Wood, fabric, mirror
Gift of William D. Bray, 1957
Placed high on a wall in a household or place of business, a Kamidana, “God shelf,” serves as a center for Shinto daily worship and contains objects and materials essential for devotion to the Kami, the deity or sacred power. The Bridwell Kamidana contains a mirror to provide the Kami a physical aspect, and paper amulets associated with local gods and ancestral spirits.
During World War II this Kamidana was used in a dormitory of Kwansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya, Japan, by a student in the Imperial Navy. Kwansei Gakuin University was founded in 1889 by a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Walter Russell Lambuth (1854–1921). Although the original campus in Kobe was built around a historic Shinto shrine, the Kamidana was confiscated by Kiichi Kanzaki, university president from 1940 to 1950, and placed in a storeroom in the Department of Theology. In 1957, William D. Bray (1913–2003), Professor of New Testament at the university and alumnus of SMU, rescued the shrine from storage and placed it in the custody Neill McFarland (1923–2017), past visiting professor at Kwansei Gakuin who taught the history of religions at SMU. McFarland developed a lifelong fascination toward Japan, made many friends there, and visited the country fourteen times. Convinced of a community’s essential need to appreciate other cultures, he worked as advocate and organizer to foster the mutual understanding of the U. S. and Japan. Dr. McFarland was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon) in 1986 by Japanese Emperor Showa Hirohito.
The archival collection, The Frances H. Bray Papers, documents the life of Rev. William D. Bray, and includes a bibliography of research materials on Walter Russell Lambuth and Kwansei Gakuin University.