Among the three male speakers invited to the Tokyo WCTU's first great public meeting held on 5 March 1887 was Japanese minister Kajinosuke Ibuka. He argued for the efficacy of Christian teachings, which emphasized "monogamy," "sacred marriage," and "complete equality between men and women," in advancing women's status. In the midst of Japan's efforts at modernization and "civilization," Ibuka emphasized the need to reform Japan's feudal gender relations and argued for the efficacy of Christianity in carrying out reforms. In his argument, men and women were "completely equal" before God but were naturally "different," and thus the roles that men and women played in the reform efforts were naturally different. At the same time, Ibuka promoted the separate-sphere gender ideology, pervasive in both Japan and the United States, by borrowing the new concepts and vocabularies brought by Christianity as well as Western liberal political theories.
It appears in the bylaws that the purpose of the Tokyo WCTU is to advance women's dignity by correcting evil customs of society, reforming morality, and prohibiting drinking and smoking. I think that [the purpose of] Christianity is closely related to changing evil customs of society for the better, especially to advancing woman's status. Therefore, let me tell you my thoughts on the relationship between Christianity and woman's status. . . .
It is very important for us, who plan to promote social reform for our society, to provide women with the rightful status and true happiness, to ask how Christianity relates to these purposes. However, it is such a big question and it cannot be fully discussed in this one speech. I would like to raise a few points on this matter for the reference of Tokyo WCTU members.
Fundamentally, we strongly believe that we need to rely on Christianity to advance woman's status. In fact, some non-Christian influential men also argue that it is inevitable to borrow the power of Christianity to reform society. Why does Christianity have such a power? What kind of Christian truth can achieve such a reform? In my understanding, the reasons why Christianity has such power are:
First of all, the teaching of monogamy. In other words, it is not allowed for a husband to keep more than one wife or to keep concubines. There are various matters in our society which need to be reformed. As indicated in your bylaws, it is also an important reform to prohibit drinking and smoking.
Alcohol causes a number of harmful effects in our society. Also not a few damages were made by tobacco. In my understanding, however, abstinence from drinking and smoking is trivial, since there exist more fundamental evils than these. If you intend to correct an evil custom, you need to do so at its foundation. If you can eliminate the root, various evil customs blooming on its branches will disappear in due course. What evil custom is there at the foundation? Polygamy, a custom of keeping concubines. If the teaching of monogamy is not observed, you can not have a truly civilized society. It is because the relationship between husband and wife is the foundation for human relationships. If the relationship between husband and wife is not right, the relationship between parents and children will not be right, either. If the relationship between parents and children is not right, the household will not be well governed. If a household is not well governed, there is no way that society, which is composed of multiple families, will be well governed. Thus, what is most important in reforming society now is to observe the teaching of monogamy as extensively as possible. Christianity insists on this teaching, and prohibits polygamy equally whether one is noble or humble, rich or poor. This makes Christianity different from Confucianism or Buddhism and influential in reforming society. If I say so, there might be some who argue that the teaching of monogamy is not limited to Christianity. [They argue that] whatever the teachings of Confucianism and Buddhism may be, monogamy was in reality a custom of our country from the ancient days, and only one in a ten thousand or one in thousand keeps concubines. It must be true, but if you divide the people all over Japan into three groups, and ask which group has the largest number of men who keep concubines, what will the answer be. Can you say that only one in ten thousand keeps concubines in the upper and middle classes? The higher the class is, the ratio of those keeping concubines increases. Accordingly, monogamy has been observed not because it was the truth but because it was unavoidable. If everybody in Japan can afford to keep a few concubines, what is going to happen? The deplorable consequence is easily imagined. What puzzled us most is that people do not mind concubines or mistresses. Men don't mind keeping concubines, and women do not mind becoming someone's concubine. What is worse, there are some who are proud of keeping concubines or becoming concubines. It is truly and extremely regrettable.