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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]


It was some thirty years ago, while a student at St. Paul's College, Tokyo, that I began to study the Bible with the guidance of the late Bishop G. M. Williams, and by his kind efforts and the great influence of his saintly character, that acted upon my miserable self thirsting only for the worldly fame and riches, I was converted and baptized by the Bishop, in December, 1881.

In those days the Christian influence in this country was very weak, and almost all the students even in this Christian college were much disgusted with the religious instructions. My friends in this city were constantly cautioning me not to believe the foreign religion but only to study English, as it was advantageous to learn it in such school taught by foreigners. When I was baptized, however, I had contrived how to surprise them by informing it. One Sunday evening, when the Bishop was going to preach in a chapel in Kanda, in which district many of my [3/4] such anti-Christian friends were staying, I called on them and persuaded them to come to the chapel to hear this great man's sermon once. Having got the Bishop's permission beforehand, I ascended to the pulpit to my friends' surprise, and preached first and told them that they were misunderstanding this true religion. By this unexpected conduct of mine, they had rather to give up their hope of me, while one of them got very angry with me and told others even that he would kill me.

Seeing such adverse circumstances of my country and that the volunteers for the mission work were very rare, I was deeply impressed with that it was really the most urgent matter to consider, and I thought it necessary to offer myself to Lord's service. But for many years I could not prepare myself for Holy orders on account of many hindrances. So I worked as a layman and converted my family and other people in my native town, Obama, in Fukui Prefecture, and a church was at last founded there. The church in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, was also founded as a consequence of my work, when I was in Osaka city, and a pastor was sent to it from the Presbyterian church.

[5] At last, in 1888, I entered Trinity Divinity School, Tokyo, as I was hoping for many years. While I was a student there, Bishop Williams asked me to take care of the True Light Church. This church was formerly in his care and is indeed the first church he ever founded in Tokyo, thirty-seven years ago. But when many churches and chapels were built afterward in the city, many a member of this church began very naturally to leave it and attend those nearer and more convenient to them, so that in about 1890 the church was at its lowest ebb, and the Sunday attendance was seldom more than ten, and therefore its remaining members asked the Bishop to send me. I am working ever since for this same church.

As soon as I began my work in this church there occurred an event that aroused my sympathy with the poor people in this part of the city. In the afternoon of a Sunday in Lent, 1890, a member of my church took me by my request to a person who used to attend the church before. He was a blind man, and was very ill when I called on. His wife was a blind woman too, and was out for her work then. They were shampooers by trade, and [5/6] they had no child between them. They were poor, even more so now that this man fell in his sick bed: feeble hand of the blind woman had to support herself and her sick husband.

When I took my seat by his bedside the sick man told me that he had been ill for two months, and that, as there was no hope of recovering his health, and as it was only to give his wife a longer trouble to postpone his death, he was refusing to receive the medical attendance for many weeks then. The poor man's eager desire was only to die as soon as possible!

This was my first experience I ever met with in a slum. He was so much self-abandoning but lack of faith. But when we think that he came to such a conclusion as to wish death only because of misfortune and poverty we cannot help feeling deep sympathy and commiseration for him. So I taught him that our life is in God's hand, and without His permission it is impossible to make it longer or shorter at our own will; and I prayed for him by his side that the will of God would be revealed and we shall be given the means to proceed.

I continued to pray for him day after day [6/7] for the whole week, and when I called on another member of my church on the following Sunday I got a very clear answer of God. Among the friends of this man there was a Christian by the name of Mr. R. Tsuda, who belonged to a Presbyterian church, and he happened to be present in my member's house also. As our conversation went on, and when I told of the poor blind man, Mr. Tsuda clapped his hands and informed me that there was just the man wanted, a physician, who was looking for such poor sufferers to give help. So I left the house at once, and hurried away about three miles to see the physician, who was staying in a lodging house near the Imperial University in Hongo district. Though I was told the name of the doctor, Michitaro Fukuhara, his exact address was unknown to Mr. Tsuda, and consequently it was a very difficult task to find him out, as there were hundreds of the students' lodging houses around the University. I was wandering about there for nearly two hours, and when it became dark in the evening it was almost impossible to go on further searching. I then began to question if it was the answer of God. But courage, I said [7/8] to myself, and ventured once more into a hotel in a lane nearby, and lo! the gentleman that appeared before me answering at the door was the very man I was looking for.

Having agreed, we visited the blind man on the next morning. After a careful examination, it was found that the disease was of serious nature, and it was urgently necessary to put him into a hospital at least for five weeks.

Dr. Fukuhara was very obliging, and took trouble to obtain for him a free bed at the University hospital. When we visited the patient next time to convey him to the hospital, the man declined to accept our kind offer upon such foolish ground that he would rather die in his own house, not in a hospital. His obstinacy was never to yield, notwithstanding my hard endeavor to bring the right idea home to him. Dr. Fukuhara was much perplexed and despaired, for it was impossible to perform surgical operation in this dirty room. But I said that, since he wanted to die as soon as possible, we did not need to be so timid; if he die, that is all; it is the duty on our part to do our best; should he desire it, [8/9] we have no choice and must proceed to operate even in this unsatisfactory way.

On the next morning we visited him again. The physician brought his instruments and I a bottle of the carbolic-acid and other necessary articles. Without giving the narcotic help, and with such imperfect preparation we began to venture the risk. While Dr. Fukuhara was cutting his body, I was to help his operation, holding fast the patient's limbs, as he cried and shook his body in pain. The operation, however, was finished in a rather satisfactory way. We used to visit him alternately to wash the cut for about a month, and he became a very strong man again, and was baptized by me. He lived on for seven years as a Christian, giving glory to God until he was taken away of consumption.

This event, which occurred at the beginning of my work in this peculiar part of the city, led me to start "The Good Samaritan Dispensary" for such people, whom I found always crowding in it, and at last I was induced to organize the "Laborers' Reform Union," after a long experience in my work among them, as I give the explanation of it in this little book.

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