The Firsts in Japan from Yokohama, Part V

by Luke (Schneider) Oyama ’54
[Luke takes us through the history of Yokohama in this six part article – enjoy!]

– Part V – Bluff/Yamate

Bluff Area: Churches and Religion


20070831_ph01Though Christianity was forbidden for the Japanese, this prohibition did not apply to foreigners and the government permitted the construction of a church within the Foreign Settlement.

Fr. Prudence Seraphin Barthelemy Girard came to Japan in 1858 and three years after his arrival, built the Church of the Sacred Heart at Yamashitacho.which was consecrated in the year after. It was the first Catholic cathedral built in Japan which is said to have had a harmonized mixture of a western Gothic and an Oriental temple design with a golden cross glittering atop its tower. It was an attraction and many came to visit this church out of curiosity which led to an incident where 55 people were arrested.

20070831_ph02A statue of Jesus Christ was erected in 1962 at the original location of the church alongside the Chinatown exit of the Minato- mirai subway station on Honcho-dori for commemorating the centennial of the founding of the Catholic Church in Japan . 20070831_ph03
The statue of Mary brought from France and which survived the devastation in1923 now stands besides the parking lot of the Bluff cathedral.



20070831_ph04The first Anglican church was started in 1861 with Rev. Buckworth Bailey performing the services within the premises of the British Consulate in the Foreign Settlement. He was mainly responsible for the planning and designing of the first church which was situated just behind what is now Mobil Gas Station across Yatobashi from the Motomachi side. It was moved up the bluff in 1901 and this new church was a red brick building; the bricks having been brought out as ballast from Glasgow. This building was destroyed by the great earthquake and a temporary building was sent out from America. The present building was consecrated in 1930 but gutted by incendiary bombs in1945. Again, it was rebuilt largely by the inspiration of the Episcopalians in the U.S. Occupation forces in Japan and the American Consul General after the Second World War.


(Not in the Yamate Area)

20070831_ph05The American missionary James Hamilton Ballagh built a church in 1867 at a lot in the Foreign Settlement. Many Japanese were converted and baptized there, and in 1872 a congregation called Yokohama Christian Kokai was organized by these Japanese converts, and in1875 this congregation built the first Protestant church for the Japanese and named it, Yokohama Kaigan Church at the location of Ballagh’s original church. This church met its fate in the great earthquake of1923, The present church with its Gothic bell tower is a rebuild and was constructed in 1933. The church bells of the past days still chime the hour of worship.



20070831_ph06Yokohama First Baptist Church was built at Daikanzaka on the way up to Cliffside Club from Motomachi Shopping Street in 1873 by the American missionaries Nathan Brown and Jonathan Goble. There is not a trace of this church at the location where it stood, except a monument set up by Japan Association of Baptist Churches indicating the milestone of Japanese Baptists. In 1884 the American Baptist missionary, Albert Arnold Bennette, established a Seminary of Theology at the location, the forerunner of the present Kanto Gakuin University.



20070831_ph07Rev. Robert S. Maclay, the American Methodist missionary built a church in 1875 near to Jizozaka close to Kyoritsu Girlsユ School and the first services were held on June 20th of that year. This was the beginning of the Methodists in Japan.

The Methodist philosophy of evangelism was to educate people and so they established many missionary schools especially for women since they had no right to education in those days.



20070831_ph08On September 20, 1872 the missionaries of different Christian sects in Yokohama gathered at Hepburnユs house where the host suggested the translation of the Bible. Representatives of the different sects were James Curtis Hepburn (Presbyterian), Samuel Robbins Brown(Reformed Church of America), Daniel Crosby Greene (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions), Robert S. Maclay(Methodist), Nathan Brown (Baptist), John Piper (Anglican) and William Ball Wright (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Parts), and a translation committee was organized in 1874 for the translation of the New Testament. A monument honoring S.R. Brown stands in front of the entrance Kyoritsu Girls School (within the school premises) at the location of his home where he did his translations.

As for the Old Testament, missionaries gathered at the Union Church in Tokyo and formed a committee in 1878 for the translation. They included the seven missionaries above plus Jonathan Goble (Baptist) Hugh Waddele (Presbyterian), J. Hamilton Quinby (Episcopalian), George L. Cochran (Methodist), Frederic C Krecker (Evangelist) and Guido Herman Fridoln Verbek (Reformed Church in America). The Japanese, Masatsuna Okuno, Goro Takahashi, Kokichi Matsuyama and others supported them.

Bluff Area: Parks

YAMATE PARK (2.7ha) – Japan’s first Western Style Park

20070831_ph09After the Namamugi Incident of 1862, the foreigners requested the government (bakufu) to make a safe area for recreational purposes. First of all a promenade of 9km (Motomachi-Yamate-Fudozaka-Honmoku-Yamate) was designed by Maj. Ray (no record of his full name) of the British army and completed in 1866 at the expense of the government. Following this, the foreigners demanded to the government the use of the premises of Myokouji Temple (behind the Catholic bluff cathedral) and a park (2.7ha) was constructed and completed in 1870 but since they could not afford the rent and maintenance costs, the government decided to lease the area to Ladies Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (LLT&CC). There are themonuments for the “First Western Style Park”, and for the”Birthplace of Tennis in Japan” (cf. Tennis) in this park.



John Henry Brooke, a correspondent for the English newspaper, Japan Herald imported 350 saplings of Himalayan cedars from Calcutta in 1861 for planting in Yamate Park. Later, some were transplanted to Motomachi Park, the premises of Ferris Women’s School, Yamate Catholic Church and other places in Yokohama where they are now grown to be gigantic trees.



YOKOHAMA PARK (6,4ha) – Japan’s first Western Style Park opened to Japanese

20070831_ph10The government after the fire of 1866 when damages were suffered by the foreigners promised the construction of Yokohama Park and Nihon-Odori to function as a firebreak between the Foreign Settlement and the Japanese community. Both were designed and constructed by R. H. Brunton, a British engineer. (cf. Nihon-Odori). Yokohama Cricket and Athletic Club (YC&AC) for foreigners only occupied the central part until 1899 when the treaty was amended and the Foreign Settlement was abolished and control of the park other than the cricket court was transferred to the prefectural government. It was then was assigned to the city and was opened to the general Japanese public. In 1909 when the rental term for YC&AC expired, they were transferred away to Yamate where it stands now and a baseball ground along with a Japanese style garden was built at the site.


YAMASHITA PARK – Japan’s first coastline park

This park was completed in 1930 by reclaiming one kilometer of the seaside with rubbles from the earthquake disaster of 1923 and was part of the national restoration project.



20070831_ph11The Norwegian-American brewer, William Copeland found a spring fountain with water perfect for beer at Amanuma, current vicinity of Kitakata Grammar School close to the back entrance of St. Maur’s International School, and together with the German, Emile Wiegand established the Spring Valley Brewery in 1872. This company eventually became the present Kirin Brewery Co., Ltd.

A monument,”The Birthplace of Kirin Beer” stands at the park adjacent to the grammar school which was erected in 1937. Next to it is another with the inscription, “Cultural Inheritance – First Beer Plant in Japan” set up by the Yokohama Pen Club in 1962. The remains of two water wells used for the beer plant has been donated to the city of Yokohama by Kirin Breweries. The plant moved to Namamugi after the 1923 Kanto earthquake.

After Copeland relinquished his brewery, he started a beer garden uphill near Yamate Museum close to the Episcopalian Christ Church which is said to have flourished with customers of ships arriving in Yokohama. There is an explanation at the present location of the beer garden as the beginning of beer hall gardens in Japan but there is no authentication to it.

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