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Japan - Slideshow

A slideshow of images taken in Japan of church services, singing, children's education classes, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, baptism, offertory, and preaching.

Japan is a mountainous island nation composed of 4 large islands, namely Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu, and another 3,000 islands in NW Pacific. Because of the terrain, most people live in the cities. Japan’s population density of 825 people per square mile is one of the highest in the world.

Famous for its 100% literacy rate, Japan is known to be one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and most Japanese enjoy a standard of living much the same as people in North America. It is considered the world’s most powerful export-oriented economy despite lack of natural resources and oil.

While the entire nation can be reached by one language, a combination of traditional and modern cultural factors presents a tremendous barrier to the Christian gospel. Freedom of religion is allowed to all by the Japanese constitution, but the rising power of nationalistic Shintoism partly associated with the new emperor is tarnishing that freedom. Over 80% of Japanese claim no personal religion, but most follow the demands of ancestor-venerating Buddhism and rituals of Shintoism. Many also follow some of the hundreds of newer religious movements that are offshoots of these.

Of the country’s 125 million people, less than one percent are Christian. Of these approximately 1 million Christians, 60 percent belong to Protestant denominations while 40 percent are Roman Catholic. Christianity first came to Japan in 1543. The first missionary efforts were suppressed by violent persecution and only survived in small communities. In the 19th century, Protestant missions from America and Europe entered the country (1859), among them several agencies belonging to the Reformed tradition. The first Protestant congregation was established in 1872. In 1923 the Christian Alliance of Japan was founded, which brought together Protestants of different persuasions.

The Reformed Church in Japan was constituted in Tokyo in 1946. At that time there were only 9 teachers and 3 elders. In 1950 the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America accepted the request of Reformed Church in Japan to send missionaries. The denomination has grown steadily throughout the years to include 217 congregations of 8,986 members, with 130 ordained ministers and 341 elders.