Monthly Archives: April 2018

Surprise from Japan: Encountering Toyohiko Kagawa

Several months ago, the Burke Library received an unexpected visitor, a researcher from Japan. She said she was from the Kagawa Memorial Center in Kobe, and she wanted to see some archival items in the collected papers of Toyohiko Kagawa. Although her visit was unscheduled, I helped her set up a reader account and request the materials via our online Special Collections forms, and luckily we were able to fit her in for an appointment that day. As it happens, Kagawa has stuck with me since that day — I have become fascinated by his life and work, and have worked with other researchers who make use of his papers in the library who study him too. I even read a biographical graphic novel about him, two pages of which are shown below (more on this further on…)

Scenes from a graphic novel about the life of Toyohiko Kagawa, depicting his life as a student, coming to New York from Japan as a young man circa the early-1900s.

(Click for full size image.) Fujio Gō and Ōsaki Teizō, translation by Timothy Boyle. “Beyond the Death Line: The Society of Love and Cooperation Envisioned by Toyohiko Kagawa.” Kagawa Memorial Center, Kobe, Japan (2015).

I had never heard of Toyohiko Kagawa before. (I am still fairly new to the Burke; actually, I was a student at Union Theological Seminary after earning my MLS, and I know the Burke’s circulating collection and research databases very well, but I still have a lot to learn about its Archives and Special Collections holdings.) It turns out that Kagawa’s papers are held in the Missionary Research Library, held at the Burke. He visited the United States many times, and his papers eventually came to be collected at the Kagawa National Center, headquartered nearby in Brooklyn — UTS professor Harry Emerson Fosdick was on the sponsoring committee. Toyohiko Kagawa was a pretty impressive person, and an inspiring subject for seminarians to study.

Newspaper clipping from the Akron Beacon Journal, 1954, announcing that Toyohiko Kagawa would preach there.

(Click for full size image.) Author unknown. “Toyohiko Kagawa, Noted Japanese, To Preach Here.” Akron Beacon Journal, Saturday, Sept. 11, 1954. (From the Missionary Research Library Section 7, Toyohiko Kagawa Papers, Series 1, Box 9.) From the collections of the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

 

Toyohiko (given name) Kagawa (family name), born in 1888, was a theologian, activist, labor reformer, and pastoral caregiver, who worked in service of improving the lives of farmers and workers in Japan and internationally throughout his life. (He struggled with health complications and died in 1960, having been nominated once for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1955.) What strikes me most about his life and work is the incredible range of activities his leadership touched in Japan — from building medical hospitals in the “slums” of Kobe to founding cooperative farms to organizing labor unions, he accomplished a great deal towards empowering farmers and laborers. He spent a brief time in prison after being arrested following a labor demonstration. As well as being a gifted writer and theologian, he was a shrewd economic thinker and researcher — for example, he studied horticulture while forming his cooperative farms, and from reading about farming practices in Greece he got the idea of planting chestnut trees in the grazing areas of pigs in mountain farms, so that the roots would prevent rock slides while the trees provided food for the animals. Not to mention his prolific scholarly and literary life. He is said to have missed a lot of class while he was a student because he spent so much of his time in the library. (You can see why I find his personality so endearing.) He became a prolific writer, and his constructive activities were funded in large part thanks to sales from his books and speaking engagements. Having studied at Kobe Theological School, he eventually made several trips to the United States, including to earn an MA and MDiv at Princeton. Later in his life he made several speaking and churchgoing tours of the U.S., including in 1954, which are well documented by correspondence, newspaper clippings, and other materials in the Toyohiko Kagawa Papers.

A section of a speech given by Toyohiko Kagawa in 1954, including the phrase: "I would help the laborers to help themselves, acting as good Samaritans through their own organizations..."

(Click for full size image.) Toyohiko Kagawa. Remarks at the World Council of Churches meeting, Aug 17, 1954. (From the Missionary Research Library Section 7, Toyohiko Kagawa Papers, Series 1, Box 6.) From the collections of the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

I learned a lot about Kagawa by studying the materials we have here in the Burke Library, and from reading this biographical graphic novel that our surprise visitor gave me after her visit. It is called Beyond the Death Line: The Society of Love and Cooperation Envisioned by Toyohiko Kagawa. The Kagawa Memorial Center produces and distributes these books, drawn by Fujio Gō and written by Ōsaki Teizō, and I cannot find another copy in any library catalogs in the United States. She gave it to me personally, but perhaps I will donate it to the Burke Library’s collections so others can continue to study Kagawa like I did.

On “Missionary Cosmopolitanism”

Among the Burke Library’s most frequently consulted collections is the Missionary Research Library (MRL), an extensive body of books, pamphlets, reports, periodicals, and archives that originated in 1914, following the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910. Created by, and initially intended as a research resource for, Protestant missionaries working in various mission “fields” around the world, it is today understood as one of the richest repositories in the U.S. for area or global studies. As the self-understanding and goals of primarily liberal Protestant denominations and organizations changed over the course of the twentieth century — from evangelization to more broadly humanitarian work in education and public health — a wide variety of materials nevertheless continued to flow into the perennially underfunding MRL. In 1976, the MRL became part of the Burke Library; in 2013 the processing of the bulk of these collections was completed by Burke Project Archivist Brigette Kamsler. (Columbia University Libraries has digitized nearly 4,000 the more than 21,000 pamphlets in the MRL; that project is expected to continue in the coming years.)

 

Several academic presses, including Brill and Eerdmans, have been regularly publishing works on the history of missions, evaluating the significance of Protestant as well as Roman Catholic missionary endeavors. A recent work of particular interest for the Burke’s MRL collection is David Hollinger’s Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World But Changed American (Princeton, 2017). Hollinger recently discussed his work at Columbia’s Heyman Center for the Humanities. One of the stories Hollinger highlights concerns the extent to which liberal Protestant missionaries were often the first of any segment of US society to support the work of movements such as civil rights and decolonization. Many children of missionaries (sometimes known as “mish kids” or “third culture kids”) would become scholars, diplomats, and founders of international NGOs (including precursors to programs like the Peace Corps). During World War 2 and after, they were leading advocates and supporters of Japanese citizens who had been confined.

Hollinger uses the phrase “missionary cosmopolitans” to describe the outlook and cultural influence of these individuals and the movements and organizations they fostered. Because many had grown up and been educated outside the US and often possessed deep cultural and linguistic knowledge, they tended to be sympathetic to a broader range of perspectives and experience as well as critical of both the domestic and foreign policies of the US government. They espoused a nascent version of what would later be called multiculturalism or pluralism. Though they were not always successful in achieving their cultural and political goals (he notes their often vehement but failed opposition the Vietnam War, for one), Protestants Abroad analyses how the experiences and values of these “missionary cosmopolitans” (well-attested in the holdings of the MRL) had an important influence on education, politics, and activism.