Missionary Travels and Ecumenism in the Life of Takeda (Cho) Kiyoko

ISHII, Noriko
English Studies

One of the powerful forces that affected the transition from traditional to modern womanhood in East Asia was the work of foreign Christian missionaries beginning in the nineteenth century.  Some of the pioneering girls’ schools and medical facilities for women were founded by Protestant women missionaries and many of their protégées became important educators and social reformers. Missionary initiatives were an important source of new thinking about gender practices.  In a panel that aimed to shed new light on the history of gender and missionary encounters from a comparative perspective by exploring the stories of the friendship and interactions between the local women and missionaries, this paper examines a Japanese case of transnational missionary interactions.

American Protestant women missionaries were a driving force in the modernization of women’s education in Japan. This paper focuses on the life of Takeda (Cho) Kiyoko (1917- ) from the late 1930s to 1950s to examine the role of the missionary enterprise. Takeda, who converted to Christianity in 1938, received her education at the mission-founded Kobe College in the 1930s and then went to the U.S. for further education. She returned to Japan at the outbreak of World War II and later became one of the leading scholars on Japanese intellectual history at the International Christian University and a leader in the post-war ecumenical movement. In 1939 on her way to attend the First World Conference for Christian Youth in Amsterdam, she undertook a tour of Asian countries via imperial routes that became a turning point for Takeda. During this tour she learned of the atrocities of Japanese colonialism. While critiquing empire, Takeda struggled to formulate a new egalitarian vision of ecumenical cosmopolitanism. When she established a research institute for Asian Cultural Studies at the ICU in 1958, she envisioned it as a mediator between the East and the West. The paper demonstrates that she drew inspiration from her mentor, Charlotte B. De Forest, the last missionary President of Kobe College (1915 – 1940), who during the 1930s struggled to reconcile her Christian faith with Shintoism and Japanese patriotic nationalism.


Paper presented in a panel entitled “Revisiting New Womanhood in East Asia and Its Ties to Missionary Initiatives” at The 2017 Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference held on March 16-19, 2017 in Toronto, Canada.

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