Kagawa, Toyohiko
(18 8 8-1960)
   Japanese Christian social activist
   Toyohiko Kagawa was born on July 10, 1888, in Kobe, Japan. He was born into affluent circumstances but was orphaned as a child and raised by a stepmother. Kindness expressed by a Christian led to his conversion during his teen years, and he disowned his remaining family.
   He attended the Presbyterian College in Tokyo for three years. He felt a calling to help the poor and reasoned that helping them effectively meant living with them. In 1910, he moved to one of the poorest sections of Kobe, helping individuals as best he could. He launched his activist career with efforts to unionize the shipyard workers in 1912. In 1914, he moved to the United States and studied at Princeton University, developing his study program around a quest for ways to relieve poverty.
   Upon his return to Kobe, he resumed his program of organizing Japanese workers. He concentrated on factory workers (1918) and farmers (1921), organizing their first unions. He helped the campaign for universal male suffrage (gained in 1925), and facilitated the establishment of credit unions, schools, hospitals, and churches.
   Kagawa developed a theological perspective that resonated with the American Social Gospel movement, including a favorable opinion of socialism. He wrote and spoke on the application of Christian principles to the ordering of society, and his writings found their way to the desks of some Japanese government officials. In 1923, he was asked to supervise social work in Tokyo. American missionary Helen Topping became his English secretary and organizer in America in 1925.
   In the 1930s, Kagawa founded an Anti-War League, and in 1940 made a public statement apologizing to China for Japan's invasion, for which he was briefly arrested. In 1941, he came to the United States in an unsuccessful attempt to head off the impending conflict between the two countries.
   After the war, Kagawa saw a need to reconcile the new democratic ideals that were being imposed on Japan with traditional Japanese culture. He also faced criticism from many Japanese Christian leaders over his activist career.
   Kagawa wrote a best-selling autobiographical novel, Across the Death Line, as well as more than 150 books and pamphlets. He donated all of his royalties to assist the poor.
   He died in Tokyo on April 23, 1960. The Japanese emperor posthumously bestowed the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Japan's highest honor, on him. Internationally, Christian leaders have recognized the groundbreaking nature of his work, and his writings now serve as basic source materials for the development of Asian Christian theology.
   Further reading:
   ■ William Axling, Kagawa (New York: Harper Brothers, 1946)
   ■ Toyohiko Kagawa, Brotherhood Economics (New York: Harper Brothers, 1936)
   ■ ----, Across the Death-Line. Ichiji Fukumoto and Thomas Satchell, trans. (Kobe, Japan: Chronicle Office, 1922), rev. ed. as Before the Dawn (New York: George H. Doran, 1924)
   ■ Robert Schildgen, Toyohiko Kagawa: Apostle of Love and Social Justice (Berkeley, Calif.: Centenary Books, 1988).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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