UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Victorian missionaries in Meiji Japan : the Shiba Sect, 1873-1900 Powles, Cyril Hamilton


The influence of American culture on the modernization of Japan has become a recognized subject for investigation. British cultural influence was also an important factor, especially in the later nineteenth century, but has received less attention. This holds particularly true for the study of Christianity and Christian missions. It is generally understood that Christianity contributed to the formation of the intellectual tradition of the Meiji era. Yet all studies, both in Japan and in the West, treat Christianity as identical with American Protestantism. It is the thesis of this study that another type of Christianity, which came from England, also existed in Meiji Japan. Its relation to society was less dialectical. Where American Protestantism challenged, Anglicanism affirmed traditional institutions. Although never attaining the public recognition given the American type, Anglicanism furnished an early example of a group which recognized and practised cultural and intellectual pluralism. It is therefore important for the understanding of modern Japanese society. The examination of this tradition also provides an insight into the general differences between the British and American approaches to Japanese culture. This investigation follows the careers and writings of three early Anglican missionaries who lived in Japan between 1873 and 1900. Their writings have been related to the main social and intellectual currents of their day. Where possible their family background, education and attitudes have been compared with other leaders in the church and in secular affairs. Each missionary was found to represent a particular aspect of upper and upper-middle class English life. Their views and the ways in which they related to the culture of Meiji Japan were seen to express certain general English ways of relating to foreign cultures. The missionaries views on three important areas of Meiji society--education, politics and the Emperor-system--pointed to certain clear, though tentative, conclusions. Anglicanism was part of the general ideology of the old English land-owners whose dominant position in society was being taken over at this time by the industrial middle class. As a ruling class it was naturally opposed to sudden change. Its view of culture was broadly humanistic, and this humanism was reinforced by the Anglo-catholic theology of the missionaries. Social and theological factors combined to produce a generally affirmative attitude toward certain foreign cultures with which the missionaries came in close contact. In Japan the missionaries identified with the institutions of their adopted land. The aristocratic society of their own land was passing away, but something approximately like it still existed in Japan. The leaders of Meiji society trusted the Englishmen for their conservatism, while lower-class Japanese felt safe with them because of their paternalistic sense of responsibility. Consequently, although the Englishmen still maintained their personal identity as foreigners, they felt secure enough to affirm the Japanese way of life,. Finally, the corporate and organic nature of the missionaries thinking led to the formation of a church in which Englishmen and Japanese could work together. Within the framework of a hierarchical relationship Anglicanism became a basis for coexistence between individuals of two distinct cultures. In the process of work together, the British missionaries and their Japanese colleagues associated creatively with one another in a way that was quite distinct from the American pattern.

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