“Sharing Uchimura Kanzō’s Legacy with the World” (Excerpt from Shibuya Hiroshi and Chiba Shin’s Living for Jesus and Japan)

Shibuya Hiroshi is professor emeritus at Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan; Chiba Shin is a professor at the International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan.

The following excerpts come from their new book Living for Jesus and Japan: The Social and Theological Thought of Uchimura Kanzō.

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Living for Jesus and Japan
Living for Jesus and Japan

From the Editors’ Preface

Uchimura Kanzō (1861-1930) was a representative Christian leader and thinker in the Meiji and Taishō periods of Japan. He is well known in Japan as a prolific biblical commentator, a pacifist Christian thinker, an advocate of the nonchurch (mukyōkai) type of Christianity, as well as an astute social critic, especially early in his career. Our general purpose in publishing this anthology in English is to make Uchimura Kanzō’s Christian thought better known to the world at large. The authors believe that it has strong relevance to the needs and aspirations of the present world, as we suffer from the loss of meaning of life, ecological crisis, conflicts and wars in many parts of the world, and so forth. Uchimura is worthy of continued study and remains inspiring and refreshing not merely as a Christian thinker but also as a social thinker.

Uchimura Kanzō was one of the representative men of modern Japan. He wrote an English book, Representative Men of Japan, published in 1894. If someone were to expand this book today, it is highly likely that a critical biography of Uchimura would be included. What makes him one of the representative men of modern Japan?

Uchimura tried earnestly to link Japanese cultural traits with an influential universal religion, that is, Christianity. In so doing he wanted to make the Japanese spiritual heritage and cultural legacy comprehensible and intelligible in international society. We hope that our volume can introduce Uchimura Kanzō to the reading public in the English-speaking world in a manner similar to the way he himself introduced a few representative Japanese people whose lives and thoughts he described in Representative Men of Japan more than a century ago.

The study of a thinker such as Uchimura must be made from various angles. Therefore, the contributors to this volume represent different specialties and nationalities. And their disciplines spread across such diverse fields as theology, philosophy, American studies, intellectual history, and history of social and political thought. In publishing this kind of collection of essays, one might correctly say that we are in a sense following Uchimura’s footsteps. . . .

During Uchimura’s lifetime, the Japanese did not keep good company with people of the neighboring countries of East Asia nor with those of the West, including the Americans. The Americans were generally open and frank and naturally expected foreigners to be frank with them in return. Uchimura thought the Japanese should have satisfied, at least to a certain extent, their reasonable expectation. That is to say, the Japanese should have shared their traditional thoughts and cultural traits more openly with the foreigners. This would have been a kind of good “return” that the Japanese could make to their international neighbors. . . .

And we suppose that Uchimura was at least one of the most original and stimulating Japanese thinkers at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Therefore, by publishing this anthology, we are trying to introduce one of Japan’s “best” during that era in the hope of contributing to the “perfectibility of the world.” So the title of this book can be explained at least in part in terms of our effort to do justice to Uchimura’s lifelong commitment to contribute to the world what can be regarded as each people’s “best.” . . .

The title, Living for Jesus and Japan, is also related to Uchimura’s famous essay “Two J’s” (1926). In this essay, he proclaimed as follows:

I love two J’s and no third;
one is Jesus, and the other is Japan. . . .

This “Two J’s” essay can be misunderstood easily, especially when Uchimura’s commitment to Japan is too narrowly interpreted as an expression of egocentric nationalism, which often characterized his age. His devotion to Japan should be regarded rather as an expression of the Christian idea of neighborly love. Thus, despite Uchimura’s rhetorical and paradoxical embellishment of the “Two J’s” language, its real meaning should be understood as either christocentric or theocentric but not nationalistic in intention. This short piece should be read together with his youngish aspiration that he wrote down on the reverse side of the cover of his cherished Bible while he was living as a sojourner in America and studying at Amherst College (1885-87):

To Be Inscribed upon my Tomb.
I for Japan; Japan for the World; the World for Christ; and All for God.

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From the Table of Contents 

Introduction: A Biographical Sketch of Uchimura Kanzō
Shibuya Hiroshi

Part I. Historical Context and Social Thought

Japan for the World
Andrew E. Barshay

Uchimura Kanzō and American Christian Values
Ohyama Tsunao

Uchimura Kanzō and His Pacifism
Takahashi Yasuhiro

Prophetic Nationalism: Uchimura between God and Japan
Yagyu Kunichika

The Legacy of Uchimura Kanzō’s Patriotism: Tsukamoto Toraji and Yanaihara Tadao
Shogimen Takashi

Part II. Biblical Studies and Theological Thought

The Biblical Research Method of Uchimura Kanzō
Miura Hiroshi

Uchimura and His MukyZkai-Shugi
Shibuya Hiroshi

Uchimura’s View of the Atonement in Kyqanroku (The Search for Peace)
Lee Kyoungae 

Uchimura Kanzō on Justification by Faith in His Study of Romans: A Semantic Analysis of Romans 3:19-31
Chiba Kei 

Uchimura Kanzō and His Atonement Eschatology: On “Crucifixianity”
Chiba Shin

Click to order Living for Jesus and Japan: The Social and Theological Thought of Uchimura Kanzō.