The Theosophical Society in Japan

 The first connection between Japan and The Theosophical Society (TS) occurred in 1893 when Doho Mizutani proposed to publish Buddhist Catechism by Henry S. Olcott; it was published in Kyoto in 1895. Olcott subsequently toured Japan and made his base at the Chion-in Buddhist Temple in Kyoto. His lectures and talks with Anagarika Dharmapala had a great effect on the revival of Buddhism in Japan.


Adele S. Algeo in her article “Beatrice Lane Suzuki: An American Theosophist in Japan.” (originally printed in the JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2007 issue of Quest magazine) writes about the early history of The Theosophical Society in Japan:


"After Colonel Olcott's visits to Japan in the late nineteenth century, no further work by the Adyar Theosophical Society occurred until Dr. James H. Cousins spent a year in Japan in 1919-1920 as a professor of modern English poetry at Keio University in Tokyo (Cousins and Cousins, 348-69). At this time, he helped form the Tokyo International Lodge. In a letter dated February 15, 1920, Cousins wrote to the international headquarters at Adyar about the lodge's beginnings with eleven members: five Japanese and six international members from America, Korea, Greece, and India.


Cousins himself did not remain in Japan much longer, leaving in March to return to Adyar. It is unclear if Cousins knew the Suzukis at this time, as they are not mentioned in his autobiographical account of his year in Japan. They may have been among the Japanese members who were recruited after his departure, as they were not among the original eleven.


The membership list sent to Adyar, dated May 12, 1920, contained twenty-one names, the first being Captain B. Kon, secretary of the lodge, the second, J. R. Brinkley, and the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth, Mrs. Erskine Hahn, M.D., Mrs. B. L. Suzuki, and Mr. T. Suzuki. In a letter of September 1920 to the international secretary of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, Jack Brinkley wrote that Captain B. Kon had to retire for personal reasons and that he had been elected to fill the vacancy. He also mentioned that the lodge had been reorganized to ensure there were enough officers to do the necessary work and enclosed a list of the officers which included Mr. T. Suzuki as President and Mrs. B. L. Suzuki on the Lodge Committee (along with four other members, including J. Brinkley as Secretary and Treasurer).


Things did not go smoothly for the new lodge, however, and in July 1921, Maurice A. Browne, a member of the Council, wrote to the recording secretary at Adyar that Jack Brinkley "has been absent in Europe for many months. Mrs. B. L. Suzuki, 572 Zoshigaya, Takatamachi, Tokyo-fu, has been Acting Secretary in his absence."

In a second letter, dated October 1921, Browne reported that "The Acting Secretary, Mrs. B. L. Suzuki, is going to Kyoto soon, but I have no doubt she will write to you about it and make such arrangements as are necessary until the return of the Secretary, Mr. Jack Brinkley."

A third letter from Browne, dated January 1922, indicated that he and his wife were moving to Shanghai. He continued: "The Secretary of the Tokyo International Lodge, Captain Jack Brinkley, has not returned to Japan, and the Lodge here is in a poor way. . . No doubt the Acting Secretary, Mrs. Suzuki, has notified you of her new address, c/o Professor Suzuki, Otani University, Muromachi, Kyoto, but of course at that distance she cannot do much for Tokyo."

In a letter received at Adyar in December 1923, Mr. K. R Sabarwal, number twelve on the original list of members, reported: "There is no Lodge of the Theosophical Society in Tokyo now. Can you let me know what formalities I shall have to undergo for becoming a member of Adyar?"

On moving to Kyoto, the Suzukis formed a new lodge of the Theosophical Society called the Mahayana Lodge. In a series of six handwritten letters and reports dating from 1924 to 1928, Beatrice Lane Suzuki outlined the formation of the lodge, its membership, problems encountered in keeping it going, and her understanding of the Japanese religious sensibility that made it difficult for Theosophy to have a long-term appeal among the Japanese (Algeo).

In the first letter, written in June 1924, she described the formation of the Mahayana Lodge on May 8 (White Lotus Day) with fourteen members: nine new ones, two who had joined in America, and the Suzukis and Beatrice's mother from the Tokyo Lodge. She mentioned that almost all the members were professors at either Otani University or Ryukoku University, both Buddhist institutions, and indicated their intention to have regular meetings in the fall. She was serving as secretary of the lodge and thus sent yearly reports to the headquarters at Adyar.

Beatrice's second letter was written in October 1924, in which she again described the formation of Mahayana Lodge and discussed business matters like dues, the charter, and the number of Adyar Bulletins to send the members. She stated, "As yet we have not elected any president but have a committee consisting of Mr. Yamabe, Mr. Utsuki and myself to perform the duties of president at present. I understand that Mr. Labberton of Orpheus Lodge, Tokyo, wrote you that I was the president of the Mahayana Lodge, but this is not correct. I have been asked to be the president, but being a woman and a foreigner I thought it wiser not to accept the position. We have had three meetings so far of the new lodge, two of them before the summer vacation and one since."

Beatrice went on to discuss a matter weighing on her mind: she still possessed the charter for the now-defunct Tokyo International Lodge and wished to send it back to Adyar. A new lodge, Orpheus, had been formed in Tokyo, with a new president, D. van Hinloopen Labberton. She wrote, "The International Lodge broke up when almost all of its members left Tokyo in 1921. . . . As I am no longer in Tokyo nor likely to be and now doing what work I can for Theosophy in connection with the Mahayana Lodge, I presume it is best to consider the International Lodge no more in existence. While it lasted, it was quite flourishing and had many interesting meetings and its members belonged to many different nationalities and it certainly is the seed from which both the present Orpheus and Mahayana lodges have sprung, three old members of the International being now in the Mahayana and two of them in the Orpheus. I feel that we owe to Mr. Cousins the spark which started the fire of Theosophy in Japan."

The third letter, written in November 1925, discussed a number of matters relating to the Lodge and also included, in a separate report, a brief history of Theosophy in Japan. Beatrice wrote of sending a painting to Adyar in response to a request of her friend Madame de Manziarly for a contribution to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition to be held there during Convention: “The subject of the picture is a Buddhist one and represents the Buddha Shakamuni with Manjushri and Samantabhadra and the guardian Bodhisattvas. It is a copy (but the copy is also old) of a famous painting 750 years old which is in the temple of Enryakuji of Mt. Hiei near Kyoto. Please have the picture exhibited during the Arts and Crafts Exhibition and then afterwards given in my name to either the Museum or the Library. I wanted very much to come to the Convention but it was impossible so I send the picture in my place.”

Her report of the year's work stated: "The plan of the lodge is now to have papers prepared by the members on subjects connected with Buddhist and Theosophical subjects and later to have these papers published in a book, this book to be the contribution of the Mahayana Lodge to the cause of Theosophy. The lodge is a small one and circumstances and conditions here do not permit great activities but the aim of the members is to keep the light burning here in Japan and even though the light may not be such a bright one, never to permit it to go out."

In the fourth letter, written in November 1926, Beatrice hoped that she was not too late to get her report delivered in time for the annual Convention held at the end of December. Because of her own ill health, the Lodge had been very quiet during 1926. She wrote, "We have lost three members and gained two: Mrs. Hibino of Sendai (as absent member) and Mr. Jugaku whose application I herewith enclose. We have now therefore fourteen members. During 1927 we hope to be more active. My husband and I have offered our home to be used for lodge meetings. At the last meeting held a few days ago, Professor Izumi of Otani University spoke on ‘Life After Death.’ ”

The fifth letter, written in February 1928, reported: "We have now twelve members ... My mother, Dr. Emma Erskine Hahn, one of our members, died on August 22. Prof Akamatsu moved to Korea and has not kept up his membership. Mrs. Hibino moved to Kyoto from Sendai in June [19]27, and has become an active member of the Society.... Mrs. Hibino and I have started a little centre for the Order of the Star and we are about to distribute a booklet in Japanese on the work of the Star (Ransom). During 1928, we hope to distribute one on Theosophy."

This letter also included a separate report on Lodge activities for 1927: "During 1927 very few meetings were held. Mrs. Suzuki, the Secretary, spent some time in a hospital and her mother, Dr. Emma Erskine Hahn, a member of the Lodge, after an illness of several months died on August 22. These two events made it difficult to arrange meetings as they are generally held at the home of Prof. and Mrs Suzuki and the circumstances did not permit meetings at their home during most of the year. But in October 1927, the lodge resumed meetings. At the October gathering, Mrs. Setti Line Hibino spoke upon ‘The Order of the Star’; at the November meeting Rev. B. Jugaku gave an interesting lecture upon ‘The Poetry and Mysticism of William Blake.’ In December Professor Teitaro Suzuki addressed the lodge on the subject ‘What Appeals to Me in Buddhism.’ All these meetings were well attended, a number of non-members being invited. In December the first meetings in Japan of the Order of the Star were held and it is hoped to do some work for the Star: this work has been started by two members of the Mahăyăna Lodge."

The sixth letter, written in November 1928, is the last letter by Beatrice Lane Suzuki in the Adyar Archives and, in fact, contains the last reference to the Kyoto Mahăyăna Lodge. In it, Beatrice talked about some of the difficulties of spreading Theosophy in Japan:

It seems difficult for Theosophy to make much growth here just for this reason that it is so similar in its teachings to Buddhism. There seems to be a general idea, especially among Theosophists, that the Japanese are not a spiritual people and do not care for spiritual things. In my opinion this idea is entirely wrong. I consider the Japanese very spiritual; all that is best in their culture is based upon religion. No one could pass through this period of the Emperor's coronation without feeling how near the spiritual world is to the Japanese. But with regard to Theosophy, Theosophy comes not as something new but as a variant of their own Buddhist teaching and for this reason they are slow to come to it. The appeal of Universal Brotherhood is the note that must be struck by Theosophists for the Japanese. It is just the same too in regard to the Order of the Star. Their own great teachers like Kobo Daishi [774-835, founder of the esoteric Shingon school of Buddhism], Shinran Shonin [1173-1262 or 1263, founder of the True Pure Land school of Buddhism], and others stand still too close to theirs in time and they feel that they have not yet fully absorbed the teachings of these great ones, and therefore they do not feel the call to look elsewhere. In my opinion it is not because of their unspirituality that they fail to do so but on account of their strong religious feeling for their own religious leaders. Personally I should like to have a larger membership for I am deeply interested in the Society, but at the same time I appreciate the reasons why it is more difficult than it is in Western countries.

What happened to the Mahayana Lodge after this time is not known, but judging from Mrs. Suzuki's letters and reports, the lodge probably became inactive at some point, though it was still meeting in 1929 when Dr. James Cousins and his wife, Margaret E. Cousins, spent two weeks in Japan, where Dr. Cousins introduced his wife to many of the friends he had made during his earlier stay in Japan. Mrs. Cousins, who was an ardent worker for women's rights, reported: "We were in Kyoto next day (October 5) at the other end of the 400-mile road from Tokyo. We were put up in the hospitable home of Professor T. Suzuki of Otani Buddhist University, noted writer on Buddhism, and his western wife whom he had met while mutually studying in a German University. She had formed a Lodge of The Theosophical Society, and a meeting with the members gave me another centre from which to radiate the Women's Conference idea.” (Cousins and Cousins, 504)

The last mention of the Suzukis in the Adyar Archives is from the late 1930s. When C. Jinarajadasa, who later became international president of the Theosophical Society, made a short visit to Tokyo in 1937, he gave two lectures at Miroku Lodge. These lectures were translated into Japanese by Dr. Suzuki.

The later history of the Theosophical lodge in Tokyo, however, is rather different from that of the one in Kyoto. The first two Tokyo lodges (Tokyo International and Orpheus) seem to have been dependent on a few foreign members who did not stay long, and whose departure caused the groups to become inactive. A third group (Miroku), founded in the late 1920s, was more lasting, and Theosophical activities continued in Japan right up to the start of World War II. After that war, a Theosophical group was reactivated in Tokyo in 1947, and it continues until the present day. Membership in Japan has never been large, but there has always been a core of dedicated people." 

Following Olcott’s visit to Japan, several theosophical books were translated into Japanese. Heisaku Udaka and E. S. Stevenson translated The Key to Theosophy by Helena P. Blavatsky (Point Loma 1907); Bubei Kon translated At the Feet of the Master by Alcyone (Adyar, 1928). Shuncho (ToKo) Kon translated Man Visible and Invisible by Charles W. Leadbeater (Adyar, 1902). 

On May 8th, White Lotus Day, of 1924, at the home of Professor Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, an eminent scholar of Zen Buddhism, a meeting was held with the idea of forming a Lodge of the Theosophical Society. At this Meeting it was decided by those present to form a lodge to be called the Mahāyāna Lodge, Kyoto. Of those present, 5 were already members of the T. S. Four others joined on this day. Mrs. Beatrice Suzuki was elected Secretary, and Professor Nishu Utsuki, Treasurer. It was decided to postpone the election of President of the Lodge until a later date. 

On June 14th 1925 the second Meeting of the Mahāyāna Lodge took place at Ryukoku University. Five persons became members of the Lodge. Short talks in connection with Theosophy and the Theosophical Society were given by Professor Utsuki, Professor Suzuki, Mrs Hahn and Mrs Suzuki. It was decided to hold monthly meetings, alternately at Ryukoku and Otani Universities. Of the 14 members of the Lodge, eleven are professors of these two Buddhist Universities. 

The third meeting of the Lodge took place on October 11th at Otani University. The meeting was opened by a reading from the Bhagavat Gita by Prof Suzuki. Mr Utsuki gave a short talk about the plans for the Lodge. Mr Sabarwal of India then gave an interesting address on the Arya Samaj. 

The T. S. in Japan in 1925 had two Lodges; one in the capital of the country, and the other in the ancient mystic centre of Nippon, where Professor and Mrs Suzuki did splendid work in connection with the spiritual revival of Buddhism. 

The Mahāyāna Lodge of Kyoto had the pleasure in the autumn of 1925 of having a visit from Mr Labberton of Orpheus Lodge, Tokyo. Mr Labberton gave a lecture at Ryukoku University on the subject of “What is Theosophy?” He also lectured at Otani University on “Japanese Buddhism.” Both these lectures were well attended and created much interest. Mr Labberton also spoke to the members only at a Lodge meeting which was held at a vegetarian inn, where the members had dinner together. 

In January of 1926, at a meeting held at Otani University, Professor Akamatsu of Ryukoku University, and a member of the Mahāyāna Lodge gave an interesting lecture on the work and writings of Professor Rudolph Steiner. In February, at the home of Professor Suzuki, Prof Kulkarni of India spoke to members and friends. A number of students from Otani University attended. In the same year, Prof Idzumi of Otani University talked to members about his journey to India. 

Dr. D. T. Suzuki, together with his wife Beatrice Lane Suzuki, later organized the Miroku Lodge at Tokyo. After the Second World War, Kanzo Miura organized the Ryūō-kai (Dragon King Society) and introduced theosophical teachings (including Alice Bailey and Agni Yoga) with his Synthesis Yoga practice. He translated The Voice of the Silence by Blavatsky. After his death, Miura’s daughter, Emiko Tanaka succeeded as President and organized the Nippon Lodge in the Ryūō-kai, registered by the International Headquarters at Adyar in 1971. Subsequently she also organized two other lodges in Osaka and Nagoya. 

Emiko Tanaka published the following theosophical books in Japanese. At the Feet of the Master by Alcyone, Light on the Path by Mabel Collins, Clairvoyance, Invisible Helpers, The Astral Plane, Thought Forms, Masters and the Path, by Leadbeater; The Key to Theosophy (Adyar Edition), The Secret Doctrine, (Cosmogenesis) by HPB; When Daylight Comes, (Blavatsky’s Biography) by Howard Murphet. Emiko Tanaka died in 1995 and Jeff Clark of U.S. became the representative for the three lodges. He was also the President of the Agni Yoga Society in Japan. 

The current President of The Nippon Lodge is Mrs Yukiko Touma and the Secretary Mr Taichi Yamaguchi. 

Theosophical Publications translated to Japanese as compiled by Taichi Yamaguchi in 2014







The Voice of the Silence

H. P. Blavatsky

Sekizo Miura



The Key to Theosophy

H. P. Blavatsky

Emiko Tanaka



The Key to Theosophy

H. P. Blavatsky

Heisaku Udaka and E. S. Stevenson



The Secret Doctrine Part 1 of Vol. I. — COSMOGENESIS.

H. P. Blavatsky

Emiko Tanaka and Jeff Clark



Isis Unveiled Part 1 of  VOLUME I – SCIENCE

H. P. Blavatsky

Katsuhiro Oimastu



From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan

H. P. Blavatsky

Hironori Katou



Practical Occultism

H. P. Blavatsky

Emiko Tanaka



Two-part excerpt from Nightmare Tales

H. P. Blavatsky

Emiko Tanaka



Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge of the Theosophical Society

H. P. Blavatsky

Emiko Tanaka and Jeff Clark



Rebirth of the Occult Tradition: How the Secret Doctrine of H. P. Blavatsky Was Written

Boris De Zirkoff

Keika Matsuda



Circle of Wisdom: A Blavatsky Quotation Book

Compiled by Winifred A. Parley

Taichi Yamaguchi



When Daylight Comes: A Biography of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

Howard Murphet

Emiko Tanaka



Buddhist Catechism

Henry S. Olcott

Narumi Hara




C.W. Leadbeater

Emiko Tanaka



Astral Plane

C.W. Leadbeater

Emiko Tanaka



Invisible Helpers

C.W. Leadbeater

Emiko Tanaka



An Outline of Theosophy

C.W. Leadbeater

Naoki Miyazaki



The Chakras

C.W. Leadbeater

Hiroshi Motoyama and Asao Yuasa



Man Visible and Invisible

C.W. Leadbeater

Toko Kon



Thought Forms 

Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater

Emiko Tanaka



Masters and the Path

C.W. Leadbeater




Kundalini – An Occult Experience

George Arundale

Masayoshi Okazaki



Etheric Double

Arthur E. Powell

Seikichi Nakazato



Astral Body and other astral phenomena

Arthur E. Powell

Seikichi Nakazato



Mental Body

Arthur E. Powell

Seikichi Nakazato



Causal Body and the Ego

Arthur E. Powell

Seikichi Nakazato



Solar System

Arthur E. Powell

Seikichi Nakazato



Space, Time and Self

E. Norman Pearson

Seikichi Nakazato



Concentration: An Approach to Meditation

Ernest Wood

Naoki Miyazaki



Theosophy Simplified

Irving S Cooper

Kisho Hayashi



At The Feet of the Master

Alcyone (J. Krishnamurti).

Emiko Tanaka



No Other Path to Go

Radha Burnier

Takako Takahashi



Light on the Path

Mabel Collins

Emiko Tanaka



Light on the Path

Mabel Collins

Yutaka Asada



Idyll of the White Lotus

Mabel Collins

Ryuhan Nishikawa



Occult Conversation excerpt from Theosophical Articles

William Q. Judge

Jeff Clark



Miscellaneous Theosophical Articles

Various Theosophical Writers

Mirai Hoshino



·         Algeo, Adele S. “Beatrice Lane Suzuki: An American Theosophist in Japan.” Quest 95.1 (JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2007): 13-17.

     The Theosophical Encyclopedia

·         Far Eastern T. S. Notes, Vol. II, No. 3, May-June, 1925, published by the Shanghai Lodge of the Theosophical Society


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