Christian Cyclopedia

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Area: ca. 145,800 sq. mi., ca. one-sixth arable. Major religions: Buddhism,* Shinto,* and Christianity. Shinto is indigenous and the oldest. Acc. to tradition, Buddhism, now dominant, was introd. AD 552 via Korea and Confucianism* about the same time. Jesuits under leadership of F. Xavier* introd. Christianity 1549. By 1600 Christians totaled hundreds of thousands. Suspicion of ultimate designs of proponents of Christianity led to prohibition (in effect till 1873) of the profession and practice of Christianity.

A commercial treaty bet. Japan and the US was signed July 29, 1858. In 1859 Episc., Presb., and Dutch Ref. missionaries reached Japan from the US Outstanding missionaries of the years that followed include S. R. Brown,* J. H. Neesima,* and G. F. Verbeck.* Their work helped give direction to soc. reform, govt. policies, and educ. Beginning in the early 1930s nationalism combined with Shinto, the state religion, dampened Japanese interest in Christianity, but a new period of Christian miss. began after WW II.

The United* Syn. of the Ev. Luth. Ch. in the S began work on Kyushu 1892. The United Dan. Ev. Luth. Ch. (see Danish Lutherans in America, 5) sent its 1st miss. 1898, the Lutheran* Ev. Assoc. of Fin. 1900, the General* Council of the Ev. Luth. Ch. in N. Am. 1908, the Icelandic Syn. (see Canada, B 13; United Lutheran Church in America, The, Synods of, 6) 1916 (worked in connection with the for. miss. bd. of the Gen. Council of the Ev. Luth. Ch. in N. Am.). Luth. missionaries in Jap. formed The Japan Ev. Luth. Ch. 1920. Largely as a result of govt. pressure in the early 1940s, this ch. joined the Nihon [or Nippon] Kirisuto Kyodan (“Ch. of Christ in Jap.”), a union of Prot. denominations; withdrew 1947. See also United Lutheran Church in America, The, III. The LCMS began work in Jap. 1948; the resultant Missionary Conf. was absorbed into the Japan Luth. Ch. (organized 1968), which was accepted 1971 as a sister ch. of LCMS The Evangelical* Luth. Ch., the Church* of the Luth. Brethren of Am., the Norw. Luth. Miss. and The Norw. Miss. Soc. (the last 2 Norway-based) began work 1949; the Augustana* Ev. Luth. Ch., the Suomi Syn. (see Finnish Lutherans in America), and the Norwegian* Luth. Free Ch. 1950; the Lutheran* Free Ch. 1951; the Wisconsin* Ev. Luth. Syn. in the early 1950s.

The Japan* Ev. Luth. Ch. and the Tokai* Ev. Luth. Ch. were united May 3, 1963, to form a new Japan Ev. Luth. Ch.

By 1970 there were ca. 20,000 Luths. in Japan.


T. Fukuyama, Nihon Fukuin Ruteru Kyokai Shi (“History of the Ev. Luth. Ch. in Jap.”; Tokyo, 1954); B. P. Huddle, History of the Lutheran Church in Japan (New York, 1958).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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