Protestantism in Japan

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Protestants in Japan constitute a religious minority of about 0.4% of total population or 509,668 people in number (see Protestantism by country).

All major traditional Protestant denominations are present in the country, including Baptists, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Pentecostals, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Lutherans, Anglicanism,[1] Methodists, the Presbyterian Church,[2] Mennonites,[3] the Salvation Army and some others.

In 1859 the first representatives of the Anglican Communion, the Rev., later Bishop, Channing Moore Williams and the Rev. John Liggins of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America arrived in Nagasaki, Japan. Williams and Liggins were followed to Nagasaki in January 1869 by Rev. G. Ensor representing the Church Missionary Society of the Church of England. Williams, appointed Episcopal Bishop of China and Japan in 1866 united various Anglican missionary efforts into one national church the Nippon Sei Ko Kai or Anglican-Episcopal Church in Japan, and went on in 1874 to establish Rikkyo University. After the Meiji Restoration, significant new legislation relating to the freedom of religion was introduced in 1871, facilitating in September 1873, the arrival in Tokyo of Rev. Alexander Croft Shaw and the Rev. W. Ball Wright, the first missionaries sent to Japan by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. In 1888 the Anglican Church of Canada also began missionary work in Japan.

Divie Bethune McCartee was the first Presbyterian Christian missionary to visit Japan in 1861-1862. His gospel tract translated into the Japanese language was among the first Protestant literature in Japan. In 1865 McCartee moved back to Ningbo, China, but others have followed in his footsteps.

The Japanese responded favorably to the gospel in the late 19th century when Japan re-opened its doors to the West. However, this was followed by renewed suspicion and rejection of Christian teaching. The growth of Protestantism was slowed dramatically in the early 20th century because of pressure caused by criticism and the influence of the military government.

The post-World War II years have seen increasing activity by evangelicals, initially with American influence, and some growth occurred between 1945 and 1960. The Japan Evangelical Association was founded in 1968.

The Japanese Bible Society was established in 1937 with the help of National Bible Society of Scotland (NBSS, now called the Scottish Bible Society), the American Bible Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society.[4]

By some estimations, there are 3,000 Protestant churches in Tokyo, and 7,700 Protestant churches in all of Japan.[5] There are several Christian TV and radio ministries broadcasting over commercial stations in the country. By law, religious organizations are not granted licenses to own and operate over the air broadcast stations.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ An Historical Sketch of the Japan Mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. Third Edition. New York: The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, 1891.
  2. ^ RPCNA Japan Presbytery web-page
  3. ^ Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference Churches, Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference web-site
  4. ^ JBS Brief History
  5. ^ "What is God Doing in Japan?", Baptist Press, May 1998, through Back to Jerusalem site
  6. ^ Japanese Christian Links, Bible Japanese Page

External links[edit]