Gospel Society

Identification: Christian-based support organization for Japanese immigrants

Date: 1877-1906

Location: San Francisco, California

Also known as: Fukuinkai

Significance: Founded in San Francisco by Japanese Christian students, the Gospel Society was the first immigrant association established by Japanese in the United States. The organization played an integral part in helping many new Japanese immigrants adjust to life in America while pursuing their studies. It was also instrumental in shaping the development of Japanese Protestant Christianity.

At the end of the nineteenth century, many Japanese immigrants arrived in the San Francisco area after being told that it was possible to work and study in the area. The Gospel Society was formed by recent converts to Methodism and Congregationalism to assist these often penniless students. The first meeting place was an austere, windowless room in the basement of the Chinese Methodist Episcopal Mission in the city’s Chinatown. Every Saturday night, thirty-five members assembled for Bible study and debate. For a fee of thirty-five cents per month, the society provided community support, roomand board, and help with job searching. Over the years, a variety of splinter groups emerged, including a group that formed the First Japanese Presbyterian Church of San Francisco. In 1886, the group moved out of the Chinese Mission basement with the newly established Japanese Methodist Episcopal Mission. Despite the success of the Japanese Mission, the Gospel Society remained an autonomous student residence until the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Joy M. Gambill

Further Reading

  • Ichioka, Yuji. The Issei: The World of the First Generation Japanese Immigrants, 1885-1924. New York: Free Press, 1988. 
  • Yoshida, Ryo. “Japanese Immigrants and Their Christian Communities in North America: A Case Study of the Fukuinkai, 1877-1896.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 34, no. 1 (2007): 229-244. 

See also: California; Issei; Japanese American Citizens League; Japanese immigrants; Missionaries; Religions of immigrants; San Francisco.

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