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January 12, 2010

A New Orthodox Church was Consecrated in Nagoya in Japan

Video, aici.

Interior of new Orthodox church in Nagoya in Japan, whilst it was under construction

A new Orthodox church was consecrated In Nagoya, the Church of the Epiphany. Believers in Russia, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia donated the money needed for its construction. In Japan, there are now about 60 Orthodox parishes, but, mostly, they are “house churches”. In Japan, churches such as those in Nagoya are relatively rare.

They’ve been ready to move since mid-December of last year. All the most valuable items were only packed at the last minute. The men carried things out of the building; the women prepared programmes for the parishioners. The new Orthodox church in Nagoya was built in record time. A snow-white church in the Suzdal style with a height of 11 metres grew in the middle of a typical Japanese provincial residential district in only six months. Today, they’re making the final preparations in the new church for the first worship service. Inside, there is an original finish, with elements of native style. Japanese cedar is used throughout the interior, which is considered one of the most solid and durable varieties of wood. Outside, the church is decorated in the best traditions of Old Russian architecture.

Orthodoxy came to Japan 150 years ago. A Russian missionary brought it, his secular name was Ivan Kasatkin, and he became known after his death as St Nicholas Kasatkin of Japan. One day, a former samurai named Takuma Sawabe approached Fr Nikolai. He intended to kill the Russian missionary as a foreign devil, but he agreed to hear him out. As a result, Sawabe became the first Japanese who was baptised into Orthodoxy, and he later became a priest. Within two years, there were 4,000 Orthodox Christians in Japan. Father Nikolai translated the Bible into Japanese, founded a seminary, and built a cathedral [in Tokyo]. After his death, he was canonised.

The rector of the parish in Nagoya is Hieromonk George, in the world, Yuichi Matsushima. Before the consecration of the new church, he re-read the Gospel in the translation of St Nicholas of Japan. His grandfather was also an Orthodox priest, but during the war, the church was destroyed. His father wanted his son to become a Buddhist monk, but Matsushima walked in the footsteps of his grandfather. “Frankly, I am a little sad to leave here. After all, we’re leaving our old home forever. However, of course, the opening of a new church is a great event. Today is a very important day. God grant that all goes well”, Fr George hoped.

About 300 worshippers came to attend the consecration of the new church. The service went non-stop for four hours, led by Metropolitan Daniel of Tokyo and all Japan. To accommodate all those who came, the parish provided a separate hall with a live video feed of the service.

In Japan, there are about 60 Orthodox churches, but the overwhelming majority are tiny “house” parishes. Churches such as those in Nagoya, you can count on one hand. Metropolitan Daniel said, “For our church, this is a great day. With the opening of a new church, more people in Japan learn about Orthodoxy. I am glad that it happened precisely here in Nagoya. After all, this city is located in the heart of the country”.

In Japan, Orthodox usage is not overly strict {Editor’s note: Sadly, this is a legacy of when the Church in Japan was under the Metropolia.}. Women do not necessarily cover their heads, and people often sit down for the sermon. The Orthodox community in Japan is small, but they’re friendly. In total, there’s about 15,000 Orthodox in Japan. The rector of the Russian Orthodox parish in Tokyo, Archpriest Nikolai Katsyuban, said, “Not only Japanese people visit this church, but, also, our fellow Russians who are working and studying here. God grant that He firmly establishes this holy place”.

Until the end of the month, services in Nagoya will be held in the old building, and the final move to the new location will be marked by an All-Night Vigil on the night of 30 to 31 January.

If you click on the URL below, there is a 4-minute video from Vesti on the Church consecration available. Even if you don’t know Russian, it’s worth watching. The above is a translation of the narration of the video.

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