It is a real pleasure to be able to report that brethren in Japan are again free from prisons. The first thing they did was to start preaching the gospel. Indeed they were happy to learn that the brethren in the rest of the world had remained faithful, that the work had increased, and that the people of good-will were taking their stand for the Kingdom. The former Branch servant is still alive and has been released from prison. He rejoices in his privilege of now going forward in that land, singing the praises of the Most High. The Society is doing everything it possibly can under the present conditions to try to give assistance to the 60 brethren there; however, the country is under military control. As soon as regular channels are open for communication and the granting of assistance in a material way, we feel sure the American brethren will come to their aid. For seven years nothing has been heard from Japan, and we did not know what happened to our brethren. We are thankful to the Lord for preserving these faithful servants, so that the witness work has a start again.
The readers of this Yearbook will get some idea of what happened in Japan from 1939 onward by reading the following quotation from a letter of the Branch servant.
The arrest of all of Jehovah’s witnesses in Japan, Korea and Formosa was carried out simultaneously on June 21, 1939, by the Japanese government. As far back as 1931 it was noticed that the Japanese government would take action against Jehovah’s witnesses, because of the oppression that the government was bringing upon the people, and especially because of the action in Manchuria. In 1933 when Hitler seized Germany the first arrest of Jehovah’s witnesses was made in Japan. At that time many books, booklets and periodicals were confiscated. The pioneer brethren were thrown into jail in Japan and Korea. However, the witness work continued from that time onward, and a wide distribution of The Golden Age in the Japanese language was made. The number of subscribers rapidly increased. A splendid witness was given in the few years following, through the distribution of publications.
One morning at 4:45 the brethren in the Branch office of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society were awakened by a knocking at the door. The office building was surrounded by more than a hundred armed police. Every corner of the building was searched carefully for arms, such as revolvers and swords, but they found none of these. However, they did take away more than twelve truckloads of books, pamphlets, periodicals and printing material. This was held by the Japanese police as "evidence" against the Lord’s servants.
Twenty brethren and six children were immediately thrown into jail. Some were ill, and they were not given much better treatment. But a week later those who were sick were released. The condition of the jail into which the brethren were thrown was filthy, a hogpen as it were. Later it was learned that all of Jehovah’s witnesses in Japan, Korea and Formosa were arrested at the same time. Communications between the brethren were cut off, and nothing was known of what became of anyone until years later.
The Branch servant was kicked, beaten and trodden on every day without any reason. All of his constitutional rights and privileges as a defendant were denied. The case of the Branch servant came to court. The first decision sentenced him to twelve years in Jail. An appeal was taken and his sentence was reduced to ten years. When another appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of the country it was flatly denied; and the Branch servant was taken to prison on September 17, 1943. [yb47 180] He was released on October 9, 1945, by the military order of General MacArthur.
Whenever and wherever the opportunity presented itself, he gave good and strong testimony concerning God’s kingdom and his anointed King, Christ Jesus. A splendid witness was given to the Kingdom at the trial. The statements made were ignored and laughed at. However, through the years of suffering and trial it was possible to talk to some. When he was set free he was quite broken physically and financially. He started immediately to locate the missing brethren by the help of some friends. He learned through the newspaper that all of Jehovah’s witnesses were released on the same day, and he found a few of them. Up till now he has located more than thirty of the Lord’s faithful servants. All were in bad condition physically; however, they were rejoicing at the wonderful experiences they had and expressed appreciation for the Lord’s preservation. They are going forward praising the Lord in this nation.
It is unnecessary to mention every brother’s experience. You must imagine how horrible it all was. Just for an example: A brother who refused to serve in the army because of his faith as a Christian was stripped naked, tied up by both arms on his back, laid face upward on a frozen concrete floor and forced to drink gallons of water through both his nose and mouth. He fainted and was left alone for several hours. As soon as he recovered his consciousness he had to repeat the same experience again and again.
To be sure, many brethren have been killed in prison. No trace of them has been found even though many efforts have been put forward to find out what happened to them. Mrs. Akashi, my wife, was tortured to death in the women’s prison. She died on June 8, 1944. It has been reported to me that she was faithful until the very end. Although we, Jehovah’s witnesses here in Japan, are weak physically we are strong spiritually, by the Lord’s grace. We are ready to start in our precious work for his name’s sake. There are more than thirty men and women who have come into the truth since my release. All we need now is literature to resume our work as quickly as possible. In the meantime we will continue to preach the gospel. Conditions in Japan are bad. It is hard to get materials, such as paper and printing supplies; but we can talk.
The brethren here join with me in sending their best regards and Christian love to all of our brethren all over the world.