of Japan Mission
by Jiro Numano (Mormon History Association Newsletter, Oct. 2001)
A symposium was recently held in Japan to commemorate the centennial of the Japan Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tokyo on
September 8, 2001. A small but interested group of people attended the meeting held at Shinagawa Hoken Center under the sponsorship of Jiro Numano, a faculty member of Sociology at Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin University and a member of MHA.
Numano spoke about "The Reception and Indigenization of Christianity in Japan," and showed that LDS Church did not lose much time in following the first group of Christians who came to Japan in 1859 and others thereafter. Then, in view of the very low percentage of Christians in current Japan, he presented types of reception and indigenization of Christianity: one, sinking down under the Japanese mental framework and lifestyle; two, isolation from Japanese society by sticking to Western service modes and religious lifestyle, discarding Japanese way of thinking; three, confrontation against old Japanese values that contradict Christian teachings and; four, grafting Christianity onto positive Japanese values. Numano suggested that LDS Church now seems to turn to the last type as revealed in some reports issued by the Church.
Yutaka Inaba of the Church Education System next presented a summary on "The Growth, Establishment and Recent State of the Church in Japan." After reviewing statistical data, he noted the remarkable role of the baby-boomer generation born in the late 1940s who converted to the Church and constituted the important core of the membership here. "We may be close to the stage of maturity," he said, "but we should anticipate somewhat difficult future ahead as Japanese population will stop increasing in the 21st century."
Kazuo Takemura of Rissho University in Tokyo reported from his Ph.D. dissertation, "A Geographical Study on the Proselytizing and Reception of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Japanese Provincial Cities." He demonstrated the remarkable difference of motives of conversion and retention ratios according to the geographical regions which have different Buddhist backgrounds. His introduction of "life history" interviews with those converts interested audience. As Mr. Takemura was an invited speaker from outside the Church, he attracted attention and was asked many questions from those who attended the symposium.
October 13: “A Centennial Celebration: The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Japan, 1901-2001,” a day-long academic conference focusing on the history of the Church in Japan and the largest Japanese mission reunion ever will be held this Saturday at Brigham Young University. See http://japanconference.byu.edu on the Internet or contact chair Reid L. Neilson at firstname.lastname@example.org