THE IWAKURA MISSION IN
DOCUMENTARY FILM BY LEE
article about Lee Groberg
In 1872, 107 visitors
from Japan stepped off a train in Salt Lake City. Among the group
were 50 of Japan’s top government leaders—the very men who had
overthrown the Tokugawa shoguns and were now attempting to create a
new, modern, Meiji, Japan.
Unable to leave Utah
because of heavy snow, (they spent longer in Utah than anywhere else
in America except Washington DC), the group spent their time
mingling with the Latter-day Saints, including Brigham Young,
Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon, and many others. They attended
Sacrament meeting in the Tabernacle and other places, watched the
Utah legislature in progress, and observed municipal and
constitutional convention elections. They also took back with them
piles of Utah law books and copious notes on Utah tax policy, Utah
farm policy, and Utah electoral policy. They observed Utah schools
and colleges, toured the Church museum on Temple Square, learned
about freedom of the press at the newspaper office, and watched
women and minorities vote in elections. It is likely that this
visit to Utah at the dawn of modern Japan’s new government
contributed to the Japan we see today.
The man who appeared
to be most impressed with the Church and its members was Hirobumi
ITO. He got to know Salt Lake Stake President, Angus Cannon
(brother of First Presidency member George Q. Cannon) well. After
returning to Japan, he succeeded in having anti-Christian policies
removed from the new Government, thus paving the way for freedom of
religion in Japan. He also was assigned by the Emperor to write
Japan’s first constitution, and he became Japan’s first prime
minister under the new constitution.
It was with the
Iwakura Mission in mind that Pres. Lorenzo Snow made the decision to
open Japan for missionary work in 1901.
The story of this
impactful Utah visit has never been fully told. Now, filmmaker Lee
Groberg is telling this story to TV audiences in America and in
Japan. Discussions are underway to have the documentary aired on
PBS and NHK.
Fund-raising for the $1 million project has started.
If you want to participate, make your donations to “Asia Pacific
Council” or “APAC” and mail c/o 1310 Madera Hills Drive, Bountiful,
Utah 84010. Donations are tax-deductible because APAC is a 501 (c)
3 organization. For more information, contact Vaun (son of Paul)