Lodge 640 History [10]

The Bluff Temple 1927–1941

Twenty-five years after the end of the Pacific War, Lodge Star in the East faced two major and related problems: falling membership and upkeep of the Bluff Temple.

With the end of Occupation, many members who had joined soon after the War returned to their home countries. They were, in some measure, replaced by Japanese brethren and foreign expatriates, but membership was never again to reach post-War levels.

Bluff Temple

The Bluff Temple was built in 1926 as a replacement for the Masonic Hall destroyed in the catastrophic earthquake of 1923. Built in 1890 and situated at 61 Yamashitacho, the old Masonic Hall housed several Masonic bodies. Ownership of the building lay in the hands of Masonic Hall Limited (MHL), founded in 1911 and reputedly the first limited company registered in Japan. Each of the Masonic bodies using the Hall held 100-yen shares in the company, in proportion to seniority and contribution:

Masonic Body Shares
Yokohama Lodge, No. 1098 E.C. 10
Yokohama Chapter, R.A. 25
Otentosama Lodge, No. 1263 E.C. 25
Otentosama Chapter, R.A. 5
Orient Mark Lodge, E.C. 2
District Grand Lodge of Japan, E.C. 10
Lodge Star in the East, No. 640 S.C. 12
A & A Scottish Rite, Consistory 16
A & A Scottish Rite, Rose Croix 5

This joint ownership of the Masonic Hall was to prove a major problem in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The land on which Masonic Hall had stood was sold for ¥42,000 and a much larger plot of land situated at No. 3 Yamatecho was purchased for ¥30,000. The resulting income was insufficient to build a new Temple, and a petition was made to the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), asking if part of the funds earmarked for earthquake relief could be used to finance construction.

The greater part of these relief funds consisted of over £10,400 donated by individual Masons to the UGLE. The UGLE contributed a further £2,000 and remitted the combined funds to its District Grand Lodge (DGL) in Japan, for the relief of brethren affected by the earthquake. It should be noted that several other Grand Lodges also sent financial aid.

The UGLE approved this use of relief funds, but stipulated that ownership and operation of the new building must remain in the hands of English constituent bodies. This came as a shock to both Lodge Star in the East and the Scottish Rite bodies, and through DGL they asked the UGLE to reconsider its decision in the light of their historical equity in MHL. No records survive of subsequent correspondence between District Grand Lodge and UGLE. In October 1926 DGL confirmed the original stipulation and paid off, at nominal value, the shares owned by non-E.C. bodies, thus effectively taking control of MHL.

The Bluff Temple was completed in 1927 but the scars of DGL's unilateral takeover did not heal completely. In December 1932 Lodge Star in the East left the Temple and for the next five years held its meetings in the banquet room of the Oriental Palace Hotel. It returned to the Temple in 1937.