Anti-Masonry in Japan

Past and Present

Bro. Yoshio Washizu

“A Little Learning Is a Dangerous Thing.”
(Alexander Pope: An Essay on Criticism)


ANTI-MASONRY has been in existence in many parts of the world. Japan is no exception. Freemasonry has come under attack in that country from time to time over the years. The objective of this paper is to provide an account of the historical background that has fostered anti-masonic sentiments among some Japanese and of the actual attacks on the fraternity throughout the years.


Japan being an island nation located at the far eastern edge of the Asian continent, separated from the continent by more than 100 miles, its civilization developed in relative seclusion in pre-modern days. Foreign cultural influences gradually reached Japan through the neighbouring countries of China and Korea. Chinese histories record an emissary coming from Japan as early as A.D. 57 and a late third-century Chinese text provides a fairly detailed and seemingly accurate description of Japan (Reischauer, p. 13). Buddhism was introduced to Japan by way of Korea in the sixth century.

On the other hand, contacts with the Western world took place much later. The first Westerners to reach Japan were Portuguese traders who landed on Tanegashima, a small island in southern Japan, in 1543 during a period of civil wars which lasted for more than a century from the second half of the 15th century to the end of the 16th century. In 1549 St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary, arrived at Kagoshima in Kyushu, introducing Christianity to the country. Eventually other foreign nationals also arrived.

In 1603 Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542–1616) came to power and established a shogunate government in Edo (now Tokyo) and the Tokugawa shogunate ruled over Japan for more than 260 years. Ieyasu himself showed a great interest in foreign trade under the control of his government. Later on, however, the shogunate became concerned about the growing activities of Christians. It issued an edict against the propagation of Christianity in 1612 and subsequently suppressed both Christian missions and those Japanese who refused to renounce the Christian faith. In 1635, the Tokugawa government prohibited its people from going abroad and its foreign residents from returning home. In 1639, it banned the Portuguese from entering Japan, thus virtually isolating the country from the rest of the world. Only Protestant Dutch and non-Christian Chinese were allowed to do business with Japan through the port of Nagasaki.


Among the Dutch traders who came to Japan during this period of isolation was Isaac Titsingh. He was the first freemason to visit Japan. He was initiated in Batavia in 1772 when he was in the service of the Dutch East India Company (Haffner, “Three Masons,” p. 45). He came to Japan on three occasions — 1779 to 1780, 1781 to 1783 and 1784 and headed the Dutch trading post at Dejima, a small island in Nagasaki Harbour constructed by the Tokugawa shogunate. Bro. Titsingh made acquaintance with many Japanese in high places and Japanese scholars of western learning and paid official visits to the shogunate in Edo during his stay in Japan.


While the country was in a state of isolation, foreign vessels occasionally approached its coasts. During the first half of the 19th century their encroachment became particularly noticeable. Japan was urged to open its ports, but the Tokugawa government was adamant in maintaining its policy of seclusion.

In 1853 an American naval officer, Commodore Matthew C. Perry, took four vessels into Tokyo Bay and pressed the Tokugawa government to open the country. The following year he returned and demanded that a treaty be concluded. The shogunate acceded to the demand and signed a treaty with the United States of America. Other foreign powers followed suit and concluded similar treaties with the shogunate.

These treaties were unfair from the standpoint of the Japanese: extra-territoriality was enforced, by which foreign residents in Japan came under the legal jurisdiction of their own country’s consuls and Japan’s imposition of tariffs on foreign goods was restricted, being fixed, for the most part, at five percent.

The abolition of the seclusion policy threw the country into turmoil. The unequal treaties with those foreign countries, rampant inflation largely due to the commencement of foreign trade and other unfavourable factors resulting from the opening of the country caused some Japanese, especially samurai, to entertain the idea of “Sonno Joi (Honour the Emperor and Expel the Barbarians),” i.e., to unify the country under the imperial rule and to repel the incursions caused by foreigners. Dissatisfied with government policy toward foreign countries, some samurai took advantage of the situation and assaulted foreigners in order to harass the now-weakening government.

In the late 1850s and early 1860s, attacks on foreigners became frequent. Foreign powers lodged strong protests, and in 1863 the Japanese government agreed to have British and French troops stationed at Yokohama.


During this period the first masonic lodge was introduced to Japan. A military lodge, Sphinx Lodge No. 263, I.C., came to Japan with a detachment of the British 20th Regiment which arrived at Yokohama in 1864. While it was stationed at Yokohama, the lodge held meetings and admitted civilian members. Being a military lodge, however, Sphinx Lodge could not operate in Japan for long. It held its last meeting at Yokohama in March 1866.


In the meantime, brethren living in Yokohama felt it desirable to form a lodge of their own and they petitioned the United Grand Lodge of England for the formation of such a lodge. Thus the first local lodge, Yokohama Lodge No. 1092, came into being. The first regular meeting was held on June 26, 1866.

Subsequently more lodges were founded under the English and Scottish Constitutions and a District Grand Lodge of Japan under the English Constitution was also established. Some of these lodges were relatively short-lived (e.g. Nippon Lodge No. 1344 worked from 1871 to 1883; Nagasaki Lodge No. 710, S.C., worked from 1885 to 1919). A total of six English and three Scottish lodges were active in Japan before the Second World War. In addition there were several lodges of instruction, Royal Arch chapters and Ancient and Accepted Rite Bodies — these last being under the control of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, United States of America.


In 1867 the last Tokugawa shogun, Yoshinobu (1837–1913), resigned and returned the reigns of government to the court and Emperor Mutsuhito ascended the throne. In 1868 the era name of Meiji meaning “enlightened rule” was adopted and he came to be referred to as Emperor Meiji. In the same year, Edo was renamed Tokyo meaning “eastern capital.” The Meiji era lasted for 45 years until his death in 1912. During this period Japan was rapidly transformed from a feudal, technologically backward, Oriental country to a centralized, industrialized westernized state.


Many foreign masons contributed to the modernization of the country. Among them were Bro. F. Fischer, a German merchant involved in the development of Kobe; Bro. William G. Aston, a well-known British authority on Japan; Bro. A. Kirby, who built the first ironclad warship in Japan; Bro. Thomas W. Kinder, a Briton who was in charge of the Mint Bureau in Osaka; Bro. John R. Black, a British journalist who published an English-language newspaper, the Japan Gazette, and Japanese-language newspapers, Nisshin Shinjishi and Bankoku Shimbun, and wrote an important book, Young Japan; Bro. William H. Stone, a British telecommunications engineer; Bro. Paul Sarda, a French architect; Bro. Edward H. Hunter, a British shipbuilding engineer; Bro. John Marshall, a British port captain; and Bro. Stuart Eldridge, an American doctor.


Before the end of the Second World War the Japanese government did not allow its nationals to become freemasons so that the membership of all the lodges operating in Japan at that time consisted solely of foreigners. However, some Japanese had joined the Craft abroad prior to the last war. They included several prominent men.

Two Japanese scholars, Amane (Shusuke) Nishi (1829–1897) and Mamichi (Masamichi, Shinichiro) Tsuda (1829–1903), studied at the University of Leyden in Holland from 1862 to 1865 under Professor Vissering, a freemason, who was a member of La Vertu Lodge No. 7 in Leyden. Nishi was initiated in this lodge in October 1864 and Tsuda in November 1864 (van Ginkel and Haffner, p. 69).

After returning to Japan, Bro. Nishi was made a professor of the Kaiseijo, a school for Western studies and the forerunner of Tokyo Imperial University. In 1870 he took a position in the Meiji Government and then formed an association called Meirokusha made up of scholars and intellectuals in 1873 and published a magazine, Meiroku Zasshi, to publicize their views and to promote the westernization of Japan. He became a member of the Genroin (the Senate) in 1882 and a member of the Upper House of the Diet in 1890. In 1897 he received the title of baron.

Bro. Tsuda joined the Kaiseijo in 1866 and in 1868 published Taisei Kokuhoron, a work on legal theory based on the lectures of Professor Vissering. In 1870, he became an official of the Meiji Government, participating in the drawing up of a new legal code. From 1871 he also worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bro. Tsuda helped to publish the magazine, Meiroku Zasshi. He become a member of the Genroin in 1876, a member of the Lower House in 1890, a member of the Upper House in 1896 and a baron in 1900.

Count Tadasu Hayashi (1850–1913) is believed to be the first Japanese to be initiated into the Craft in Great Britain.[*] He was a career diplomat and later a statesman. He was stationed in England from 1900 to 1906. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was concluded in 1902 and he signed this treaty on behalf of Japan. He was initiated in Empire Lodge No. 2108 in February 1903, passed to the second degree in March, and raised to the third degree in May. Bro. Hayashi became the Master of the lodge in January 1904. His rapid progress to that office was due to the lodge members’ desire to acknowledge his high official position and to the possibility of his being posted elsewhere at short notice. He was honoured with the rank of Past Senior Grand Warden in 1905.

In 1905 Hayashi was instrumental in renewing the Treaty of Alliance between Japan and Great Britain; the Japanese mission in London was raised in status from a legation to an embassy, and he became the first Ambassador to Great Britain. In the following year Hayashi was recalled to Japan to assume the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He resigned from the lodge in December 1909. Concerning this event, A. M. Pooley notes the following in his book, The Secret Memoirs of Count Tadasu Hayashi: “After his recall [Viscount Shuzo] Aoki intrigued with [Prince Taro] Katsura against Hayashi, and succeeded in excluding him from the Privy Council, a seat in [sic] which should have been the reward of his eminent services. The alleged cause of his exclusion … was that he had become a Freemason, during his residence in London” (pp. 21–22).

Before the Second World War Japanese nationals were initiated in some other countries also, e.g., the United States and the Philippines, (Murayama, Freemasonry, p. 62; Fajardo and Mojica, pp. 35, 71).


Meanwhile, the status of foreigners in Japan was changing. Commenting on the termination of extra-territoriality which was going to be effected the following year, RWBro. William Henry Stone, District Grand Master of the now defunct District Grand Lodge of Japan, said on December 29, 1898 that several years before, he had been assured that the Japanese Government knew nothing but good of Freemasonry and looked upon it with friendly eyes and that he was given the same assurance some years later (Peck, p. 16).

From 1899, the brethren in Japan held their meetings in accordance with a gentlemen’s agreement with the Japanese Government that the government would not interfere with the fraternity’s activities as long as its membership was limited to foreign nationals and that the meetings were conducted without ostentation, public display or advertisement.

In general the government seemed to be well-disposed towards the masonic fraternity in the early part of this century. On the occasion of the funeral of WBro. Guthrie, the American Ambassador, on March 13, 1917, the government invited the brethren to attend the service wearing full regalia. RWBro. George H. Whymark, District Grand Master, and officers of the District Grand Lodge were given special seats in a prominent position evidence of the full acceptance of Freemasonry at the time (Catto, p. 5).


Although Christian missions had suffered from time to time, Christianity rapidly progressed during the Meiji era, during which the government tried to modernize Japan by westernizing the material civilization while Christian missionaries attempted to modernize Japanese society spiritually (Japanese Religion, p. 84). Some of them built private schools and provided both Bible studies and English language lessons for the younger generation. Christianity came to be considered a religion for the intelligentsia and many people in Japan’s high society were educated in such mission schools.

The first anti-masonic movement was launched by a Roman Catholic priest at the turn of the century. In March 1900, Father F. Ligneul of the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris published a book entitled Himitsu Kessha (Secret Society). It was reprinted in 1934. This substantial book contains 32 chapters covering a variety of subjects relating to Freemasonry. In the book, Fr. Ligneul attacked Freemasonry by stating, “It [Freemasonry] advocates absolute freedom and equality of the people by completely destroying the present society and all of its systems … Its ultimate goal is based on destructionism” (pp. 50–51).

Ligneul came to Japan in 1880 and was actively engaged in missionary work, promoting Christianity among the intelligentsia in Japan. He edited several Catholic publications and was one of the most active Catholic writers of the Meiji era in Japan. He left the country in 1912.


While anti-masonic sentiments were originally instigated by a Roman Catholic priest, religious groups have not been among the principal foes of masons in Japan: Anti-Semites have been the main driving force of anti-masonic movements.

The number of Jews in Japan has been extremely limited. Even today, it is estimated that less than 2,000 Jews live in Japan. The Japanese were hardly aware of the Jewish people until modern times. There are theories about earlier contacts but they are sheer speculation (Shillony, p. 111). Even so, anti-Semitism has long been present in the country.

By the middle of 1917 Japan had established a lucrative trade through Russia’s eastern ports. A number of Japanese companies had set up branch offices in Eastern Siberia and Manchuria and many Japanese had become semi-permanent residents there (Deacon, p. 112). Consequently, Japan became concerned by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and in 1918 began sending troops to Siberia to join the Allied forces. As the Japanese troops advanced into Siberia, their officers came into contact with White Russian officers whom they supported. The White Russian officers vehemently criticized both Bolsheviks and Jews and provided their Japanese counterparts with anti-Semitic publications including The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

The first Japanese pamphlet quoting from The Protocols appeared in Vladivostok in 1919 (Shillony, p. 166). Since then, The Protocols has been published in many editions and most anti-masonic writers in Japan have based their Judaic-masonic conspiracy theory on this anti-Semitic forgery. Indeed, it has been the bible of such writers.

Subsequently anti-Semitic and anti-masonic activities were launched by the military forces, educators, the mass media and others.

Military forces

Japanese military leaders gradually gained political power and acted independently of the civilian government, especially during the period from the beginning of the Showa era (1926) to the end of World War II (1945). Nothing could stop them from leading the Japanese people into the misery of war. Eventually Japanese forces advanced into foreign countries. In East Asia, they occupied Manchuria in the early 1930s, which action was severely criticized by Western nations. In 1933 the League of Nations compiled and adopted a report condemning Japan’s occupation of Manchuria. As a result, Japan withdrew from the League and became increasingly isolated from the international community.

The country being faced with various problems at home and abroad, anti-Semitic elements in the military forces often blamed both Jews and Freemasons for these problems, making them scapegoats. This is an example of what one of those “experts” on the Jews said:

The League of Nations is a tool of Jewish financiers … They intend to drive the Japanese out of China … The British, French and German Jews have given a loan of $200,000,000 to China for the development of Southwest China in order to forestall a further advance of Japan southwards … The Sassoon is in control of the Chekiang financiers through his close relations with the Chinese National Government which in turn controls the Central Bank of China … The Jews are in control responsible for the American and European “control” of the Chinese Nationalist Government … the kidnapping of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in Sian (December 1936) [can be explained as being due to] the rivalry of two Jewish groups … the Jewish plot must be destroyed by force … The anti-Japanese activities in England are all instigated by Jewish freemasons … They are responsible for the immorality of the Japanese youth by showing of their [Jewish] films … the Jews control the American press and thereby public opinion, turning it against Japan…” (Kranzler, pp. 172–173).

This “expert” gave a lecture at the Naval Paymaster School, blaming the Jewish people:

a gang of “Masonic” Jews have incessantly been master-minding international intrigues against Japan behind the scene in Britain, the United States, China and Russia ever since the Manchurian Incident. Japan is not fully prepared for these intrigues (Kranzler, p. 173).

The International Rotary Club was ordered to be disbanded as an outer organ of Freemasonry. Army officers charged that the Rotarians had received secret orders for the destruction of the country and were secretly transferring information to enemy countries. When Tokutaro Ogawa, member of the House of Peers, opposed the dissolution of the Rotary Club, he was charged as a traitor. The Boy Scouts of Japan were also ordered to be dissolved for the same reason (Murayama, Freemasonry, pp. XXVI–XXVII).


The Japanese education system from the Meiji era to the end of the Second World War was both militaristic and fascistic.

In the early 1920s Masson Kessha no Inbo (Conspiracy by Masonic Society) and The Protocols were distributed among the members of the National Association of Principals of Middle Schools with the Association’s endorsement (Ohsawa, p. 4).

On June 28, 1921, Jiro Imai, Assistant Professor of the literature Department of Tokyo Imperial University, spoke on “The World Wide Secret Society” to nationalistic members of his university, pointing out Freemasonry as the most dangerous and subversive secret society (Murayama, Freemasonry, p. 46).

Tsuyanosuke (Ennosuke) Higuchi, Professor of Russian language at the Army Staff College, delivered a speech on “The Siberian Situation Observed from the Backdoor” at a meeting of an organ of the House of Peers in December 1921 and also spoke on “The Russian Revolution and the Thinking World of Japan” in October 1922. And in 1923 he published a book, Yudayaka (The Jewish Peril), under the pseudonym of Baiseki Kitagami, by combining the text of these speeches, in which he severely criticized the Jews and freemasons, often referring to The Protocols. He argued that the Russian Revolution was only one of the plots carried out by the Jewish conspiracy organization and warned that this revolution could spread to other parts of the world (p. 100).

Mass media

Over the years numerous publications on the Jews and Freemasonry, usually containing misleading information and negative comments, have been made available in Japan.

In March 1928, RWBro. Stanley Edward Unite, District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of Japan, stated that some years before the Tokyo Lodge No. 2015 had been severely attacked by Japanese newspapers on several occasions, that RWBro. Stone had called upon the Minister of Communications on this matter and that a messenger was immediately sent to the newspaper publishers, thus ending the problems. He urged the brethren to abide by the gentlemen’s agreement with the Japanese Government (Peck, pp. 16–17).

The Japanese press was relatively free until the mid 1930s. With the possibility of the country entering a major war, however, it tended to support the policies of the military. The Osaka Asahi Shimbun came to the following conclusion after an officers’ meeting on October 12, 1931:

At the confrontation of a national emergency, it is only natural that we should support the military as Japanese nationals and strive for the unification of public opinion. We should never criticize the military nor their current actions, and everyone should make every effort to support this policy (Iritani, p. 31).

In 1937, all articles about diplomacy, military actions and strategies, etc. were banned and the major newspapers came under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Newspaper propaganda against our fraternity intensified. The following article appeared in the Japanese Chronicle published in April 1938:

The secret league of Freemasons, which is an object of worldwide suspicion together with K.K.K. Association, struggling at the back of the World Revolution, and on the other is a worldwide movement of a religious league, drawing back the human race to the age of Israel. It is also said to be an association for mutual aid and for the spiritual interpretation of the word Freemason. Its true features being unknown, it is an object of fear to the human race.

Freemasonry is a great mystery, and even in Japan has a history of fifty years, and the Foreign Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Board has been searching through dark places to a dark end with no effect, but has now discovered the truth — that there are more than three hundred members, having centres in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kobe; and the police, with the help of their confreres in Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, Nagasaki, &c., have made great secret endeavours, with at least a partial success. Many Japanese and Chinese are said to have joined lately, including a Japanese political leader, which has made the authorities very nervous (Fripp, p. 75).

Another article in the same publication was written by a Dr. Kono:

“I have heard that there is a Freemasons’ League in Japan, but I do not know where it is or what it is doing. The Germans have much interest in it, and they are studying it, but I have never studied it. There are several opinions: one is that it is a Jewish conspiracy, and that it should be feared as the Russian Revolution originated from it. Many people dread it, but I think it is wrong to regard it as dangerous, though the Jewish nature likes private leagues and movements, in which the members are all under bond. I think it is an international movement whose principle is that its affairs should not be revealed. But I know that in England the authorities thought it a danger and tried hard to check it.”

As for the membership in Japan, there is one Swiss and one German, and as for the system, though the English is the more developed, it is a mysterious thing that its membership is 70 per cent. American [sic]. Americans of Jewish descent are now to be found all over the world. The authorities therefore fear that there may be a good many American Jews among the Freemasons in Japan.

The superintendent of the Ikeda Police Station, says that when Dr. Yoshino was Chief of the Foreign Section of the Metropolitan Police Board, he solved the question thus: “It is not a question that we take seriously. However, we must regard it as important. The Russian Revolution is said to have begun with the Freemasons. The Russian Communists seem to have adopted the system of the Freemasons from 1 to 10. Furthermore, as the headquarters of the Freemasons are in Moscow, it is said that they are connected with the Russian Third International” (Fripp, p. 76).

On March 20, 1943, Kiyoshi Kiyosawa, a prominent journalist and scholar of the history of international diplomacy, enters in his diary the following comments: “Today’s Yomiuri [Newspaper] deals with the issue of the Jewish plutocracy in the United States on the assumption that this world is made up of only two groups of people — the Jews and the gentiles. No problem can be solved with such a simple mentality” (p. 54).

On July 29, 1943, the American-educated Kiyosawa, deploring the absurdity of the editorial of the Mainichi Shimbun, another major newspaper, on “Bombing of Rome and the Jews,” records in the diary, “It is regrettable the Mainichi carries such a low-class editorial.” And he includes the editorial:

According to the report of the Italian paper, representatives of freemason lodges in the United States, England, Scotland and Canada held a conference in London in early June and unanimously adopted a resolution to bomb Rome. That is, it was a plan made by Freemasonry, an organization based on the Jews and the Jewish ideology. British Foreign Secretary Eden who is, needless to say, a high-ranking freemason hosted this conference and he reportedly said it is the responsibility of Italy to safeguard the Vatican. This clarifies the situation, enabling us to understand the background of this bombing. At the same time, it has became evident what sort of ideology is behind the American and British leadership in this War.

Roosevelt who appears to be the Commander-in-Chief and prisoner of the Jews seems to have been delegated to perform the role of executing the plans of Freemasonry. As he is a high-ranking mason, it cannot be said he acted in a passive capacity. It is reasonable to assume that the American masonic representatives must have conferred with Roosevelt at length prior to their departure to London. Or it could be that the plan to bomb Rome was conceived by some officers close to Roosevelt and that as it was a matter of grave nature, they decided to discuss it with British masons … (p. 104).

This editorial also appeared in the August 4, 1943 issue of the Tribune, the officially sponsored Japanese local newspaper in the Philippines.

According to Kiyosawa’s diary, on July 12, 1944 the Mainichi Shimbun carried Toshio Shiratori’s article on the Judaic-masonic conspiracy theory. Kiyosawa comments, “How could Japan win this war with a virtually mentally disturbed man like this among our leaders?” and includes Shiratori’s article in the diary:

we should consider that American leaders including [F. D.] Roosevelt are full of fighting spirit. The leaders of the United States are, as you know, plutocratic zaibatsu people such as the Jews and freemasons … (p. 363).

During the Second World War, anti-Jewish and anti-masonic publications were imported from Nazi Germany in large volume and were translated into Japanese. Japanese writers were also active in producing books of a similar nature. While they pretended to be acquainted with masonic subjects, they often displayed an egregious ignorance of our institution. Nobutaka Shioten, one of the advocates of anti-Semitism and anti-Masonry, claimed in his book, Yudaya Shiso oyobi Undo (Jewish Thoughts and Movements) published in 1941, that he had studied Freemasonry for some 20 years and that this book was based on the information he had obtained not only by studying many books and intelligence from foreign countries but also by investigating the secret society abroad himself, at the risk of his life (pp. 75–76). And yet he lacked a basic knowledge of Freemasonry. He states in the book, “Organized Freemasonry came into being in Scotland in 1717.”

Shioten’s ignorance, however, proved no bar to political success. He campaigned with anti-Jewish slogans in the national election of April 1942 — an election in which the military nominated 80 percent of the candidates, including Shioten. He won more votes that any other candidate.

Lectures and exhibitions

In February 1936 Kokusai Seikei Gakkai (Society for International Political and Economic Studies, MG for short) was founded as an outer organization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was one of the most active societies for the study of Judaism and Freemasonry.

Its activities included the gathering of information on the Jews and an international secret power, i.e., Freemasonry, both in Japan and abroad; the publication of the information it had collected, in the journal, Kokusai Himitsuryoku no Kenkyu (Studies on International Secret Power), and later in a monthly periodical, Yudaya Kenkyu (Studies on Jews), and sponsoring seminars and lectures. Shioten served as its adviser.

MG conducted lectures on a nationwide basis. In January 1942 its President Masao Masuda made speeches at a major steel maker/shipbuilder in Kobe, a medical association in Kobe, an economic club in Kyoto, a municipal commercial school in Nagoya, membership clubs in Chiba and Yokohama, a commercial cooperative in Osaka and a meeting sponsored by a newspaper publisher in Nagoya (Yudaya Kenkyu, Feb. 1942, p. 89).

Anti-Semitic and anti-masonic exhibitions were popular. In 1942 and 1943 huge exhibitions were held in Osaka and Tokyo respectively and they attracted a combined attendance of over one million. These exhibitions were sponsored by newspaper publishers, department stores, the Japanese Bureau of Information and KSG. The German Embassy in Tokyo also supported such projects by subsidizing the publication of German anti-Semitic literature in the Japanese language (Kranzler pp. 485–486).

One such exhibition was the International Secret Power and Freemasonry Exhibition held by the Mainichi Shimbun at Matsuya Department Store in Tokyo in the early 1943 under the guidance of KSG. On the same occasion the Mainichi conducted a lecture on “defeating Freemasonry” (Miyazawa, p. 192).


After the abolition of extra-territoriality, freemasons in Japan held their meetings quietly in accordance with the gentlemen’s agreement with the Japanese government. But this situation began to deteriorate in the late 1930s and especially after the outbreak of war with China in 1937.

Yokohama and Tokyo

From 1939 onwards, but before Japan had entered World War II, Bro. Gustav R. Swanson, Master of Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C., in 1948, was interrogated by the police on several occasions regarding Freemasonry. They asked him the same questions at each interrogation: What is Freemasonry? What are the secrets? He made sure that he gave the same answers to those questions. As he was born in Japan, he could speak Japanese and knew the local customs, and was thus able to deal with the investigators in a very polite, diplomatic way so as not to upset them. Consequently he did not suffer much — only slapping, which was nothing in those days.

His father, Bro. August Swanson, Master of Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C., in 1913, was also detained by the police several times but was treated more severely. He did not speak the local language and was not familiar with the local customs. His protests against the rough treatment by the interrogators upset them. Thus he received much harsher treatment. According to his son, Bro. Swanson told him later that the special police knew masonic words and signs and, by giving the words and showing the signs, asked him if they were correct. His father replied, “If you know, why do you ask?”

On the morning of December 8, 1941 (Japan time) when Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, Bro. Michael Apcar, Master of Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C., in 1928, was arrested. Some of the policemen who came to arrest him remained to search and loot his house. They also raided his office, confiscating cash as well as other valuables. Bro. Apcar was subjected to torture for 12 days. He was kept awake and questioned endlessly. When he collapsed in a faint, he was brought back to consciousness with a bucket of cold water. But he remained silent. On December 20, 1941, he was taken from the police cell to the Yokohama Prison and placed in solitary confinement until February 1943. The original charge against him was that of espionage. As it was not possible to convict him on that charge, another charge was made — a violation of the Peace Preservation Law owing to his masonic membership. He was made to represent the fraternity in Japan and assume full responsibility, the final decision being a sentence of imprisonment for a term of 10 months’ solitary confinement (Apcar, address at Masonic Club).

Several members of Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C., were evacuated from Japan in the S.S. Gripsholm in July 1942. They held an emergency lodge meeting aboard the ship on August 8, 1942. It was proposed and seconded at the meeting that the Secretary be instructed to write to the Grand Lodge of Scotland explaining the situation in Japan. Lodge Secretary, Bro. Carlos Rodriguez-Jimenez, prepared the report aboard the ship:

for three quarters of a century Free Masonry has enjoyed some sort of unmolested freedom in Japan, through a so called gentlemen’s agreement by virtue of which no Japanese subjects could be made members of the Craft. This situation prevailed for many years with the result that lodges in Japan depended entirely for their continuance upon the membership of foreign residents. When the outbreak of the war [sic] on December 8th, however, the Japanese military authorities, entirely disregarding the terms of the agreement and without producing or even adducing any arguments or proofs against masonic lodges in Japan nor against their individual members broke in at the Masonic Temple at No 3, Bluff, Yamatecho, Yokohama, as well as at the Corinthian Hall of Kobe, and entering by force into the premises took possession of them sequestered all our masonic regalia, secretarial records and archives as well as the other personal property inside the Temple. Some of the lodges lost all their important papers and regalia … Fortunately, however, it had been my custom to keep all secretarial records except the above mentioned in my house … When the confiscation at the Temple took place, and when later on my own country, Venezuela, broke up diplomatic relations with Japan and I was placed under domiciliary confinement in my home, the diplomatic status I enjoyed by being the Venezuelan Consul General in the Empire, enabled me to save the Lodge records from confiscation although they were placed under official seals without perusal inside a room set aside in my house for the purpose. When six months later I was included in the number of enemy nationals to be evacuated from Japan to Lourenco Marques and thence to the American continent by the evacuation ship “Gripsholm”, my official position prevailed upon the objections of the Japanese authorities and I was able to carry with me without inspection all the secretarial records belonging to Lodge “Star in the East”. These archives I have now handed over to the Right Worshipful Master of the Lodge, Wor. Bro. Joseph Leroy McSparran, in accordance with resolution voted and passed by the Lodge at an emergency meeting held today on board ship … (Rodriguez-Jimenez, Report).

Seattle-born Tamotsu Murayama, who was working in the Associated Press office in Tokyo and was involved in the Boy Scouts activities, was arrested on December 8, 1941. He was not a Mason then but joined the fraternity after the war. One of the first questions the police asked him was whether he was acquainted with the activities of secret subversive bodies such as Freemasonry which attempted to overthrow the Japanese Government (Murayama, Freemasonry, p. XIX).


The situation in Kobe was equally as bad if not worse. Many foreigners were evacuated from the city, and by 1941 only 13 members of Lodge Hiogo and Osaka No. 498, S.C., were left in Kobe — five British, two American, two Swiss, one Swedish, one Danish, one French and one Yugoslav. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, Bros. W. Lackie and C. G. Stanbury, both British, were immediately arrested by the Kempeitai (the Japanese military police) who had been keeping them under strict surveillance for about six months previously. Two Kempeitai members had, without his knowledge, lived in Bro. Lackie’s servants’ quarters for some months prior to the Pearl Harbour attack. The two brothers were incarcerated in cages at the Military Prison in Osaka. On December 24, 1941, they were transferred to solitary confinement. In April, 1942, they were sentenced to four- and three-year terms of penal servitude respectively. The general charge was economic espionage but no specific charges were ever explained to them. During the earlier part of his incarceration, Bro. Lackie was interrogated at some length on the subject of Freemasonry but later on and at the trial (so far as it is known) there was no mention of it (Fripp, pp. 5758).

At one point, the interrogator asked Bro. Lackie, “Are you a patriotic Britisher?” and his answer was yes. The interrogator then said that all patriotic Japanese abroad were engaged in espionage and that it was logical to suppose that all patriotic Britishers in Japan would be similarly engaged (Haffner, Craft, p. 222).

Bro. Lackie appealed against his sentence and so was kept in the Osaka prison, pending hearing of his appeal which was set for August. At the end of July, he was informed that he could leave Yokohama on August 1, 1942 with the internees by the repatriation steamer “Tatsuta Maru” to be exchanged at Lourenco Marques. This was as a result of intensive efforts by the British Embassy. Bro. Stanbury did not appeal and was immediately transferred to Sakai Penitentiary where he completed his sentence. He was then transferred to a camp on Mount Rokko whence he was flown to Manila for treatment and then sent to the United Kingdom (Fripp, p. 58).

There was less harassment of neutral members. Among them was a French brother, J. Levy. Later on, however, he was jailed on a charge of spying on the supposition that as head of Freemasonry in Kobe he had used the organization for spying, it being alleged that Freemasonry was an international Jewish Bolshevist organization whose main purpose was the destruction of the Imperial House of Japan. He received many beatings and for three months was fed on a small quantity of rotten rice and a portion of salt. He was constantly questioned on Freemasonry, being asked such questions as to whether Roosevelt and Stalin were freemasons (Fripp, p. 59).


Anti-masonic activities were not confined to Japan proper. As the Japanese forces advanced to foreign countries, freemasons in those countries were subjected to persecution. Detailed accounts of hostile actions by the Japanese forces toward Freemasonry abroad have been recorded elsewhere (e.g., Fripp, Haffner, Hewitt, and Ling). The following section will thus simply outline events in the Far East and Southeast Asia.


During the Japanese occupation, secret societies were prohibited. Under the law the secret police were empowered to demand admittance to any meetings. Under these circumstances, the members of Lodge Han Yang No. 1048, S.C., met ostensibly as a club. The lodge rooms were searched by the Japanese forces several times and the lodge officers were often questioned about their activities.

The brethren discussed the best manner to protect the lodge properties. Bro. Thomas Hobbs, then Secretary, kept the Charter, records and other papers in a safe in his office. It was decided that the safe would be taken to the home of Bro. D. H. Crowe, a retired miner, who had made up his mind to stay in Seoul with his Korean wife. Bro. A. McFarlane, another retired miner, who lived with his Japanese wife, also decided to remain. As he was the Treasurer of the lodge, he took all the financial records to his home (Haffner, Craft, pp. 209–210).


For Freemasonry in China the situations worsened in the late 1930s with hostilities between the forces of Japan and China intensifying. Of four lodges under the English Constitution in South China, three continued to meet in 1940 and one decided to meet in Hong Kong until conditions improved. Eventually all of their meetings had to stop. Bro. J. A. Roberts wrote on November 10, 1942 to the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge that Corinthian Lodge No. 1806 was closed by the Japanese forces on December 8, 1941. According to Bro. J. B. Norgaard, the lodge was stripped of all books, records, the Warrant, instruments, etc. and the Chinese Authorities said after the war that all foreign books and papers had been burned by the Japanese and that nothing could be found which belonged to the masonic lodge (Haffner, Amoy, pp. 100, 102–103).

Three lodges under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts were operating in Shanghai prior to the Second World War. Sinim Lodge was one of them. According to its lodge history, during the next few months after the attack on Pearl Harbour all the properties of the lodge were seized by the Japanese — with the exception of its Charter and archives which had been preserved by its members. A thorough search was made of all masonic records as to the identity of members. Many brethren were arrested by the Japanese and subjected to searching inquisition to bring out evidence that Freemasonry was a political organization operating against the interests of Japan. Many of them were imprisoned in and around Shanghai. In December 1943 about 60 Massachusetts brethren reached New York on the last exchange trip of the Gripsholm (Screen, p. 12).

A Japanese brother recalls the days he spent in Shanghai as a member of the Kempeitai during the war. The members of the Japanese military police were directed to pay special attention to the activities of the Jewish people. The top echelons of the Kempeitai were also investigating Freemasonry. Not being in high office, he was not himself involved in these investigations. While in Japan, he had read some books on Freemasonry and was interested in the fraternity. Thus, when he was stationed in Shanghai, he went to an American lodge in that city in a Kempeitai uniform to apply for membership but was rejected. He went back to the lodge in plain clothes the following week but was rejected again. More than 40 years would pass before he became a member of the Craft in Japan (Ikeda, personal interview).

Among the brethren subjected to the Japanese investigations in Shanghai was Bro. E. Philip Higgs. The first investigation took place in the masonic hall. The officer in charge, Lieut. Inoue, spent some three hours questioning Bro. Higgs in his office and examining all his files and the regalia of the District Grand Master. After about five hours at the hall, they sealed all the rooms. Several days later, Bro. Higgs was questioned for about five hours at the hail again. Then he was questioned two more times for two to three hours each at the Bureau’s headquarters in the Cathay Hotel. He records, ‘Lieut. Inoue was firm and severe and determined to get what he wanted but at the same time he was always courteous and fair and I was at no time ill-treated” (Haffner, Craft, pp. 218–219).

Hong Kong

Some members in Hong Kong held masonic meetings during internment. According to Bro. G. Tocher (pp. 33, 38–39), the brethren of Cathay Lodge No. 4374 had their first meeting in the quarry at the Stanley Internment Camp on August 25, 1942 with 13 members participating. The purpose of this meeting was to trace the whereabouts of brethren. The Worshipful Master suggested that brethren take the opportunity of studying while in camp. They held several additional meetings there. At the meeting on June 4, 1943, the brethren decided to meet on the first Friday in July. However, they had to cancel the meeting as their captors became suspicious. They were unable to hold another meeting until January 5, 1945.


As Bro. E. E. Austin, who was a POW in Batavia, recalls, early in 1942 the Japanese Authorities sought out freemasons and those who had been identified as such were tortured. What the Japanese interrogators were after was the nature of business conducted at masonic meetings and the plans prepared at those secret meetings as they had no doubt that the war efforts had originated in those places. When informed that the lodges had nothing to do with the war and politics, they would not believe it. Unable to obtain the desired information, they proceeded to punish the occupants of the cells … (AQC Vol. 77, pp. 100–101).

The Philippines

Soon after the Japanese entered Manila, they searched for Grand Secretary Antonio Gonzalez. Once they had found him, they told him they regarded Philippine Masonry as a secret organization and an instrument of the American espionage system. Several days later, they visited Eugenio Dizon, the Chief of the Secret Service of the Manila Police Department, and told him that they were determined to arrest all masons in the Philippines and place them all under military custody. Dizon told them he must be the first to be arrested because he was a mason. Then they called on Gonzalez again and demanded that he issue as Grand Secretary a call for a special meeting of the Grand Lodge so they might attend and take part in the deliberations. Gonzalez argued that the By-laws of the Grand Lodge did not permit their attendance and that as Grand Master John McFie was alive and confined in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, he would first have to consult him. McFie was subsequently questioned about Masonry and subjected to torture (Fajardo and Mojica, pp. 51–52).

During the occupation days, ingenious brothers held masonic meetings and funeral services in concentration camps without raising their captors’ suspicions. At the Santo Tomas Concentration Camp, the members of Manila Lodge No. 1 secured a Dispensation from the Grand Master, who was also an internee, to hold a lodge meeting in the morning of September 19, 1942. Notices of the meeting were sent out in the form of an announcement of a gathering to get volunteers for the Internees’ Health and Sanitation Committee. The meeting was held inside the main building and was very closely tyled by the brethren working in rotation. The minutes were taken and the lodge was opened and closed in due and ancient form (Fajardo and Mojica, pp. 57–58).

It is interesting to note that a Japanese mason helped Filipinos under the Japanese occupation. Y. Imamura, a long-time Manila resident Japanese businessman, was raised to the third degree in Solidaridad Lodge No. 23 in Manila on December 14, 1929. While the Japanese occupied the Philippines, he served as interpreter in the Japanese High Command and as Director of the Kanmin Renrakusho (Japanese Liaison and Public Assistance Office). On many occasions, this Japanese freemason interceded on behalf of Filipinos, once almost at the cost of his life. In January 1942, Imamura acted as interpreter at a meeting between the Filipino leaders and the Japanese High Command and he spoke for the Filipinos, pleading for greater understanding of their position. At one point, Col. Masami Maeda, the Chief of Staff, angrily said to Imamura that he had been a failure and demanded he kill himself. Later, Maeda cooled down and said, “It’s all right” (Fajardo and Mojica, pp. 71–73).

According to Sylvia Mendez Ventura, Imamura interceded on behalf of her father, Mauro Mendez of Pilar Lodge (later Secretary of Foreign Affairs). As Mendez had written many anti-Japanese articles before the war, he was high on the wanted list of the Japanese police. After hiding for six months, he could not stand it any more. At the suggestion of his masonic friend, he contacted Imamura. “A cultured gentleman, Mr. Imamura was entirely different from the soldiers who slapped Filipinos in the streets,” in the words of Mendez Ventura. “He told the Mendezes that they could go home and that the Japanese would not bother them.” Thus Mendez took his family home to San Juan. As Imamura promised, Mendez was not molested (Fajardo and Mojica, pp. 73–74).


In 1947 The Pentagram, the organ of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago, reported that of some 3,000 internees in Changi Prison there were about 250 freemasons (Vol. 32, p. 6).

According to WBro. Lieut.-Col. H. S. Ling, who spent three and a half years in this camp, the large number of prisoners in the camp in those early days of internment made it possible for gatherings to be held without attracting too much attention. They formed the Changi Prisoners of War Masonic Association. Those brethren who had founded the association proved each other first. Then as each new member came along, he would be proved by a Past Master of the Constitution to which he belonged and then his name would be added to the list. In this way, no one was admitted without being proved. The brethren drifted into the meeting in ones and twos to avoid too much attention (pp. 20–21).

Bro. Ling records, “Owing to the nature of the climate there is no glass in the windows of any buildings in Malaya, although in some cases, shutters are provided to keep out the rain.” Thus they had four tylers outside and one at each corner of the building. Although the alarm was given on several occasions, the Japanese guards never discovered the nature of their gatherings. Their plan, on the alarm being given, was to convert their meeting into a religious service by arranging the forms as for a Church Service, the Worshipful Master becoming the Chaplain in charge. They changed the officers’ positions at each meeting. They used an Emulation ritual in addition to Australian rituals. Those brothers selected to hold office met previously as often as they could to maintain a high standard of ritual work. The peace and tranquility of those evenings stood out in sharp contrast against the turmoils and irritations of the day (pp. 21–22).


While anti-masonic movements were rampant before and during the war, there were defenders of Masonry in Japan. Among them was Dr. Sakuzo Yoshino (1878–1933). He was one of the principal advocates of liberal democracy in the early stage of modern Japan. In the booklet on The Study of Freemasonry, he defended the fraternity by saying:

The ideals of Freemasonry have become the foundation for one of the ideas of world peace and with the formation of the League of Nations, the international conscience of mankind has been awakened, which is a matter to be congratulated. However, the ideal of peace for mankind has a long way to go.

Thus it is my hope that Freemasonry will greatly contribute to the furtherance of this ideal. The ardent aspiration of this fraternity after truth, goodness and beauty makes an important contribution to world culture. The desire to destroy Freemasonry is equal to the denial of the development of humanity. And it is also my hope that the sprig of this humanitarianism will grow all the more (Utsunomiya, pp. 163–164).

Rozan Ohsawa was also courageous enough to publish a book entitled Nikon ni Gezon suru Furimesonri (Freemasonry That Exists in Japan) in 1941. He compiled this 520pp book after 20 years’ study of the subject. Most books on Freemasonry published in those days were antagonistic toward the fraternity. Ohsawa, on the other hand, treated Freemasonry objectively, pointing out the misconceptions held in Japan about the fraternity. He provides a historical account of Freemasonry in Japan and abroad and also detailed information of various masonic lodges and concordant bodies in Japan. He quotes from, among others, Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma, Anderson’s Book of Constitutions (1723), the Grand Lodge of England Yearbook and By-laws of Yokohama Lodge No. 1092 and Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C.


Japan had been at war continuously from the outbreak of war with China in 1937 to its surrender in 1945 and had suffered immeasurable loss and damage. Some three million Japanese died during the period. Urban population decreased by more than 50 percent. Japanese industry came to a halt. The country was economically crippled. After the official surrender to the Allied Powers on September 2, 1945, the country was occupied by the Allies under the Supreme Commander General Douglas MacArthur.


Masonic activities were soon resumed. Brethren in the armed forces in Tokyo and Yokohama formed the Tokyo Bay Masonic Club following the cease fire in 1945. Many of the members of Lodge Star in the East No. 640, S.C. joined the club. The members of this lodge endeavoured to locate missing items. Four boxes containing masonic records were found in the former Yokohama Yacht Club; the magnificent clock, presented to the temple by the Scottish Rite, in the office of the Yokohama Chief of Police; and the old organ, in the home of the police sergeant who had been in charge of masonic prosecutions during the war. The lodge held its first post-war regular meeting on April 9, 1946.

After his release from jail, Bro. Levy concerned himself with the re-establishment of Lodge Hiogo and Osaka No. 498, S.C. He sought an interview with General MacArthur and was referred to General Eichelberger who gave a letter of procurement to the Military Governor in Kobe for the lodge to use the former German Club Concordia. He was told, “You will have the Nazi Room in Kobe for your Lodge Meetings” (Fripp, p. 59).

Brethren in Kobe founded the Kobe Base Masonic Club on March 24, 1946, with a membership drawn from many nationalities — American, French, British, German, Dutch, Spanish, Danish, Panamanian and Yugoslav (Fripp, p. 73). The formation of this club led to the resumption of work by Lodge Hiogo and Osaka No. 498, S.C., whose first meeting in almost five years was held on September 5, 1946. Thus two Scottish lodges were revived.

Rising Sun Lodge No. 1401 was the only English lodge that had survived the war. Its Warrant was lost but the United Grand Lodge of England granted a Warrant of confirmation and this lodge was reopened in 1947 (Haffner, Craft, p. 300).

Okinawa, the largest island in the Ryuku Islands, was captured by the U.S. forces toward the end of the Second World War and remained under the U.S. administration until 1972 when it was returned to Japan. The Grand Lodge of the Philippines began issuing Dispensations for lodges in Okinawa in 1946.

In Japan proper, Tokyo American Lodge U.D. (Under Dispensation) under the Grand Lodge of Connecticut held its first official communication on April 7, 1948. In the American system, the Grand Master may, at his discretion, grant a Dispensation for brethren to open and hold a lodge prior to the issuing of a Charter. More than 150 brethren attended this meeting. Eventually the Dispensation expired without its lodge members applying for a Charter. This is believed to be the first American lodge founded in Japan (Hafner, Craft, pp. 300–301).

From 1947 onwards the Grand Lodge of the Philippines began to grant Dispensations and to issue Charters in Japan proper. The first lodge to receive such a Dispensation on 23 September, 1947, was Yokosuka Naval Masonic Lodge. During a 10-year period from 1947 to 1957, when the Grand Lodge of Japan was founded, the Grand Lodge of the Philippines founded 16 lodges.


As we have seen, Japanese men were prohibited from joining the fraternity before and during the war. Some years after the war Naotake Sato, president of the House of Councillors, wrote the following appeal to General MacArthur for the opening of masonic membership to Japanese men:

The undersigned request your indulgence in our quest for an opportunity to exercise the benefits of fraternization which will enable the true democratic principles so firmly and nobly amplified by you, by giving your permission and blessings that we may join the Masonic Order.

During the past year much interest had been shown amongst the Japanese people in Masonry and through the fine and inspiring orientations on the subject of Masonry, Major Michael Rivisto, of your headquarters and Master of the Tokyo Masonic Lodge, has completely won over our hearts in this great philosophy of brotherhood.

The Japanese people have in the past been kept ignorant on the subject of Freemasonry and there have been malicious attacks upon the great and benevolent fraternity. The forces of evil which distorted the minds and hearts of our people concerning Freemasonry are the same tyrants that have cropped up in many other countries, with the intent to suppress the freedom …

Our people cannot in the absence of knowledge on the philosophy of Freemasonry be considered hostile to its tenets and teachings. Rather, with our understanding of Freemasonry, it is Freemasonry which should assist our people to enlighten and bridge the distance between brotherhood of man.

The prerequisite, we are told, for Freemasonry is that a man must believe in one God and be an upright member of his community. Dear General, please be assured that while many religions exist in this world one fact is unalterable in the minds and hearts to all us conscience and that is, in each and everyone of us we — believe that there is a one Unseen Force of the Universe, omnipotent a Supreme Being — this can only be recognized as the same one God, worshipped by many religions. “There are many paths that lead up Mt. Fuji, but regardless of their way they all lead to the one top.”

I have been requested by my colleagues and friends to address this intention to you, Sir, expressing our desire and vouch and resolve our solemn faith in the hope, that with your blessings for this permission to partake in this Great fraternity, we can better enable to be of service to democracy and our fellowmen (Murayama, Freemasonry, pp. III–IV).

General MacArthur, himself a mason, was very supportive of masons and masonic activities in Japan. He said later in his letter of July 17, 1957 to the Grand Master of South Carolina as follows:

While in Japan I did all in my power to encourage the development of Freemasonry under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. It made rapid strides, and in time embraced within its folds many Japanese leaders of distinction who impressed me as most seriously dedicated to the craft. That the movement should reach the point where its members seek their own Grand Lodge is but healthy and natural and, in my opinion, should be heartily supported by Masonic Bodies in the United States (Peck, un-numbered page, following p. 184).

On November 30, 1949, Tokyo Masonic Lodge, U.D., under the Philippine Constitution adopted a resolution to accept duly qualified Japanese nationals. On January 6, 1950, seven Japanese men including five Diet members were initiated in this lodge for the first time in Japan.

All the lodges operating in Japan then were English-speaking ones. On March 1, 1955 Kanto Lodge U.D. under the Philippine Constitution was instituted. Its membership was largely made up of Japanese Masons and it was the first Japanese-speaking lodge in the masonic world.

Two years later, in 1957, the Grand Lodge of Japan was founded.


Immediately after the war, anti-Semitism seemed to have died out. But soon it began to reemerge as did anti-Masonry. The allegations made against the Jews and Freemasonry after the war are basically a rehash of what was said before. There is one difference between the two, however. Before and during the war, the Jews and freemasons were often attacked from the military’s standpoint, e.g., when Japan encountered problems with the Western nations. After the war, particularly in recent years, the Jews and freemasons have been blamed when Japan was faced with economic problems, e.g., “Japan bashing” in the United States and a sharp appreciation of the Yen against foreign currencies.


Many books on the Jews and Freemasonry have been written by non-masons in Japan since the end of the Second World War. Bro. F. W. Seal-Coon says in his paper on Modern Anti-Masonry at Home and Abroad:

As for the journalists who from time to time enter the fray, their mastery of words and deceptive techniques, while impressing the profane, give rise on the part of knowledgeable masons to the strong suspicion that the proverbial “fast buck” and not the objective truth is necessarily their goal. However much objectivity is claimed and however much “research” is flourished, the end-product turns out to be a cauldron of innuendo, half-truths, false assumptions, imputation of motive and intention, arguments from the particular to the general, misinterpretation, rehashing of old rumours and scandals, unsubstantiated ascription of views and attitudes, use of weighted words and phrases, the flourishing of secondhand “knowledge” and erroneous “facts” that belie the conclusions drawn from them all of which ingredients can readily be discerned by those who know the truth… (AQC Vol. 102, p. 171).

His statement is applicable to most Japanese anti-Masonic writers. An authoress, a supposed authority on Freemasonry, who died some years ago, says in one of her books, “He [Bro. Hayashi] had been in London for the preparation of concluding the Treaty of Alliance several years before and he must have joined the Masonic fraternity in order to win the confidence of the British political circles” (Inuzuka, Senryo Kakumei, p. 98). The fact is that Count Hayashi signed the Treaty of the Alliance in 1902 and he became a member of the Craft in 1903.

Then she says in an article entitled “Furimeson (Freemason)”:

There are two groups in Craft Masonry — the Anglo-Saxon group and the Continental Latin group. The former resorts to an inconspicuous reformation and conciliation and the latter, destruction of the establishment and revolutions … These two groups which seem to take an opposing stance are incorporated into the Scottish Rite … The Scottish Rite headquartered in Washington, D.C., seems to serve as a bridge between these two groups (pp. 52–53).

Another author who has written several books on Freemasonry and is often quoted by other writers in their articles on Freemasonry states in his book, Furimeson towa Nanika (What Is Freemasonry?), “… there are basically three main groups of Freemasonry in the world: first, British Freemasonry which divides into Scottish and Irish factions …, second, American Freemasonry … and third, French Freemasonry…” (Akama, p. 112).

The same author writes in the same book, “What is happening in the world? What is Freemasonry planning to do by using the United Nations? What will be in store for us? The mysterious secret society that created the United States of America and the United Nations has taken the initial step to achieve its formidable ultimate goal” (Akama, p. 13). Still another writer says:

Around this time [the mid 17th century], the Jews became confident of achieving their basic goal of international control and began to carry out activities toward their goal. They renamed the masons whose headquarters was located in Paris … Continental masons had transformed this group into an espionage organization to work behind the scenes to promote their policy. And then they organized English masons as a social organ for high society … They expanded this organization into every corner of the earth to spy on the activities of the top echelons in every country and attempted to infiltrate Jewish policies into each nation.

These two different groups of masons function in accordance with the directions of the Jewish central body. The Jews began to have English royal family members as the Grand Master of the English Masons to camouflage the true nature of this group and claim that it is an Anglo-Saxon organization and not a Jewish organization (Yamakage, pp. 153–154).

Among relevant foreign books translated into Japanese during the past decade or so are The Lost Keys of Freemasonry and Masonic Orders of Fraternity by Manly P. Hall, The Brotherhood by Stephen Knight, Warrant for Genocide by Norman Cohn, The Masonic Thread in Mozart by Katharine Thomson and In God’s Name by David A. Yallop. While Stephen Knight’s Brotherhood created a stir in Great Britain on its publication in 1983 (Hamill, p. 42), its Japanese edition did not have any noticeable effect on the fraternity in Japan.

Religious groups

While some Christian denominations have expressed opposition to Freemasonry, few non-Christian religious groups have publicly criticized Freemasonry, as far as is known by the Grand Lodge of Japan.

The only attack from religious quarters that has come to the attention of the Grand Lodge of Japan in recent years took place in Southern Baptist churches. In February 1993 an American mason who was going to be a teacher in a Southern Baptist church in Okinawa was removed because of his masonic membership. However, other masons belonging to the church continued to attend. As time passed, the anti-masonic elements gradually left the church. In August 1993 the church took action to rescind its previous motion to dismiss the masonic member as a teacher.


The Japanese press began to report on the P2 incident in May 1981, as the scandal unfolded in Italy. All national newspapers carried stories on it. On May 31, 1981, the Public Relations Committee of the Grand Lodge of Japan held a press conference. Reporters of leading newspapers and magazines attended. Although they reported the press conference quite accurately, most of them were skeptical about the secret aspect of the fraternity, e.g., ritualistic ceremonies. The P2 incident did not affect Freemasonry in Japan much. However, it resulted in a reporter on a major Japanese newspaper resigning from his lodge. While the P2 incident was making news, his masonic membership became known to his colleagues and his connection with Freemasonry became an obstacle to his work. He thus withdrew his membership from the lodge.

Political organizations

No major political parties in Japan have officially denounced Freemasonry since the end of the war.

In 1986, a writer by the name of Masami Uno published a book entitled Yudaya ga Wakaru to Sekai ga Mietekuru (If You Understand Judea, You Can See What Is Going on in the World), blaming Japan’s ills on the Jews. It became a national best-seller. He has written several additional books on the Jews since, some of them including reference to freemasons. As a result, a new surge of anti-Semitism and, to a certain degree, anti-Masonry emerged in Japan in the late 1980s. In the summer of 1987 red posters featuring a black swastika in the centre appeared in central Tokyo. The posters included the following slogans: “Multinational companies are making land cost soar to buy up Japanese companies. Defend Japan against the offensive of Jewish multinational companies. Defend Japan against the inflow of aliens and expose freemasons’ conspiracy — The Federation of Natural Socialists Study Group of National Philosophy” (Betros).

On the occasion of the Upper House election in the summer of 1992, many mini political parties cropped up. One of them utilised anti-Jewish slogans in its propaganda and referred to Freemasonry: “Judaism (Pharisaism) is a satanic religion that causes human beings to perish”; “Judaism (Pharisaism) killed Jesus Christ”; “The Jews (Pharisees) advanced to Japan for invasion under the disguise of Catholicism (Jesuitism) and Protestantism”; “It was not the United States but the Jewish (Pharisaist) world underground government that occupied Japan”; “Freemasonry implanted in the mass media has been the Jewish control center in Japan . . .”; “The Japanese Constitution is a poison and opium planted by the Jews (Pharisees) to extinguish the Japanese.” None of its candidates was elected.


Our membership is made up of men of many different occupations and we have police officers among our members. But the police still seem to be interested in Freemasonry. Bro. Gustav R. Swanson, a mason of probably the longest standing (over 60 years) in Japan and a longtime resident in Yokohama, (see p. 93 supra), is sometimes approached by officers of the Kanagawa Prefectural Police even today. They ask him questions about Freemasonry but in a friendly manner.

Shooting at Tokyo Masonic Centre

While in his office late one afternoon in June 1992, VRBro. Takeo Tsuji, the Manager of Tokyo Masonic Association, heard a small cracking sound but did not notice anything unusual. His office is on the second floor of the Tokyo Masonic Centre where the Grand Lodge of Japan is located, facing the street. The following day he discovered that the reinforced glass window was chipped, apparently by an air rifle shot from outside. The police were notified, but to this day the case has not been solved.


All kinds of allegations have been made against Freemasonry in Japan in the past, ranging from the hackneyed accusation of Freemasonry being a secret organization to a recent one of Freemasonry using AIDS as its weapon. Here are some of the typical allegations heard in Japan, most of which are also heard in other jurisdictions, and my comments on them.

Freemasonry is a Jewish organization

Among those anti-masonic writers in the West who linked Freemasonry with Judaism was General Ludendorff, in whose estimation, “Freemasonry was nothing but ‘a Jewish institution, whose history, degrees, offices, passwords, and instruction are Jewish from beginning to end’” (Lennhoff, p. 327–328). His theory of the “artificial Jews” (i.e., that everyone who joins Freemasonry becomes a virtual Jew) has often been echoed by Japanese anti-masonic writers.

It is true that the ceremonies of the Craft degrees are based upon the building of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem as described in the Old Testament, but this does not mean that our fraternity has existed since the days of King Solomon or that it was originally created by the Jewish people. Modern Freemasonry, based on the Grand Lodge system, began in 1717.

Furthermore, membership of the Swedish (or Scandinavian) Rite is limited to Christians (Pick and Knight, p. 330) as is membership of some other masonic bodies, e.g., Knights Templar and Knights of Malta, and the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales. (This is not, however, a prerequisite of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in the United States).

Freemasonry is a secret society

What is a secret society? An American dictionary, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, defines this term as “any of various oath-bound societies often devoted to brotherhood, moral discipline, and mutual assistance.” The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives the following definition: “an organization formed to promote some cause by secret methods, its members being sworn to observe secrecy.” Kokugo Daijiten (Japanese Language Dictionary) defines “Himitsu Kessha (secret society)” as “a society whose existence, organization or objective is kept from outsiders, especially the government, and whose objective is religious-, political- or crime-oriented.”

No matter how the term is defined by various dictionaries, there are people who tend to conjure up a negative image from the term, “secret society.” When talking about our fraternity with non-members, we should stress certain facts about Freemasonry: We do not conceal our existence, aims and purposes; we keep secret only certain modes of recognition used in our ceremonies; we do not reveal the ritualistic ceremonies because if the candidate knew in advance what sort of ceremonies he would go through, it would defeat their purpose; and like many other organizations, or our families, we have some private affairs which we do not discuss with outsiders. We are better described as a private society.

Freemasonry has been involved in political revolutions in various parts of the world

Anti-masonic writers do not seem to understand or accept the fact that regular Freemasonry does not permit discussions on political or religious subjects at lodge meetings and, therefore, cannot become collectively involved in political or religious matters. They are mistaken in assuming that those irregular or illegal activities carried out by some clandestine masons are the undertakings of regular masons.

Freemasonry is a subversive organization seeking to create a world state by overthrowing governments

There is no international headquarters for Freemasonry. Each Grand Lodge establishes and maintains fraternal relationship with other Grand Lodges that observe the same basic principles. Therefore, it is impossible for freemasons to work concertedly on a global basis. Moreover, Freemasonry demands that its members respect the law of the country in which they live.

Freemasonry consists of 33 degrees and the Supreme Councils control Freemasonry

Referring to Masonic degrees, these authors often include a list of 33 degrees. Some anti-masonic writers go so far as to state that only the members of the Supreme Councils are the true decision makers of Freemasonry and that others are not informed of the true intentions of the Active Sovereign Grand Inspectors General.

It seems that such writers are not aware that there are many other “side” or “additional” degrees beside those of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. As Bro. Keith B. Jackson says in his book, Beyond the Craft, “that which can produce the oldest authentic records must naturally be … the senior and highest, and this of course is the Craft” (p. 4).

In addition, some of the writers refer to Albert Pike as if he was the spokesman for Freemasonry. While some Grand Lodges in America used to recommend his book, Morals and Dogma, basically no person can be regarded as a spokesman in his jurisdiction, unless he is so designated by his Grand Lodge. As a leaflet of the Center for Masonic Information of the Masonic Service Association of the U.S. states, “Freemasonry is made up of many individuals in numerous organizations, all subordinate to the Grand Lodge within their jurisdiction (i.e., State). None of these members or organizations can speak for Freemasonry; that is the responsibility of each Grand Lodge within its jurisdiction. No Masonic body nor author, however respected, can usurp the authority of a Grand Lodge” (Facts about Freemasonry).

Other allegations

There are many other allegations. Among them are:

‘While Freemasonry advocates freedom, a man loses his freedom completely, once he becomes a mason, even the lowest-ranking mason (Hojo, p. 275).

A pure Jewish freemason society called B’nai B’rith is internationally famous as a Jewish semi-secret society (Atago, p. 417).

[former] President Nixon and President Reagan must be freemasons as Dr. Kissinger, a German Jew, worked as a presidential aide (Yamakage, p. 167).

it is Freemasonry that “created” UFOs, which is not widely known, though (Kubota, p. 73).

By founding the League of Nations, freemasons formed a world state government (Kubota, p. 207).

AIDS is a microbial weapon of a Jewish secret society, Freemasonry (from a reader’s letter quoted in Shukan Bunshun, p. 129).


Although three lodges under the English and Scottish Constitutions have been holding meetings for over 100 years, it is only after the last war that Freemasonry, including Japanese membership, began to operate in a full-fledged manner in Japan. On the other hand, anti-Masonry has been in existence since the beginning of this century. And today there are still some writers who are publishing highly sensational anti-masonic books. Under these circumstances, the Grand Lodge of Japan has begun to take some measures to cope with the situation.

Mass media

We have been dealing with the mass media on a case-by-case basis. Some 13 years ago, an educational TV station with a nationwide coverage featured a special programme on Freemasonry. A Past Grand Master, the late MWBro. Yoshio Yamada, appeared on TV together with two scholars. In this programme, Freemasonry was handled in an objective manner. We believe that it served to enlighten the viewers about the Craft to some degree.

Then, in the summer of 1992, another major TV station contacted the Grand Lodge of Japan for a TV interview: After careful deliberation, we decided to agree to it. Prior to the interview, we talked with a reporter from the TV station several times to help him acquire some basic knowledge of the fraternity. The then Grand Master, MWBro. Richard A. Cripe, jr., and some of the Grand Lodge Public Relations Committee members appeared on a two-day news programme, resulting in a number of positive responses from viewers. We learned later from the TV station that some anti-masonic groups called the TV station, criticizing the manner in which it had handled the subject.

In 1986 the publisher of a magazine, Rekishi Dokuhon (Historical Reader), contacted the Grand Lodge, asking for an interview for its special issue on secret societies in the world. We knew in advance there would be unfavourable articles on Freemasonry written by anti-masonic authors. We decided it would be better to have our side of the story included in the issue, together with the articles written by anti-masonic authors, than to have only their side of the story published. Although it was not an ideal situation, we agreed to comply with the publisher’s request and answered his questions on condition that our answers would be published in full. In addition, the full text of a leaflet, A Way of Life, published by the Grand Lodge of Japan, which provides basic information on the masonic institution was printed. The same material, with some minor revisions, was used for a similar project by the same publisher in 1993 also.

Open installations

Most lodges under the Grand Lodge of Japan have open installations of officers, to which non-masons, especially family members and friends, are invited so that they can see the ceremonies and gain some idea as to what masons do.


The brethren in Japan have been active in carrying out charitable projects. The Grand Lodge of Japan has been hosting the Children’s Festival for nearly 20 years by inviting orphans and other children in the Tokyo area to attend this annual event. The last festival attracted over 1,100 children and adults. Many private lodges sponsor various charitable activities by supporting orphanages, schools for the handicapped, the training of seeing-eye dogs, the Eye Bank of Japan, the Handicapped Olympics, etc.

Tokyo Masonic Association, originally formed in 1950 by masons, each year makes substantial monetary contributions to charitable organizations in Japan and, when needed, to disaster funds in Japan and abroad.


The problem of anti-Masonry is deep-rooted and there is no easy solution to it. No matter how noble its aims and teachings may be, Freemasonry cannot expand its membership as long as it is out of touch with society. It is essential that efforts be made on the part of freemasons so that society in general will come to have a better understanding of the fraternity. Only by enlightening the public about its true purposes and principles and dispelling their misconceptions, will Freemasonry be able to grow in the Land of the Rising Sun.


I wish to express my special thanks to RWBro. Christopher Haffner for providing an abundance of source material in his possession and offering valuable comments and WBro. Norinaga Miyoshi for sharing his collection of masonic books and other material. I also wish to thank WBro. Robert A. Gilbert, WBro. Charles J. Carter, WBro. M. J. Smith, WBro. Gustav R. Swanson, MWBro. Carlos Rodriguez-Jimenez, MWBro. R. David Pogue, Sr., WBro. Myron G. Bettencourt, WBro. Hiroshi Takasaki, VRBro. Takeo Tsuji, WBro. Kazuo Ando, WBro. Mitsumasa Ikeda and Bro. Masaya Nakao.


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Apcar, Michael. Speech at Lodge Star in the East. April 9, 1946.

—— Speech at Tokyo Bay Masonic Club. December 20, 1945.

Atago, Hokuzan. Yudaya no Sekaishihai Koryo (Compendium of Jewish World Control). Tokyo: Seikei Shobo, 1941.

Beasley, W. G. The Rise of Modern Japan. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1990.

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—— “Furimeson (Freemason),” Sekai Nazo no Himitsukessha (Mysterious Secret Societies of the World). Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ohraisha, 1993.

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—— “Tadasu Hayashi: The Japanese Diplomat Who Became an English Freemason.” The Short Talk Bulletin. Silver Spring: Masonic Service Association, March 1987.

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Ligneul, F. Himitsu Kessha (Secret Society). rpt. trans. by Maeda. Tokyo: Takahara Shoten, 1934.

Ling, H. S. “Masonry as a Prisoner of War.” The Pentagram 39. June 1954.

Mackey, Albert G. Jurisprudence of Freemasonry. rev. ed. Richmond: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply, 1980.

MacLean, A. W. O Tentosama Lodge, 28th July, 1869 to 28th July, 1919 — A Short History of the Above Lodge Covering a Period of Fifty Years Since Its Inauguration Yokohama: privately printed, 1919.

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—— Personal correspondence. July 11, 1992.

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Bro. Robert Gilbert, Master, in proposing a vote of thanks, said:

Brethren, Bro. Washizu’s paper is both original and apposite. Much of the information that it contains was previously unknown to all of us, but in one sense it has been a retelling of the same sad story — of ignorance of and hostility to the Craft — that we have heard all too often since the 1730s. Especially depressing is the demonstration that much hostility was generated by the reiteration to yet another audience of the lies and fables of ‘Leo Taxil’ (Gabriel Jogand Pages) whose stated aim was the discomfiture of both the Roman Catholic hierarchy in France and the anti-masons of his day. But his tales were treated as truth (as, indeed, they are to this day by Fundamentalist anti-masons in both the U.S.A. and United Kingdom; it is more by luck than judgment that the American Southern Baptists have not adopted an official anti-masonic stance) and served only to fuel the fires of rabid anti-masons.

It seems probable that the active propagation of Taxil’s fictions by Catholic missionaries at the turn of the century was a major factor in the rise of anti-masonry in Japan. If Fr. Ligneul’s work had not been published it is conceivable that Freemasonry may have been left alone gradually to be accepted and ititegrated into the Japanese way of life. Indeed, without the release of the bacillus of European anti-masonry in Japan it is also probable that Baron Hayashi would not have been pressured into his resignation from the Craft. Given his high public profile, and the fact that throughout World War I Japan was our active ally, Freemasonry may well have come to be an established facet of Japanese social life.

But ‘might-have-beens’ are of little practical use and we must consider the real lesson to be learned from Bro. Washizu’s paper: that we must use nothing but honesty and openness in our defence of the Craft. This is well-illustrated by his concluding remarks on the efforts of the Grand Lodge of Japan to promote a positive image of Freemasonry.

Bro. Washizu’s account of those Japanese non-masons who were willing to be objective in their view of the Craft is also an encouraging counterpoint to the actions of the racial, religious and political bigots whose temporary domination of Japan lasted from the mid1930s to 1945: the period of the Nazi tyranny in Germany when Freemasonry was also ruthlessly suppressed. What must be worrying for us in the West is that anti-masonry is again rearing its head in more than one nation of eastern Europe. If we are to ensure that the Craft is allowed to exist in peace and to grow throughout the world, then we must emulate the fortitude of those brethren in Japan who did not bow before intolerance.

Bro. Washizu’s paper is thus doubly valuable to us: not only does it serve signally to increase our store of masonic knowledge, but it also reminds us that as a microcosm of the larger world Freemasonry must remain eternally vigilant in the cause of personal freedom.

Brethren, I have great pleasure in proposing a vote of thanks to Bro. Washizu.

Bro. M.L. Brodsky, Senior Warden, in seconding the vote of thanks, said:

Anti-Masonry is for us a difficult subject to handle, divided as we are between our duty to act as objectively as historians ought to and our disgust with the unanswerable accusations originating in the mind of vicious individuals.

Bro. Washizu has used with excellence the Japanese example to bring to the fore some basic elements central to the debate:

First, anti-masonry exists essentially and exclusively to further a political purpose and thus justify any type of oppressive measures against any type of peaceful individuals.

Second, anti-masonry used where or when the profile of Freemasonry is low or when the Craft is nonexistent is invariably supported by anti-semitism and fuelled by forgeries such as the well-known Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

Third, anti-masonry is one of the most efficient means available to any dictatorship, civilian or religious, to exalt the purity of its own purpose.

Bro. Washizu’s paper ought to be included in a comprehensive survey of anti-masonry as practised in the recent past in order to enlighten both the members of the fraternity and the general public on the means and purposes of those orchestrating their campaign and the danger thus resulting to the nation.

Finally I would be happy if Bro. Washizu could explain the apparent contradiction between the relative immunity of some Jewish groups such as those belonging to the Shanghai community during the years of occupation. Could this example be used to demonstrate that the general aim of the anti-masonic antisemitic campaigns purported to support the propaganda aspect of the policies of the military rulers, but that they themselves did not really care what was the content as long as the message would support their own political aims?

Worshipful Master I am particularly pleased to second and support your proposal, Bro. Washizu indeed deserves very warm thanks for this excellent and refreshing paper.

Bro. J.F. Ashby said:

It was in 1910 that the Duke of Connaught opened the Japanese Exhibition in London. In his address he said ‘Most of the people of this Country are very ignorant of Japan’. The reader of the paper tonight has gone some way to remedy our deficiencies.

I would have liked to. see an expansion of the introduction to the paper particularly setting the historical background for the period 1540–1870. The arrival of the Portuguese and Francis Xavier with the subsequent religious rivalry leading to the banning of Christianity in 1587, although not implemented by any great extent must have given an interesting impression of the Western world. The shipwreck of Will Adams and his becoming Miura Anjin was an example of the influence of East upon West.

The beginning of the 19th century when British ships seized hostages and the Opium Wars with China obviously did not improve our reputation. A Confucian scholar wrote ‘How can we know whether the mist gathering over China will not come down as frost on Japan?’. When a British squadron bombarded Kagoshima in 1863 we must have sunk to an all time low.

The interest in Western affairs after Imperial rule was restored has always continued but I question how much of the earlier history colours the conception of Freemasonry from the West.

Bro. Batham said:

Many brethren assume, even if they have not thought deeply about the matter, that Freemasonry is a product of the Western hemisphere, which it certainly is, with only modest and unimportant offshoots elsewhere in the world. Bro. Washizu has performed a valuable service, therefore, by the paper he has presented in lodge this evening, in showing that Freemasonry has existed in Japan for more than a century and that it has had to deal with, and is still being subjected to, many of the anti-masonic activities that are so much a feature of life in the West.

It is reassuring to know that the prohibition on Japanese nationals being initiated into the Craft was rescinded as a result of pressure from within and that, as a result, the Grand Lodge of Japan was founded in 1957, some thirty-seven years ago.

After centuries of ignorance and prejudice, that is not a long time in which to establish something that obviously is beginning to appeal to the Japanese mentality, otherwise Bro. Washizu would not be here this evening, but is essentially foreign in conception and exists very largely in a foreign language. Although appreciating the value of Bro. Washizu’s paper, therefore, especially in my capacity as an honorary member of the Japan Lodge of Research, I am concerned more with the future than the past.

Japanese Freemasonry depends far too much on the presence and support of American freemasons and I am anxious as to what may happen if and when that support is withdrawn. It would be in the interests of Japanese Freemasonry, I suggest, if a new ritual were introduced that was more in conformity with the Japanese mentality.

I know that Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan and that it is polytheistic in character, but it should not be impossible to compile a ritual based on it whilst still observing the fundamental landmarks of the Craft and perhaps Bro. Washizu is the one to undertake the task, but that is another story.

Meanwhile I support wholeheartedly the Vote of Thanks that has been proposed to him.

Bro. Litvine wrote:

I have read Bro. Washizu’s paper with the utmost interest and pleasure.

Through that lecture, I perceived that as always and everywhere the church of Rome initiated the antimasonic movement in Japan, and by the same fallacious arguments: “Freemasonry is a secret society whose goal is the destruction of the state structures.”

In a country like Japan at the beginning of the 20th century, it was a most vicious argument and almost the same as those put forward in earlier French anti-Masonic pamphlets, a socalled secret Judeo-Masonic plot against the state.

Bro. Washizu in this most interesting lecture, demonstrates the persistency of the efforts of the Catholic Church to destroy Freemasonry by the same spuiious accusations which in the case of Japan, at the time a highly hiel:archical society, could be and effectively were, lethal accusations for the members of the Fraternity.

This is not a particularly pleasant aspect of Christian charity according to the standards of the Church of Rome.

Bro. Harry Mendoza said:

The section of this excellent paper I found of particular interest was the action taken by the Grand Lodge of Japan in coping with anti-masonry.

In his epilogue, Bro. Washizu says:

Only by enlightening the public about its true purposes and principles and dispelling their misconceptions, will Freemasonry be able to grow in the Land of the Rising Sun. Might I suggest that enlightening THE MEMBERS OF THE CRAFT could help in achieving the object desired?

I have no doubt that as a result of the action taken by our own masonic authorities, particularly in encouraging the growth of masonic knowledge of the brethren, our members are now in a much better position to further the growth of Freemasonry than they were a few years ago.

Bro. Professor Paul Rich wrote:

The references to Isaac Titsingh’s sojourns at Dejima were most interesting, especially because I recently re-read Margaret Jacob’s fine book Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe (Oxford University Press, 1991). She writes: ‘In the slaveholding colonies whole lodges were composed of the leaders of the Dutch East India Company; in Surinam the first lodge opened in 1773; that in Curacao earlier, in 1757.’ (p.177) Is anything more known about Dutch freemasons who may have been in Dejima? Possibly the pages of Thoth, the current Grand Lodge of the Netherlands journal, could be helpful. Do we have any information on Titsingh’s papers? Surprising things survive in the Dutch archives.

Bro. Washizu replied:

First, I wish to thank all the brethren who made their comments on my paper in lodge or in writing.

Antipathy toward Freemasonry was hardly known in Japan until the beginning of this century when a French Catholic priest, F. Ligneul, published an anti-masonic book entitled Himitsu Kessha (Secret Society) in the Japanese language. As Bro. Gilbert comments, Freemasonry might have taken a different course in Japan, if Fr. Ligneul’s work had not been published. However, anti-masonic movements were inevitable: Japan’s alliance with Nazi Germany particularly contributed to engendering bitter antagonism toward masons as well as the Jewish people in Japan. Negative feelings about Freemasonry and Semitism still linger among some of its people.

Bro. Brodsky asks why some Jewish people such as those in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation were relatively immune from persecution. There was no consistency in Japan’s policy toward the Jews. Anti-Semitic and anti-masonic propaganda and activities were carried out in Japan and the Japanese-occupied territories during the last war. At the same time, there were those Japanese who held different feelings, other than antagonism, toward the Jewish people, e.g., those who sympathized with them, those who had an affinity for them, those who saw the advantage of befriending them and even those who believed the Japanese and the Jews had the same ancestors. Among them were government officials and military personnel.

In the late 1930s, an increasing number of Jewish refugees were escaping from Europe and some of them were coming to East Asia. The Japanese government had to decide what to do with those refugees in Japan and the Japanese-occupied territories, especially Manchuria and Shanghai. At that time, Japan was isolated from the international community, particularly because of its conflict with China. The government decided it could probably improve Japan’s unfavourable image in the world, especially in the United States, by displaying benevolence to the Jewish people. At the Five Ministers’ Conference, the highest-level government conference, held in December 1938, the participants decided that the Jewish people residing in Japan, Manchuria or China should be treated equally with other foreign nationals but that no encouragement should be made to have the Jews come to Japan, Manchuria or China from abroad with the exception of financiers and technical experts (Miyazawa, pp. 114–115). The Jewish resentment against czarist Russia had caused Jewish financiers to support Japan, as exemplified on the occasion of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905).

At a banquet in December 1940, Yosuke Matsuoka, the then foreign minister, reportedly said to a Jewish businessman, “I signed the Axis treaty with Hitler [on behalf of Japan). But I never said to him that Japan would adopt his anti-Semite policy. This is my opinion and I believe it is also the position of the Japanese empire” (Miyazawa, p. 115).

In 1941 Takeo Koyama wrote a book, Toa to Yudaya Mondai (East Asia and the Jewish Problem), in which he recommended that Japan befriend the Jewish people. While acknowledging the small Jewish population in China, he said, “There are [Jewish] international financiers in China whose influence on the Chinese economy has been immense and they maintain covert relations with powerful Jewish politicians, businessmen and journalists in the U.S., Britain and other countries.” And he pointed out the financial assistance provided by Jacob Schiff to Japan during the Russo-Japanese War and the fact that there were many Jewish traders in those countries with which Japan dealt and that the Jews who lived in Japan helped to promote Japan’s exports through their close ties with markets in the Middle East and Africa. Thus he recommended winning the Jewish people and having them cooperate with Japan (Miyazawa, p. 107).

By this time, thousands of Jewish refugees were fleeing from Germany, Poland and Lithuania and tried to pass through Japan to find shelter in the Japanese section of Shanghai. There were few countries willing to admit them then. Japan opened its gates to those refugees despite its alliance with Nazi Germany and the popularity of anti-Semitism (Shillony, p. 185).

One of those Japanese who helped the refugees was Chiune Sugihara, a diplomat stationed in Lithuania. He saved the lives of several thousand Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution in Poland and Lithuania by issuing transit visas during the summer of 1940. Those refugees took the Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok and sailed from there to Tsuruga, a Japanese port on the Sea of Japan. These transit passengers were permitted to stay in Japan, mainly in Kobe, as long as they needed. Those unable to find another place to go were allowed to settle in Hongkew, the Japanese-controlled section of Shanghai. Several thousand refugees passed through Kobe during the period of 1939 to 1941. Other Jewish refugees arrived in Shanghai from Europe by boat (Shillony, pp. 185–186).

In 1943 all the refugees of Shanghai were ordered to move to Hongkew and the area was closed off with barbed wire. The residents could leave the area during daytime hours for work by obtaining passes, although those going outside were subject to capricious officials. The living conditions were not good, but there were no labour camps, families were not separated and there were no executions. So the Jewish people in the Japanese-occupied section of Shanghai stayed alive and were free to conduct their religious and social activities, whereas their counterparts in Europe were persecuted and annihilated by the millions (Shillony, pp. 188–189).

Mr. Sugihara and his family eventually returned to Japan in 1947. Three months later he was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was told to leave the ministry (for having issued the transit visas for the Jewish refugees by disobeying the orders from Tokyo) (Sugihara, pp. 140–142). In 1985 Israel officially recognized the humane act he had conducted for its people: He was awarded the title of a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. He was the first recipient of this award in Japan (Sugihara, pp. 166–167). He passed away the following year. When Lithuanian Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius visited Japan in September 1993, he paid a visit to a memorial monument honouring Mr. Sugihara.

The Grand Lodge of Japan is descended from the Grand Lodge of the Philippines and the latter Grand Lodge is descended from the Grand Lodge of California. A Webb-form English-language ritual has been used in Japan and its Japanese translation has been in use in Japanese-speaking lodges. The principles of Freemasonry are universal and can be understood and accepted by the Japanese. However, the masonic legend based on the building of King Solomon’s Temple is rather foreign to most Japanese: Christians represent only one percent of the nation’s total population. In this respect, Bro. Batham’s suggestion on the possible adoption of a ritual that is more in conformity with the Japanese is noteworthy. A few decades ago, a non-Japanese brother drafted a ritual called the Kanto Ritual to “bridge the gap between East and West by teaching the same morality, using an oriental instead of an occidental traditional catalyst.” The ritual centered around the Todaiji Temple built in the eighth century at Nara. In this ritual, the officers’ names and titles were changed accordingly. The draft was sent to a senior member of the Grand Lodge of Japan but it seems it has been lost sight of with his death.

I fully agree with Bro. Mendoza who points out the importance of enlightening the members of the Craft (for the growth of Freemasonry). Masonic education on the part of our brethren is so obvious I did not mention this point in the conclusion of my paper.

Bro. Ashby states that he would have liked to see an expansion of the introduction to the paper particularly setting the historical background for the period of 1540 to 1870.

Originally the introductory sections, namely, the paragraphs on the Pre-modern Era, the First Freemason to Visit Japan and the End of Isolationism, were much longer. However, in order to reduce the word count of the already lengthy paper and to stick to its main theme, “Anti-Masonry in Japan,” I condensed the historical background in the final draft. Here is the expanded version:


Japan being located at the far eastern edge of the Asian Continent, separated by water from the continent by more than 100 miles (as compared with about 20 miles of the Straits of Dover separating England from France), its civilization developed in relative seclusion in pre-modern days. Foreign cultural influences gradually reached Japan through neighbouring countries. Its contacts with China and Korea were established early. Chinese histories record an emissary coming from Japan as early as A.D. 57 and a late third-century Chinese text provides a fairly detailed and seemingly accurate description of Japan (Reischauer, p. 13). Buddhism was introduced to Japan by way of Korea in the sixth century.

On the other hand, contacts with the Western world took place much later. The first Westerners to reach Japan were Portuguese traders who landed on Tanegashima, a small island in southern Japan, in 1543 when the country was going through a period of civil wars which lasted for more than a century from the latter half of the 15th century to the end of the 16th century. In 1549 St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary, arrived at Kagoshima in Kyushu, introducing Christianity to Japan.

Subsequently other nationals arrived. Spanish Franciscan friars began to come to Japan from the Philippines in 1592 and they carried out propagation of their faith in rivalry with the Portuguese-dominated Jesuits.

William Adams, better known as Anjin Miura in Japan, was the first Englishman to set foot in Japan. He arrived in Kyushu in 1600 as pilot-major on a Dutch ship, the Leifde, which was the only survivor of a squadron of five vessels which had left Amsterdam two years before. He went to Osaka where he was received in audience by shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542–1616). He convinced the shogun that the English and the Dutch wanted only to establish trade relations with Japan and that they had no intention of propagating Christianity. The shogun was so impressed with Adams that he gave the Dutch permission to trade with Japan (Bush, p. 89), which eventually led to the opening of the Dutch trading post at Hirado, an island off the western part of Kyushu, in 1609. Ieyasu ‘became his friend and benefactor and gave him land and the rank of samurai with retainers to serve the shogun. Ieyasu learned from Adams of the Western world, the conquest of the Spanish Armada, mathematics and the rudiments of navigation and much more. Adams constructed ocean-going ships for the shogun. He is often referred to as the “father of Japanese shipbuilding” (Bush, pp. 95–96).

Chinese traders were allowed to conduct business with the Japanese in 1611.

Adams suggested that England should establish a trading station at Uraga near Edo instead of Hirado to be close to the court of the shogun. His letter telling Capt. John Saris of the East India Company to make straight for Uraga did not reach Saris in time. Thus the English mission arrived at Hirado where they established the English trading post in 1613 (Bush, p. 96). The shogunate welcomed the opening of the trading posts of Holland and England, as these establishments were specifically for commercial purposes — not for religious evangelism.

As mentioned earlier, when Christianity arrived, Japan was in the midst of civil wars with feudal lords in various provinces fighting with one another. Among them was Nobunaga Oda (1534–1582) who steadily expanded his territory and influence and came to control the central region of Japan proper. He favoured the Catholic faith in order to contain the activities of Buddhists who were gaining power. His successor, Hideyoshi Toyotomi (15371598), carried on his policy, at first displaying a friendly attitude toward Christianity. However, having virtually unified the country, he began to regard them as a threat to the unified state and officially banned Christianity in 1587.

In October 1596, a Spanish galleon which was bound from the Philippines for Mexico was stranded in Shikoku, one of the four main islands of Japan, by a typhoon. One of the survivors told the chief Japanese investigator in order to intimidate him that his country dealt with the whole world and that if the survivors were treated well, Spain would become Japan’s friend but that if they were treated otherwise, Japan would be conquered. The chief investigator asked him if the missionaries conducted the groundwork toward that goal, to which the survivor gave an affirmative answer. The result of the investigation was reported to Hideyoshi. Although he himself dispatched an army to Korea in 1592 and was planning to invade Korea again, Hideyoshi was infuriated and enforced a strict ban on Christianity and ordered the arrest of Christians. A total of 26 missionaries and converts were crucified in Nagasaki in February 1597 (Gonoi, pp. 181–183).

After the death of Hideyoshi, Ieyasu Tokugawa came to power and established his government in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1603. The Tokugawa shogunate ruled over Japan for more than 260 years. Ieyasu showed a great interest in foreign trade under the control of his government. Later, however, the shogunate became concerned about the growing, activities of Christians. It issued an edict against the propagation of Christianity in 1612, made a proclamation to suppress this imported religion in 1614 and began to persecute Christian missionaries and Japanese converts who refused to renounce the Christian faith. A large number of Christian missionaries left the country.

The suppression of Christianity resulted in isolating Japan from the rest of the world. In 1616 Nagasaki and Hirado become the only two ports open to foreign ships. In 1635 the Tokugawa government prohibited the Japanese in the country from going abroad and Japanese residents abroad from coming home.

In 1637 a major agrarian riot took place at Shimabara, Kyushu in which Christian peasants, samurai and others participated in protest at economic oppression and religious persecution. These rebels numbered more than 20,000 and they fortified themselves in an old castle at Shimabara. In February 1638, the rebels were defeated. They were killed regardless of age or sex (Gonoi, pp. 221–223). This was a fatal blow to Christianity in Japan. Thereafter it was practised underground for more than two centuries until the second half of the 19th century.

In 1639 the Portuguese were prohibited from coming to Japan on the grounds that Portugal had dispatched missionaries to Japan despite the ban on Christianity in Japan, that Portuguese Christians and their Japanese converts instigated the Shimabara rebellion and that they provided those Christians who were working underground with the necessities of life. The trade relations between Japan and Portugal which had begun nearly 100 years before came to an end (Gonoi, pp. 225–226).

Thus only Protestant Dutch and non-Christian Chinese were allowed to do business with Japan. Contacts with Korea continued through Tsushima, a small island off the coast of Nagasaki. In 1641 the Dutch trading post was transferred from Hirado to Dejima, a small island in Nagasaki Harbour constructed by the Tokugawa shogunate.


Among those Dutch traders who came to Japan during this period was Isaac Titsingh. He was the first mason to visit Japan. He was initiated in Batavia in 1772 when he was in the service of the Dutch East India Company (Haffner, “Three Masons,” p. 45). He came to Japan three times — 1779 to 1780, 1781 to 1783 and 1784 — and headed the Dutch trading post at Dejima. Bro. Titsingh made acquaintances with many Japanese in high places and Japanese scholars of western learning and paid official visits to the shogunate in Edo during his stay in Japan. His books on Japan, Cérémonies usitées au Japon pour les mariages et les funérailles (1819), Mémoires et anecdotes sur la dynastie régnante des djogouns, souverains du Japon (1820), etc., are valuable sources of information on the people and customs during the latter half of the 18th century.


While the country was in a state of isolation, foreign vessels occasionally approached its ports and coasts. Toward the end of the 18th century and during the first half of the 19th century their encroachment became particularly noticeable. They often urged Japan to open its ports, but the Tokugawa government was adamant in maintaining its policy of seclusion. (Visits by Dutch and Chinese ships are not included in this section.)

In 1792 Russia sent the envoy Laxman to Hokkaido, his main purpose being to negotiate the opening of diplomatic and trade relations. A Russian vessel arrived in Hokkaido again the following year. In 1804 another Russian envoy Rezanov visited Nagasaki for the same purpose. The shogunate turned down the proposal.

In 1803 British and American ships arrived at Nagasaki.

In 1808 a British frigate, the Phaeton, came into Nagasaki Harbour in search of Dutch vessels as a part of wartime operations against Napoleon’s empire, (Holland being then temporarily under French control).

In 1813 and 1814 Bro. Thomas S. Raffles as lieutenant-governor of Java, newly captured from the Dutch, tried to substitute the Dutch trade with Dejima with that of Britain but without success.

More and more foreign ships approached Japan. In 1816 a British ship came to Ryukyu; 1818, British, Uraga; 1822, British, Uraga; 1824, British, Hitachi; 1825, British, Mutsu; 1832, British, Ryukyu; 1837, American, Uraga; 1844, French, Ryukyu; 1845, British, Nagasaki; 1846, British and French, Ryukyu/American, Uraga/French, Nagasaki/Danish, Uraga; 1849, American, Nagasaki/British, Uraga and Ryukyu; 1850, British, Ryukyu and Hokkaido/French, Tsugaru; 1851, American, Ryukyu; and 1852, British, Ryukyu/Russian, Shimoda.

In 1853 Commodore Matthew C. Perry took four vessels into Tokyo Bay and pressed the Tokugawa government to open the country. The following year he returned and demanded that a treaty be concluded. The shogunate acceded to the demand and signed a treaty with the United States of America. Other foreign powers followed suit and concluded similar treaties with the shogunate.

These treaties were unfair from the standpoint of the Japanese: extra-territoriality was enforced, by which foreign residents in Japan came under the legal jurisdiction of their own country’s consuls and Japan’s imposition of tariffs on foreign goods was restricted, being fixed, for the most part, at five percent.

By this time, the Tokugawa government was losing power. Several han (local domains) were becoming more and more rebellious, e.g., Satsuma and Choshu. The abolition of the seclusion policy threw the country into turmoil. The unequal treaties with those foreign countries, rampant inflation largely due to the commencement of foreign trade and other unfavourable factors resulting from the opening of the country caused some Japanese, especially samurai, to entertain the idea of “Sonno Joi (Honour the Emperor and Expel the Barbarians)”, i.e., to unify the country under the imperial rule and to repel the incursions caused by foreigners. Many samurai found it more difficult to make a living than before and they blamed the government for having opened the country to foreigners. Dissatisfied with the government policy, some samurai took advantage of the situation and attacked foreigners to embarrass the now-weakening government.

In the late 1850s and early 1860s, attacks on foreigners became more frequent and serious. In 1859 two Russians were killed in Yokohama; in 1860 a Dutch ship’s captain and a merchant were slain in Yokohama, and American Consul-General Townsend Harris’s secretary/interpreter was also murdered that year; in 1861 a night attack on the British Legation in Edo took place, wounding two members of the staff; in 1862 there was another attack on the British Legation in Edo, resulting in the death of two men, and in the same year, Charles Richardson, a British visitor from Shanghai, was killed and two of his companions were wounded by samurai of the Satsuma han in a village called Namamugi near Yokohama as they did not give way to the procession the samurai were guarding. In 1863 ships and shore batteries of the Choshu han in the western end of Honshu fired on French, Dutch and American vessels in the Shimonoseki Straits.

Foreign powers lodged strong protests against the attacks on their nationals by the Japanese. Consequently, the government agreed to the stationing of British and French troops in May 1863. In June of that year, American and French warships attacked and destroyed the Choshu batteries. Then in July of the same year, a British squadron entered Kagoshima (Satsuma) Bay and demanded justice and indemnity for the Namamugi Incident and, being dissatisfied with the reply, attacked the capital of Satsuma in retaliation. In August 1864, an allied fleet of American, British, French and Dutch ships demolished the Choshu forts.

As to Bro. Ashby’s question of how much of the earlier history colours the conception of Freemasonry from the West, I believe that the conception of Freemasonry on the part of the Japanese during the period of 1540 to 1870 was virtually nil. After all, there were few masons in Japan until the 1860s. The first masonic lodge, Sphinx Lodge No. 263, I.C., reached Japan in 1864 and the first local lodge was formed in 1866. Isaac Titsingh mentioned earlier was one of the few. He made acquaintance with high-ranking Japanese and paid official visits to the shogunate. So he must have had some or even great influence on those Japanese with whom he came into contact. There is no telling, however, whether or not any of his influence was masonically-oriented. Masonic membership was not open to the Japanese until the end of the second world war in Japan, although some Japanese were made masons abroad during this period. It must be noted, however, that a number of foreigners, especially those employed by the Meiji government, contributed to modernizing the country and among them were masons. It is only in this century that Freemasonry came to be known to the general public in Japan.

I thank Bro. Litvine for his comment, which does not call for my response.

In the text, I stated that religious groups have not been among the principal foes of masons in Japan and only cited the attacks by some Southern Baptist members which took place a few years ago. However, a new religious group or, to be more exact, a cult began attacking the fraternity very recently.

As for Bro. Prof. Rich’s question regarding Dutch freemasons in Dejima, I recommend he read Bro. Haffner’s article on “Three Masons of Deshima” in Chater-Cösmo Transactions Vol. 5 published by the Paul Chater Lodge of Installed Masters No. 5391, E.C., and Lodge Cosmopolitan No. 428, S.C., in Hong Kong in 1983.

It is most unfortunate that despite the high moral standards and noble ideals Freemasonry teaches and espouses, it has been under attack from various quarters. Even today, anti-Masonry still exists in many parts of the world. However, it is encouraging to know that more and more Grand Lodges have come to deal with this problem in a positive manner.

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to the members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge for their hospitality and courtesy extended to me during my visit.


Bush, Lewis. Japanalia — A Concise Encyclopaedia. Tokyo: Tokyo News Service, 1970.
Sugihara, Sachiko. Rokusenninno inochino biza (Visas that saved 6,000 people). Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1990.

(Reprinted by permission of Q.C.C.C. Ltd.)


WBro. John M. Hamill Librarian and Curator of the Library and Museum of the United Grand Lodge of England and Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, informs me in his letter of March 19, 1996 as follows regarding the first Japanese initiated in England:

19th March 1996

Dear Brother Yoshio,

I recently received a new history of one of our old lodges in the north east of England (meeting in the town where I received my schooling) which includes a place of information which I thought might be of interest to you.

As you know it has long been believed that Viscount Hayashi was the first Japanese national to be initiated in England. He was not. A Philip Takeitchi Hayashi was initiated on 6 February 1886 in the Percy Lodge No. 1427 meeting in Newcastle upon Tyne. He is described as being of “Imperial Japanese Navy” and his address was given as 84 Bishopsgate Street, London. He was passed on 6 March 1886 in the same lodge. He was raised on 5 April 1886, but in the St. George’s Lodge No. 431 meeting in North Shields (then a small fishing village on the North bank of the river Tyne about five miles east of Newcastle).

P.T. Hayashi was apparently in England from 1884 to 1887 working for the Japanese Naval Ministry. His presence in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1886 is probably explained by the fact that at that time the Armstrong Shipyard (later Vickers Armstrong) at Elswiek, Newcastle upon Tyne, were building warships for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Hayashi returned to Japan in 1887, resigning from the Percy Lodge No. 1427 at the end of that year. He apparently died in Japan in 1892.

Yours sincerely and fraternally,

J. M. Hamill
Librarian and Curator

[*] We recently learned that another Japanese national by the same family name had joined the Craft in England 17 years before Count Hayashi. did. For details, refer to Attachment A. (Updated in March ‘96.)

This article was originally published in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Volume 107 (1994) and is reproduced with the kind permission of the author, MWB Yoshio Washizu.