.C., Canton, 1844; Zetland No. 768, E.C., Hong Kong, 1846; Northern Lodge No. 570, E.C., Shanghai, 1849. A Provincial Grand Master for China had been appointed in 1847. Subsequently, in 1877 a District Grand Lodge of Northern China, E.C., was set up, and G.L. of Massachusetts established a District Grand Lodge with Lodges in Shanghai, Peking and Manchuria. In 1864 Scottish Lodge Cosmopolitan No. 428 was consecrated in Shanghai and St. Andrew in the Far East in 1869.

We may digress a moment to consider the history of the 20th Regiment of Foot (Lancashire Fusiliers) and its Masonic Lodge, known also as Minden Lodge after the Regiment had participated in the famous victory of that name. The warrant from G.L. of Ireland was dated 1748, the first Master being Colonel George, Lord Saville. The Regiment was first employed in the pacification of the Highlands after the 1745 Rebellion, and its Irish Masonic members no doubt often confronted Brethren under the new Grand Lodge of Scotland.

In 1756 the Regiment and Lodge were sent to Germany, and took very heavy losses in 1759. 1762 to 1775 was spent at home, followed by a disastrous campaign under General Lord Burgoyne in America, surrender at Saratoga and imprisonment from 1777 to 1783.

Six years’ service in England, then four years in the unhealthful West Indies brought the Regiment down to a skeleton force, which landed at Plymouth in April 1796. Recruitment brought the strength up to two Battalions, and the unit was sent to Holland, then Ireland, then (1801) Egypt, then Malta (where in 1804 the Lodge membership stood at 40), then Naples in 1805, Sicily in 1806, Gibraltar in 1807, the Peninsular Campaign, and home after the Battle of Corunna in 1812. On arrival it was found that the Grand Lodge regarded the Lodge as defunct, no returns having been rendered for forty years. This was straightened out before the Regiment returned to the Peninsula. In 1819 the unit guarded Napoleon at St. Helena, where Lodge work proved impossible due to lack of facilities. In 1821 the Lodge resumed labors in India for a twenty-year stretch, and by 1864, as previously noted, the 20th Regiment landed in Yokohama to provide the first impetus to Freemasonry in Japan.

The Sphinx Lodge No. 263, I.C. which the Second Battalion of the 20th Regiment of Foot ( Lancashire Fusiliers ) brought to Yokohama in 1864 received its charter October sixth 1860, and therefore is not identical with the Minden Lodge I.C. whose adventures with the Regiment we have related. It is possible that some members of this Battalion arrived in Japan from Hong Kong earlier than 1864, for guard duty at the British Legation in consequence of the attack on the Legation in 1861. Sphinx Lodge admitted some civilian members, one of whom, a Bro. Blackmore, appears among the petitioners for the Charter of the oldest surviving Masonic Lodge in Japan, Lodge Hyogo and Osaka, S.C.

On 17th September 1865, a preliminary meeting of resident Freemasons decided to petition for a Charter under Grand Lodge of England.


Present : H. L. Boyle in the Chair, T. Defflis, W. Monk, G. T. Jury, W. A. Crane, J. R. Black, C. H. Dallas

Mr. Black proposed and Mr. Jury seconded that it is desirable that a Masonic Lodge working under the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of England be inaugurated in Yokohama. Carried unanimously.

Mr. Dallas proposed and Mr. Crane seconded that a petition be drawn up in the form provided in the Book of Constitution addressed to the Grand Master of England and that it be enclosed to the Provincial Grand Master at Hongkong, with a request that he will grant us a dispensation to work, until a warrant of Constitution can be received from England. Carried unanimously.

Mr. Defflis proposed and Mr. Monk seconded that the Lodge be entitled the “Yokohama Lodge.” Carried unanimously.

Mr. Black proposed and Mr. Dallas seconded “That Bro. Monk be nominated as the first Master of the Lodge.” Carried unanimously. (Boyle nom. SW; Dallas nom. JW)

Mr. Black proposed and Mr. Jury seconded “That Bros. Dallas and Monk be appointed a Committee to draw up the necessary documents and have them signed for transmission to Hongkong.”

A vote of thanks to the Chairman terminated the proceedings of the evening.

Signed : H. L. Boyle, Chairman

On 26th June 1866 the first regular meeting of Yokohama Lodge, No. 1092, E.C. was held. The charter, dated 30 January 1866, was read, and the Lodge duly consecrated by W. Bro. Cartwright, PPGM for Western India under the Scottish Constitution.

The first Master of Yokohama Lodge was Bro. William Monk, who was succeeded by Bro. Charles Henry Dallas. Bro. Dallas became the first District Grand Master when the D.G.L. was created June 6th, 1873. He was also the Charter Master of Otentosama Lodge No. 1263, 29 July 1869, formed by twelve members of Yokohama Lodge.

In Kobe, on July 7th, 1870, Lodge Hyogo and Osaka No. 498 was consecrated, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. A second Scottish Lodge, Lodge Star in the East No. 640 was consecrated in Yokohama in 1879. Both these Lodges continue to flourish today (1966), along with the sole surviving English Lodge, Rising Sun Lodge No. 1401, Kobe, consecrated in 1872.

Desiring a Warrant for a Royal Arch Chapter to be attached to Yokohama Lodge, the Brethren petitioned for a third English Lodge, and Nippon Lodge No. 1344, Tokyo, was consecrated 27 May 1871, thus providing a third reigning Master for one of the R.A. Chapter principal chairs. But it was not until 17 June 1875 that the Chapter could be consecrated, for each of the Principals in turn was removed, by transfer or death, and the Warrant each time had to be returned to Grand Chapter for alteration. Rising Sun Chapter, Kobe, was consecrated in 1902, and Otentosama Chapter, Yokohama in 1912. Tokyo Chapter, attached to Tokyo Lodge No. 2016, followed 5 January 1924. The consecration was in Corinthian Hall, Kobe, for all Tokyo and Yokohama lay in ruins as a result of the Great Earthquake of September first 1923.


On the fifteenth of August, 1874, a District Grand Lodge was opened at Yokohama under a patent dated sixth June, 1873, granted by the United Grand Lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons of England, appointing Bro. Charles Henry Dallas to be District Grand Master. In 1886 Bro. William Henry Stone succeeded him, followed in 1900 by Bro. Edward Flint Kilby. In 1904 Bro. Stone was reappointed, followed in 1911 by Bro. George Harvey Whymark, and in 1923 by Bro. Stanley Edward Unite, and in 1931 by Bro. Percy Hamilton McKay, and in 1934 by Bro. Harold Sidney Goodwyn Isitt.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland has kindly contributed the following from its files:


“I Charles Henry Dallas, District Grand Master for Japan under the authority of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, K.G. and etc., the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the United Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of England Send Greeting.

Know ye that by virtue of the Patent or warrant to me granted by the M.W. Grand Master, and conformably to the Laws and Constitutions of the Grand Lodge in that behalf made, and also of the great trust and confidence exposed in the right trusty and well beloved Brother William Gregory Sands, I do hereby constitute and appoint and depute him the said William Gregory Sands my Deputy District Grand Master and do fully authorize and empower him in my absence, for me, and in my name to preside over the Royal Craft in Japan and to regulate the Lodges, therein, and also to convene District Grand Lodges or General Communications for the same in conformity with the laws of the Grand Lodge, at such times and places as to him may seem expedient and necessary and then and there to appoint District Grand Wardens and other Officers for the District Grand Lodge, and generally to do and perform all such acts in my absence as I might lawfully do if present, subject nevertheless to such distractions and instructions as I may at any time give touching the said matters or otherwise and I do hereby strictly enjoin my said Deputy to take care that all and every the Lodges in the District and the Brethren thereof respectively do conform to and observe the Laws, Constitutions and Antient Regulations of the Craft.

Given under my hand and Seal at Tokyo, Japan, this 24th day of June A.L. 1876, A.D. 1876

(Seal) (Sgd.) Charles H. Dallas D.G.M. for Japan.”

A bound volume of the Proceedings of D.G.L. of Japan survives, starting with the Annual Meeting of 10 March 1923 in the Temple at 61 Yamashita-cho, which was destined to be destroyed by the Earthquake of first September 1923. The last section covers a special meeting on 13 October 1934 at the Temple at No. 3 Bluff at which Bro. Isitt was installed.

The Deputy D.G.M., Bro. Unite, presided at the Meeting of 10 March 1923, as the D.G.M. was of too advanced years to make the long trip from Kobe. Total membership of the five daughter Lodges was 334 at the end of 1922. Word had just been received that Bros. Costa and Devineau would never attend Otentosama Lodge again, having been killed in action in 1918. Receipts during 1922 totalled ¥1,280.26, leaving a bank balance of ¥2,102.62, plus the ten shares of Masonic Hall, Ltd. at Yen one hundred each. At the Meeting of 3 March 1934 membership was down to 269, receipts were ¥1,634.35, bank balance was ¥795.31, plus forty-five shares of Masonic Hall Ltd.

The Account of Masonic Hall Ltd. for the year ending 31 October 1933 shows a net loss of ¥2,694.61, of which all but about ¥400 is depreciation on building and furniture. The capital account carried 100 shares at ¥100 each, while assets showed the ground as ¥30,000, buildings as ¥70,340.46, furniture and fittings as ¥10,810.75, and telephone as ¥500. Using Lodges had subscribed ¥3,324.25, plus ¥ 90 for emergency meetings. At the Annual Meeting of 5 March 1932, the DDGM, Bro. Isitt, had pointed out that the Masonic Hall shares were in reality represented by assets approximately ten times greater than the nominal ¥100 per share.

The General Masonic Charity Fund of Japan was subscribed to by all Masonic groups working in Japan. The DDGM, in his Address at the Meeting of 10 March 1923, pointed out that it had assets of ¥22,838.13, but was at a standstill due to the lack of a Secretary. A year later, at the Corinthian Hall, Kobe, the DGM took the opportunity of expressing thanks for monetary contributions toward the relief of sufferers from the Great Earthquake of 1 September 1923, which then totalled ¥75,013.12, of which ¥33,018.02 had been distributed by the Relief Committee. The DGM noted the General Masonic Charity Fund also had some few claims against its resources, and would need all the support the Brethren could afford. At the next Meeting, 7 March 1925, the DGM reported that further sums had been received, including ¥80,000 from the Grand Lodge of England, added to the ¥46,432.55 previously received. The ¥80,000 was to be set aside for the purpose of building another Temple in Yokohama. Donations from other Grand Lodges, District Grand Lodges, Lodges, and individuals made a grand total of ¥160,549.35, of which ¥72,060.50 had been paid out for relief up to 31 December 1924. The DGM reported the Gen. Mas. Charity Fund was also in good shape despite its resources having been severely taxed. A similar report was made a year later when DGL met at the San Yen Tei, Shiba Park, Tokyo. By then the Masonic Earthquake Relief Fund had been definitely closed, and ¥98,750.79 allocated for a new Yokohama Temple. A lot (No. 3, Yamate-cho) had already been bought for ¥30,000 from the sales proceeds of the old No. 61 property of ¥42,714. Shares in Masonic Hall Ltd., held by the Scottish Rite Bodies and Lodge “Star in the East” No. 640, S.C., were refunded at ¥208.658 each.

On 12 February 1927, a Special Meeting of D.G.L. was held to dedicate the new Temple. The DGM, Bro. Unite, in his Address, said it had repeatedly been his privilege to give expression of that deep sense of gratitude which Masons in Japan have felt for the assistance and help which has come to them from all parts of the world—help to relieve the needy and distressed, “and when these wants had been fully attended to, we were then permitted to erect a building wherein we might practise our ceremonies and continue our rites. Brethren, that building now stands as a memorial of generosity, liberality, brotherly love and relief, all of which came to us in such ample streams in the time of our distress.”



“By reference to our records we find that so far back as April 1868 a letter was addressed to the Japanese Government, and presented through the proper medium requesting the grant of a plot of land for the purpose of erecting thereon a Masonic Hall. It would appear that through the assistance of Sir Harry Parkes this request was duly acceded to, and the foundation stone was laid in March 1869. For a period of 21 years the Lodges, Yokohama No. 1092, and Otentosama No. 1263 continued to meet in the Masonic Hall which had been erected on Lot No. 170 Yamashita-cho. The Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C. joined them in 1879.”

“It was in November 1890 that the Lodges decided to remove to the new building on Lot No. 61 which had been erected especially for Masonic Purposes by Wor. Bro. O. Keil. This Brother joined the great majority in 1899 and it was in 1900, owing to a difference of opinion between the Lodges on the one side and the owners of the property on the other, that is was decided to vacate No. 61, and remove to the upper floor of No. 78, where we made our home for about fifteen years.”

“In 1914 the opportunity offered itself to acquire the ownership of our old Lodge room, and with this in view a Company was formed, so that it then became possible for the Craft to become owners of Lot No. 61 Yamashita-cho, together with the buildings erected thereon. This privilege we continued to enjoy till the autumn of 1923, when the whole fabric was shaken to pieces and destroyed by the earthquake and fire.”

At the Annual Meeting of 16 March 1927, the DGM remarked: “Quite recently I learned of a quantity of rituals being on sale at a Japanese book agent in the Ginza, Tokyo. My recommendation is that such booksellers should be left severely alone. One or two ardent Masons did at one time buy up the whole stock, under the impression that they were, by so doing, rendering a service to the Craft, but the result was that the bookseller, finding such a ready sale, cabled home for a fresh and larger supply.” The DGM also reported that the Gen. Mas. Charity Fund was receiving warm support and was in satisfactory shape.

At the Annual Meeting in Kobe, 3 March 1928, the Board of General Purposes reported :

“The Masonic Temple in Yokohama, built entirely out of Funds generously remitted by Grand Lodge, was completed over a year ago and was consecrated at a special meeting held on 12th February, 1927, since when it has been continuously used for their meetings by the Masonic Bodies in Yokohama. The only condition attaching to the gift of the money from Grand Lodge was that the property should be owned and controlled solely by the English Constitution. Our former temple was owned and controlled by Masonic Hall Ltd., whose shareholders till recently included Masonic Bodies not Members of the English Constitution, but the claims of those shareholders have been satisfied, the present and future shareholders of Masonic Hall Ltd. are now restricted to English Masonic Bodies by virtue of alterations which have duly been made in the Articles of Association, and the Board of Masonic Hall Ltd. is now composed solely of members of the English Constitution.”

The Statement of Accounts reflects the above by showing 43 shares in Masonic Hall Ltd. as compared with 10 shares a year earlier, but no disbursement is shown to cover this acquisition.

At this meeting the DGM noted that the Gen. Mas. Charity Fund had received ¥16,339.07 during the past four years, and had paid out ¥20,315.60. These receipts were from English and Scottish Lodges, and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.

The DGM quoted an interesting part of the 29 December 1898 Address of a previous DGM, Bro. Stone: “As during the course of the coming year, in accordance with the revised Treaties concluded between this Empire and all other civilized countries, we shall come under the laws of the country in which we live, I think it well to recall to your minds what I mentioned in an address some years ago: ‘That, at a specially asked for interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I had been assured that the Government, from all it had heard on the subject, knew nothing but good of Freemasonry, and looked upon it with friendly eyes.’ Some few years later I was given the same assurance. These, to my mind, were perfectly satisfactory.”

A year later, on 29 December 1899, Bro. Stone remarked: “ We have now come fully under the laws of the Empire and, whilst there has been nothing whatever to mark the change to us as Masons, I considered it advisable to direct that all public advertisements of meetings etc. should be stopped. Under the general acceptance of the term, an advertised meeting is, to a certain extent, a public meeting, and that is not our aim. We desire to carry on our work quietly and without ostentation and for this reason I am not disposed to encourage or sanction any public display of the Masonic Body.”

DGM Unite, in March 1928, stated: “We are under an agreement with the authorities that our Lodges may be held, our ceremonies worked, and the Principles and Tenets of our glorious Institution may be promulgated, on the strict understanding that we do so without ostentation, public display or advertisement. I have it in my recollection that some years ago, the Tokyo Lodge No. 2015, which was holding its meetings in the Sei Yo Ken Restaurant in Tokyo, became the subject of some very severe attacks by the Japanese Newspapers. Not once, but some two or three times did these Newspapers bring the Tokyo Lodge under notice in their columns, with the result that R. W. Bro. Stone called upon the Minister of Communications in connection with the matter. A messenger was immediately sent around to the Newspapers, and the trouble ceased. Now Brethren, having received such consideration and protection, we must not fail in our part of the bargain.”

Tokyo Lodge No. 2015, E.C, 1883, was a successor to Nippon Lodge No. 1344, which was dissolved for reasons which our annals do not record. Papers in D.G.L. files covering the events which led to the dissolution were lost in the 1923 Quake.

Nagasaki Lodge No. 710, S.C. was consecrated in 1885, and prospered for many years. As international trade dwindled in Nagasaki, so did membership, and the Charter eventually had to be surrendered. Bro. Williamson of Lloyd’s Register had managed to keep the lodge going, until his retirement to Scotland.

Albion in the Far East, No. 3729, E.C. was consecrated in Kobe 13 June 1914 and flourished until shortly before World War II.

Yearend 1936 showed the following membership for the five English Lodges in Japan:

Yokohama Lodge No. 1092 51
Otentosama Lodge No. 1263 49
Rising Sun Lodge No. 1401 60
Tokyo Lodge No. 2015 54
Albion in the Far East Lodge No. 3729 51

In addition to the three Scottish Lodges already mentioned, Han Yang Lodge No. 1048, S.C., Seoul, Korea was consecrated May 29, 1909. Their original petition, bearing twenty-four signatures, one-third of which were from mining men, was forwarded to the G.L. of Scotland through Lodge Hyogo and Osaka in Kobe, where it was endorsed by six Past Masters, and also by the English Deputy District Grand Master, R.W. Bro. George W. Whymark. The Installing Master was Bro. John Thomas Griffin, a raw silk merchant in Yokohama, considered one of the founders of Masonry in Japan, who was Deputy for the Supreme Council of the A. & A. Scottish Rite, and established the Shanghai Bodies of that Rite.

Parenthetically, some years ago the Tokyo Scottish Rite Bodies received a communication from the daughter of Bro. Griffin, she being then over ninety years of age, but still remembering her father’s connection with the Scottish Rite.

As many members of Han Yang lived far from Seoul, it was sometimes difficult to round up enough members to open Lodge. In 1911 Brother Griffin secured a special Dispensation from Grand Lodge and held a series of meetings at Taracol Mine in the northern Province of Pyongyang Pukdo.

In 1925 the Seoul Club was destroyed by fire, and the Charter and records lost. When rebuilt, the Club’s second floor, forty by eighty feet, was designed as an excellent Lodge room. By spring 1940, the increasing hostility of the Japanese rulers of Korea caused Han Yang Lodge to recess earlier than usual. The Charter and records, in a safe, were given to Brother Crowe, a retired miner, who had determined to remain in Seoul rather than leave with most of the foreign residents. Treasurer Bro. MacFarlane also decided to remain, and to keep the financial records in his home. Regalia, implements, and books were stored in the U.S. Consulate. As of May 1941 only three members remained in Korea. Han Yang Lodge was in darkness.

At war’s end American troops occupied Korea south of the 38th parallel. By October 1945 a Masonic Club had been formed, and in June 1948 Han Yang Lodge opened again in full form in its former Seoul Club Lodge room. Bros. MacFarlane and Crowe had died during the war years, but their widows had preserved the Lodge property.

The Lodge flourished until the Communist invasion of 25 June 1950, and flourishes again today, but that is an account outside our present subject.

In Japan too, Masonic meetings were coming to a hesitant halt by spring 1940. In summer 1940 the U.S. embargoed certain commodities to Japan, and wives of diplomats were sent home. In fall 1940 Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C. and the Yokohama Scottish Rite Bodies held their meetings, but many members were already out of the country. Summer 1941 saw mutual freezing of assets by Japan and the U.S. On 11 November 1941 Lodge Star in the East met at the Masonic Temple, No. 3 Yamate-cho, Yokohama.

The minutes of that meeting were not confirmed until 8 August 1942, when a probably unprecedented Emergency Meeting was held on board the M.S. “Gripsholm,” the first exchange ship, enroute to the United States with 5,000 American repatriates aboard, from Japan, Korea, Hongkong, the Philippines and China. Present were : RWM Joseph L. McSparran, SW Peter H. Kipp, Secretary Carlos Rodriguez- Jimenez, SD R.W. Burrell, Almoner J.W. Rust, Assistant D. C. Richard W. N. Child, Steward E. L. Vest, and Bros. Denis Kildoyle, Charles W . Biddle and F. F. Booth. Business consisted of reading Grand Lodge correspondence, presentation of M. M. M. diplomas to Bros. Kildoyle and Child, affidavit regarding loss of Charter, granting of Life Memberships, deposition of archives and papers with British Embassy, and communication with all members not present.

In spring 1946 members were able once more to attend Lodge Star in the East in the Yokohama Temple on the Bluff, and to assist in locating various missing items. The magnificent clock, presented in 1927 to the Temple by the Scottish Rite, was found in the office of the Yokohama Chief of Police, being identifiable by a small engraved brass plate which the late Bro. “Hiram” Miyakawa, our Temple caretaker, had removed and attached to a less noticeable place. (Bro. Miyakawa also saved the records and jewels; his father had preceded him in his duties.) The old organ was found in the home of the police sergeant who had been in charge of Masonic prosecutions during the war.

In January 1882 the Supreme Council of the 33rd and last degree of the A. & A. Scottish Rite of the S.J. of the U.S. of A. appointed as Deputy for Japan, Bro. Durham White Stevens, Secretary of the U.S. Legation. Bro. Stevens had been initiated in Nippon Lodge No. 1344, E.C, Tokyo, in 1877, and in 1882 was RWM of Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C, Yokohama. On 15 March 1882, Letters of Constitution for Dai Nippon Chapter of Rose Croix were issued, and the Charter issued 17 February 1883. Letters of Constitution and the Charter for Dai Nippon Lodge of Perfection were issued 7 February 1883. Des Payens Council of Knights Kadosh received Letters of Constitution and a Charter dated 25 February 1886. The Grand Consistory of Japan’s Charter is also 25 February 1886. On 2 October 1887 there was established a second Lodge of Perfection and Chapter of Rose Croix in Kobe, which became defunct, and, presumably as a result, the status of the Grand Consistory was changed to “Particular Consistory” 24 October 1907.

Bro. Stevens encountered some resistance in establishing these Scottish Rite Bodies because of the fact that Bro. Dallas, District Grand Master, E.C, on 13 October 1882 had conferred the 18th Degree on Bro. George Elliott Gregory under authorization from the Supreme Council for England and Wales. English Rose Croix Chapters already existed at Shanghai and Hongkong. The matter was settled amicably between Grand Commanders Pike and Lathome.

On 28 October 1882 Bro. August Langfelt replaced Bro. Stevens as Deputy, and was succeeded five years later by Bro. Otto Kiel, who died 31 January 1899 and was in turn succeeded by Bro. Stuart Eldridge. After Bro. Eldridge’s death 15 November 1901, Bro. John T. Griffin became Deputy. As of 1907 the Consistory had fifty members. Bro. Griffin died 26 November 1916, and was succeeded by Bro. Everett W. Frazar. Bro. Frazar passed to the Grand Lodge Above in 1951, at Daytona Beach, Florida.

It should be said that the Japanese authorities lived up to their “hands-off” Agreement of 1895, when, by Treaty revision, extraterritoriality was abolished and our “secret” organization came entirely under Japanese Law. Until very shortly before Pearl Harbor, there was no noticeable interference with Masonic activities, although a number of unpleasant articles began to appear in the Press as a harbinger of what was in store for Masons who did not get out of Japan before the outbreak.

Yokohama Lodge at first met at No. 72 Main Street, lent by Mr. Elias, and a few months later leased premises over the store of Captain Carroll, which were adapted as a Lodge room by removing partitions. In 1868, with the help of Sir. Harry Parkes and other foreign Ministers, the Japanese Government granted Lot No. 70 for the building of a Masonic Hall. The foundation stone was laid 1 March 1869, and meetings were held in that building for twenty years. Bro. John Black’s “The Far East” of 1870 shows a photograph of a large two-story structure of cut stone. The following is from the same journal :


The great Masonic festival was celebrated on the 27th ult., by the fraternity in Yokohama assembling in the Yokohama Lodge, at the Masonic Hall, at 6 p.m., to hear an address on the nature and objects of Masonry. Comparatively few of the brethren knew that such an address was to be given, but imagined that the opening of the Lodge was simply for the purpose of joining formally in the gathering, preparatory to the banquet which was announced for 8 o’clock, in the International Hotel. Many, therefore, went to the Hotel direct, and missed a very excellent and interesting lecture. However, the Lodge was quite full, and the brother who delivered the address had a good and attentive audience.

An adjournment from the Masonic Hall to the International Hotel followed, and at the latter place, at “8 o’clock sharp,” nearly 80 brethren sat down to a most excellent dinner. It is no small praise to Brothers Curtis and Whymark, the proprietors of the hotel, to say that for this large number, the preparations were perfect. There was neither crowding of the guests at the tables, nor of the servants in waiting. The attendance was good, and the dishes, from first to last, were served hot, and with all the accompaniments. The president was the W.M. of the Yokohama Lodge, as the senior of the two local lodges—Brother Rains. But with excellent taste and good feeling, at his side sat Brother Mitchell, the W.M. of the Otentosama Lodge, and they divided the proposal of toasts that fall to the W.M. between them. The usual Masonic toasts were given, and responded to with fervour; and after each, the Band of H.M. 1/10th Regt., which had performed during the dinner, played short and appropriate strains. Many of the toasts were followed additionally by vocal music; in which Brothers Vernede, Crane, Furniss, Dowson, Drummond-Hay, R. Brown and Black took part.

The Worshipful Masters, Brothers Rains and Mitchell, were exceedingly judicious in the manner in which they proposed the numerous toasts falling to them, expressing themselves tersely and to the point, and each returning thanks for his health being drank, in a few pithy but well chosen sentences. Brother Rothmund in returning thanks for the officers of the Otentosama Lodge, remarked on the gratifying aspect presented by this banquet, at which there were certainly more than a tenth part of the community, and yet there were very many brothers who had not been able to attend. Most of the speeches alluded to the pleasant manner in which the local Lodges worked together—several brethren belonging to both ; and the members of each being frequent and welcome visitors to the other. And in proposing the Grand Lodges working under other constitutions than the English, Brother Mitchell asked the numerous representatives of such Lodges present, to convey to their parent Grand Lodges, the assurance that the brethren of all were ever welcome at the Yokohama Lodges.

To the toast of “The Ladies,” Mr. Drummond-Hay replied most felicitously; remarking that whilst ladies felt grateful to Masons for the affection accorded to them, there were two things they could not well understand—the one, the pertinacity with which every Mason keeps the Masonic Secret; and the other, the extraordinary fashion of wearing an apron. As fashions change, there might be a hope of seeing the adoption of ladies’ attire on a more extensive scale, and probably at no distant day, the brethren of the mystic tye might come to be distinguished by their Grecian Bend and Chignon ! ! But the most interesting speech of the evening was that made by Brother Jaquemot, in returning thanks for “The visiting Brethren.” He related an incident that came under his notice when he was a very young Mason, 22 years ago. At that time, war was working its cruel way in Germany—Germans against Germans—but, as ever, involving others. A young Swiss had managed to become embroiled, and was taken prisoner. He was cast for death. He was a Freemason, and interest was made by his Lodge to save his life. The Grand Master of the district was appealed to, and he knew of no other way of aiding the object than through the Masonic tye. He could not appeal to the general, as such, or his officers—for the man had been legally adjudged to die.

He therefore appealed to the Grand Master of the German Lodges—who made but an inauspicious reply. The night before the execution was to take place, the captive observed, much to his surprise, that the guard was not so close as usual, and the idea occurred to him to make an attempt to escape. He succeeded. A few months ago, in returning to Japan from Europe, via New York, Mr. Jaquemot met the condemned in that city. He told him that he had ascertained that the guard had been purposely arranged so as to allow of his escape ; and he was now a free citizen as well as a Freemason in the United States, indebted for his life and freedom to the fraternal impulses of—William 4th, the present King of Prussia.

When the toasts and musical arrangements of the programme were ended, “promiscuous harmony” as the W.M. Brother Rains happily termed it, commenced. Then came the two songs of the evening—one by Brother Jaquemot; and more especially one by Brother Allard who sang “L’eclair” with a sweetness and expression rarely heard among amateurs. Bro. Crowningshield being called upon, played some Minstrel Melodies very tastefully on the guitar; and Brother Elbert played on the Pianoforte an excellent selection of melodies from Spohr, and this was followed by a recitation by Brother Schmid from Byron. We have never attended a public banquet, at which were no professional musicians, where so much that was good in the way of music was presented; and where temperance and thorough enjoyment went so strictly hand in hand. From first to last the spirit never flagged, and when the brethren dispersed, there was not one but could say that as they had been happy to meet, they were sorry to part, and would look forward to next St. John’s Day when they might hope as happily to meet again.”

In 1890 the Masonic Bodies moved into new premises at Lot No. 61, in a fine building erected by Bro. Otto Kiel, P.M. of “Otentosama” Lodge, especially designed for Masonic purposes, including those of the Scottish Rite. Bro. Kiel, then Deputy of the Supreme Council, A. & A.S.R., Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S., died 31 January 1899, and difficulties arose with the new owner of the building. In February 1900 a Masonic Permanent Committee was formed representing all Masonic Bodies working in Yokohama, and it was decided to remove to No. 78, where considerable alterations were made, and where the Fraternity met for over a decade.

On the death of the owner of No. 61, the Permanent Committee acquired the perpetual leasehold. Masonic Hall, Ltd. was formed and registered as owners of the property in 1911. The Earthquake of 1 September 1923 destroyed this solid building, along with all furniture, regalia, library, and vault records. For nearly a year meetings of the Yokohama fraternity took place at Corinthian Hall in Kobe, where many foreign residents had taken refuge. In October 1924 Yokohama meetings resumed in a suite of rooms at No. 167, provided by Bro. Everett Welles Frazar, Deputy of the Supreme Council, A. & A.S.R.

The present Yokohama Masonic Temple at No. 3 Yamate-cho was consecrated at a special meeting of District Grand Lodge 12 February 1927. Most of the cost of the buildings and land were defrayed out of earthquake relief funds contributed by members of lodges under the U.G.L. of England. Some of the cost was defrayed by sale of the lot No. 61. Title, as before, was vested in Masonic Hall, Ltd., a Hong Kong non-profit corporation. Yokohama Lodge Installation of 16 February 1927 was the first lodge meeting in the new Temple.

Tokyo Lodge met where they could : in a large room attached to Trinity Church in Tsukiji, at the Kyobunkwan on the Ginza, at the Restaurant Seiyoken in Tsukiji, and, early in 1924, at the San Yen Tei, Shiba Park. Their 320th Regular meeting, in September 1923, was held at Corinthian Hall, Kobe, in consequence of the Earthquake, but as the San Yen Tei had escaped damage, they resumed meeting there the following month. In 1936 the San Yen Tei management changed, and forbade the use of regalia at meetings, so that by 1937 Tokyo Lodge was without a home.

The old Masonic Hall in Kobe was downtown in the former foreign concession. The Foundation Stone was laid 16 February 1871. Bro. P .M. Kinder, after laying the stone, said, in part : “Three and a half years ago, the spot on which this town now stands was a barren waste. It is wonderful, in so limited a space of time the beautiful settlement which now surrounds us should have sprung into existence. How much more astonishing, that we Masons should be this day assembled to lay the Foundation Stone of a splendid Temple. I congratulate the Masons of this Lodge (Hyogo and Osaka) on the prospects of shortly possessing one of the finest Lodge rooms in the world. The Masonic Hall will far exceed in beauty all other buildings, and be an elegant addition to the future city. 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 wellwishers desire. Even our royal art of Masonry may find a welcome home amongst the Japanese themselves.”

On 6 March 1909 the District Grand Lodge held its first Kobe meeting in the newly constructed Corinthian Hall. Deputy District Grand Master Whymark presided, and expressed his gratification at meeting in a Hall “erected, equipped and paid for with such perfect unanimity and brotherly feeling by all those great Masonic organizations working in friendly rivalry and good fellowship in this country in which our lot is cast.”

The following Masonic organizations were active in Japan prior to December 1941 :





Nohea Peck. Masonry in Japan: the First One Hundred Years, 1866 to 1966. Tokyo: Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Japan, 1966.