A Watchtower Victim

(Investigator 106, 2006 January)


Junzo Akashi (1889-1965) was a Japanese Jehovah's Witness (JW) who established the cult in Japan. Converted in 1922 he kept the faith for 25 years, including years of imprisonment and torture.

After World War II he rejected doctrinal revisions that JWs had brought out and was declared a hypocrite and excommunicated.

Watchtower in Japan

The Watchtower cult or "Russellites", which became JWs in 1931, made its first contact with Japan in 1911.

The cult's president Charles T Russell, and a number of followers, made a world tour by steamship, which docked at various ports where Russell gave public sermons. The tour was meant to climax the preaching work, which they believed would end in 1914, and fulfil Matthew 24:14 – "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world…"

In Japan Russell gave two speeches in Tokyo and also toured Yokohama and Nagasaki.

In 1915 F L Mackenzie, a Watchtower colporteur from Britain, visited Japan and distributed Russell's Studies in the Scriptures.

Akashi and Todaisha

As a young man Junzo Akashi left Japan and went to the USA where he joined a Protestant Church.

In 1922 he converted to "Judge" Rutherford's Watchtower cult and preached to Japanese Americans in California. A letter by him published in The Watchtower said in part:

Christian greetings. The Japanese manuscript of "The Harp of God" will be ready in two weeks.
I was given the privilege to speak at the Japanese Baptist Church of East San Pedro, Cal., last Sunday night. Rev. Ito, the pastor of the church, welcomed me and offered me opportunity to speak once a month at the Sunday night service…
There is another Japanese minister coming to my home every Thursday night to study the "Harp"…
I have sold thirty-four "whole sets" [i.e. Studies in the Scriptures], two Bible-Student Bibles, and some other books since September 20th.
(The Watch Tower 1924, February 1, p 47)

Two congregations resulted in California from Akashi's efforts.

In 1926 Rutherford sent Akashi to Japan to open a Branch in Kobe.

He named his activities Todaisha meaning Lighthouse Company.

A report by Akashi about JW efforts in Japan appeared in The Messenger (a JW publication in newspaper format). He described the Organization's premises and reported that 170 people were baptized in five years most of whom left when Rutherford brought out a new doctrine:

But as soon as The News, which tells that the Lord is in his temple, was brought to them divisions began among them.
Almost all of "the prominent ones", have gone out…
Every main article of The Watch Tower appears in "The Todai", or Japanese Watch Tower, through faithful translation…
There are 45 men and women working as colporteurs... (1931, July 29)

In the 1930s Japan's military regime restricted freedom of speech and put western organizations under increased scrutiny.

Akashi and JW colporteurs were arrested in 1933 for infringing the Public Order Preservation Law which prohibited irreverence toward the Japanese imperial regime. Akashi was released due to insufficient evidence, reorganized, and sent colporteurs to Japanese colonies such as Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria.

Their message followed that of JWs in America including:  

This message put Japanese JWs on a collision course with Japanese authority.

In June 1939 some 130 Todaisha members were arrested – 91 in Tokyo, and others in other cities as well as in Taiwan and Korea.

Akashi was cross-examined with torture for seven months. In April 1940 he and 52 others were charged with violating the Public Order Preservation Law. Akashi was also charged with sedition and disrespect for the Emperor.

Todaisha was banned as an illegal organization.

The trial of the 53 people continued into 1942. One died of illness and another joined the army. The rest were convicted and sentenced to two to five years except for Akashi who got 12 years.

Akashi stuck to his JW/Todaisha beliefs throughout his ordeal and was released in October 1945 when the US Army arrived.

The JW Judgment

After his release Akashi read the new JW publications and noticed numerous changes in doctrine.

In 1947 he wrote about this to the new JW President but received no reply.

Junzo Akashi was disfellowshipped. Most other Todaisha members likewise felt disillusioned with the changed doctrines and changed organizational structure and also left.

The verdict on Akashi in the 1948Yearbook of JWs was:  

…he did not believe what was published as far back as the Deliverance book. Still, through all these years, he played the part of a hypocrite and remained as Branch Servant… he has proved himself to be a hypocrite, especially since 1926. (p 165)

This verdict was repeated in 1973:

…playing the part of the hypocrite for more than twenty years. (Yearbook 1973 p 217)

This illustrates what happens to millions of JWs. Believing they're getting "the truth", and Armageddon and paradise are "just ahead", they preach and sacrifice education and careers. Prophecy fails, "Bible truth" keeps changing, excuses become less convincing, and doubts arise. Initially they follow the Organization's instructions to "show humility", "wait on Jehovah" for clarification, and be "obedient to God".

Eventually many can't take it any more and defect.

They receive no compensation for the hoax practiced on them but instead get harsh judgment that often includes verbal abuse.

Akashi, in line with JW doctrine, would have awaited Armageddon and paradise on Earth in 1925, 1926-1928, 1932, 1936, 1941/1942 and also any time in the 1940s. Instead he got six years of prison and torture followed by demands for more work for the Organization with no proof that this time the prophecies would be right.

Indeed they were again false:

1949 and Afterwards

In 1949 American JW missionaries arrived in Tokyo. They met with Akashi and a few supporters and found out that Akashi did not accept many recent JW doctrinal changes.

The groups separated – the Akashi group faded away and JWs became the largest Western sect in Japan.




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