Monday, March 29, 2004

More on Uchimura Kanzo.

Kanzo published "Tokyo Independent Magazine" from June 1898 to July 1900. He criticized the corruption, mammonism, narrow-minded patriotism and imperialism of Japan's upper echelon of society and that of a government that was deeply influenced by the Samurai system, the army and the wealthy aristocracy. He was an advocate of freedom, equality, high ethics and morals, and made friends with many common people, such as farmers, fishermen, merchants and rikisha drivers.

Gutsy for those times.

And I thought this was kind of entertaining. His first trip to America in the late 19th century. He had learned English by reading Christian literature, and the only white folk he had ever met were missionaries, so he was expecting something akin to the promised land. But...

Yes, Hebraism in one sense at least I found to be a common form of speech in America. First of all, everybody has a Hebrew name, and even horses are christened there. The words which we have never pronounced without the sense of extreme awe and reverence are upon the lips of workmen, carriage-drivers, shoe-blacks, and others of more respectable occupations. Every little offence is accompanied by a religious oath of some kind. In a hotel-parlor we asked a respectable-looking gentleman how he liked the new president-elect (Cleveland), and his emphatic answer was strongly Hebraic. "By G-" he said, "I tell you he is a devil." The gentleman was afterward known to be a staunch Republican. We started in an emigrant train toward the East, and when the car stopped with a jerk so that we were almost thrown out of our seats, one of our fellow-passengers expressed his vexations with another Hebraism, "J- Ch-," and accompanied it with a stamping. And so forth. All these were of course utterly strange to our ears. Soon I was able to discover the deep profanity that lay at the bottom of all these Hebraisms, and I took them as open violations of the Third Commandment, of whose special use and significance I have never been able to comprehend thus far, but now for the first time, was taught with "living examples."

So universal is the use of religious terms in every-day speech of the American people, that a story is told of a French immigrant who carried an English-French dictionary in his pocket, to which he referred for every English word that he heard from the very beginning of his departure from Havre. On his landing at the Philadelphia wharf, the commonest word that he heard the people spoke was "damn-devil." He at once went to his dictionary, but failing to find such a word therein, he threw it away, thinking that a dictionary that did not contain so common a word must be of no further use to him in America.

The report that money was the almighty power in America was corroborated by many of our actual experiences. Immediately after our arrival at San Francisco, our faith in "Christian civilization" was severely tested by a disaster that befell one of our numbers. He was pick-pocketed of a purse that contained a five-dollar-gold piece! "Pick-pocket-ing in Christendom as in Pagandom," we cautioned to each other; and while in dismay and confusion we were consoling our robbed brother, an elderly lady, who afterward told us that she believed in the universal salvation of mankind, good as well as bad, took our misfortune heavily upon her heart, and warned us of further dangers, as pick-pocketing, burglary-ing, high-way-ing, and all other transgressions of the sinful humanity were not unknown in her land as well. We did only wish, however, that that crank who despoiled us of that precious five-dollar-piece would never go to heaven, but be really damned in everlasting hell-fire...

He founded the Mukyokai, the non-church movement in Japan. Sounds a lot like Japan's original Christian anarchist:

Non-Church Christians are known in Japan particularly for their uncompromising stand against social evils. Because they are not part of a religious institution, they are not concerned with institutional survival during times of turmoil and therefore feel free as individuals to speak out against moral and political corruption. They have maintained their spiritual and theistic perspective against the invading forces of materialism since the Meiji Era.

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