September 3, 2017
Comments from Dr. Tsunao Oyama, Chairperson, Board of Trustees, Hokusei Gakuen School System. (Hokusei Gakuen means North Star Academy).
To the members of Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church:
It is a great honor for me to be here and to have a chance to express our thanks to you, which we should have done much earlier. This year we celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Hokusei Gakuen School System, one of the Protestant Christian Mission schools in Japan.
Back in January 1887, Sarah C. Smith, a Presbyterian missionary from Elmira, NY, opened a tiny school for seven girls in snowy Sapporo, Japan. Today it has grown into a system consisting of one junior high school, three senior high schools, one junior college, one university and one graduate school with a total enrollment of about 6,000 students.
In the days before and during WWII, militarism prevailing in Japan led to harsh treatment of Christian schools and missionaries. All missionaries in Hokusei Gakuen were forced back to America shortly before the outbreak of the War. Even the school buildings were confiscated by the government, and Hokusei Gakuen was driven to the brink of disappearance.
But the defeat in the War directed Japan to form a new democratic society. Hokusei Gakuen recovered and developed Christian education responding to the social needs for higher education. It was in those days that Miss Dorothy Taylor, a Presbyterian missionary, joined Hokusei Gakuen. Miss Taylor worked on a committee to establish a university, which opened in 1962.
In the next winter, however, Hokusei Gakuen University was destroyed by fire. In order to continue education, the board of trustees moved the University to a new campus with prefabricated classrooms. Miss Taylor sent a letter to the United Presbyterian Church in America, which was in the midst of a mission funding drive. She also learned that Webster Groves Presbyterian (St. Louis) was leading the drive, and was considering a gift of $100,000 for a project. Miss Taylor and Hokusei Gakuen trustees jointly sent letters to the church. To our great joy, Hokusei Gakuen was chosen, and the funds were committed to build a chapel and a library. You may understand how meaningful a chapel is for a Christian school.
Soon our joy doubled, because Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church, Miss Taylor’s mother church, donated a pipe organ just suitable for the chapel. This pipe organ is one of the oldest organs in Sapporo and has been loved not only by the people of the University but also by many other Sapporo citizens for almost 50 years. It has now been taken apart for renovation and will be set up again in Hokusei Gakuen. We have maintained the chapel for daily worship, special ceremonies and music concerts for over half a century. The chapel is now the oldest existing building on campus. Whenever we use the chapel and listen to the pipe organ, we shall never forget Webster Groves and Hunting Ridge, who helped us when we were most in need.
When we organized a committee to arrange for the celebration of the 130th anniversary, the first things that we thought of were to look back on our history and to remember those who actually extended their help to us. This discussion brought us here today. We have to thank God for His guidance full of grace.
Now, I am really honored to say my last words: I sincerely express our deepest thanks to you on behalf of the whole Hokusei Gakuen School System.