THE JAPAN QUARTER
By the twentieth of March 1958 the preparations for my departure were nearly complete. The lengthy correspondence I had engaged in had been brought to a close; I had been immunized against cholera, smallpox, tetanus, and typhoid, and had been supplied with a batch of malaria pills; the plane reservations were confirmed; money had been placed at my disposal; and a new passport was in my hand.
I faced now the unpleasant prospect of leaving Hilda and the children for a period of four long months. The children were perhaps more excited than fearful, and Hilda was outwardly composed, but she could take no pleasure in my absence and was no doubt inwardly perturbed and anxious. She would be left husbandless for a time and be burdened besides with the care of the children and the total management of the household. I blamed myself for leaving her troubled in this way, but knew no way out of our distress, beyond forsaking the entire project, and this neither she nor I considered possible or proper. The die had been cast, and at this juncture we could do no more than place ourselves under the care of Him to whose service we were committed.
Hilda put no face on the inner pain she must have felt. She selected my clothes with care, envisaged every contingency, and provided me with full instructions concerning the self-help upon which I would soon depend. One provision she made proved to be a boon. Inside each pair of my trousers she sewed sturdy pockets for the reception of my passport, travellers cheques, and plane tickets, and this insured me against thievery, even when I was asleep, or went about without my coat.
I was not allowed more than forty pounds of baggage, and this, for an extended trip that would carry me around the world, presented a problem, for it was not only clothes suitable for public appearances that I had to carry, but a considerable set of lectures, sermons, and occasional papers as well. In the end we managed to pack one suitcase which fell within the limits imposed. I carried besides this a small shoulder bag which contained my camera, shaving kit, and writing materials, and which in a pinch could also accommodate a paperback or two.
On the evening before my departure some friends and relatives gathered in our living room, and, with mixed feelings, we celebrated our togetherness, and summoned the courage to sustain with patience the temporary separation that loomed ahead of us. Before the party broke up Clarence Boomsma led in prayer, and, after we saw the children to bed, Hilda and I sat up in intimate conversation until 1:30 in the morning.
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When the family gathered for an early breakfast I read Psalm 121 and prayed for God’s protection during our absence from one another. Clarence Boomsma came at seven and drove the four of us to the airport on 32nd and Madison, where other friends were waiting to see me off. John Kromminga was there, as was Bill Spoelhof, Les De Koster, my brother Mart, and Andy and Barbara De Graaf. The Capital Airline’s four-engined Viscount, on which I soon took a seat, left for Chicago at 7:45 AM, and I was able before the plane’s departure to wave goodbye to my loved ones on the ground. It was Thursday morning, March 27, 1958.
The plane arrived in Chicago at 7:35 AM, the fifty minutes spent in flight having been recovered through a change in time zones. I was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles from here, but my plane would not leave until 10:00 AM, and to while away the time I bought a copy of The Tribune and also a book by Julius Lips called The Origin of Things. I was deep in my reading when, to my surprise and delight, there appeared upon the scene a group of ladies well known to me. Approaching with smiles and outstretched arms were my sister Gert, and three of my sisters-in-law–John’s Hatt, Tom’s Jen, and George’s Ann. These dear ladies had risen early to meet me at the airport, and to send me off with their blessing. To celebrate the occasion I ordered breakfast for all in the dining room overlooking the landing field, and here we sat and conversed for the better part of an hour. It was a pleasant time we had, and, when I left for the boarding ramp, I thankfully pocketed the packet of ten cigars Gert had given me.
TWA flight 111 took off for Los Angeles at 10:02 AM. The four-engined Lockheed flew non-stop at roughly 300 miles per hour along a route that traversed Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Denver, Grand Junction, Bryce Canyon, and Las Vegas. Flying tourist class, I took a seat facing the compartment wall, where a recessed space gave me ample leg room, and where I could read and write without disturbance. I napped for a while after lunch, but was wide awake when near Denver we came into sight of Pike’s Peak and when, thereafter, we flew over a succession of snow-topped mountains, beautiful to behold. I wondered then what sort of earth convulsion gave them birth. When we passed over Grand Junction a portion of the Canyon came into view. Of the colors that met my eye reds and browns predominated, and the river which flowed in the deep wounds cut into the face of the earth glistened in the sun.
After a flight of six hours and forty minutes we reached Los Angeles. It was then about three o’clock Pacific time. Jim Daane was waiting to meet me, and after we had confirmed the next day’s flight he drove me to his home. It had rained that day, but the sun was now shining, and the lawns were fresh and green, and there were flowers everywhere. Jean greeted me at the door when we arrived and, after we had had our aperitifs, she served a delicious dinner. Present at the table were the Daane’s two children, Marilyn (16) and Bruce (12). I was taken after dinner on a tour of the city. We stopped on the way to inspect Jim’s church–a large, well-kept, and well-situated edifice, to which was attached a roomy parish house, occupied that evening by members of the Young Couples Club, to many of whom I was introduced. In the course of the evening we passed Hollywood and Vine, which I did not find remarkable, and we stepped into the foyer of Sid Grauman’s theater, where many entertainers have their foot- and hand-prints impressed in concrete. It was eleven o’clock when we got home, which by my watch was two AM and far beyond my bedtime. Extremely tired, I gladly laid me down to sleep, but I slept fitfully and got up at 5:30. It wa now Friday, the 28th of March.
While eating breakfast I received a call from PAA that my nine o’clock flight would be delayed until noon. Although the delay would, to my regret, inconvenience my host in Honolulu, I welcomed the opportunities it afforded. I used the time to purchase a small gift for Jean, to speak to Hilda on the long distance phone, and to send off a few cards to friends in Grand Rapids. That done, Jim proposed that we go to the airport by way of Pasadena, and pay a quick visit to Fuller Theological Seminary. This we then did. While inspecting the building and grounds I met a few of the professors, but for lack of time I didn’t get to see President Carnell, whose books I had read and appreciated. When we arrived at the airport we learned that the flight time had been advanced to 1:15 PM, and that passengers could take lunch in the restaurant at the airline’s expense. After we had dined on the voucher I had received, I bade my good friend farewell and went aboard only to learn of another delay. Trouble in the baggage compartment kept the plane on the ground for another hour. It was 2:15 PM when we took off and headed for the blue Pacific.
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It was ocean all the way, although I was able at the outset to look down upon Catalina Island, which lay not many miles off the coast. I took a seat in the forward compartment, ahead of the Clipper’s four engines, where, separated from the other passengers, and with ample room for my gear, I could endure with tolerable comfort the long ten hour flight. The trip was uneventful. I read, wrote, dozed, partook of food, peered at intervals through opening clouds upon the placid waters below, and thought of home. I was meanwhile at the mercy of the pilot, and in the sheltering hands of God.
I had written earlier to my wartime friend, Herb Choy, who, trained in the law, was now the Attorney General of Hawaii. He had responded cordially, had engaged to meet me upon my five o’clock arrival, and take me home for dinner. This, however, was not to be. The plane was over five hours late and when, at some time after ten PM, I disembarked, Herb was nowhere to be seen. Undaunted, I took the waiting limousine to downtown Honolulu and took lodging in the Surf Rider Hotel, where a spacious and well-appointed room with bath had been reserved for me. Before I retired for the night I went to the lobby, off of which, under the open sky, and under a high spreading tree, people were sitting at small tables sipping cool drinks. Others were dancing to Hawaiian music played by a five-man ensemble. I ordered a tall glass of pineapple juice, returned to my room, and after Bible reading and prayer, lay down to sleep at 11:30 PM. I had been up and about for over twenty hours.
I awoke to noises from the street at 5:30 the next morning. Before I dressed and went to breakfast I wrote a letter to Hilda, made entries in my diary, and pondered the notes I had made for my opening speech in Japan. When I first looked out the window a misty rain was falling, and the mountains were enshrouded in haze, but later the sun broke through, and gave promise of a pleasant day. At breakfast, in the dining room which overlooked the beach, I had a glass of orange juice, ham, eggs, toast, and coffee, all for the price of one dollar. I had just returned to my room when Herb phoned. He had on yesterday enquired about my flight, was told that it would be six hours late and, suffering from a light cold, had gone early to bed, confident that I would without his aid find similar repose. He said he was feeling better, and that he and Helen wished to take me out to lunch, and to drive me around in the afternoon. It was agreed that he would call for me at twelve o’clock, after he had finished a conference with the Governor. In the interim I explored the near neighborhood, took some pictures, and wrote several cards.
I met Herb in the lobby at noon. He had not changed much; nor, he said, had I. He drove me to his house, which stood on the side of a mountain overlooking the city and affording a view of Old Baldy, the flat-topped volcanic promontory which is perhaps the most prominent feature of the island. Helen was at the door to greet us, and after some conversation we repaired to a quiet restaurant overlooking the sea, where I had fish treated with a native sauce, and for dessert a piece of fresh pineapple. After I had taken some pictures my first roll of film was spent. I left it at a camera shop in the neighborhood with orders to have it processed and sent home.
Lunch was followed by a lengthy tour of the city. I saw Kaiser’s elaborate new hotel, the buildings and grounds of the University, the cemetery of the war dead on a high hill, the city hall and ancient palace, and many things besides. The city was clean and adorned with flowers, the terrain mountainous with fertile valleys. There was in all the land, I was told, not a single snake. Nor are there any indigenous animals, all species of fauna having been imported at one time or another. The people are Polynesian, strongly intermixed with Japanese and Chinese, but the language and culture are unmistakably American.
My plane was due to leave at 6:30 PM, and at about 5:30 we were at the airport. Herb and Helen wanted to stay until the plane took off, but I urged them not to do so, and at six they took their departure. Upon leaving they hung about my neck two beautiful leis, one of carnations and one of orchids. My friends had treated me well, and I expressed to them my heartfelt thanks. It was not until nearly seven o’clock that the call came to board the plane. After we were seated there was, however, no movement. A passenger had fallen ill, and had to be removed. In consequence of this it was nearly eight o’clock before we took off and began to wing our way to Tokyo by way of Wake Island. It was now Saturday evening, the 29th of March.
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I travelled tourist class and was assigned a seat in the plane’s forward compartment. With no one seated next to me, I was well and comfortably situated, with ample room to store the things I would use en route. The leis I had received were packed by the stewardess in a plastic bag and preserved for presentation upon arrival. I came in course of time to make the acquaintance of some passengers–a Japanese couple with four children flying from South America for a visit to their homeland, a young Japanese government official, a Chinese businessman bound for Hong Kong, and a stewardess on vacation flying around the world at reduced fare. Seated just ahead of me was Dr. L. M. Massey, President of the Board of Trustees of Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. The college had been in the news after the Southern Baptist Convention had banned dancing on the campus, and we talked about that, and about other things pertaining to the running of a denominational school. The pilot of the plane was, interestingly enough, Captain R. N. Ogg, who had figured in the news when some time before this he had ditched his plane in mid-Pacific. He had been rescued with all the passengers and crew by a coast guard vessel with which he had been in communication for several hours before he set the plane down in the water.
Our first and only stop was to be at Wake Island. The estimated flying time to it was eight hours, and just what I did during the course of those long hours I do not recall. I remember that we were served dinner about an hour after we were aloft, and I know I slept a bit when the lights were dimmed, but beyond that and the brief conversations I engaged in I remember little. There is one exception. Some time before we reached Wake Island we crossed the international date line, and in less than a second flew from Saturday into Monday. A day of my life vanished into thin air, and what was lost was nothing less than Sunday. We were all awake at the time and were issued certificates attesting to our membership in “The Realm of the Sun and the Heavens, where the Today of mortals becomes at once Tomorrow.”
We reached Wake Island at 2:00 AM on Monday, the 31st. The island, which is three miles long and one mile wide, served as an air force base and as a port of call for American commercial planes. It was the scene of a bloody conflict during the second world war, and evidence of the conflict was said to be spread throughout the territory. The hulk of a Japanese cruiser lay just off shore, and the land itself was intersected with the trenches dug by the Japanese and by the United States Marines. We were permitted to disembark, but had no opportunity to survey the grounds, the darkness being in any case a screen upon our eyes. We were served coffee, rolls, and fruit in a cheery mess hall, and were given to believe that a speedy refueling of the plane would enable the pilot to make up the time lost in Honolulu, but this did not occur. We stayed on the ground for two long hours. It was during this time that I wrote Hilda a letter, sent cards to Dick and Ellen, and purchased for Dick the first of the many pennants I would collect in my travels.
Toward four o’clock, or 1:00 AM Tokyo time, the call came to get aboard, and soon thereafter we set our course toward Japan. Estimated flying time was nine hours. We flew steadily through the night while bucking strong head winds which reduced our speed. I slept not at all during this time. Amid my musings, reflections, and longings, I observed the clearly visible moon and the plenitude of stars, read in my Bible, and pondered the past and future. At about six o’clock we were served breakfast. Somewhat later we could see land below, and shortly thereafter a haze-enveloped Mount Fuji came into view. Finally, at 10:30 AM we set down at the Tokyo airport. The plane landed light as a feather, and I breathed a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his care and protection. We had been nineteen hours en route, but I didn’t feel tired, and I was eager to learn what lay in store. It was mid-morning, the 31st of March.
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Len Sweetman had earlier undergone surgery for back trouble, but he and Clara were at the airport to greet me, and I rejoiced to see them and observe the extent of Len’s recovery. I had passed without incident through the several customs stations and was now the ward of my good friends. After exchanging words suited to the occasion we hailed a taxi and were driven to Shiba Park Hotel, where the Sweetmans had taken temporary lodgings and where an overnight room had been reserved for me. The desolation and rubble of yesteryear was no longer to be seen, and the hotel where twelve years before I had been briefly billeted had taken on a new look; but the general scene was familiar, and the whole evoked memories of things past.
After settling in we had lunch in the dining room, and when asked how I wanted to spend the afternoon I expressed a need to exchange a cheque for Japanese currency, and voiced a desire to revisit my war-time haunts. We thereupon took a taxi to the bank, where I exchanged a fifty-dollar travellers cheque for a little over 17,000 Yen, which seemed to me to be a very large sum of money. The road we travelled led through familiar territory. On our left lay Radio Tokyo where Ken Bunce and I had once worked. A little farther on was Hibiya Park through which I had often ambled. After passing Wright’s Imperial Hotel we came to the moat-surrounded and wall-enclosed palace and gardens of the Emperor, across from which stood Tokyo Kaikan, where I had lived during most of the time I was on duty. All kinds of memories were awakened in these moments. We didn’t stop, however, for we wanted to get to the bank before it closed.
As chance would have it, Rich Sytsma happened to be in the bank when we arrived. Although he knew I would be arriving in Japan on this day, he was as surprised to see me in this locale as I was to see him. He was, he said, waiting to meet and conduct through Tokyo some people from America who were making a world tour aboard an excursion ship. The expected couple arrived soon after we did, and when they entered they stood stark still, gasped, and shouted: Henry! The visitors were Mr. and Mrs. Vander Veen from Chicago, whom I had known since I was a boy. After we had talked awhile the whole company piled into Sytsma’s car for a round of visits to spots of interest in the bustling city.
We stopped first at the Tokyo Kaikan, my old domicile, and I went in to inspect it. The lobby, dining room, and stairs had retained their former appearance, and as I roamed through the premises I thought of the long talks and leisurely walks Lieutenant Murphy and I once shared. We then went to Radio Tokyo, in which my office had been located. Although the building was structurally the same, everything else seemed to have changed. Gone was the dirt and the dampness and the cold with which I associated it, and greatly altered was the disposition of the rooms. I could not even be sure where our offices had been, for walls and partitions seemed to have been shifted about, New, of course, were the television studios, which did not exist in our day, but were now elaborate and fully utilized. We visited other points of interest, less familiar to me, and went at last to Egeta, a suburb of Tokyo, where the Christian Reformed Mission House stood, and where the Van Baaks resided. The Van Baaks were not at home, but we inspected the house through the courtesy of the maids, and with that our tour ended. Rich Sytsma brought the Sweetmans and me to the Interurban station where we boarded an Electric for the trip into town, and Rich and his guests moved off in another direction. It was 5:30 PM when we reached our hotel, and at seven we were to be at the banquet which the missionaries and the resident Calvin Alumni had scheduled in honor of my arrival. I had been travelling with hardly any sleep since I left Honolulu, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but I was able to squeeze in a half-hour’s nap before going down to dinner.
A goodly crowd had come out to greet me. A room in the hotel had been set aside to accommodate the party, and a sumptuous table had been set for our delectation. Except for Rev. and Mrs. Vander Bilt, who were on vacation in some distant place, and except for the controversial Rev. Sutton, all the missionaries were there with their wives–the Bruinooges, the Van Baaks, the Sweetmans, and the Sytsmas. Present, too, were several other Calvin alumni–the physicians Van Zee, Plum, and Van Wijk, all of whom were on duty with the army medical corps–and two servicemen stationed in the vicinity, Harvey Smit and Wallace Bratt. John Hesselink and his wife, missionaries from the RCA, were also there. I had early on been requested to give an after dinner speech on Christianity and other religions. I had protested, believing that a speech would spoil a pleasant evening around a festive board, but I did not prevail and, capitulating, I drew upon a lecture I had prepared on “The Absoluteness of Christianity.” I spoke from notes, at not too great a length, and quite informally, which probably suited the occasion, for the thing was generally well spoken of.
It was eleven o’clock when the party broke up. As soon as the company left I repaired to my room and went to bed. The Lord had carried me through another day, the first on Japanese soil. I thanked him for his care, and asked him to watch tenderly over the precious ones at home.
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It was Tuesday, the first of April, when at 6:30 AM I arose in answer to the hotelier’s wake-up call. I wrote a letter to Hilda before going down to breakfast with my friends, and it was shortly after we had eaten that Len Sweetman and I taxied to the station and boarded the 9:00 AM Limited Express which would carry us near day’s end to Osaka, from which we could proceed by Electric to Kobe. We travelled at a fast pace through a varied landscape dotted here and there with scenes of extraordinary beauty. Reclining in comfortable seats, Len and I talked at length about the Japanese Mission — its administration, practices, difficulties, and prospects — and the things I learned I stored in my mind. We ate a steak dinner halfway through the journey, and in the diner met up once more with John Hesselink and his family. Upon reaching Kobe, at about 5:00 PM, we were driven to the Southern Presbyterian Mission House, where I would be staying for the duration. Having deposited me there, Len left to pursue some other business he had in Kobe, and promised to keep in touch. The house I entered at 41 Kumochi-cho, 1-chome, Fukiai-ku was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. John H. Brady and their four small children, but it was a large house and a room on the third floor had been reserved for me. I made the acquaintance of my hosts, and, after being served a light supper, was escorted to my room. Although I took time to unpack my bag, I was in bed by nine o’clock, glad to find rest after the rigors of this and the previous days.
I awoke next morning at 5:30. It was Wednesday, the second of April. Rain was falling, and it kept falling throughout the day, but this I did not mind. I was scheduled to deliver two lectures on the morrow, and I spent the day in a leisurely review of what I had to say. A good part of the evening was spent in the presence of Dr. McIlwaine. He was a Southern Presbyterian missionary and a member of the seminary faculty. He came to my room for an orientation session and stayed to engage me in conversation about a number of other things only tangentially related to my presence in Kobe. I did not hesitate in our meeting to puff upon my pipe, even though smoking was considered by most missionaries to be beyond the pale. Warrant for indulging in my habit I had earlier received from my friends in Tokyo, who correctly sensed I would be severely handicapped if deprived of tobacco.
On Thursday, the third, the seminary opened its doors upon a new semester. At 11:00 AM, before a goodly crowd, I delivered a convocation address on The Absoluteness of Christianity, and at 2:00 PM I delivered a second address on The Christian Way. Each of these lectures lasted about an hour and a half, for they had to be translated into Japanese. McIlwaine did the interpreting, and he must have put a good face upon my words, for they appeared to have been well received. The day ended with a reception at which tea and cakes were served. The Easter holiday was now upon us, and no classes would be held until late in the following week.
On Friday, the fourth, the sun shone brightly after two days of rain, and the cherry blossoms in all their glory were everywhere to be seen. It was a day fit to celebrate the demise of death through the victorious dying of the Son of Man. I went to town this day in the company of Mr. Brady. I needed stationary and other supplies, and, having purchased these, I made my presence known to the American Consulate, where I had pages added to my passport. I went that evening to a Good Friday service at the English-speaking Union Church of Kobe, where I listened to a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Tucker, pastor of the church. Tucker was no stranger to me, for Hilda and I had often heard him preach when he occupied the pulpit of the Second Presbyterian Church in Princeton. In our brief after-service conversation he and I recalled those war time days.
Saturday, the fifth of April, became a day to be remembered. McIlwaine had invited me to spend the day with him at a meeting of Japanese scholars convened on the campus of Kyoto University. He called for me at 9:30 AM. We took a streetcar to the railroad station, where we boarded an electric train bound for Kyoto by way of Osaka. Arriving shortly after eleven, we listened to the reading of two short papers, of which I understood nothing, and then lunched on sushi in the cafeteria, chopsticks in hand. McIlwaine returned to the meeting after lunch, but I excused myself and took a walk about the grounds and into the city. I watched students playing baseball, visited a nearby shrine, and strolled past small shops strung along a side street redolent with Japanese fragrances. We met again at three o’clock, and took a long walk to the famous Heian Shrine, whose huge Tori is featured in most Japanese travel posters. After leisurely inspecting this grand monument to Shintoism, we moved on to the equally renowned Kiyomizu Temple which, set high against a mountain, embodied the mind and spirit of Buddhism. From the eminence on which we stood, there spread out before us the grandeur of Old Japan, a grandeur which Kyoto captured and preserved as no other city in the land. When the time came for dinner we repaired to an inner-city Inn where, with shoes off and seated on the floor, we dined on sukiyaki, prepared in our presence, and served with stylized grace by a kimono-clad waitress. It was 8:15 PM before we left, and near ten when I reached my temporary home. I craved rest but, with visions of Kyoto dancing in my head, it was midnight before I was overtaken by sleep.
I awoke to the sound of rain on Easter morning, and at eleven o’clock attended the worship service held in the Kobe Union Church. I was again disappointed with Tucker’s sermon. There was talk of “renewal,” but one heard little of the Resurrection by which the Lord of Life rose to cosmic sovereignty and loosened the bonds of death for fallen mankind. I skipped the three o’clock service, took a nap, and reviewed the next day’s assignment. Dr. and Mrs. McIlwaine came in after the midday service, joined us for supper, and stayed until nine in the evening, when I, too, quitted the company and retired to my room.
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It had been agreed that I would conduct a course in Ethics at the seminary, and that I would meet the students on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week, beginning at 1:30 PM. In the week following Easter no classes were held, however, until Thursday. The reason for this lay in the fact that on Monday through Wednesday the Western Presbytery of the Reformed Church in Japan would be in session in Ashiya, near Kobe, and that the faculty and some of the students were expected to be in attendance. I, too, was drawn into the proceedings. On Monday, the seventh, I addressed a sizeable group of delegates and visitors on “The Nature of Revelation,” and on Tuesday I presented to the constituted assembly the greetings of the Christian Reformed Church. I attended on Wednesday evening the weekly prayer meeting of the Kobe Circle, at which I presented a brief meditation on a selected Bible passage.
I conducted my first two seminary classes on Thursday and Friday, the 10th and 11th of April. When I appeared at the seminary on Thursday the students had in their hands the text of the lecture I was to deliver. At Calvin I customarily spoke from notes, but had I done so now I would be hardly understood, for the students’ apprehension of spoken English was minimal. Having been told, however, that the reading of English was within the competence of most students, I had in the previous week translated my introductory notes into an expanded text, and the manuscript had been reproduced at the seminary and appropriately distributed. Having entered upon this path, I could not turn back, and I was burdened throughout my tenure with the task of presenting in written form everything I had to say. The task left me with little leisure. I was without books and reference materials, and to expand my notes, and convert them into literary productions, kept me inordinately busy. The end result was, however, gratifying; I came away from Japan with written material which would constitute a considerable portion of the syllabus I would later produce.
All the students in the seminary were enrolled in the course I undertook to teach, and all were required by their regular mentors to take tests on the material I presented. The number of students was small; there were, I think, no more than twelve. The entire faculty, however, was usually in attendance, and there were always some ministers from churches in the vicinity. At the first session Len Sweetman and Maas Vander Bilt were also present. The text I had supplied, and which the students had evidently read before my appearance, facilitated the process of instruction, and when an obscure point arose McIlwaine or Watenabe or others were there to clarify in Japanese what was at issue. Although I did most of the talking, the brighter students and the members of the faculty did ask questions, and the consequent interchange both enlivened the sessions and gave evidence that reflection was not entirely absent.
The church which established and controlled the seminary was in its present form only twelve years old. It was formed in 1946 by Reformed people who withdrew from the United Christian Church (the Kyodan), which had been established by imperial decree during the war. Its people had been nourished in the faith by largely Presbyterian missionaries, who had long been active in Japan, and it was now served as well by the several missionaries the Christian Reformed Church had sent to these shores. The seminary had not been in existence long, but it appeared to be in a stable condition in spite of the paucity of funds at its disposal. The buildings and grounds were modest though adequate, and there was a sizeable dormitory which housed the students, not a few of whom were married. The complex lay about three miles from my place of residence, and to reach it I depended on the streetcar which ran not far from the Brady house.
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When I reached home after the class session on Friday, the 11th, I had just enough time to write Hilda a letter, have supper, and prepare for the three-day journey I was about to undertake. I had earlier expressed a desire to visit an adjoining Japanese island, and an opportunity was now afforded me. A certain Miss Currell, a seventy-year-old Southern Presbyterian missionary, had been visiting in Kobe and was now about to return to her post in Kochi on the island of Shikoku, to the south of Honshu. I was invited to accompany her and to spend Saturday and Sunday on the island as a guest of the mission. We boarded a ferry at 8:00 PM on Friday, engaged second-class berths for sleeping, and arrived in Kochi at 8:00 AM on Saturday. I was introduced at breakfast to several of Miss Currell’s associates, and was put into the care of the youthful Rev. Lyle Petersen, who drove me about the town, took me to his home for lunch, and recruited me for an overnight trip into the back country, where we would visit a number of mission stations set down in mountainous farming communities. Lyle, his Japanese assistant, and I set out at 4:00 o’clock that afternoon on a most impressive journey. We travelled in Lyle’s new Chevrolet through rural scenes of great beauty, where my attention was fixed as well on the people, their garb, their homes, and their activities. We passed lush rice paddies, saw oxen hitched to appurtenances of various sorts, met up with “honey” wagons laden with human excrement used to fertilize the fields, and rode perilously along narrow mountain passes in sight of the rolling sea. We stayed overnight at an Inn in rural Kubokawa, where we took a hot Japanese bath and had supper. On Sunday Lyle conducted an early morning worship service in Kubokawa, where I watched with interest the hardy farm-folk at prayer. We moved from there to Kure for an afternoon service and ended the day with an evening service in Kaminokae. Being at that point still far from home, we did not get back to Kochi City until midnight. I left Kochi by train at 10:30 AM on Monday, the 14th, and arrived in Kobe at 8:00 PM exhausted but enriched by novel experiences, and happy to have met many good people.
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The Bradys, with whom I lived, managed the Kobe Mission House, and served as hosts to itinerant missionaries, but they were not themselves accredited evangelists. John served as Business Manager of the Mission, and occupied himself with ledgers, accounts, schedules, and the like. He was a 37-year-old Southerner, quiet in demeanor and slow of speech, but ready to help, and in all situations accommodating. Ann, his 33-year-old wife, was equally solicitous. She was of Dutch descent, the daughter of a Mr. Kok who had served in the Chinese consular service and had thereafter been posted to Japan. She was the mother of four children — Susan, Carol, Harper, and Patricia — who ranged in age from 6 years to 9 months, and she was assisted in her household duties by two young Japanese maids. The maids, it appeared, did almost everything that needed doing. They cleaned the rooms, and did the washing and ironing. They shopped for groceries, prepared the meals, washed the dishes, made the beds, fed the baby on occasion, and managed the other children when Ann was away. They were always seated with us at table, and it was a delight to hear them sometimes read the Scriptures and offer prayer in Japanese. The children were charming, and at our daily meetings I kept apprised of what went on in their young lives. I was, in a way, a member of the family. I was present at all meals, and often led in devotions, but I did not usually linger at table, and was not really involved in the life of the close-knit little community into which I had been insinuated. John sometimes accompanied me when I had to do business in town, and on two occasions I took John and Ann out to dinner in appreciation of their hospitality, but our relationship overall, though cordial, was less intimate than friendly, and less constant than episodic. The expense the Brady’s incurred in boarding me was defrayed by the Christian Reformed Mission Board, whose emissary I was to the Christians in Japan and elsewhere.
Perhaps ninety percent of my time at home was spent in the third-floor room that had been assigned to me. The room was small and spartan in appearance, but it supplied my basic needs, and I soon felt comfortable in it. The bed I slept in was not unlike a cot, but it was made up every morning by the maids, and fresh linen was periodically supplied. A closet and chest of drawers held the small amount of clothes I had, and a sizeable table set against a wall served as a desk. A typewriter, borrowed from the Brady’s, stood on a stand nearby. There was a wash basin with running water, but for toilet and bath I had to descend to the second floor. The accommodations there were semi-private, reserved for my exclusive use except when guests were present. A small cupboard contained a gas plate on which I heated water for instant coffee, and to ward off April chills and damps there was a portable electric heater. The single window in the room enabled me to look down upon a portion of the town, and from it on a clear day I could glimpse the bay in which huge ships usually lay at anchor. I had no telephone, though I did of course have access to the one below. A buzzer in my room sounded when I was wanted for meals or for a rare phone call. Smoking was suspect among Japanese Christians, and I was careful not to light my pipe in public, but in my room I freely indulged my habit, and even dared to ask the Bradys for an ashtray. What impression the smoke-filled room made upon the maids I do not know; perhaps they learned that Calvinism embraces the whole of life, including the adiaphora. Although the television industry was burgeoning in Japan, the Bradys owned no set, and I depended for news on the English-language paper that was daily delivered to the house.
Of Kobe itself I can give no satisfactory account. I travelled its streets for a short distance to and from school, took short walks about the neighborhood in which I lived, and touched upon a few spots in the inner city when business demanded my presence there; but for want of time and opportunity I never explored the town or participated even minimally in its life. Kobe lay along a fairly narrow coastal strip hemmed in by a low range of mountains, on a slope of which the Brady house was set. The city, which boasted a population of about one million, lay in the vicinity of Osaka and Kyoto and formed with them a significant triangle, but it lacked the charm and cultural wealth of its near neighbors. Its strength lay in industry and commerce. It was said to be Japan’s largest commercial port, and its extensive freight-laden docks bore witness to the claim. Ship-building was probably its major industry. From my window the city appeared grey, treeless, and smoke-filled. Its streets teemed with motor cars whose drivers observed no speed laws, and seemed delighted to see pedestrians scurrying out of harm’s way. Traffic moved on the left side of the street, and this at first put me in some jeopardy at crossings. Of horse-drawn vehicles or of rickshaws there was hardly a trace, and one seldom saw a kimono-clad woman in the streets; almost all had adopted Western-style clothing. What I most vividly remember about the city were the open sewers that lined the streets in my neighborhood. The stench that arose from them was unpleasant enough, but I wondered what hazard these waste-laden and sluggish aqueducts presented to the health of the people.
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I returned from Shikoku’s Kochi City on the 14th of April, and in the ten days following that date I seldom left the house for anything other than to conduct classes and go to church. To transcribe my Ethics notes into prose fit for reading and ingestion required a considerable expenditure of time and energy, and I had besides to attend to a sizeable correspondence, and be prepared to present at the weekly prayer meeting a suitable meditation on a passage of Scripture. It was my custom to arise at 5:30, brew myself a cup of instant coffee, write Hilda and the children before going down to breakfast, and thereafter settle down at my desk for reflection and composition.
I met my class regularly, and on Friday, the 18th, concluded the fifth session. On April 19 I attended with McIlwaine a luncheon at the Japanese-American Club downtown, and stayed for wide-ranging discussion until late in the afternoon. On the 21st I visited the prefectural office to be registered and finger-printed, and thereby to be licensed as a bona fide visitor bent upon an authorized mission.
Memorable during this period was my attendance at a Japanese worship service conducted by Professor Tanaka on Sunday, the 20th. I understood little of what was said, but observed with interest the order of worship, which closely resembled our own, and was impressed with the fervency of the people’s devotion. The hymns that were sung to the accompaniment of a reed organ were set to familiar tunes, and the full-throated rendering of them was reverent and joyous. The sermon, read from a manuscript, was delivered with dignity and persuasiveness. The hundred or more people in attendance not only listened attentively, but resorted often to their open Bibles, and some recorded in their notebooks sermonic materials they considered memorable. Two women were among those who took up the offering, and one of these offered the prayer of thanksgiving and dedication. It was thrilling to sit among the worshippers, and to gather with them around the Word whose power breaches every stronghold, and brings into captivity people of every nation. I came away impressed anew with the unity and catholicity of Christ’s church.
I concluded the eighth class session on Friday, the 25th. In prospect now was a ten-day absence from school, and an involvement in a number of speaking engagements. The time was propitious. Three national holidays would be observed in the upcoming “Golden Week,” and the school would be closed. Room was thus given me to discharge the obligations to which my friends had committed me. Looming on the near horizon was the Second Reformed Theological Conference which would be held in Osaka on Monday and Tuesday. The conference would be devoted to a consideration of Christian Ethics, and I was scheduled in the course of it to deliver two major addresses.
I was prepared for the event, but to improve my appearance I got my first Japanese haircut. That was an experience. The barber worked as if he were performing the most delicate heart operation, and he treated my head as if it was the world’s most fragile piece of Chinese porcelain. Everything went with the process — hot towels, dusting with fragrant powder, neck-shaving, frequent brushings, and the like — all during the course of an hour, and all for forty American cents.
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Len Sweetman had written me that he and Henry Bruinooge would be at the conference, would be arriving in Osaka on Saturday, the 26th, and would like me to spend the weekend with them. This I was glad to do. I caught the 3:54 PM Electric out of Kobe, and arrived in Osaka just in time to meet the train bearing my friends from Kofu. We put up that evening in a Japanese Inn, feasted on sukiyaki, conversed about many things, and went late to our floor-placed mattresses for sleep. On Sunday morning we breakfasted on raw eggs, dried seaweed, fish, pickled bamboo, rice, and tea; and since there was no church in the vicinity, we stayed indoors through all of that dark and rainy day. We removed on Sunday evening to the Osaka Christian Center, where the conference would be held, and where rooms had been reserved for us.
The conference opened on Monday morning with a devotional service conducted by the Rev. Mr. Heinz Gunther. Two lectures were delivered in the afternoon, each of which was followed by discussion. Dr. John W. Bowman, Professor of New Testament at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, presented “A Portrait of a Christian,” with a reference to Matthew 5, and the Rev. Mr. John Hesselink, of the RCA Mission, spoke on “The Significance of the Metrical Psalms in the Hymnody of the Church.” I was the sole speaker that evening, and delivered to an assembly augmented by visitors a lecture on “The Freedom of Man.” The session lasted from 7:00-9:00 PM, and was followed by Evening Devotions under the leadership of the Rev. Mr. James A. Cogswell. To top the activities of the day a group of us–perhaps a dozen–went out into the street, bought from a vendor a bowl of cooked noodles tastefully prepared with sauces and bits of chicken, and downed the savory dish with chopsticks under the gaze of curious passersby.
Bowman delivered a Tuesday morning lecture on “Christian Social Ethics,” and I spoke in the afternoon on “The Liberty of Conscience.” The conference closed with an evening lecture on “Some Ethical Problems in Japan” by Dr. Hidenobu Kuwada, Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Union Theological Seminary in Tokyo. I returned to my room when the session ended, and had just finished writing a letter to Hilda when Sweetman, Bruinooge, Hesselink, and John Young burst into the room and persuaded me to join them for a walk and a snack. We had tempura with rice and tea at a restaurant down the street, and it was again after midnight when we found rest in sleep.
Since there was no school on Wednesday, nor on the Thursday and Friday that followed, I was free to engage in the additional extracurricular activities that had been planned for me. In prospect now was a trip to Tokyo, where I was scheduled to give five speeches and conduct at least one worship service. It was here, too, that I would take a first step in the execution of a plan proposed by my sponsors, whereby I would visit on successive weekends the various mission posts maintained by our church in Japan. Upcoming was a visit to the Van Baaks, and to Robert Sutton, the people who worked in and around the great metropolis.
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I arose early on Wednesday, the 30th of April, and was ready at 8:00 AM to undertake the planned trip to Tokyo. Sweetman, Bruinooge, and I boarded the 9:00 AM Express just before its scheduled departure, rode in comfort during our passage through the richly textured countryside, and arrived at our destination late in the afternoon. Ed Van Baak met us at the station and took us to an Inn where we enjoyed a hot bath and were served a delicious sukiyaki dinner made even more palatable by the several small draughts of rice wine that accompanied it. The four of us were afterward joined by Dr. McIlwaine, who had come down on a later train to serve as the interpreter of my scheduled lectures. After much talk we lay down on our appointed floor mats and slept the night away.
I was now the ward of Ed and Frances Van Baak, with whom I stayed during the days that followed. I was exceedingly well cared for. Fran saw that I was well fed, did my laundry, and anticipated my every need. Ed was my guide, chauffeur, and steady companion, and in conversation with both of these good people I learned what I needed to know about our missionary endeavor in Tokyo.
On the Thursday after our arrival I addressed the students and faculty of the Japan Christian Seminary, and later that day spoke to a similar gathering at the Japan Christian College. I delivered on Friday a second set of lectures at these schools, and was on both days entertained at lunch by the presiding officers. In the unencumbered daylight hours I was able on these two days to go downtown with Ed for the conduct of necessary business. I confirmed my plane reservations, secured new visas, and at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital had Dr. Nelson confirm the completeness and validity of my medical record.
Saturday, the 3rd of May, was a day free of lectures, and on it I visited with the Rev. Mr. Sutton, a somewhat disaffected man who had attended none of my lectures, but to whom I nevertheless paid my respects and engaged in conversation about his work. I also visited this day the International Christian University and the Union Seminary, of which Dr. Kuwada was President. The highlight of the day was the meeting Ed and I had with my war-time associate, Hideo Kishimoto, Professor of Comparative Religions at the University of Tokyo. We supped at the University Club, reminisced a bit, spoke of the Japanese renaissance, considered the role of religion in the life of the nation, and pondered the significance of Japan’s phoenix-like rise from the ashes of defeat into an industrial giant unmatched in the orient, and destined before long to compete on level ground with the economic powers of the western world.
I met on Sunday morning with the congregation that gathered for worship in Van Baak’s church, heard Ed preach in Japanese, and partook of bread and wine in the sacrament of communion. I myself preached in the afternoon in an outlying district, the sermon being translated by the pastor of the church. Upon returning from the service I was able to renew acquaintance with Dr. and Mrs. Geesink, who had been invited by the Van Baaks to spend the evening with us. Dr. Geesink was a physician on duty in Tokyo with the American Army Medical Corps. Having access to the base PX, he had been asked to purchase for me some rolls of film and a batch of cigarettes, and these upon an exchange of money I now gratefully received from his hands. We spent the evening in fellowship, and were joined in the course of it by a late arriving Len Sweetman. It was again midnight when the party broke up.
On Monday, the 5th of May, I travelled with Ed to Urawa, a distant suburb of Tokyo, where at 11:00 AM I spoke to the faculty and students of a Christian Grammar School, the only school of its kind in all of Japan. The Rev. Mr. Takeshi Matsuo was its Principal, and he was not unknown to me. He had been my interpreter during my tour of duty with the Navy, and we were both moved when now we fell into each others embrace. We ate lunch at the school, and Takeshi and I lingered over our fish and pickles to recall the days we spent together, now more than a decade ago.
When Ed and I reached home late in the afternoon I was exhausted and lay down to nap. I was up betimes, however; and after the children had eaten and been placed in the care of the maid, I took Ed and Fran out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. This gesture of mine could not repay them for their unstinting hospitality, but it served to express in a tangible way my deep appreciation of the care and solicitude they daily manifested.
When Tuesday came it was time to leave. My work in Tokyo was finished and my work in Kobe beckoned. Sutton put in an appearance as I was packing my bag, and he shared an early lunch with us, but there was little more to talk about, and time was pressing. Ed brought me to the railroad station, and at 12:30 noon I boarded the Osaka-bound Express. I arrived in Osaka in the early evening, and reached Kobe at about 9:00 PM. Upon my arrival at the Brady house I was given a cup of cocoa, and pressed for an account of my adventures, but I excused myself at ten. By the time I had read and responded to Hilda’s letters, unpacked my bag, and said my prayers, it was past midnight, and I welcomed sleep.
* * * * * * *
I gave instruction at the seminary on each of the next three days, and by Friday, the 9th of May, I had brought the eleventh class session to a close. I had been scheduled, on the weekend, to visit the Sytsmas in Kawagoe, but I had pleaded, in Tokyo, that my work in Kobe was pressing, and it was agreed that I should postpone the visit for a week, and combine it with one to the Vander Bilts in Chichibu.
This being the case, I found myself free to accept an invitation to attend, on Friday, a faculty dinner and caucus. We met from four in the afternoon until nine in the evening in Suma, a suburb of Kobe. After we had dined on sukiyaki, we discussed a variety of things. I was informed about the state of the Reformed Church in Japan, and of its prospects; and I commented in turn on the theological enterprise, and on the standards that should be established for effective work in academia. I hazarded the opinion, too, that Calvin Seminary would be willing to grant a scholarship to a qualified Kobe graduate and promised to recommend this upon my return to the States.
During the next several days I wrote letters to a large number of correspondents, and worked hard at the production of my next series of school lectures. Sunday, the 11th of May, was Mother’s Day, and I tried unsuccessfully to reach Hilda by phone. I managed, however, to talk to her on Monday, and to learn, among other things, that she had received the dozen yellow roses that I had previously ordered, through the good offices of Clarence Boomsma.
I was back in school on Wednesday, and at 3:30 PM on Friday, the 16th, the fourteenth class session came to an end. I was entertained that afternoon by the students, who invited me to a 4:00 o’clock dinner, which they prepared in one of the dormitory rooms. We ate and talked until about 6:00 PM. I could stay no longer, for I was to leave later that evening for Tokyo. In the offing was a visit to the mission posts manned by the Sytsmas and the Vander Bilts.
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I boarded the Tokyo-bound train at 8:30 PM and, with a good night’s rest in view, proceeded almost immediately to the berth prepared for me by the accommodating porter, here called “Boy.” I arrived in Tokyo refreshed at 7:40 AM on Saturday, the 17th, and was greeted at the station by Rich Sytsma. We breakfasted together at a nearby hotel, and afterwards spent some time doing errands in the city. I was scheduled to appear in Korea in early June, and I wished to inquire about flight times and routes.
Our business accomplished we set out for Kawagoe, a town lying about thirty miles from Tokyo, and counting about 50,000 inhabitants. Inching our way through heavy traffic, it took us an hour and a half to reach our destination. Mrs. Sytsma served us lunch soon after our arrival, and I hardly had time to inspect the premises, and make the acquaintance of Sytsma’s six children, before we had to return to Tokyo for an address I was to give.
At 4:30 that afternoon I spoke to the faculty of the Christian Academy on “The Meaning of Christian Education.” The lecture elicited a spirited response, and it was followed by a steak dinner, over which we dallied until 8:30. We reached home about 10:00 PM, and I went soon after to bed.
I was up betimes on Sunday morning, and had finished a letter to Hilda before the family was astir. A worship service was held at 10:30 AM in Sytsma’s large living room. Rich had command of the Japanese language, but he preached this morning in English for the benefit of his children, and perhaps for my benefit as well. The sermon was translated for the other worshippers by a Japanese interpreter. We spent the afternoon in conversation about the missionary work being carried on here, and I preached at the evening service to a congregation made larger by the addition of neighboring Christians who had come to hear a visitor from America. The Spirit of God moved among us that evening, and I myself was upborne by his presence. After the service we had coffee and conversation, and it was midnight when we brought the day to a close.
We set out the next morning for a rendezvous with the Vander Bilts at a point somewhere between Kawagoe and Chichibu. The Sytsmas, with three of their children, drove me to a spot on the bank of a stream, where we met the Vander Bilts, and their four children. Having greeted one another, we sat down for an hour upon a grassy knoll, and partook of the coffee and rolls that the women had taken along. When the picnic was over, the Sytsmas returned home, and I took off with the Vander Bilts.
We drove through rugged country for quite a while, and in early afternoon reached Chichibu, a town nestled at the foot of limestone mountains, and boasting a population of around 40,000. After a late lunch, Maas and I explored the town on bicycles, and stopped halfway at a Christian kindergarten conducted by members of his congregation. At 7:30 that evening we attended a Bible class, after which we talked of many things pertaining to the mission in this place.
The short but pleasant visit with the Vander Bilts came to an end the very next day–Tuesday, the 20th of May. My train was scheduled to leave tokyo at 1:30 PM, and Maas and I set out in time to meet it. We drove for over three hours in the rain, and through mountain passes, and at the station had time to continue the discussion we had engaged in en route. Maas bought me fruit and peanuts to eat on the train, and after an uneventful trip I arrived in Kobe at 10:38 and reached home by taxi at 11:00 PM. Letters from Hilda were awaiting me, and it was again very late when I went to bed.
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I met my class on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday, the 23rd, I concluded the seventeenth session. I was now once again poised to undertake a weekend trip. My destination this time was Kofu, where I would be the guest of the Bruinooges and the Sweetmans.
I caught the 9:30 PM Electric for Osaka, and there made connection with a Tokyo-bound Sleeper. I slept fitfully in confined quarters, alternatively soothed and stirred by the rhythmic sounds of motion, but I was up and about when at 6:20 AM on Saturday the train reached Fuji. I alighted here, and boarded a commuter train which brought me to Minobu at 8:10 AM. Henry “Red” Bruinooge was there to greet me.
Before leaving Minobu in Henry’s blue Volkswagen, we visited the famous Buddhist Temple which sat high on the side of a mountain overlooking the city. I heard again the chanting of monks, the clang of gongs, and the tinkling of bells; and smelled again the incense that stirred memories of former days spent in similar environments. We lingered on the premises for some time, and before setting out for Kofu consumed on the temple grounds the coffee and rolls Henry had brought from home.
Upon arriving in Kofu we sat down to the lunch that Eunice had prepared, and the afternoon was spent in the company of this good woman and her husband. I was treated by them with every courtesy, and taken on a tour of the city, in the course of which I bought some things for Hilda and the children.
A special English worship service was scheduled for the evening. Resident missionaries from various denominations came to the chapel, and I preached on John 3:16. After the service the Bruinooges and several of the worshippers gathered at the Sweetmans for discussion over cake and coffee. The visitors left at about 11:00 PM, but I stayed, and was put up that night by the Sweetmans.
On Sunday, the 25th of May, I went to church twice. I heard Sweetman preach in the morning, and heard Bruinooge in the evening. Henry took me for a ride that afternoon through the mountainous countryside. Memorable was a deep gorge with a fast-flowing stream tumbling over huge boulders.
On Monday morning, Len, Clara, and I had tea with Len’s assistant, a young evangelist by the name of Kageyama, and in the afternoon I worked on my school lectures in the quiet of Len’s study. We gathered that evening at the Bruinooges, where we wrapped up our discussion. We were joined there by Mel and Sylvia Geesink, who had come down from Tokyo, and had not forgotten to bring cigarettes and film.
On Tuesday morning Len and I entrained for Tokyo, and at 12:30 PM I boarded the Express for Kobe, which I reached at 9:00 o’clock that evening. I had now visited all the stations manned by the missionaries the Christian Reformed Church had sent to Japan, and I was satisfied that quality work was everywhere being done. The weekend trips I had taken were time-consuming and exhausting, but they enhanced my knowledge of things, and served as well to deepen friendships with people who invariably received me with solicitude and grace.
* * * * * * *
When I got to my room on Tuesday night I was not in a position to seek rest. I had to lecture at school the next day, and to prepare for this, and other exercises, I stayed up well beyond midnight. I was now, I realized, in my last week of residence at the school. I lectured on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday, May 30, I concluded the twentieth class session, and brought to a close the abbreviated course in Christian Ethics that I had undertaken to teach. The students had received 83 pages of close-typed material, and, as I hoped, had in their hands a notebook full of the auxiliary comments with which I had sprinkled the lectures.
At the close of the last session I thanked the students and professors for the attention they had paid to my offerings, and, in a little speech he had written in English, one of the students responded in kind. The professors joined in; we shook hands all around, and so ended my brief tenure as Guest Lecturer at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Kobe, Japan.
* * * * * * *
A final Japanese excursion was now to be undertaken. The Rev. Mr. Fujii was a minister in the Reformed Church of Japan, and the pastor of a church in Gifu. He had been a student in my classes at Calvin, and was now a part-time teacher at the Kobe Seminary, as well as the pastor of his church. He had insisted that I visit him before my departure, and had arranged for me to preach in his church, and also to conduct at Nagoya a rally under the aegis of a committee of Christians residing there. I had agreed to do this, and, in fulfillment of my promise, entrained for Gifu on Saturday afternoon, the 31st of May.
I was met, upon arrival in Gifu, by Fujii and by the Rev. Mr. McAlpin, a missionary from the Southern Presbyterian Church. After we had exchanged greetings, I was conducted to the McAlpin house, where a room had been reserved for me. An outing had been planned for the evening, and toward 8:00 o’clock it was put into execution. I was brought, in the company of Fujii, McAlpin, and several members of the church, to the Nagara River, where a canopied boat, manned by two coolies, was put at our disposal. The object of our adventure was to observe at close range the ancient art of cormorant fishing. I had observed the thing before, but this time we were propelled to a spot adjacent to the fisherman’s boat, and were able to get an unobstructed view of the proceedings.
The cormorant is a water-bird, with a long beak, and an under-beak pouch, in which captured fish are held. The birds we saw were about ten in number, and all were controlled by strings held in the fisherman’s hand. The birds periodically dived for the small trout with which the river teemed, but, because their throats were constricted by rings fastened about their necks, they could not swallow the fish they caught. When a catch was made, the fisherman pulled the bird in, retrieved the fish, and tossed it into the storage bin that stood beside him. This sort of fishing is an art, and has been practiced, I was told, by a certain family in this region for more than a thousand years. I came away impressed again with the dexterity of man and bird, but it was very late when we got home, and, being in need of sleep, I was indisposed to dwell upon the matter further; my longing now was for repose.
Sunday, the first of June, became a day to be remembered. I awoke at six, when peddlers of bean-paste announced their presence by blowing horns beneath my window, and I experienced some discomfort when I found the bathroom occupied by a seemingly endless line of successive tenants. I found relief at last, and had shaved, bathed, dressed, and written a letter to Hilda by the time we were served a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee. We left for Fujii’s church at about 9:30, and at the ten o’clock service I preached on I Corinthians 12:12-13. Interpreted by Fujii, the message appeared to be well received, for almost all the worshippers stayed to offer thanks, and to bid me Godspeed. I dined at noon with the Fujiis on rice and eel, but we ate hastily in order to catch the 1:10 train for Nagoya.
We arrived at that city’s YMCA at about two o’clock, and found the auditorium set aside for us nearly filled to capacity. Huge posters on the street, and in the lobby advertised my coming. I lectured that afternoon on the merits of Christianity to over a hundred Christians and to not a few inquirers who had come together from all parts of the city and from surrounding territories. After the lecture some were curious enough to make further inquiry, and a number of Christian students asked me to autograph their Bibles.
When the audience had dispersed, the members of the committee which had sponsored the affair took me on a tour of the city, after which we dined together on rice and fish in an elegantly appointed Inn. When we had finished eating, it was time for church. I preached that evening on John 3:16 to a large assembly of worshippers, all of whom stayed for a post-service reception, where we were served tea and cakes. I was presented at the end of the proceedings with a beautiful cloisonne vase, which Hilda and I have ever since cherished and displayed.
The courtesy with which I was treated throughout the day affected me deeply, and when, at the train station, the members of the sponsoring committee stood to see me off, I could not find words sufficient to thank the men for the extraordinary graciousness with which I had been received by the good people of Nagoya. It was after 11:00 o’clock when Fujii and I got back to Gifu, and McAlpin had to get out of bed to open the door for me. I left Gifu early on Monday morning, and was back in my room at Kobe by noon.
* * * * * * *
Monday afternoon was spent in shopping. Mrs. Brady accompanied me downtown, and at the stores we visited I bought gifts for each member of the Brady family, including the baby. I spent the evening writing letters. On Tuesday I finished the correspondence, sorted out my papers and possessions, and, with Mrs. Brady’s help, wrapped for shipment home some gifts I had bought for Hilda and the children. Included was the cloisonne vase. The highlight of the day was the visit paid me by Professor Tanaka, the President of the seminary. He had some good things to say about my presence on campus, and, before leaving, he presented me with a gift for Hilda — a set of dainty pearl earrings which, because they were precious, and took up little room, I decided to carry with me.
On Wednesday, the 4th of June, my stay in Kobe came to an end. My immediate destination was Tokyo, but it, too, would serve hereafter only as a departure point for my further travel and engagements. Before too long, not only Kobe, but Japan itself, would become a memory.
The Electric which would convey me to Osaka was scheduled to leave at 11:30 AM, and the Bradys and I arrived at the station on time. Waiting there to see me off were several of the seminary professors, and most of the students who had attended my classes. I expressed to them my gratification at their appearance, and before I stepped into the train we bade each other a fond farewell. It was on the thirty minute trip to Osaka that I lost the hat which I had placed upon a rack and forgot to retrieve when alighting. It was a pretty good hat, and I wondered thereafter whether it ever adorned the head of some Japanese stalwart.
When I arrived in Osaka to meet the Tokyo-bound Express, I found another delegation waiting to see me off. Professors Tanaka and Okada were there, and also two students representing the classmates who had assembled at the Kobe station. The students presented me here with a tastefully wrapped white shirt, which turned out to be not quite my size, but I thanked them sincerely for the gift, and wished them further progress in their studies.
The train pulled out promptly at 12:30 noon, and I waved from the window to the associates whom I would probably never see again. I occupied a reserved seat in a second class compartment, visited the diner for lunch and supper, and arrived in Tokyo at 8:00 o’clock that evening. Ed Van Baak and Len Sweetman were there to meet me. When at 9:00 we arrived at Van Baak’s house, I was surprised to find others in attendance. Mr. and Mrs. Heber McIlwaine were there, and also Henry and Eunice Bruinooge. Because accommodations at the Van Baaks were limited, the Bruinooges and I slept that night in the mission apartment next door.
I had taken to Tokyo, besides my suitcase and shoulder bag, a box stuffed with occasional papers, various memorabilia, and several articles of clothing with which I wished no longer to be encumbered, and this on Thursday morning Ed Van Baak securely wrapped and prepared for shipment home. My manuscript on Ethics I entrusted to Heber McIlwaine, who promised to send it on by registered mail as soon as he arrived in the States, for which he would soon be leaving.
Ed and I spent Thursday afternoon in downtown Tokyo, where I visited my old haunts, and cast a last look around the city that did not cease to fascinate me. That evening the Van Baaks, the Bruinooges, the McIlaines,and I celebrated our togetherness, and contemplated our imminent separation, by gathering for a festive dinner in a Chinese restaurant.
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I had early on been invited by the church and school authorities of Korea to preach and lecture in that country, and I had before I left the States agreed to come after my tenure in Japan was ended. The time had now come to fulfill my promise. First on the schedule prepared for me was a series of lectures at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Pusan. I had wished to fly directly to that city on an American Air Force plane, but this had proved to be impossible, and I was now booked on a Northwest Airlines flight to Seoul.
It was early on Friday, the 6th of June, that my friends brought me to Tokyo’s International Airport, and at 8:30 AM I took off on the first leg of a complex itinerary that would toward summer’s end bring me back to home and loved ones. Flying with me was the teenaged daughter of the Rev. Mr. Spooner, a missionary to Korea from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The young Miss Spooner was an 11th grade student at the Christian Academy in Japan, and was returning to be with her parents for the summer.