Japan's Modern Prophet: Uchimura Kanzô, 1861–1930


445 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-1145-3
DDC 275.2'082'092





Reviewed by Karen F. Danielson

Karen F. Danielson, Ph.D., is a research consultant at Laurentian
University who specializes in leisure, textiles, family life, and Japan.


This is the life story of a Japanese Christian who sought reconciliation
between his own culture and Christianity.

Able to write in English and Japanese, Uchimura Kanzф became famous
for his interpretations of Christianity and the Bible. Howes compares
him to Luther, Gandhi, and others who struggled with a transcendent
ethic as they sought to deal with the powerful forces of their time.
When he had difficulty bowing before a document signed by the emperor,
he was forced out of public school teaching. He then became a journalist
and, in 1903, chose pacifism when Japan planned to attack Russia. After
World War I, he became a public speaker. Throughout his life, he
struggled with the limitations of formalized or church-based
Christianity. True to his convictions, he arranged that no organization
of his followers would remain after his death.

Uchimura was part of a family stressed by change as Japan abandoned the
samurai lifestyle for participation in global affairs. His Christian
views were formed in this context, and Howes shows that they were also
influenced by life experiences that included poverty, tuberculosis,
divorce, death, discrimination, and earthquakes. The story provides a
valuable perspective on how Christianity and the activities of
Christians have been seen from outside the European tradition. While
similar struggles took place as Christianity was introduced throughout
the world, Howes suggests that Uchimura’s contributions are unique. He
produced both a thorough analysis of the problems at a very early period
and a major commentary on the Letter to the Romans.

The book is a significant contribution on the peacemaking side of
Japanese thought, and it offers a perspective on the ways in which
international ideas have been incorporated into the culture. As well, it
provides a perspective on the work of other leading Japanese
internationalists of the time, such as Uchimura’s friend Nitobe, whose
work on Bushido is well known to students of the martial arts.


Howes, John F., “Japan's Modern Prophet: Uchimura Kanzô, 1861–1930,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15536.