Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Country information: Japan

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 127,079,000; Members, 123,245; Stakes, 29; Wards, 163; Branches, 125; Missions, 7; Districts, 14; Temples, 2; Percent LDS, .1, or one in 1,031; Asia North Area.

The history of the Church in Japan dates back to the turn of the 20th Century when Elder Heber J. Grant of the Quorum of the Twelve and missionaries Horace S. Ensign, Louis A. Kelsch and Alma O. Taylor arrived on 12 August 1901.

Under Elder Grant's direction, the first Church mission in Asia was established with headquarters in Tokyo. The first baptism was 8 March 1902 when Elder Grant baptized Hajime Nakazawa, a former Shinto priest. A second baptism came two days later when Saburo Kikuchi was baptized.

Alma Taylor began translating the Book of Mormon into Japanese in 1904, and continued that work for more than five years while he served as president of the Japanese Mission. The book was printed in October 1909.

Missionary work came to a halt on 7 August 1924 when President Heber J. Grant, then president of the Church, closed the mission to await a more "favorable time." Mission President Hilton A. Robertson and the remaining missionaries sailed on that date for the United States. Brother Fujiya Nara was one of the converts who saw the missionaries off. In 1927, Nara was appointed presiding elder by the First Presidency over the small group that remained. He published a newsletter, "Shuro" (Palm) and for a time and held meetings with the remaining Japanese members.

The Japanese-Central Pacific Mission, was opened in 24 February 1937 with headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii, with Hilton A. Robertson as president. On 22 October 1947, Edward L. Clissold was called to preside over the Japanese Mission, and on 6 March 1948, was given permission to return to Japan to do missionary work. He found a group of about 50 meeting with Fujiya each Sunday. The first five missionaries arrived in Japan on 26 June 1948. They were: Harrison Theodore Price, Paul C. Andrus, Wayne McDaniel, Koji Okauchi and Raymond C. Price.

Latter-day Saint servicemen had prepared the way by baptizing Tatsui Sato on 7 July 1946. His wife Chiyo, and son Yasuo, were also baptized. Sister Sato was baptized by Elder Boyd K. Packer, later of the Quorum of the Twelve, who was in military service in Japan at the time.

Tatsui Sato re-translated the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and other important works. The Japanese Mission was divided on 28 July 1955 to form the Northern Far East and the Southern Far East missions. On 1 September 1968, the renamed Japan Mission was organized with Walter R. Bills as president.

The first meetinghouse in Asia, housing the Tokyo North Branch, was dedicated by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, on 26 April 1964.

Hawaii native, Adney Y. Komatsu was called as mission president in 1965, the first mission president of Japanese ancestry. Ten years later, on 4 April 1975, he was called to be the first general authority of Japanese ancestry. Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi was the first native Japanese general authority. He was called to the first Quorum of the Seventy on 1 October 1977.

The first stake of the Church in Asia, the Tokyo Stake, was organized on 15 March 1970. The Japan Nagoya Mission was formed from the Japan Mission and the Japan Central Mission in 1973.

The Tokyo Temple, the first temple in Asia and the first in a non-Christian country, was dedicated on 27 October 1980, in what was described by President Spencer W. Kimball as "the most significant and important event in the history of Asia."

Following the dedication, President Kimball participated in Area conferences on 30-31October in Tokyo and on 1 November in Osaka. On 1 September 1992, the Asia North Area was created and it's offices were established in Tokyo.

The Church provided extensive assistance after a major earthquake devastated the Kobe/Osaka area in the predawn hours of 17 January 1995. The Kobe Ward meetinghouse and adjoining Japan Kobe Mission Home were used as shelters for members and others. One member of the Church died in the earthquake and 35 Latter-day Saint families were homeless.

President Hinckley spoke at six meetings in Japan during an extended visit to Asia on 17-21 May 1996. It was the first visit of a Church president to Japan in 16 years. He spoke to members and missionaries in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Naha, Okinawa. He also met with the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Walter Mondale, and the media. The Fukuoka Japan Temple was dedicated on 11 June 2000 by President Gordon B. Hinckley.

The first Latino branch of the Church in Japan, the Kouga Branch, was created on 7 January 2001, in the southeast corner of the Shiga Prefecture, approximately one hour from Kyoto and Nagoya.

The 100th anniversary of the dedication of Japan for missionary work was commemorated 1 September 2001, with the unveiling of two bronze monuments in Yokohama, not far from the site where the first four missionaries to Japan began their work on 1 September 1901. The Yokohama commemoration was part of a series of centennial activities that took place throughout Japan during 2001.

By 2002, membership reached 118,508. In 2003, there were 119,267.

In July 2007, the boundaries of the Hiroshima, Nagoya and Tokyo missions were realigned.

The Sapporo Japan Temple was announced 3 October 2009 in general conference.

Sources: Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; R. Lanier Britsch, From the East, The History of the Latter-Day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996, 1998; Dell Van Orden, "Dedication of Temple Called Historic Event," and "Tremendous' Future for Church in Japan," Church News, 8 November 1980; Terry G. Nelson, A History of the Church in Japan from 1948 to 1980, 1986; Yukikon Konn, "Fujiya Nara, Twice a Pioneer," Ensign, April 1993.

Stakes — 29

(Listed alphabetically as of Oct. 1, 2009.)

No. / Name / Organized / First President

Asia North Area

1901 Abiko Japan 13 Sep 1992 Shigejiro Akamatsu

2493 Asahikawa Japan 20 Sep 1998 Katsuo Fuji

1121 *Chiba Japan 2 Feb 2003

Tokyo Japan East 23 Mar 1980 Ryotaro Kanzaki

2455 *Fujisawa Japan 2 Feb 2003

Yokohama Japan South 19 Apr 1998 Seiji Saijo

1018 Fukuoka Japan 20 Apr 1979 Yoshizawa Toshiro

2508 Ginowan Japan 24 Jan 1999 Yoshitaka Asato

1271 Hiroshima Japan 31 May 1981 Satoshi Nishihara

2547 Kanazawa Japan 5 Mar 2000 Motokazu Arata

1120 Kobe Japan 19 Mar 1980 Keiichi Mizuno

2350 Kumamoto Japan 18 May 1997 Mitsunori Sumiya

1874 *Kyoto Japan 25 Apr 1993

Kyoto Japan North 31 May 1992 Katsuichiro Fukuyama

1197 Machida Japan 26 Oct 1980 Koichi Aoyagi

1329 Musashino Japan 2 Feb 2003

Tokyo Japan West 21 Mar 1982 Koichi Aoyagi

919 Nagoya Japan 10 May 1978 Masaru Tsuchida

1195 *Naha Japan 24 Jan 1999

Naha Okinawa Japan 23 Oct 1980 Kensei Nagamine

1404 Okayama Japan 20 Mar 1983 Akira Watanabe

2498a Okazaki Japan 8 Nov 1998 Toshihide Tsukahara

586 *Osaka Japan

Osaka (Japan) 12 Sep 1972 Noboru Kamio

872 Osaka Japan North 30 Oct 1977 Noboru Kamio

1328 Osaka Japan Sakai 17 Mar 1982 Hiroshi Takayoshi

869 *Saitama Japan 2 Feb 2003

Tokyo Japan North 23 Oct 1977 Ryo Okamoto

949 Sapporo Japan 13 Aug 1978 Seiji Katanuma

1154 Sapporo Japan West 29 Jun 1980 Bin Kikuchi

1202 Sendai Japan 2 Nov 1980 Shigenori Funayama

1255 Shizuoka Japan 21 Apr 1981 Tadachika Seno

1164 Takasaki Japan 10 Aug 1980 Masataka Kitamura

505 *Tokyo Japan

Tokyo 15 Mar 1970 Kenji Tanaka

2615 Tokyo Japan South (English) 1 June 2003 Lee Alford Daniels

662 Yokohama Japan 27 Oct 1974 Hitoshi Kashikura

Stakes discontinued

1270 Tokyo Japan South 30 May 1981 Kazutoshi Ono

Discontinued 2 Feb 2003

1875 Kyoto Japan South 31 May 1992 Kenichiro Kimura

Discontinued 25 Apr 1993

1257 Takamatsu Japan 23 Apr 1981 Takejiro Kanzaki

Discontinued 2 June 1991

1873 Osaka Japan East 31 May 1992 Ryochi Tanaka

Discontinued 23 Sep 2001

1203 Nagoya Japan West 2 Nov 1980 Take Shi Nakamura

Discontinued 26 Feb 2006

Missions — 7

(As of Oct. 1, 2009; shown with historical number.)

(91) JAPAN FUKUOKA MISSION

9-16 Hirao-josuimachi

Chuo-ku,

Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka 810-0029

Japan

(144) JAPAN HIROSHIMA MISSION

1-11-26 Hikari-machi

Higashi-ku

Hiroshima-shi 732-0052

Japan

(108) JAPAN NAGOYA MISSION

1-304 Itakadai

Meito-ku, Nagoya-shi 465-0028

Japan

(90) JAPAN SAPPORO MISSION

24-1-25 Kita 2jo-nishi,

Chuo-ku, Sapporo-Shi,

Hokkaido 064-0822

Japan

(109a) JAPAN SENDAI MISSION

3-1-5 Yagiyama Minami

Taihaku-ku

Sendai-Shi, Miyagi-ken 982-0807

Japan

JAPAN KOBE MISSION

4-6-28 Shinoharahonmachi

Nada-ku

Kobe-shi, Hyogo 657-0067

Japan

JAPAN TOKYO MISSION

4-25-12 Nishi Ochiai

Shinjuku-ku

Tokyo 161-0031

Japan

OKINAWA

Latter-day Saint servicemen were the first Church members on Okinawa. They arrived during the closing days of World War II. As early as 29 April 1945, Ray H. Zenger, leader of the Latter- day Saints Servicemen's Group 10th U.S. Army, was holding meetings on Okinawa. On 23 June 1951, Okinawa was added to the Japanese Mission under President Vinal G. Mauss. Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve visited servicemen stationed there on 19-20 September 1954. He was accompanied by Japanese Mission President Hilton A. Robertson. Later, in July 1955, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, also in company with President Robertson, visited servicemen in Okinawa.

By 28 July 1955, newly assigned Northern Far East Mission president Paul C. Andrus was charged with the responsibility to begin missionary work on Okinawa. In 1955, serviceman Ralph Bird was temporarily assigned to Okinawa from Guam. While exploring the island, he went to a home and decided to ask the homeowners if he could take a photograph of their house. When the woman of the house, Nakamura Nobo, answered the door she found an American who could speak Japanese. When asked how he learned to speak Japanese so well, Bird responded that he had been a missionary for the Mormon Church in Japan. She invited him into her home and asked him to teach her the gospel. On 25 December 1955, Nakamura Nobu, along with her daughter Ayako and another woman named Tamanaha Kunike, were baptized in the East China Sea.

The first missionaries assigned to work there full-time, Sam K. Shimabukuro and Clarence LeRoy B. Anderson, arrived on Okinawa 17 April 1956. By 1961, there were two branches, Naha and Kadena, and one servicemen's group meeting on Okinawa. On 11 June 1960, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, Assistant to the Twelve, visited Okinawa while on a tour of Asia.

In July 1966, the Naha Branch had completed construction of a meetinghouse. Ten years prior, on 25 January 1956, the servicemen had purchased property for a meetinghouse. They moved an old, unused quonset hut to the property to hold their meetings. The Naha Okinawa Ward was organized on 26 April 1979 as part of the Ginowan Japan Stake.

The Japan Okinawa Mission was organized on 1 July 1990. On 20 May 1996, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Okinawa while on a tour of the Far East. On 30 June 1996, the Japan Okinawa Mission was closed and Okinawa was included in the Japan Fukuoka Mission.

Sources: R. Lanier Britsch, From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851- 1996, 1998; Japanese Mission Manuscript history and historical reports; Okinawa Japan Military District, Annual historical reports; Japan Fukuoka Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports; and Japan Kobe Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports.