A little-known aspect of Japan’s transformation from feudal recluse to modern power in the second half of the nineteenth century is Presbyterian and Reformed missionaries’ work with one of Japan’s leading political reformers. Itagaki Taisuke, head of an elite samurai warrior family, served the new emperor Meiji as a senior advisor but resigned over various policy disputes. He founded the opposition Liberal Party, precursor of today’s Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan almost continuously since World War II. The Reverend Thomas Theron Alexander, a young missionary from Tennessee, and his fellow emissaries accepted Itagaki’s invitation to come to his home region in southern Japan to convert the people there to Christianity.  Alexander’s journal and contemporary reports shed light on this important part of Japanese and Presbyterian history.

He Gave His Life for Japan”  appeared in the Fall/Winter 2010 edition of The Journal of Presbyterian History:

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He Gave His Life for Japan

The Reverend Thomas Theron Alexander:
An American Missionary in Japan

By Joanna R. Shelton