The Founding of Kyofukai


Frances Willard

In 19th century, following the independence of the United States, the serious alcohol abuse problems were caused by the sale of alcohol at very cheap prices. Under the leadership of the second president of the American Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, Frances Willard, many women joined the temperance movement and closed down liquor shops. Frances Willard was the first female dean of the Northwestern University. As her fiancé didn’t understand her as she was, such as her high social status, high salary and her social activity, Frances Willard decided to separate from him in order to focus on her social movement.

Mary C. Leavitt ,West

In June, 1886 (13 years had passed since the ban on Christianity was removed in Japan.) Mary Clement Leavitt, representative of the WWCTU (World Woman’s Christian Temperance Union), visited Japan to give her speeches on temperance. Leavitt said, “This is a woman’s temperance union, therefore, I would like to gather a female audience and employ female translators.” There were more than 600 audiences at Leavitt’s first lecture, and more than 2000 audiences in total at her later five lectures.

Leavitt informed her audiences that during 50 days of the temperance movement supported by American Churchwomen, more than 2000 liquor stores were closed and the movement for temperance had been expanding into the movements for opium prohibition and the prohibition against prostitution.

On stage, Leavitt said, “The philosophy of our union in America is ‘stimulate them first, educate them second, and then organize them.’ No matter how splendid your beliefs are, one person’s power doesn’t amount to much enough. Everyone has to join together to unite. However, even though one person is weak, someone has to step up to start the movement. If everyone just keeps wondering who is going to do the work, then the work will never be done.”

On that day, Leavitt’s speeches moved many people. Among them was Gunpei Yamamuro, a press operator at that time, who was inspired enough to begin his anti-alcohol and anti-prostitution movement.

Miss West (above) was sent from the WWCTU to Japan to give her speeches in 1892 but died of sickness during the trip in Kanazawa. The bell rung by the first president of Kyofukai, Kajiko Yajima during West’s funeral was made from the tobacco pipes that were collected from the people who quitted smoking during Sen Tsuda’s tour for anti-tobacco movement all over Japan. 

In 1886, the arrival of Leavitt, the first representative of the World Woman’s Temperance Union, motivated Chiseko Ushioda, Toyoju Sasaki and other members of the Tokyo Nihonbashi Church to form the “Tokyo Woman’s Christian Temperance Union” (Tokyo Fujin Kyofukai). Kajiko Yajima (53 years old at that time) was selected as the first president. Kyofukai is not an “Anti-Alcohol Union,” because it is not exclusively about the abstinence from alcohol. Therefore, Kyofukai decided to use the word meaning “reform” in their name to reflect how the union’s mission was to reform society in many different aspects.

Kajiko Yajima

Kajiko Yajima was born in Kumamoto Prefecture. After enduring her husband’s alcoholism and feudalistic and male-dominated family structure for ten years, she got both mentally and bodily ill. She almost lost her eyesight because of the marriage stress. Then after ten years of marriage which ended in divorce, she moved into Tokyo in 1872 despite heavy criticism and social pressure on her. After studying at the teacher’s training center, Yajima became an elementary school teacher and then became a teacher at Shin-ei Girl’s School as well as the acting principal of Sakurai Girl’s School. In 1879, she got baptized to be a Christian.

Yajima became the first president of Joshigakuin, a Women’s Mission School in 1890. She was active in the anti-prostitution movement as the president of Kyofukai, which became a nationwide organization in 1893. She also participated in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union World’s Convention and the World Disarmament Conference. She devoted her life to the women’s education and the women’s movements based on the Christian Spirit.

The First Publication of the Magazine

The First Publication of the Magazine

In April, 1888, Tokyo Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Magazine was first published. Discrimination and oppression against the prostitutes had been growing since the Meiji period and Saku Asai, the magazine editor, decided to write on the front page to say that “the prostitutes are also human beings, as we are. So aren’t they our sisters as well?”.
Later, Tokyo Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Magazine changed its name into Fujin Shinpo. After launching the first issue 125 years ago, we have published more than 1300 issues and still continue to publish.