Makuya (幕 屋), also called Makuya of Christ (キリストの幕屋 Kirisuto no makuya) and based at the Tokyo Bible Seminary, is a religious movement in Japan founded in 1948 by Ikurō Teshima. To grasp the inner truth of Biblical religion, or the "Love of the Holy Spirit" as Teshima puts it, and to extol this existential love by embodying it and living accordingly is the essence of the Makuyas' religious life. They are fervently identified with the cause of Israel, conceiving the establishment of the State of Israel and the unification of Jerusalem as essentially a fulfillment of biblical prophecies.
"Makuya" is the Japanese equivalent for the Hebrew word mishkan, which refers to the Holy Tabernacle, the portable shrine where God and man encounter (Exodus 29:42–43). This name aptly captures the basic religious orientation of the Makuyas, who emphasize the significance of the personal, ineffable encounter with the divine presence in everyday life. This experience, according to them, must not, and indeed cannot, be substituted by a dogmatic belief in creeds or a stabilization of a religious institution; hence, the idea of the "portable" shrine, the Holy Tabernacle.
Beliefs and tenets
The Makuyas stress "a return to the dynamic faith of the original Gospel of early Hebraic Christianity, as opposed to the dogmatic, institutionalized, European-dominated churches." In their view, when Biblical religion was introduced to the Hellenistic world, its lively spirit was interpreted within Greek logic and eventually replaced by a set of theological creeds. The Makuyas, thus, seek to restore this original spirit by returning to its Hebrew roots, and learning the Bible accordingly.
The Makuyas are concerned not only about individual salvation but also the spiritual restoration, or enhancement, of each nation and social group. For example, they regard the contemporary value system of Japanese society as existentially deteriorated, overtly self-centered, with little consideration of fundamental moral virtues, traditional heritage, or common and public good of the society as a whole. Unlike nearly all other Christians in Japan, the Makuyas, rather, respect their cultural heritage and seek to inspire, or "re-awaken" as they put it, the "existential spirit of the Japanese people." In this respect, many Japanese Shintoists and Buddhists who share the same concern support Makuya's cause. Further, the Makuyas do not seek to proselytize to such believers of other religions, nor urge them to become Makuya members, for the Makuyas believe in religious pluralism, tolerance, and coexistence. In this sense, Makuya is best viewed, as they themselves see it, not as a "sect" but as a "movement," not as an "exclusive" but an "inclusive" group.
Unlike other Christians, which use the cross as their symbol, the Makuyas take the seven-armed Jewish menorah as their religious emblem, and display it on their badge or pendant. They prefer the menorah to the cross, viewing the latter as a symbol of "suffering" while the former, of "hope." The Makuyas have developed, or incorporated, a number of religious observances, customs and rituals. They also engage in convocations, marriage ceremonies, and pilgrimages.
Today, the Makuya movement has about a hundred branches all over the world, including Japan, Israel, the United States, Canada, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, China, Taiwan, South Korea, India and Indonesia. Following, in part, the biblical tradition (2 Samuel 24), the movement does not conduct any census; hence, the exact number of its members remains unknown. It is known, however, that about 300,000 copies of its major magazine, The Light of Life, are being subscribed to and issued every month.
For those who live in Japan, more concretely, Teshima outlined a small number of tenets called "Our Beliefs" intended to define the core beliefs of the Makuya:
- We lament over the spiritual deterioration of Japan and wish for the awakening of Yamato Damashii (大和魂 Japanese Spirit).
- We wish for the revival of religion in the hearts of the Japanese and pray for the restoration of the Original Gospel.
- We stand on the basis of the Non-Church spirit; therefore, we neither belong to nor create any churches or denominations. We solely learn from the Old and New Testaments.
- We wish for the purification of Christianity, however we also cherish other religions of Japan and respect the personalities of their masters.
- Rising above the differences of political beliefs, we intend to sanctify Japanese society. We proclaim social justice and humanity with divine love, goodwill, and peace.
Christ said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Makuya and Israel
Makuya is a group of fervent lovers of Israel and Jewish people. It sends young members to a number of kibbutzim in Israel, and makes pilgrimages to Jerusalem. "Over  Makuya students have been sent to Israeli kibbutzim to work together with the people of the Bible, and to study Hebrew and the biblical background. Some of them continue their academic studies in universities." The primary kibbutz the Makuya students stay at is Heftziba. Makuya has also appeared in front of the United Nations on at least two occasions, speaking on behalf of Israel.
In 1967, when the Six-Day War broke out, Teshima wrote a telegram to the Makuya students in Israel: "Stay as long as you can and help Israel." The students, accordingly, volunteered to aid Israel during the war. In 1973, when the Yom Kippur War broke out, the State of Japan supported Arab countries, caving in to an Arab oil embargo. This diplomatic policy frustrated Teshima. Despite his serious illness (terminal cirrhosis), Teshima, then, organized, with 3,000 of his adherents, a campaign for Israel in front of the National Diet Building in Tokyo. It was the first pro-Israel demonstration ever held in Japan. The campaign received wide coverage in the press, radio, and television. However, it also worsened Teshima’s illness and he died three weeks later on Christmas Day 1973.
Teshima's name was inscribed twice on the Golden Book of the Jewish National Fund; once in September, 1967 in honor of his staunch support for Israel during the Six-Day War and once in January, 1974 honoring his passing. His unconditional love, devotion, and support for Israel that stemmed from his biblical faith is, to this day, carried on by the members of the Makuya movement.
The Jewish National Fund had planted a forest in memory of Teshima, located in the Lower Galilee. It was named "Makuya Forest".
Origin of the Movement
Teshima was influenced by the writings of Uchimura Kanzō, studying under his disciple Tsukamoto Toraji and joining the Non-church movement. Other religious figures that made a great impact upon Teshima’s belief and religiosity include Toyohiko Kagawa, Sadhu Sundar Singh, and Martin Buber.
In 1947, Teshima was accused of obstructing a municipal plan to destroy a local school in Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Teshima fled to Mount Aso in central Kyushu where he stayed in an inn for several weeks, where he claims to have had a face-to-face encounter with God. Teshima returned home and discovered the warrant had been retracted. His experience at Mt. Aso compelled him to begin a life of ministry. He set up a Bible study group which quickly grew into a movement known as Genshi Fukuin Undo (lit., Original Gospel Movement), and then as Makuya. The sympathizers of this movement include such religious thinkers and scholars as Otto A. Piper, Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Zalman Shazar, Hugo Bergmann, Zvi Yehuda Kook, André Chouraqui, and Yisrael Meir Lau.
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- Teshima, Ikuro (June 2011). "Our Beliefs". The Light of Life (35): pg. 32.
- Official site of the Makuya sect: In English, In Japanese
- Ikurō Teshima (1970). Introduction to the Original Gospel Faith. Tokyo: Light of Life Press.
- Ikurō Teshima (1991). The Love of the Holy Spirit. Tokyo: Makuya Bible Seminary.
- Shillony, Ben-Ami (1991). The Jews and the Japanese: the Successful Outsiders. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company.
- Photos of Makuya signs at Israeli kibbutz
- Mohri Tsuneyuki (2008). Die for Ardent Love (Kohi Shinamu) (Teshima's biography in Japanese). Tokyo: Myrtos.
- Jewish Soul Music: The Art of Giora Feidman (1980). Directed by Uri Barbash.
- A documentary movie of Teshima's Life in Japanese, Dawn of Makuya (Makuya-no Yoake) (2006). Directed by Mohri Tsuneyuki.
- The Makuya TV Program is currently broadcast in the west coast of the United States.
- In the 2009 Israeli comedy film A Matter of Size, a major character claims to be a Makuya in explaining why he immigrated to Israel from Japan. (He had previously told others that he came to Israel to escape Yakuza gangsters, casting some doubt on this claim. The truth is never established and is not essential to the film.)