Daniel and I arrived in Japan yesterday, warmly greeted in Ikebukuro, a suburb of Tokyo, by my seminary classmate and friend, The Rev. Shintaro David Ichihara and his family. Shintaro and I shared many fascinating hours together at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in 2001 poring over the English of his Master’s thesis on missionary liturgical work in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (The Anglican Church of Japan.) Later, he assisted with preaching and presiding at Christ Church -- Sei Ko Kai, the Japanese American mission congregation in San Francisco where I began ordained ministry.
|He’s not as tired as he seems...|
We rested last night in the shadow of missionaries, particularly Channing Moore Williams, the Episcopal missionary bishop who founded Rikkyo University in Ikebukuro. Shintaro now serves as chaplain at the High School affiliated with Rikkyo University. By happenstance, as we travel north by Shinkansen (bullet train) to Sendai, I am reading about Samuel Schereschewsky, Williams’ contemporary, a missionary to China and Bishop of Shanghai, who spent his twilight years translating the Bible into Chinese in a little room in Tokyo, arguing the vagaries of culture and language with his assistant, Yeh Shanjung. The two were notoriously stubborn and argumentative. In a hot little room that served as Bishop Schereschewsky’s bedroom, living room, and study in a tiny rickety Tokyo house, they were overheard by Schereschewsky’s daughter and caregiver:
“Don’t you suppose I know my own language?” Mr. Yeh would shout.
“Yes,” retorted the Bishop, “and I spoke it before you were born.”*
With what I hope is some greater humility, I’m re-acquiring my train legs and rudimentary Japanese skills. Daniel brooks no error in my pronunciation, so I am well-disciplined!
|At Omiya Station|
*from “Schereschewsky of China” by Massey H. Shepherd, Jr.