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They That Sat in Darkness
An Account of Rescue Work in Japan in the Words of the Rev. Yoshimichi Sugiura

New York: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, [1912]

Chapter VIII. Their Sad Histories Before They Came to Me.

Though their poor circumstances before they came to me were divers and different, they all alike deserve our deep sympathy and commiseration. Let me describe a few instances of them.


One of them was a poor young orphan, who came out from his native country to Tokyo with a hope to get some work. When the poor fellow was searching for it, he was deprived of all the money he had by bands of certain wicked men, and was wandering about for some days without taking any food. At last he was advised to come to the Union by a kind sympathizer.


Another was the son of some country gentleman near Tokyo, who died a few years ago, upon which the whole property was seized by his bad uncle and the family was reduced to a miserable condition. So he left his native place in agony to search for the uncle to ask his merciful help. But when he found him out in Yokohama, the uncle relentlessly refused to accept his earnest entreaty, and drove him away, without giving him a sen of money or a little bit of bread. He then came to Tokyo walking on foot, without any hope, and wandered about in the city, sleeping in an iron pipe of an aqueduct, which was thrown on the wayside, at night, and fell into my hands eventually.


Another was a man, Shofu Yokota, who is about forty years of age. He was once a political speaker, an official of the government, a speculator in the rice market and a stock broker. At one time he made a fortune of [32/33] many thousands of dollars, but after failures in the business he fell into such narrow circumstances that he could in no way support his family. He thought in utter grief that it was a great pity to leave his dear wife and hungry children in such a severe pain of poverty, and determined rather in his half-frenzied state of mind to put them into the eternal rest, and that he should go after them.

Late one night, when they were fast asleep, he silently rose from his bed, after a fierce struggle in his heart with his love toward them, and desperately forcing it back, and went first to the children, holding a glittering sword in his hand. But at this dangerous moment he saw a peaceful smile on the face of his youngest child, who would perhaps been in happy dream, and he felt suddenly a strange emotion in his heart and his throat was choked with bitter tears.

He stooped by its side to cry, and pondered about his own foolishness, and he then understood that this misfortune came not from any other cause than his own sins; he remembered that his previous life had been so licentious, led by a mind that lacks any good motive, and that it was necessary to change his [33/34] heart entirely, and lead his life in a new way. Gnashing his teeth in regret, crying out his sorrow, he apologized himself in his heart to the sleeping family about such a horrible misconduct, and determined to become an entirely different man.

He then sent his wife and children to his native city, Tsuyama in Okayama Prefecture, for a while, and when he was searching for work he read the poster of my Union on the street, and came to me. He began to work in the Union immediately with the bright hope to prepare a new home for his dear ones. He had entered into the boarding house in November, 1909, and by his hard effort he succeeded in providing a small house to live in, and called his eldest girl to help him already.


Mr. Jinzenji is another one who have a special history to be described. He was born in an old and rich family, in the Jinzenji village, Kochi Prefecture, forty-three years ago. In his youth he received a good education, and graduated from the Kochi Normal School and the Imperial Agricultural College. But after [34/35] his parents had died, and he became the sole master of that great wealth, lie delivered himself up to wantonness and squandered all his property, which had been laid up through many ages by his ancestors.

When he repented of his misconduct, however, it was too late, and he found himself in the depth of poverty. He then left his native place, and went out to Ibaraki Prefecture, which is notable for its richness of coal mines. There he engaged in the mine business for more than ten years, with great zeal to recover his lost wealth. Though there were some ups and downs, he fell more and more into the bottom of misery, and became utterly helpless at the beginning of this year.

He came out to Tokyo, but there no better fate waited him, and at last he determined to commit suicide in despair by throwing himself into the sea at Shinagawa. On the evening of the 15th January he left his lodging in Ushigome, and went out to search for a suitable place for death. Fortunately, however, it was ebb tide, when he arrived at Shinagawa by the tram-car, and therefore he directed his steps, without any will of his own, toward Omori along the seaside.

[36] It was a very cold and dreary winter night, and the snow began to fall heavily. He was walking in an absent-minded state, and reached to Omori at midnight. All the stores and houses were shut, nobody was seen on the street, and the wind was cold and high, the snow flakes falling in every direction; a truly lonesome scene it was! While he was thinking how to die, he found, to his surprise, that a man was standing before him under the eaves of a house. He then approached and asked him who he was. It was a young man who came from Kasukabe town, drawing a large cart to carry merchandise to Yokohama, where he must arrive before nine in the following morning. But being checked by this snow storm, he was greatly harassed, and was at a loss as to what to do. He told that his parents had died when he was quite young, and he was living with his grandfather, who is very ill, and for whose sake he was striving against all the worldly distress in this manner.

Hearing the story of this poor young fellow, Mr. Jinzenji was much ashamed, and found that there were much more unfortunate persons in this world than himself, and [36/37] understood that it was the voice of God to encourage him. So he gave up his weak purpose and determined to try once more his fortune. He began to work at once, and started for Yokohama, with this young man, rendering him help to draw the cart through the whirling snow.

After searching for work in vain, he returned to Tokyo, and by the kindness of an officer of the Salvation Army he was introduced to Mr. K. Ozawa, a member of my Union, and was sent to me. He has confessed all his past sins, and asked for help. I gave him work immediately, and he has been working happily ever since as the member of the Union.


Mr. T. Tanabe is one who was saved very early in the Union. When I had held the first meeting of the Union on the 1st of April, 1907, in the house of a laborer, thirteen bodies were present at it, and Mr. Tanabe was one of them. He was a man who did not attract my attention specially, but looked to us to be a man of avarice. At the beginning of this [37/38] year, however, I found that there was the reason for it. On a Sunday, in April, this year, he came into my vestry after the service was closed and reported to me that his elder sister had been a harlot in the city of Niigata, and that he had been working with all his might to rescue her. She took up such a disgraceful profession with mere hope to help her poor sick father when her brothers were yet young and the family was in a helpless state. She was staying in such a sad condition until the money which her father had received in advance should be paid back.

When Mr. Tanabe became our member, and his heart was enlightened, he felt that it was his duty to save his sister from that shameful position. When his younger brother came to Tokyo, and became our member also by his influence, they both united to devote themselves with admirable zeal to the noble work, though they kept it in secrecy, till they had succeeded in it at last. All the members of the Union were also much surprised and showed them their profound respect and praise when they heard it.


It was at the beginning of Lent in this year that a man sent to me a poor sick person, Iseji Kato, who looked as if he was ready to die in a short time. I was much perplexed and murmured that the man is too foolish to bring him to any one like myself, who was not a physician, and not to a charitable hospital. But as it was too late in the evening, Mr. Gonda, the director of the boarding house, was compelled to make him stay in it that night. The young man was extremely pleased by it, and told that it was for the first time he could lie down in such a warm bed and receive such sympathetic treatment. It seemed that his words were not mere flattery, for he looked to be so very grateful that his words became choked in his throat as his talk went on, and at last bursted into loud cry with thankful tears. Noticing his hearty sincerity, I inquired about his matter and heard of his previous sad history.

Nothing was known by him about his mother except that she came from elsewhere to Sawane, a village in Saitama-prefecture. [39/40] She has supported herself and the child by her own work of sewing, until he grew up to the age of five years, and then she died. Being left helpless as a poor orphan, he exerted himself for his existence and grew up in a most painful manner. He worked as if he were a slave in the house of the farmer, Jinsaku Sakurai, where his mother died. But when he became sickly and weak he was driven away by the merciless master and came to Tokyo. While he was wandering about in the city his energy was exhausted and he fell to the ground perfectly helpless.

When we heard such a pitiable story we all thought that God had sent him to us to render him every possible help. To take the first step, it was to inquire about his disease and health, and made a physician examine him. It became clear that the nature of his illness was not fatal, though his health now is in the most dangerous state by the long want of nourishment.

So I have told all the members of the Union that he might be saved if we would keep this Lent with the spirit of love and give him our life blood as a sacrifice for him. It was our delightful work, and with the forty days and [40/41] forty nights, the man, who had nothing but sure death to wait for, was saved by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, who wrought in the hearts of those selfish persons who had been merciless thieves, gamblers, drunkards, and so forth, letting them render him that urgent help cheerfully.

Now he has become stronger and is able to work as other people. Whenever we look at him we can not help associating him with that grateful memory of our privileged work during the Lent of this year.


I wish to add one more story of a poor working man, G. Iriyama. Some three years ago there lived a working man by the name of G. Iriyama not far from the meeting house of the Union. He was working in a glass factory. One hot day in the summer his wife prepared a kind of food with flour, which she bought from a shop by sending her eldest son.

When this innocent boy was on his way home he found on the street some flour much like that he had just got. So he scooped it [41/42] up with his hands and added it carelessly to his own. It was arsenic acid, a deadly poison. And no sooner the wife, unfortunate victim, ate one piece of the food than she began to feel the stomach ache, and the pain increased every minute. The frightened children cried out; all the neighbors assembled by the voice; the doctor and her husband were sent for. They all assembled together around her, but there was no way nor time to find out the remedy. And thus, after awful torments for about two hours, she expired, surrounded by the sobbing and crying family and friends.

The loss of his wife, however, was only the beginning of this man's calamities. The youngest son was but one year old, and unless there was some one kind enough to take it from his arms, he could not go to his work. But it was impossible to find out so kind a person among his companions, for they were also too busy in the struggle for their own existence. And when, moreover, the other two children became very ill, he was left so poor and helpless. Being thrown into such desperation, he understood that this world is full of miseries and truly a hell, where there is no love nor sympathy, and the whole inhabitants [42/43] in it appeared, in his hopeless eyes, as the wild and remorseless beasts.

In such agony he made up his mind to go into river to die rather than to endure the pain to see his sick and hungry children without any means to help them in his hands, for he thought that if he would disappear himself from this world the children might be rather happy, being taken into the hands of some charitable person. So he sold all his remaining articles, and with that money he roamed about in this city with them for two days, entertaining them with the last fatherly love, and at last he hade farewell in his breaking heart, in disguise, and turned his tear-streaming face away from them and ran away, leaving them at the corner of some street near Asakusa Park.

It was just at this last moment when one of the workers of the Union met him on the way to the real hell. Having inquired the circumstances, he was led to us, and God gave us means to help him, responding to our earnest prayers, and the heart of this once despairing father is now looking bright with joy and hope, having been baptized by me.

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