Japan Masonry: 1945-1976

Christopher Haffner. The Craft in the East.

DGL of Hong Kong and the Far East, 1977.

Japan officially surrendered on 2 September 1945. In a radio broadcast announcing Japan’s defeat, the Emperor had stated that the Japanese people must now “endure the unendurable.” The Japanese spirit had to adjust to the fact of defeat and occupation. But this was not to be an occupation of the traditional kind, for the American government, working through the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan, Bro General MacArthur, set itself the task of creating a new Japan.

The basic objective of the occupation was to ensure that Japan never again threatened world peace. It sought to achieve this by two means: demilitarisation and democratisation. Demilitarisation was much the easier target. Militarism was so discredited that there was no outcry against the complete abolition of Japan’s armed forces. The occupation authorities even wrote into Japan’s new constitution an article renouncing forever the use of military force in international affairs. Democratisation was a much more complex matter, rendered more difficult because the occupation authorities did not know how much time they had.

The change which had the greatest effect was the Land Reform of 1946. This measure solved at one stroke the major social injustice of pre-war years: the tenant problem. This was not the only attempt to assist the underprivileged. Trade unions, which had always suffered from repression in pre-war Japan, were given such encouragement that by 1949, membership had grown to more than six million.

Economic reforms were matched on the social side. Education was made more open by the erection of a basically comprehensive three-tiered schools system, topped by a large number of colleges and universities. This American-style scheme has been generally condemned for causing a dilution in quality by over-stretching financial and teaching resources. It was accompanied, however, by other, less criticised, attempts at liberalisation. Women were given equal rights, and restrictions on press freedom removed. To confirm the break with the past, official support of Shinto was ended, and the Emperor announced in a New Year’s day broadcast that he was not divine.

Bro MacArthur saw freemasonry as one of the means at his disposal to achieve these ends. In a letter dated 29 July 1949 to the MacArthur class of the “Scottish” rite in Tokyo, he said, “In the progressive revival of the work of the Masonic bodies in Japan since the surrender has been found one of the strong spiritual bulwarks supporting the Occupation. For, from these immutible precepts common to Christianity, to Democracy, and to Freemasonry has emerged the philosophy underlying occupation policy.”

While the occupation lasted, it could not be foreseen what the effects of all these changes would be. The political future would have been even more uncertain had there not been a fundamental shift of emphasis in occupation policy after 1947. By 1948, the communist takeover of China was imminent and the cold war had already commenced. The idea of a weak, neutral Japan was no longer just a luxury, but a real danger. The revised American policy was brought to its culmination with the ratification of the Japanese American Security Treaty, which permitted numerous American bases in Japan and gave American forces very considerable freedom of action, on 28 April 1952, the day that the occupation came to an end. Perhaps the most important legacy of the occupation was the balance it achieved, partly by accident, between encouragement of democracy and recovery of stability.

Revival in Yokohama

Immediately following the cease fire in 1945, craft members in the armed forces formed a club, the Tokyo Bay Masonic Club. Many of the members of Lodge Star in the East No 640 SC joined. Shortly afterwards, four boxes containing records of English and Scottish lodges were found, and amongst the contents was the charter of Star in the East. Bro Apcar was importuned by many brethren to resume labour. Through his efforts, Bro General Eichelberger, Commanding Officer of the 8th US Army, had the temple restored, and a plaque was installed to commemorate this restoration.

Apart from the charter, other missing items were found. The magnificent clock presented in 1927 to the temple by the “Scottish” rite was found in the office of the Yokohama Chief of Police. It was identified by a small engraved brass plate which the late Bro “Hiram” Miyakawa, the temple caretaker, had removed and attached to a less noticeable place. Bro Miyakawa, whose father had preceded him in his duties, also saved the records and jewels. The old organ was found in the home of the police sergeant who had been in charge of masonic prosecutions during the war.

The first regular meeting of the lodge was held on 9 April 1946, and from then on the lodge had more work than they could cope with, even holding four meetings a month.

Tokyo American Lodge

The first record of the first American craft lodge in Japan is a letter from Bro Major Berthram C. Wright to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, dated 21 February 1947. Bro Wright stated that a survey had been made in the area of Tokyo, the results of which showed that there were fifty or more master masons interested in joining a lodge. The survey also brought to light the fact that approximately three thousand men of the occupation authorities, who would be stationed in Japan for some time, would be eligible for masonry.

The Grand Master, Charles J. Ramage, replied to Bro Wright on 24 March, outlining a plan which he hoped the brethren of Tokyo would accept. The lodge would be kept under dispensation at all times and Grand Lodge would not consider the granting of a charter. The jurisdiction of the lodge would not be limited as long as it did not infringe on Yokohama Lodge No 1092. The lodge could be put under dispensation for the working of degrees only for other lodges on a courtesy basis. The reason for the last stipulation was that any candidates receiving their degrees in Tokyo would then be members of a lodge in their home jurisdictions and would not be considered non-affiliated masons on their return home.

Bro Wright replied on 17 June and informed the Grand Master that the brethren in Tokyo were ready to petition for a dispensation. On 11 August 1947, the Grand Master signed a dispensation creating Tokyo American Lodge UD with jurisdiction over the American occupied zone of Tokyo. The dispensation was for a period up to 7 April 1948, the date of the next annual communication of the Grand Lodge.

The first communication of Tokyo American Lodge UD was set for 9 October 1947. More than a hundred and fifty brethren assembled at the Tokyo Kaikan building, wearing aprons made from condemned Japanese parachutes, with jewels of scrap aluminium. A total of one hundred and two brethren signed the tyler’s register. Amongst those present were two members of Tokyo Lodge No 2015 with illegible signatures, Bro Apcar from Star in the East, and two brethren from the Philippine constitution. The rest were from American jurisdictions.

On 8 April 1949, the Grand Secretary informed the lodge that its dispensation had expired, and as no new request had been received, the lodge was to cease operations and return all material belonging to the Grand Lodge. Bro Michael A. Rivisto, secretary of the lodge, telephoned the Grand Secretary and informed him that the annual reports of the lodge had been mailed.

On 29 May 1949, the Grand Secretary sent a memo to the sixteen Grand Lodges which had requested courtesy degree work. In this memo it was stated that the dispensation for the lodge had lapsed and no new request for dispensation had been made. It went on to say that the Grand Lodge of Connecticut had learned indirectly that the lodge had transferred its allegiance to the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.

Failure of English Masonry

The war and the surrender produced many changes in regard to masonry, some good, some unfortunate. Amongst the unfortunate results, the near extinction of English masonry was the most notable. The following went out of existence:

District Grand Lodge of Japan; Yokohama Lodge No 1092; Otentosama Lodge No 1263; Tokyo Lodge No 2015 ; Albion in the Far East No 3729; Union Lodge of Instruction; Rising Sun Lodge of Instruction ; Tokyo Lodge of Instruction ; Yokohama Chapter No 1092; Otentosama Chapter No 1263; Tokyo Chapter No 2015; Orient Mark Lodge No 304; and Torii Mark Lodge No 837.

This left Rising Sun Lodge as the sole survivor of the institutions of the English constitution. Rising Sun Chapter No 1401 was only to be founded again at a much later date. Why this English masonic disaster in Kanto (the area around Tokyo and Yokohama) should have occurred is something of a mystery. There were far more English people in Kanto in the immediate post-war period than there were in Kansai (the area around Kobe and Osaka), and the masonic hall in Yokohama escaped with a minimum of damage. One explanation offered by Bro W . Lackie in his History of Rising Sun Lodge is that brethren who would have been eminently capable of re-organising English masonry in Kanto were engaged in duties, in connection with the United Kingdom Liaison Mission and the reconstitution of their firms, that were so onerous that they had no time for other activities. However, in contrast, both Scottish lodges in Japan were reactivated.

Another possible explanation is that the top echelons of the military powers occupying Japan were masons of the Philippine constitution, or of American jurisdictions which worked a ritual similar to that of the Philippines. When ritual comes into question, masonic perspective sometimes gets blurred, as can be seen, for example, in some of the exaggerated claims that used to be made by Emulationists. It can easily be understood that, to these brethren, the spread of the Webb ritual was a crusade, carrying with it the ideals of American democracy. Speaking of his reasons for supporting the Filipino lodges, Bro Major General E. M. Almond, Chief of Staff, wrote in 1950, “Its precepts of fellowship, fair dealing and charitable motives are fundamental to the Democratic objectives of those most concerned with our occupation.” Philippine masonry had proved itself to be a democratising influence, capable of crossing racial barriers and appealing to the oriental mind. For these reasons, it was to be encouraged, perhaps at the expense of other jurisdictions. But before this view had become even unofficially formulated, one English and two Scottish lodges had been reactivated.

Be this as it may, the good result of the changes in Japan was the rapid spread of the Filipino craft.


Although the Ryukyu Islands were administered by the United States from 1945 until very recently, it had always been acknowledged that sovereignty in these islands rested with the government of Japan. Possession of these islands was taken by the allied forces in advance of the occupation of Japan proper. It is thus not surprising that the first lodge of the Philippine constitution to be chartered in Japanese territory was on Okinawa.

On receipt of a petition for Okinawa Lodge, the Grand Lodge of the Philippines sought the views of its nearest lodge, Charleston Lodge No 44 of Guam, and a favourable recommendation was received. The Filipino committee on jurisprudence recommended that “before final action is taken, an investigation be made as to whether or not this is open territory in the Masonic sense. Your committee believes that the Grand Lodge of England claims certain jurisdictional prerogatives over this territory by reason of its having chartered a number of Blue Lodges in Japan.” The proposed by-laws of the lodge were found to be in order, and a dispensation was granted on 7 December 1946. The question of territorial jurisdiction was not mentioned again.

Lodges in Japan

The first Filipino lodge in Japan proper, Yokosuka Naval Masonic Lodge, was issued with a dispensation on 23 September 1947. The committee on charters later examined the documents of this and Okinawa Lodge, and recommended that charters be granted and that the lodges be given dispensations to continue their work until they were constituted. The ceremony of constitution was carried out by Bro David Au, District Grand Master of China, and the lodges in Okinawa and Japan were numbered 118 and 120 PC respectively. In October 1948, a third lodge petitioned, and a year later it was constituted as Far East Lodge No 124 PC at Yokohama.

On 16 March 1949, the Grand Master, MW Bro Esteban Munarriz, visited Japan. He was met at Haneda Airport by a group of masons headed by Bro Michael Rivisto, who made a good impression. Bro Munarriz described him as “that giant of a man and a mason whose personal charm and sympathy have conquered for himself the love and devotion of his Brethren in the Philippines.” Bro Munarriz was also overcome with the concept of a Filipino landing in Japan: “What a marvellous reunion! A scene pregnant with significance: The West and the East in an everlasting Masonic embrace on Japanese soil.”

Bro Munarriz visited the temple of Far East Lodge and constituted it: the main purpose of his visit. In Tokyo he was received by Bro General MacArthur, who “expounded on the necessity of spreading the masonic principles throughout Japan and thus reform the ideology of the Japanese people.” The visit also resulted in the grant of dispensations to Tokyo Masonic Lodge, and to Square and Compass Lodge proposed for Tachikawa. The first of these was the former Tokyo American Lodge, and Grand Secretary’s report reads, “After its members returned their letters of dispensation to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, they requested our Most Worshipful Grand Master for a dispensation to work under the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands. This was granted.” (This account conflicts with that of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, which had not received any documents: the dispensation simply expired). Because of this expansion, Grand Lodge appointed an Inspector for the Philippine lodges in Japan, W Bro Elmer D. Rastorfer.

Scottish Rite Revived

From 1947, the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, had been concerned about revival of the “Scottish” rite in Japan. Bro Michael Apcar, 33°, was the only brother who was left in Japan, and by April 1949 he had secured the petitions of two hundred and twenty-one candidates from the armed forces. Space was rented in Tokyo, and Bro Fred H. Stevens, Deputy for the Philippines, took over a “large and capable” degree team and conferred the degrees on the MacArthur class of candidates in the Rose Room of the Tokyo Kaikan.

Bro R. W. N. Child recently recalled the proceedings in a speech. After the conferrals, Bro Apcar proposed the six or seven pre-war brethren who were in Japan for election to senior positions. Bro Child had himself expected to be junior warden of the Lodge of Perfection in 1942, and he was proposed as venerable master in 1949. Bro Apcar then asked if there were other nominations from the floor, as there were present some three hundred new and visiting “Scottish Riters.” Bro Rivisto rose and stated “that the new class felt that the officers should be selected from the class because it was doubtful if the prewar members could be in good standing.” Bro Rivisto was elected to the top post!

The next meeting, also well attended, was at the Stock Exchange hall, where appointed officers were announced. Bro Child was the only pre-war member present. Bro Rivisto presided, and asked Bro Child to be secretary. He accepted out of a sense of obligation, since he was the only member with any “Scottish” rite experience. Without any “Scottish’‘ rite background, with no rituals or equipment, without a fixed meeting place or office, the next few meetings “resembled tobacco auctions.” In the meantime, word got back to the pre-war members in America and they, together with the Registrar and Deputy, were very much disturbed.

In a report that reads rather like a soliloquy, the SGC of the Southern Jurisdiction for 1949 extolled the potential mission of masonry in Japan and its people. Sadly because this is not the concern of masonry, he went on to comment adversely on the visits of Cardinal Spellman and Monsignor Sheen to Japan, and on “domination by Rome.” The report then proceeded to consider each of the 33° members with connections with Japan, and decided that none of them were available. However, in the meantime, Bro Rivisto had visited Washington and “made a good impression . . . for he returned with a white hat and the title of Deputy.” In fact, he had been recommended by Bro General MacArthur to the Sovereign Grand Commander. In a brief six months from its revival by Bro Apcar, the “Scottish” rite in Japan, Korea and Okinawa was under the control of Bro Rivisto.

The Tokyo Masonic Hall

For his next exploit, Bro Rivisto announced that the Suikosha, the former Imperial Japanese Naval Officers’ Club, was up for sale and would make a fine masonic temple. The price was over $200,000, which seemed a gigantic sum at the time. In the autumn of 1950, Bro Admiral Decker rose in the “Scottish” rite hall of the Suikosha, which was already being used pending purchase, and announced that the committee he had appointed had recommended against purchase.

Bro Rivisto thereupon arose, and went to the room where Tokyo Masonic Lodge No 125 PC, of which he was then master was meeting. All were astonished shortly afterwards to hear that Tokyo Masonic Lodge had contracted with the Japanese Government to purchase the property. It seemed impossible that they could meet the price, but with heavy contributions from individuals, an issue of bonds, and a later fifty percent participation by the “Scottish” rite, it proved possible to do so.

After Bro Rivisto’s departure from Japan in 1951, it became evident that the property could not legally continue under the ownership of the individual masonic groups, and it was therefore donated to a newly formed charitable foundation, called the Tokyo Masonic Association, Zaidan Hojin. The objects of this Association, given in its by-laws, are “to promote, encourage and practice the true teachings of charity and benevolence; to assist the feeble, guide the blind, raise the down-trodden, and shelter the orphan; to support the Government; to respect the principles and revere the ordinances of religion: to inculcate morality, protect chastity and promote learning; to love mankind; and to revere the Supreme Being.” The “Scottish” rite bodies and Tokyo Masonic Lodge No 125 PC each elect three counsellors of the association, who, as a board, elect the trustees and supervisors. No direct control of the association can be excercised by the masonic bodies.

The ownership was disputed by the new Japanese Navy in 1966, but the Tokyo District Court upheld the rights of the Association.

The Door Opens

The Nippon Times for Sunday 9 January 1950 carried the headline “Portal of Freemasonry Is Opened to Japanese—MacArthur Gives Blessing—5 Top Dietmen Among First to Be Initiated.” The article then goes on to name two of the five new initiates: Naotake Sato, President of the House of Councillors, and Etsujiro Uehara, former State Minister. Congratulations were received from General MacArthur, Chief of Staff Major General E. M. Almond, Lt Gen Walter Walker, commanding officer of the US 8th Army, Bro Esteban Munarriz, and many lodges. The ceremony was carried out by Bro Rivisto as master of Tokyo Masonic Lodge.

Bro General Walker’s message was reported, and he said, “This step taken by the Japanese people indicates the will of a free people and their desires to practice those precepts of the Golden Rule in which the light of masonry and democracy glitters brightly in the hearts of free men. . . . I welcome the first Japanese Nationals, who are entering into the great Masonic Order, and I extend them my felicitations.”

In a report on the progress of the craft in Japan given to the Grand Lodge of the Philippines in 1955, Bro Tamotsu Murayama, the first Japanese national to be raised, expressed the view that masonry came to the Japanese people through scouting. In attempts to reactivate scouting after 1945, Japanese scout leaders were drawn into close contact with Americans who proved mostly to be on the square. The Japanese gradually saw masonry as a continuation of the process of building good citizenship. In his approaches to the Imperial Household Agency about scouting, he also spoke of freemasonry, and in particular to Prince Higashikuni, uncle of the Emperor and post-war Prime Minister, who “signified his intention to be a humble servant to Freemasonry.”

A somewhat different account, though perfectly compatible with Bro Murayama’s, was given by the Sovereign Grand Commander in 1951:

General MacArthur was greatly responsible for lifting the ban against Freemasonry. He was almost worshipped for what he had done for the people there, and almost immediately some high class people of the Japanese Government became interested in Freemasonry. I was greatly pleased, because I felt that Masonry had a great opportunity to do a great service for Japan and the Japanese people. . . . As evidence, the managing editor of The Nippon Times, the leading newspaper, Kimpei Sheba, is now a Mason; also the city editor of the same paper, Tamotsu Murayama; the president of the National Council of Boy Scouts of Japan, Michiharu Mishima; the speaker of the House of Councillors, Brother Sato, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Brother Takahashi. Emperor Hirohito was interested, and he had invited Brother Michael A. Rivisto, 33°, to come and visit him.

This must have been a period of heady expectation for the keen mason in Japan. Here was what the founders of masonic bodies called Chrysanthemum and Dai Nippon, and those who chose the gate of the Imperial Palace as their emblem, had been hoping for, many years ago. Here was the fruit of the hope that had led the English craft to initiate and promote Bro Viscount Hayashi at the turn of the century: the initiation of influencial Japanese persons, even the Emperor himself, into the fellowship of the craft.

The Sacred Volume

The first step to the initiation of Japanese nationals was not accomplished without some difficulty. In his report on the historical background of freemasonry in Japan, given to the Grand Lodge of the Philippines in 1955, Bro Murayama said of this:

Some American Masons strongly opposed it on the ground of religious issues. The arguments were that Japanese candidates must be Christians. . . . I learned that Mr (sic) John Cole in Washington drew the final conclusion that the Holy Bible should be used in the place of all other sacred scriptures in taking the obligation on inasmuch as the Holy Bible is the great light of F.M. and a guiding lightfor all human creatures. This decision settled various minor arguments and oppositions. The Japanese petitions were thus formally accepted. . . .

The question of initiation of Buddhists was to receive considerable ventilation in the Grand Lodge of Scotland’s Year Book in later years.

However, it should be noted that Mr Cole’s decision was contrary to the spirit of the craft as expressed by the jurisdictions of the British Isles. He would no doubt be horrified to hear of a Singapore lodge, or of the Grand Lodge of India, where six different VSLS are displayed together, being those of all faiths represented by members of the lodge or Grand Lodge. Why this view had any effect on the working of Philippine lodges in Japan is not clear, but its blinkered insensitivity marred the otherwise happy event of the opening of the portals of the craft to Japanese nationals.

It was sixteen years before this decision was reviewed. In the Quarterly for August 1966 published by the Grand Lodge of Japan is a brief statement headed “Alter (sic) Bible,” which reads, “This Grand Lodge authorizes our Constituent Lodges to Obligate Candidates on the Bible (sic) of any qualified Faith of their choice which represents to them, their way of paying homage to The Supreme Being.”


At this climactic moment in the post-war masonic history of Japan, a disaster occurred. Too much of masonry was controlled by one man, and he proved to have feet of clay. The first sign of disaster was an administrative failure. Having been informed by the Sovereign Grand Commander that he might take steps to start the “Scottish” rite in Okinawa, Bro Rivisto travelled there and conferred the degrees on fifty-four petitioners. He then issued Letters Temporary, naming the officers and even the bodies themselves, but he had authority for none of this. It took six months for a report to be made, and Bro Rivisto’s authority as Deputy was withdrawn.

Then came disaster. In the words of the Sovereign Grand Commander, “the government preferred charges against Brother Rivisto. . . . He was charged with wrongdoing, black marketing and other things. But he radioed me that he would be completely exonerated. In the meantime the Lodge of Perfection preferred charges against him for un-Masonic conduct and so forth. I understand also that Tokyo Lodge No 125, of which he was a Past Master, may prefer charges against him, and the result, if he is found guilty, will be expulsion.” Of course, the invitation from the Imperial Palace was quickly withdrawn. How different might the subsequent masonic history of Japan have been, if another, more mature, brother had risen a little less rapidly to such prominence.

More Philippine Lodges

It will never be known how detrimental was the effect of Bro Rivisto’s reputation upon the craft in Japan. Had the Royal Family entered its ranks, and even risen to its head, as happened in England in the eighteenth century, Japan might by now be one of the great masonic nations. As it is, masonry in the Philippine constitution in Japan laboured on in much the same manner as before, with a large number of American servicemen bringing with them a much smaller number of English-speaking Japanese.

By 1950, there were four Filipino Lodges in Japan, excluding Okinawa. During 1950, a dispensation was granted to Kyushu Lodge UD in Fukuoka. A petition was also received for Torii Masonic Lodge to meet in Nagoya, and General John J. Pershing Lodge in Kyoto. Both received their dispensations in February 1951.

Later, in October 1951, a dispensation was issued to Moriahyama Lodge UD at Tokyo. A trip to Japan to constitute Kyushu Lodge resulted in no action as military personel had dispersed, but it eventually received charter No 127. In 1953, a petition was received for a Sendai Lodge in Sendai. Dispensations were granted in 1954 to Nippon Lodge UD meeting at Sasebo, and to Aomori Lodge UD meeting at Misawa. These two spread masonry almost to the extremes of Japan. Sasebo in the west of Kyushu, the southermost of the four main islands; and Misawa at the northern end of the main island of Honshu.

Deputy for Japan

A Philippine district was, step by step, coming into existence. An Inspector for Japan and Okinawa had already been appointed, and it was felt by the Filipino Grand Master in 1953 that Okinawa and Japan should be separated, and that a new officer with greater powers should be appointed for Japan. With the specific insistance that it was in the nature of an experiment, he appointed W Bro William J. Eichorn as Grand Master’s Deputy for Japan.

One cause of discontent in Japan was the time taken to insert the names of applicants in the Grand Secretary’s Circular, which the Constitutions required to be published thirty days before an initiation was permitted. The Deputy for Japan was authorised to print his own Special Bulletin, which would apply only to candidates in Japan. He was given an assignment consisting of seventeen items, which included the duty to visit each lodge once a year, despite the nine hundred mile distance between the two extreme lodges.

The Grand Master’s decree creating this office also set up an Advisory Board, consisting of all present masters of lodges in Japan. The Board soon made itself felt. It requested exemption of lodges in Japan from payments assessed for the Home, School and Dormitory Fund of the Philippine Grand Lodge. The intention was to start such a fund of their own, amongst the twelve hundred masons of the Filipino lodges in Japan. However, permission was not given, though several other requests were granted.

In March 1954, the Grand Master received a petition from the three principal officers of each of the eleven subordinate lodges then in Japan, representing 1,620 master masons, requesting a District Grand Lodge for Japan. The reasons in support of the petition were considerable: distance from the Philippines, a separate “people of Japan,” the existence of eleven lodges, independent strength leading to love for the Philippines as patron and pioneer of a genuine Japanese masonry, and the like. MW Bro A. Gonzalez, who had taken a large part in the organisation of the District Grand Lodge for China in 1932, was appointed “special committee of one” to advise the Grand Master, and he advised favourably.

The District Grand Master was R W Bro William Jack Eichorn, the former Deputy for Japan. He was born in 1905 in Colorado, and after voluntary military service, entered the University of Wisconsin and received a degree in electrical engineering. Employment in the thirties was not easy, and he obtained work as a machinist with Timken. Such was his personality that he was elected international representative of the United Automobile Workers of America. Called up in 1940, he became an expert in fire control, and still in this field found himself in Manila in 1946, where he was initiated a year later in Muog Lodge No 89 PC and transferred to Japan in 1948. He reached the chair in Far East Lodge No 124 PC in 1951, and became Deputy a year later.

The District Grand Lodge was constituted in the Tokyo masonic building by a deputation from the Philippines on 2 June 1954.

Japanese Participation

With the first petition from the advisory board of the Deputy for Japan, PC, made in 1953, came the request for “authority to prepare and monitor the translation of our Rituals into the Japanese Language and to forward same when completed to the Grand Lodge for review and approval.” When M W Bro W. P. Schetelig visited Japan as Grand Master in 1955, he was entertained to a special lunch by Japanese brethren, at which he urged them to finish translation of the first degree by October.

At the first communication of the new District Grand Lodge for Japan, a team of Japanese brethren headed by Bro HRH Prince Eun Lee, pretender to the Korean throne, with ten master masons and two entered apprentices, gave an immaculate demonstration of the first degree ritual in Japanese. The Grand Master immediately granted a dispensation for the new first degree ritual to be used. On 20 January 1955, twenty Japanese brethren signed a petition for a new lodge, and Kanto Lodge UD was constituted on 1 March 1955 by the District Grand Master, with Bro Prince Eun Lee as master. Thus a major milestone was reached: the first lodge consisting entirely of Japanese nationals. On 24 March, the lodge gave a demonstration of the second degree ritual in Japanese before the Grand Master, so that another dispensation could be granted.

The reason for the Grand Master’s visit was that he had received a cable on 10 March saying, “the Prime Minister of Japan desires to continue his masonic work. Consider it great honour if you could confer remaining degrees on your visit to Japan. Please advise.” Considerable discussion was needed in Tokyo to decide how to perform the ceremony, as the Prime Minister, Bro Hatoyama, was an invalid, and as in the meantime Bro Yahachi Kawai, President of the House of Councillors, had also requested that he might be passed. Both were entered apprentices of Tokyo Lodge No 125 PC.

The following day Grand Lodge was opened in the Tokyo masonic building at eight in the morning, with the delegation, four principal District officers, the wardens of Tokyo Lodge, the principle officers of Kanto Lodge, and Bros Generals Hull, McNaughton and Reustow present. At nine o’clock, the second degree was conferred upon the Prime Minister in his house in shortened form in Japanese, and then the third degree in English by the delegation from Grand Lodge. At half past one, the ceremonies were repeated in full form in the Tokyo masonic building for Bro Kawai. Congratulatory messages were read from Bro General MacArthur and Bro Harry S. Truman.

On 29 March, the Grand Master and his Deputy visited the Diet Building, where Bro Kawai served tea in his office. This tea was attended by Bros Jiro Hoshijma, Haruhiko Uetake, Shunsake Noda, members of the House of Councillors, and by Bro Takizo Matsumoto, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary. The party then discussed the significance of the third degree with the Prime Minister in his office.

Bro Schetelig Reports

The Grand Master had reason to be proud of the progress made in his Japanese District during his year of office. In his report to Grand Lodge, he said:

A new era of Masonry in Japan was inaugurated during the now ending administration of the Grand Lodge. Our Lodges in Japan are no longer a side issue of this Grand Lodge but they are the very nucleus of Masonic activity demanding the closest attention, support and scrutiny for every incoming Grand Master. . . . On account of their racial background, their ancient culture, their history, their way of living and acting, we are working in Japan with individuals very different from Filipino characteristics. It, therefore, needs pliable and understanding minds on our part as the directing body to understand their mentality and foster the spread of Masonry in Japan. . . .

The Grand Master then moved three resolutions: that the dispensation to Kanto Lodge UD be renewed; that the dispensation to use the Japanese language rituals of the first and second degrees be amended to make them “permanent rituals of this Grand Lodge;” and that, on completion of the third degree ritual, they should all be codified. But in the meantime each Kanto Lodge member was to be personally responsible for the security of any ritual material in Japanese he possessed. In the term of the following Grand Master, M W Bro Camilo Osias, Kanto Lodge was chartered as No 143 PC. It was reported at the time that the third degree ritual was complete and was being codified.

The Moriahyama Resolution

The seeds of “independency” had been sown by the consecration of the Grand Lodge of China in 1949 and its revival in Taiwan in the early fifties. Many US servicemen must have been aware of, and even become members of, the Grand Lodge of China. At a more official level, Bro Schetelig, in his report for 1955, said, “After the development and progress Masonry has made in Japan and is likely to make in the future, it is now a question of prestige to maintain a District Grand Lodge. Besides, it is a training ground for brethren to govern, once an independent Grand Lodge of Japan will eventually be constituted in the future.” In his first report to the new Grand Lodge of Japan, M W Bro Carlos Rodriguez-Jimenez explained how in 1956 a wide variety of opinion had prevailed in discussions held over a considerable period: the time was not yet ripe; the Japanese brethren were not yet fully prepared; loss of US military brethren would over-deplete its ranks; and sheer perplexity.

Then came the first definite act. At its stated meeting on 16 January 1957, the brethren of Moriahyama Lodge No 134 PC unanimously passed a resolution calling upon all the other lodges in Japan to a convention to consider the formation of a Grand Lodge of Japan. This took place ten days later in the Tokyo masonic building. The District Grand Master was not present, but his Deputy, the majority of District officers past and present, and the principal officers of all sixteen Filipino lodges were there, in a room filled to capacity, and “it could be said that the gathering truly represented all the Masons of Japan directly concerned.” It was decided to hold another convention in the masonic building on 16 February, to be attended by four delegates duly authorised to represent each lodge.

Manila was advised of this, but exhibited no response.

After a second convention, the District Grand Master for Japan wrote from Manila asking what was going on in his absence, and on 21 February Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez sent “a full and comprehensive report covering all aspects of the case.”

In his reply, the District Grand Master expressed happiness at the loyalty to the Philippine Grand Lodge and said, “The Grand Lodge here is not against having a Grand Lodge for Japan, in fact they welcome it.” However, there were conditions attached: primarily a wise wait until several more lodges of Japanese nationals were established. Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez later stated that “this and some other points raised by the District Grand Master could not be accepted by the lodges, for all were impatient for their independence.” The third convention took place on 16 March, when fifteen lodges unanimously approved the Moriahyama resolution. Yokosuka Naval Lodge No 120, the first Philippine lodge in Japan, attended to vote against the resolution and stated that it would not take any further part. The convention then proceeded to adopt its draft constitutions, and elect Grand Officers. Six of the more senior Grand Officers elect were entrusted with “the mission of going to Manila . . . as delegates of the 15 Lodges in Japan, to take active part as such, in the proceedings, and to present our plea for recognition from the floor ”

Carlos Rodriguez-Jimenez

The Deputy District Grand Master of the Philippine jurisdiction, the instigator, and first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Japan, Bro Carlos Rodriguez-Jimenez was born at Upata in Venezuela in 1899. He obtained two doctorates at the University of Caracas, and practised law from 1924 to 1928, when he joined the service of his government. He progressed rapidly, and by 1931 was Consul General of Venezuela in Japan.

Meanwhile, he had received the light of masonry in Lodge Asilo de la Paz No 13 (Haven of Peace) of Venezuela in 1929. In Japan, he affiiated to Lodge Star in the East No 640 SC in 1937, and took part in its shipboard meeting when he was repatriated in 1942. He also joined Yokohama Lodge No 1092, in 1938 he was exalted in Otentosama Chapter No 1236, and in 1940 he became an English District Grand Lodge officer.

Back in Venezuela, he became master of Loyalty Lodge No 19 VC and Grand Orator in 1943, Deputy Grand Master in 1945 and Grand Master in 1947. By I945, he had progressed in the “Scottish” rite in Venezuela to the extent of being elevated to the 33°.

Following the end of the war, he was appointed delegate to the United Nations, and served in San Francisco, London, New York and Paris. From 1948, he was Counsellor to the Embassy in Washington DC, and in 1951 was appointed Consul General in London. In both places, he affiliated masonically. He also had a respect for masonic history and research, as is evidenced by his membership of Quatuor Coronati Lodge’s Correspondence Circle. He thus had a breadth of masonic experience that many would envy, coupled with a knowledge of law and diplomacy.

In 1952, he received his second Japanese appointment, as Venezuelan Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. In 1957, he became Ambassador, and he was recalled in 1964.

Icy Reception

Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez tried lobbying all past Grand Masters in Manila when he arrived, and found little warmth of response. The delegates then took part in the annual communication as ordinary lodge delegates, thinking they were “loyal daughter lodges attending our last Annual Communcation in Manila and that we were to emerge . . . fully and duly recognised and blessed. . . . ” However, it seemed that the agenda and message of the Grand Master both ignored the Moriahyama resolution, and, in desperation, the delegates from Japan introduced a motion from the floor “that the Grand Lodge of the Philippines extend recognition to the Grand Lodge of Japan and assist us in obtaining recognition from Grand Lodges with which it is in fraternal communication, also that the Grand Master of the Philippines . . . consecrate the Grand Lodge of Japan.” In this proposal lay the second misfortune to fall upon the craft in Japan. Having been admitted as members of the Philippine constitution, the delegates from Japan suddenly put a motion which stated that the Grand Lodge of Japan already existed.

In fact, despite the ill conceived haste with which the fifteen lodges in Japan had expressed their wish to become a Grand Lodge, they had certainly not taken such a step by supporting the Morihyama resolution. The delegates were from Filipino lodges and in no way represented a new Grand Lodge. The phraseology of the motion, as quoted by Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez, shows a confusion of thought that perhaps only frustration could have caused. Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez was given the opportunity to correct this matter. The Grand Master asked him “if they had come as representatives of the subordinate lodges of this Grand Lodge, or as the representatives of the Grand Lodge of Japan.” Forgetting that they had registered as delegates of Filipino lodges and had passed the scrutiny of the credentials committee as such, Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez “replied that they had come as representatives of the Grand Lodge of Japan.” The Grand Master then repeated the question and received the same reply.

He thus treated the motion put by the delegates from Japan as a petition for recognition, and not as a motion from the floor. It was put to the committee on jurisprudence, which recommended denial of the petition of the “de Facto Grand Lodge of Japan.” The motion to approve the recommendation of the jurisprudence committee denying recognition was then proposed, but amended so that a committee of five Past Grand Masters, appointed by the incoming Grand Master, could review the case, and make a recommendation a year later.

In his review of these events, Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez clearly regretted the situation he himself had created by his motion. “Our intention was that the separation ought to take place in a more solemn and dignified way, after complying with all the formalities that usually accompany the parting of friends, or the dissolution of a partnership, or the end of a fraternal relationship that so far had so happily existed between Manila and Japan.” Upon arrival in Tokyo, Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez sent an official letter to the Grand Master of the Philippines asking him to set up his committee of investigation as soon as possible. He said that the Grand Lodge of Japan would forthwith begin exercising rights of sovereignty, issuing charters and seeking recognition. In this “far from happy” manner was the Grand Lodge of Japan formed, the official date of separation from its mother being 16 March 1957, the date at which fifteen lodges accepted the Moriahyama resolution.


Immediate steps were also taken to secure recognition by the issue of details to over one hundred jurisdictions. The first recognition came from South Carolina. This was probably the result of a letter from Bro General MacArthur to M W Bro Dr L. Wade Temple, Jr, Grand Master of South Carolina, in which he said,

I recommend without the slightest hesitation that the prior recognition by the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina of the newly organized Grand Lodge of Japan be fully confirmed and sustained.

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. . . . That the movement should reach a 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.

As a result of being the first to grant recognition, the Grand Lodge of South Carolina performed the consecration of the Grand Lodge of Japan.

Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez visited many Grand Lodges abroad, including England. He was, after all, an English mason. He met R W Bro James Stubbs, later to become Grand Secretary, “an old acquaintance of mine with whom I had a very pleasant interview.” Bro Stubbs had read the official request for recognition and asked detailed questions of the new Grand Master, and gave him to understand that no more could be expected from London in advance of Manila. Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez asked for the earliest possible recognition, “as it amounts to sanction or approval that carries great weight in the Masonic World.” Bro Stubbs cautioned him not to be too eager to seek recognitions indiscriminately, as it might impair rather than improve the position before the older and longer established Grand Lodges. Although an assurance was given “that it had been the consistent policy of the Grand Lodge of Japan to be after quality rather than quantity in the matter of recognitions,” the die was clearly already cast.

A reviewer of Japan’s Proceedings in those of the Grand Lodge of Idaho in 1963 could say, “In their desire to have recognition with foreign Grand Lodges we wonder if they are too liberal. They have fraternal relations with more Grand Lodges than most of the older Grand Lodges in the world.” This was quoted in Japan, coupled with comment by R W Bro Nohea O. A. Peck, first Grand Secretary of Japan, that their policy had always been to follow the advice given by the Commission on Recognition of the Grand Masters’ Conference of North America.

Relations with the Philippines

On 28 November 1957, Bro Rodriguez-Jimenez again arrived at Manila. The subsequent negotiations were pleasantly harmonious, and he adds dryly, “Some leaders were missing, and obviously a change for the better had occurred.” He stressed his wish for peace and harmony, for which Japan was willing to go a long way. In return, the Filipinos expressed a desire to go more than halfway. The Filipinos made three requests: making an audit up to 25 April 1957; the unimpeded masonic work of the four remaining Philippine lodges; and a change in name for Kanto Lodge No 11 JC.

The strange request about the Kanto Lodge was the result of a split that had occurred within its membership after agreement to support the Moriahyama resolution. The Japanese nationals, the majority of the membership, had allied themselves with the Grand Lodge of Japan. A minority of English-speaking members, mostly American-born Japanese, had requested charter No 143 back from the Philippines.

After considerable discussion, these proposals were generally accepted, and brotherhood was restored. At the second communication of the Grand Lodge of Japan, the Grand Master of the Philippines, M W Bro Howard R. Hick, presented a Bible with the inscription: “Fraternally Presented to the Grand Lodge of Japan Free and Accepted Masons by the Grand Lodge of the Philippines Free and Accepted Masons March 13, 1959.”

Non-Recognition of Japan

United Grand Lodge is not bound in any way to give reasons for not recognising another Grand Lodge. Its reasons can, to some extent, be guessed by a study of the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition, accepted in 1929, and since then fundamental to any consideration of regularity. In general, the Grand Lodge of Japan complies, with the possible exceptions of the second parts of the third and fourth principles. However, the eighth principle covers a very wide field, and Grand Lodge generally adopted the attitude that only time would tell if this were being observed. On 3 February 1973, the Grand Lodge of Japan again “communicated with the United Grand Lodge of England regarding the propriety of considering fraternal relations between our two Grand Jurisdictions.” The answer of United Grand Lodge was still not yet.

RW Bro P. J. Hope, Grand Inspector for the Far East of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, has made available a report that he wrote in May 1968 to his jurisdiction. He opened by remarking that generally the US jurisdictions and the Grand Lodge of the Philippines recognised the Grand Lodge of Japan, despite their misgivings over its origin which was considered in the Philippines to be “a serious breach of masonic law,” because of the large number of members of Filipino and American lodges who would otherwise be labelled as clandestine. He then referred to early fears that the Grand Lodge of Japan, which at its formation consisted of relatively large numbers of Americans, with only thirty five Japanese nationals, would be forced to disband with the curtailment of US forces. Another early fear was the prominent part played by a Japanese national who, it was alleged, had been responsible for the maltreatment of freemasons in Kansai during the Pacific War.

He recalled that in 1958 the Scottish District Grand Secretary had written, “keeping in mind, the predominant religious, national traditions and characteristics of the Japanese, no compensating accession of members from indigenous sources can be anticipated and it is doubtful if there is any basis in Japan, broad enough for the establishment and continuation of a national Grand Lodge.” The Grand Lodge of Scotland, however, recognised the Grand Lodge of Japan not long after this. Bro Hope suggested, as a possible reason for this, the membership in Lodge Star in the East of a high proportion of brethren who were involved in its formation.

Bro Hope’s own conclusions were mixed, as might be expected after any intelligent appraisal. He comments that the Japanese “nature” is not such as to preclude successful missionary work. He notes that an apparently close connection with the Demolay Order, the Eastern Star, and the like, though “almost abhorred” in England and Ireland, does not prevent recognition of many US jurisdictions. He considers the “real crux of the matter” to be fourfold: first, the large preponderance of American nationals in the membership; secondly, the “open solicitation” of Japanese nationals to join, contrary to every basic conception of craft masonry; thirdly, the dual allegiance implied by the display of us and Japanese flags together at lodge meetings; and fourthly, the possible demise of the Grand Lodge, should us forces withdraw.

Bro Hope’s report is completed with a list of jurisdictions recognised by Japan, and significant non-recognitions, together with an implied adverse comment on the criteria for recognitions by Japan: that if more than half the forty-nine US jurisdictions recognised the Grand Lodge in question, no further investigation was needed by Japan.

The Situation Today

The situation given by Bro Hope as “the real crux” has since improved, but not changed in principle. In the 1973 Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Japan, it was admitted candidly that “for the present our Japanese MMs are not in large numbers, but we are confident that the number of Japanese petitioners will increase in the near future and Masonry will expand in Japan.” The author understands that Japanese nationals now constitute roughly one eighth of the total membership, and with an increasing proportion of us citizens having left for home, the active proportion is probably higher.

Total membership of its lodges increases by about three hundred and fifty a year, offset by losses of two hundred. Two of the four remaining Filipino lodges subsequently transferred their allegiance with the blessing of the Philippine Grand Lodge, and one in particular, with four hundred and fifty two members at the time, boosted the total.

In 1957, membership was 2,404. It had risen by a thousand in 1963, and by a further thousand in 1967. The rate of new memberships has stayed fairly static, but losses are increasing, probably because of the increasing age of early members, and the 1972 membership was 4,784. This makes it a small Grand Lodge, but, even so, larger than several others.

The Grand Lodge of Japan publishes a concise guide called List of Meetings Times and Places of Masonic Organisations in Japan, the last in United Grand Lodge’s library being that for 1967. It honours the English constitution by including Rising Sun Lodge No 1401, and it also includes Okinawa. On this basis, thirty one lodges are listed: twenty Japanese lodges numbered 1 to 11 and 13 to 21, seven Filipino lodges of which five are on Okinawa, two Scottish, one Massachusetts, and one English. All these Grand Lodges recognise each other, except England and Japan. This effectively precludes English masons visiting other jurisdictions, even though recognised, as the probability is that they would have to leave on discovering a member of the Grand Lodge of Japan to be present, sufficiently distressing to the host and visitors as to deter further visits.

This listing includes non-craft masonry. The “Scottish” rite has its Tokyo Bodies, and Santama Lodge of Perfection in Yokota. In the “York” rite, it lists three royal arch chapters, two cryptic councils, and one Knight Templar commandery. Then, showing no discrimination, it goes on to list nine quasi-masonic shrine clubs, and one sojourners club. It also lists non-masonic bodies: eight Demolay chapters including one in Seoul, five Eastern Star chapters, and five Assemblies of Rainbow for Girls.