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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.

Overview

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 Japan 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.

Japan School/Church Closure: 27-Feb-2020

Because of the advancing Covid-19 Epidemic, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday asked all elementary, junior high and high schools nationwide to close from Monday through the students’ spring break, which typically ends in early April. Later Thursday, the health and welfare ministry said Abe’s request does not apply to day care centers for children and after-school facilities for elementary school students.[1]

Abe’s surprise announcement came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 virus patients kept surging, exceeding 200 across Japan as of Thursday evening, excluding the more than 700 infected patients related to the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Also thursday social media circulated copies of a Church email announcing a similar closure of all LDS Church buildings in Japan. Later on Thursday this closure was confirmed by the Church.[2]

"Effective immediately and until further notice, all church buildings in Japan will be closed. ALthough members will not gather together for SUnday meetings, including sacrament meeting, all are encouraged to meet in their homes as families. Where possible wards and branches may share spiritually uplifting messages and conduct church business via online media."

Other tidbits:

  • Sapporo Japan Temple and Fukuoka Japan Temples will be closed.
  • All church office buildings/family history centers will be closed.
  • Stake/District conferences have been canceled
  • Missionaries must stay isolated form the public, but can proselyte online.

Sources:

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.

References

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