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13.       A Bahá'í Girls' Class in Tokyo

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      In 1920, on the Anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb, these girls who were in Miss Alexander's Bahá'í class, wrote a message to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. They wrote in Japanese which Mr. Fujita, who was serving in


'Abdu'l-Bahá's home in Haifa, could translate. 'Abdu'l-Bahá lovingly responded, "...Through the Bounties of the Supreme Lord, do I hope that these daughters of the Kingdom will, day by day, progress so that they may, like unto a magnet, attract the Divine Confirmations."

      A photographer took this picture of the girls with their Tablet placed on the table. The photograph was then sent to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and He replied with another Tablet calling them daughters of the Kingdom and He expressed the hope that ". . . each one of you will shine like unto a brilliant star from the horizon of the supreme Guidance, thus proving to be the cause of guidance unto others, giving sight unto their eyes, hearing power unto their ears and quickening unto their hearts."

      Miss Mochizuki (far right) remained an active Bahá'í through the succeeding years. Miss Otoe Murakami (far left), assisted Miss Alexander in 1923 caring for the earthquake orphans. She is also mentioned as being on the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo in 1932. Miss Haruko Mori (standing right), wrote a supplication in Japanese to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He answered, "Praised be unto God, that through the Guidance of Miss Alexander thou couldst hear the Call of God. Then strive as far as thou art able to spread the Divine Teachings, so that thou mayest become distinguished with this great Bestowal among the women of the world." She was one of three Japanese women to receive a personal Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

      Miss Mori and Miss Murakami were among those who spoke at the memorial of the Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in December 1921. There were thirty-six people present, only six of them women. In those days for women to speak up publicly before men was rare. Miss Alexander wrote


that their speeches touched the hearts.

      Miss Mori (Mrs. Shibaya) was located sixty years later in Tokyo. She said she recalled those early days very well and enjoyed the meetings. But Miss Alexander left Japan and the meetings were discontinued. She said she was then married and raised a family, and she lost contact with the others. She recalled that Miss Alexander visited her in the 1930s when she came back to Japan. Miss Mori's Tablet was among her personal possessions which were lost during the war.

14.       The Faith Spreads to Kobe in 1920

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      This was a Bahá'í meeting in a coffee shop in Kobe in 1920. It was arranged by Mr. Sanzo Misawa, one of the early believers, on the occasion of a visit from a friend, the writer Ujaku Akita. Fourteen people came in all, including a newsman who wrote it up for his newspaper. The paper hanging from the table says, "Bahá'í gathering, enter." Notice the picture of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the table.


15.       A Christmas Party in Tokyo, 1920

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      Shortly before Christmas Miss Alexander had an inspiration to invite the children of the shopkeepers on the street where she lived to a party. Mrs. Finch also attended. The blind Bahá'ís Mr. Tomonaga Noto and Mr. Kenjiro Ono sang for the children, and Miss Mochizuki told them Bahá'í stories. Fifty-eight children attended. The next year at the Christmas party there were seventy-seven and in 1922 more than ninety, including some mothers. The year after, 1923, Miss Alexander was in China on Christmas Day. She wrote that a wave of homesickness came over her to be with the children again.

      Mrs. Finch and Miss Alexander are at the top, left corner. Mr. Noto (with glasses) is near them. At the top, second right from the tree is Miss Mochizuki. Next to her is Mr. Futakami. In the right corner is Mrs. Futakami. Behind her, almost obscured is Mr. Ono.


16.       Mrs. May Bolles Maxwell

      "Whoever meets her feels from her association the susceptibilities of the Kingdom. Her company uplifts and develops the soul." So did 'Abdu'l-Bahá describe Mrs. Maxwell in a Tablet addressed to Miss Alexander.

      Miss Alexander heard of the Faith in Rome, Italy, Nov. 26, 1900. She knew it to be true and accepted it immediately, but it wasn't until three months later in Paris, that she met Miss May Bolles and learned deeply of this new religion she had embraced.

      Miss Alexander wrote of her friendship, "The first meeting with the beloved May Bolles is one of the precious memories of my life. From that day she became my spiritual mother and through all the years her tender mother love has been a guiding star in my life.''

      Among her belongings, Miss Alexander had kept two pictures of Mrs. Maxwell and a letter she had written from her home in Canada to the Japanese Bahá'ís dated Nov. 26, 1919, exactly 19 years after Miss Alexander accepted the Faith. Mrs. Maxwell wrote to the Japanese Bahá'ís (in part), "Beloved spiritual children of Agnes! ... How wonderful is our nearness and oneness to Him. For although you are in Japan and we are in Canada,

"Beloved May"


yet we are drawing our light from One Source, the Orb of the Covenant ..."

Miss Alexander and Mrs. Maxwell in 1934.

17.       Japanese Dolls to Sell for the House of Worship

      It was 1922. Miss Alexander wished that the Japanese girls attending her meetings might contribute to the building of the House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. She bought some

      Some of the Japanese doll family, dressed by the Tokyo Bahá'ís and sent for sale to the American Bahá'í community. The proceeds went to the American Mashriqu'l-Adhkar fund.


Japanese dolls and asked the girls to make kimono for them. She felt the dolls could be sold in America and the proceeds given to the Temple Fund. Many people became interested in this worthy project and eventually over one hundred beautifully dressed dolls were sent to be sold.

18.       Auntie Victoria

      Mrs. Victoria Bedikian, who was usually called "Auntie Victoria," was one of those precious old believers in the American Bahá'í community whose every thought was directed toward the propagation of the Faith.

      She and Miss Alexander met in Montclair, New Jersey, in

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Miss Alexander and Auntie Victoria Bedikian in Montclair, New Jersey, 1918.


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      A page on Japan from one of the early publications, the "Mashriqu'l-Adhkar." The date of this issue was about 1928.


1918 and they remained fast friends. Auntie Victoria never came to Japan but in the National Archives in Tokyo is a vast quantity of letters, poems, and drawings from her to the Bahá'ís of Japan, sent in the l920s.

      She especially loved children and in 1922 started a "Mashriqu'l-Adhkar" magazine directed toward children —sending it world-wide. It discussed details of the Temple being built in Wilmette, Illinois, and published letters and pictures of groups from different countries. She started a Temple Fund that Bahá'ís could contribute to.

      She also started an organization for "destitute" and helpless children. Both 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian encouraged her efforts on behalf of children. At one time she cared for forty children in her own home.

      Auntie Victoria was one of the Bahá'ís who received and sold the Japanese dolls that the Bahá'í class of Tokyo made; Mrs. Kathryn Frankland was another. The proceeds were sent to the Temple Fund. Auntie Victoria often sent small donations, or things like beads, to different countries which she exchanged for decorations native to the countries. She then sold those decorations for the Temple Fund. In addition to dolls, Miss Alexander also sent her Japanese paper, parasols and picture post cards of Japan. The Tokyo Bahá'í class enthusiastically joined in the effort.

      Auntie Victoria had a large set of printed deepening sheets for children which she sent out regularly. All the groups, whether in the United States or in foreign countries, which she corresponded with were given names such as "Song Birds," "Violets," "Rose Garden,". and "Divine Pearls." Tokyo was appropriately called "Cherry Garden." Her "gardens" and fellowship groups sent articles and pictures to some of the early magazines. There were one hundred and twenty-nine of her groups in the United States and around the world, and she was always looking for more Bahá'ís to write to. Her extensive and continuing correspondence went a long way in giving the early Bahá'ís a glimpse of the vastness and international aspects of the Faith. Her letters themselves were a deepening, and the recipients felt her love.


19.       Mr. Tokujiro Torii

      Miss Alexander met Mr. Torii in 1915 when he was a student at the Government School for the Blind. The next year he graduated and was married. He then accepted a teaching post in a small school for the blind in Ejiri, Shizuoka Prefecture. He invited Miss Alexander to visit there and for several days she read to and taught the blind of the Faith. One blind gentleman, Mr. Kyotaro Nakamura, who had spent some time in England, translated for her. He was editor of the only religious journal for the blind in Japan. He asked if she would write an article for the blind women of Japan, who, as he said, had a double darkness, of spirit and body, as nothing had been done for them. She wrote the article in the form of a letter to the blind women telling them of the hope and joy they would find in the Bahá'í Message. Mr. Nakamura translated this article into Japanese Braille and it was sent out. This Braille pamphlet was the first of the Bahá'í Teachings to be circulated among the blind in Japan.

Miss Alexander with Mr. and Mrs. Torii and Mr. Tanaka (left), in Tokyo, 1931.


      Mr. Torii was the first among the blind in Japan to learn Esperanto. In the beginning he and Miss Alexander corresponded in Esperanto and sometimes Esperanto Braille, which she could read and write.

      Miss Alexander wrote, "When I first met this blind brother I felt his spirit was reaching for the Light." He accepted the Faith almost immediately upon hearing of it. He wrote to 'Abdu'l-Bahá twice — first in Esperanto and later in English, which he had been studying. 'Abdu'l-Bahá favored him with two Tablets, in one addressing him "0 thou possessor of a seeing heart!" He told Mr. Torii, "Bodily sight is subject to a thousand maladies and ultimately and assuredly will be obscured... But the sight of the heart is illumined . . . everlasting and eternal."

      Mr. Torii did vast service for the Faith through the years and translated many of the Writings into Japanese Braille. Much later as president of the Blind Association, he often referred to or wrote about the Faith. In 1966 at the age of seventy-two, Mr. Torii received the nation's highest honor, an Imperial Citation, the Medal of the Third Order, for his work on behalf of the blind.

Mr. and Mrs. Tokujiro Torii in 1966. He is wearing his Imperial Citation.


20.       Akira Torii

      There had been Japanese Bahá'í children in the United States— the Yamamoto children — but Akira Torii was the first "second generation" Bahá'í child in Japan. Mr. Torii informed 'Abdu'l-Bahá of Akira's birth and asked Him to pray for the child. 'Abdu'l-Bahá answered, "Convey to thy respected wife my greetings and my message and the same to thy young babe, Akira, whose name may be ever blessed for it is quite an appropriate one." Akira means "shining light" in Japanese.

      Akira was extremely fond of Miss Alexander, whom he called "obasan" (aunt). He diligently studied English so he could write to her. He was his father's helper and companion, and it was a tragic time when the boy sickened and died at age seventeen.

      Miss Alexander was in Hawaii when she heard of Akira's death. She immediately wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Torii, "... our blessed Akira is now in His Heavenly Realm, and although we cannot see him with our human eyes, yet he is not far from those who loved him, and still love him, and by our prayers we may know that there is a meeting and that we can help him as well as he help us. That is the blessing." She also sent them words

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Akira Torii with his parents in 1919.


of consolation from the Writings.

      Mr. Torii wrote and had printed a book in memory of his only child. The name of the book was "Eien no Reimei" (Eternal Dawn). In the frontispiece was a copy of the original Tablet (in Persian) of 'Abdu'l-Bahá to Mr. Torii with the English translation which mentions Akira. At the end of the book was quoted, "0 thou who art the Lord of all men! Grant then, 0 my God, that Thy servant may consort with Thy chosen ones, Thy saints and Thy Messengers in heavenly places that the pen cannot tell nor the tongue recount." (from a prayer by Bahá'u'lláh)

      "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era" had been translated into Japanese by Mr. Daiun Inouye some years earlier. Mr. Torii transcribed it into Japanese Braille in 1936 as a memorial to his son. The book, seven hundred and seventy pages in three volumes, was sent to the libraries of various schools for the blind and was given to blind persons thereby bringing Light to those in Japan who could not see.

      One set of the Japanese Braille edition of "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era" was sent to the Guardian. He expressed "grateful appreciation and thanks" to Mr. Torii for his service and wrote that the books were to be placed in the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji.

Akira ("whose name may be ever blessed') at age eleven wearing his schoolboy uniform.


21.       The Blind in Japan Receive the Light

      Miss Alexander had a great love and empathy for the blind, and she felt that they had a special right to hear of the Message of Bahá'u'lláh. Among her first friends in Japan were several blind persons, Mr. Torii, Mr. Eroshenko, Mr. Ono, Mr. Noto, Mr. Nakamura, first editor of the magazine for the blind, and Miss Kazuko Higashi. Miss Higashi was also deaf. After she accepted the Faith she had a dream of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in which He said to her, "God will always protect you." She wrote to Miss Alexander, "I do not need bodily sight and hearing now

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      Miss Alexander and Vasily Eroshenko, a blind Russian Esperantist, who lived for a time in Tokyo. He did the first translation of the "Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh" (Arabic section), into Esperanto in 1916. He helped Miss Alexander learn both English and Esperanto Braille, and he introduced her to many people, including Mr. Torii. Mr. Eroshenko was greatly attracted to the Faith at the time. Later he left Japan and returned to Russia, and, according to Miss Alexander, he lost the inspiration he had received through the Bahá'í Teachings. This photograph was taken in 1915.


because I am living in the spiritual world."

      Mr. Torii, Mr. Kenjiro Ono and Mr. Tomonaga Noto all wrote to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The blind were shown great love by Him. Five of His eighteen Tablets to Japanese were addressed to the blind; two to Mr. Torii, two to Mr. Ono and one to Mr. Noto.

      Miss Alexander continued to have many opportunities through the years to meet the blind and attend their meetings.

      Miss Alexander and Mr. Kenjiro Ono. He was the first blind man to study in a university in Japan (1914). He was greatly attracted to the Faith, and he helped Miss Mochizuki start the first Bahá'í magazine in Japanese, "Higashi no Hoshi," but he did not commit himself to the Faith.

      'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote to him, "Verily, verily thou hast suffered much in thy life time. Praise be unto God, that thy insight is keen. Do not thou lament over thy poverty, for the Treasury of the Kingdom is thine...".

      'Abdu'l-Bahá offered him great confirmations, "Rest assured that thou wilt be confirmed to give sight to the blind and hearing power to the deaf and even thou wilt give life to the dead!"

      However, Mr. Ono soon left Japan to join Eroshenko in China and Russia, and he died abroad. The man on the right is thought to be Mr. Sanzo Misawa, one of the early Bahá'ís. This photograph was taken about 1916.


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      This photograph was dated March 31, 1915. Miss Alexander is sitting at the far right, and Mr. Eroshenko next to her. It is apparently an Esperanto group.

      Mr. Keiji Sawada, who was blind, is shown being greeted by Miss Helen Keller when she came to Japan in 1937. Mr. Sawada was listed as being on the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Tokyo in 1932. He and his wife were close friends of Miss Alexander, and he associated with Bahá'ís when he went to the United States for study. He did not identify himself as a Bahá'í in later years although he and his wife can be seen in photographs taken at Bahá'í activities in the years after the war.


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      Mr. Torii is speaking before the Blind Association, on the occasion of Miss Keller's visit to Japan. She is sitting second from the right. Miss Keller was well aware of the Faith and wrote appreciatively of it.

      Miss Keller was born blind and deaf. Her life, overcoming all difficulties and rising to eminence in the world, has been an inspiration to all, not only similarly affected people. She was given much publicity when she came to Japan. The first time happened to be during one of Martha Root's trips, but apparently they did not meet. Miss Root, always the journalist, circulated to the Japanese newspapers Miss Keller's words about the Bahá'í Faith, "The philosophy of Bahá'u'lláh deserves the best thought we can give it ... what nobler theme than the 'good of the world and the happiness of the nations' can occupy our lives? ..." Miss Keller came again to Japan in 1955 and met Mr. Torii and Mr. Sawada at the schools for the blind where they were teaching.

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