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Anglican Church in Japan

Nippon Sei Ko Kai
Primate Most Reverend Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, Bishop of Hokkaido
Headquarters 65 Yaraicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0805, Japan
Territory Japan
Members 57,003[1]

The Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Japanese: 日本聖公会, Nippon Seikōkai, "Japanese Holy Catholic Church"), abbreviated as NSKK, or sometimes referred to in English as the Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan, is the national Christian church representing the Province of Japan (日本管区, Nippon Kanku) within the Anglican Communion.

As a member of the Anglican Communion the Nippon Sei Ko Kai shares many of the historic doctrinal and liturgical practices of the Church of England, but is a fully autonomous national church governed by its own Synod and led by its own Primate. The Nippon Sei Ko Kai, in common with other churches in the Anglican Communion, considers itself to be a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to be both Catholic and Reformed.

With an estimated 80 million members worldwide, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Nippon Sei Ko Kai has approximately 60,000 members organised into eleven dioceses and found in local church congregations throughout Japan.


  • History 1
    • Background (1549–1859) 1.1
    • Early Mission Church (1859–1900) 1.2
    • Continued Growth and Wartime Challenges (1900–1945) 1.3
    • Post War (1945–2013) 1.4
  • Current Activities 2
  • Dioceses and Notable Churches 3
    • Hokkaido 3.1
    • Tohoku 3.2
    • Kitakanto 3.3
    • Tokyo 3.4
    • Yokohama 3.5
    • Chubu 3.6
    • Kyoto 3.7
    • Osaka 3.8
    • Kobe 3.9
    • Kyushu 3.10
    • Okinawa 3.11
  • Related Facilities 4
    • Seminaries 4.1
    • Universities and Colleges 4.2
    • Hospitals 4.3
  • Notable Figures 5
    • Early Mission Church (1859–1900) 5.1
    • Continued Growth and Wartime Challenges (1900–1945) 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Background (1549–1859)

Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier together with Portuguese explorers and missionaries first brought Christianity to Japan in the 16th century. In 1587, the Christian faith and life were outlawed and Christians, Japanese and foreign, were openly persecuted. In memory of these early Japanese Christians, and in common with the Roman Catholic Church, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai commemorates the Martyrs of Japan every February 5 for their life and witness.

All foreigners were subsequently expelled in 1640 as Japan began two centuries of self-imposed isolation, and Christian communities were driven into hiding. When foreigners were eventually allowed back in Japan in the 1850s, they found thousands of Christians who had maintained their Christian faith and identity through centuries of persecution.

Early Mission Church (1859–1900)

The first ordained representatives of the Anglican Communion, the Rev. John Liggins and the Rev. Channing Moore Williams of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America arrived in Nagasaki, Japan in 1859.[2][3] Due to government restrictions on the teaching of Christianity and a significant language barrier, the religious duties of Liggins and Williams were initially limited to serving as ministers to the American and British residents of the Nagasaki foreign settlement. The first recorded baptism by Williams of a Japanese convert, a Kumamoto samurai named Shōmura Sukeuemon, was not until 1866.[4] [5]

Liggins and Williams were followed to Nagasaki in January 1869 by the Rev. George Ensor representing the Church Mission Society of the Church of England. After the Meiji Restoration, significant new legislation relating to the freedom of religion was introduced, facilitating in September 1873, the arrival in Tokyo of Rev. Alexander Croft Shaw and the Rev. William Ball Wright as the first missionaries sent to Japan by the Society for Propagation of the Gospel. Williams, appointed Episcopal Bishop of China and Japan in 1866, moved first to reside in Osaka in 1869, then subsequently relocated to Tokyo in December 1873.[6]

Nippon Sei Ko Kai Clergy (c.1888)
By 1879, through cooperative work between the various Anglican missions, the largest part of the Book of Common Prayer had been translated and published in Japanese. A full version of the text being completed by 1882.[7] On Palm Sunday 1883, Nobori Kanai and Masakazu Tai, graduates of the Tokyo theological school were ordained as the first Japanese deacons in the church.[8] In 1888 the Anglican Church of Canada also began missionary work in Japan.

In addition to the work of ordained church ministers, much of the positive public profile enjoyed by Anglican Church in Japan during this early mission period was due to the work of lay missionaries working to establish schools, universities and medical facilities. Significant among this group were missionary women such as Ellen G. Eddy at St. Agnes' School in Osaka, Alice Hoar at St. Hilda's School and Florence Pitman at St. Margaret's School, both located in Tokyo. Hannah Riddell who established the Kaishun Hospital for leprosy sufferers in Kumamoto and Mary Cornwall-Legh who ran a similar facility in Kusatsu, Gunma, were both honored by the Japanese Government for their work. [9]

The first Synod of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai met in Osaka in February 1887. At this meeting, instigated by Bishop Edward Bickersteth, and presided over by Bishop Williams, it was agreed to unite the various Anglican missionary efforts in Japan into one autonomous national church; the Nippon Sei Ko Kai. The 17 European and American participants at the first Synod were outnumbered by 14 other clergy and 50 Japanese lay delegates.[10] Total Nippon Sei Ko Kai church membership at in 1887 was estimated to be 1,300.[11]

Continued Growth and Wartime Challenges (1900–1945)

A Japanese led and self-supporting church grew steadily from these early missionary initiatives. By 1906 the Nippon Sei Ko Kai was reported to have grown to 13,000 members, of whom 6,880 were communicants with a Japanese led ordained ministry of 42 priests and 22 deacons.[12] The first Japanese bishops, John Yasutaro Naide, Bishop of Osaka and Joseph Sakunohin Motoda, Bishop of Tokyo, were consecrated in 1923. [13]

During the 1930s, as overseas funding and the number of foreign Anglican missionaries in Japan declined, new challenges arose for Nippon Sei Ko Kai church leadership and laity from the increasing focus on Shinto as a state prescribed religion and the growing influence of militarism in domestic and foreign policy. Christianity was portrayed by many nationalist politicians at the time as incompatible with the loyalty of Japanese subjects.

A more active period of government persecution began in 1937, particularly for Christian denominations such as the Salvation Army with its commitment to social reform, and for the NSKK with its historic links to the Church of England. [14] Archbishop Lang's condemnation in October of Imperial Japanese Army actions in China, provoked hostile scrutiny of the NSKK and caused some in the church leadership to publicly disassociate themselves from links with the wider Anglican Communion. [15]

St. Andrews, Cathedral Church of the Tokyo Diocese of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai
During World War II, the majority of Protestant churches in Japan were forcibly brought together by the Japanese wartime government to form the United Church of Christ in Japan, or Kyodan. Reflecting the distinctive doctrinal character of the Anglican Communion, many individual Nippon Sei Ko Kai congregations refused to join. The cost of resistance to and non-cooperation with the government's religious policies was harassment by the military police and periods of imprisonment for church leaders such as Bishops Samuel Heaslett, Yashiro Hinsuke and Todomu Sugai, as well as Primate Paul Shinji Sasaki.[16]

St. Andrew's Tokyo, now the Cathedral church for the Diocese of Tokyo, was one such congregation that resisted government pressure, struggling to retain its land, church buildings and Anglican identity to the war’s end in 1945. However, like many urban Nippon Sei Ko Kai churches, medical and educational facilities, St. Andrew's buildings were lost in the 1945 Allied incendiary bombing.

Post War (1945–2013)

The pressure of an extended war caused damage to both internal church unity and the physical infrastructure of the of Nippon Sei Ko Kai; 71 out of a total of 246 churches had been destroyed, others were in bad repair due to neglect, requisition by the military or vandalism.[17]

Through individual and larger communal acts of reconciliation and with the support of an Anglican Commission sent out by Archbishop Fisher in 1946, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai was organizationally reordered in 1947, with a leadership consisting of Japanese bishops at the head of each diocese, renewing its life and mission for the Christian Gospel in Japan.

The Nippon Sei Ko Kai became a financially self-supporting Province of the Anglican Communion in 1972.[18]

Adopting a formal Statement of War Responsibility at the General Synod in 1996, and reflecting on the Japanese occupation of China and Korea prior to the Second World War, the NSKK has been active in multi-year projects promoting peace, reconciliation and youth exchange programs between East Asian nations.[19]

Two decades after becoming the first woman deacon, Margaret Ryoko Shibukawa was ordained the first woman priest in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai in December 1998.[20]

The Nippon Sei Ko Kai celebrated the 150th anniversary of Anglican Christian witness in Japan in 2009. The occasion was marked with a series of church and community events and visits by both Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Katharine Jefferts Schori.[21]

In 2013 the NSKK co-hosted with the Anglican Church of Korea, the 2nd Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference in Okinawa.[22]

Current Activities

The Most Revd Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, Bishop of the Diocese of Hokkaido was installed as the current Primate of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai on the 25th of May, 2006.

Today the Nippon Sei Ko Kai continues its traditions of ministry and Christian witness in Japan through church congregational life, hospitals, schools, social advocacy and support for non-profit organizations.

The church, at both a national and local level, works to support disadvantaged, marginalized or discriminated against communities in Japan, [23] [24] as well as communities in Tohoku impacted by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and subsequent crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear generating plant.[25]

The NSKK also engages in field-based mission work overseas, such as in The Philippines.

Dioceses and Notable Churches

There are currently eleven dioceses in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai and over three hundred church and chapel congregations spread across the country. Comprehensive lists of churches and affiliated institutions are available on the official NSKK website (in both Japanese and English) and to a more limited extent at Anglicans Online. Notable churches in each diocese from North to South to include:

St. John's Church, Hakodate
St. Andrew's Church, Kiyosato, Yamanashi



  • Christ Church Cathedral, Sendai



The Diocese of Tokyo was established in its modern form in May 1923. There are 33 churches and 9 chapels in the Diocese, many having been first established in the second half of the nineteenth century.



  • St. Matthew's Cathedral, Nagoya
St Agnes Cathedral, Kyoto




  • St. Michael's Cathedral, Kobe



  • Cathedral of St. Paul and St. Peter, Mihara, Naha, Okinawa

Related Facilities

Rikkyo University, Tokyo
St. Luke's International Hospital, Tokyo

Nippon Sei Ko Kai affiliated educational, medical and social welfare institutions in Japan number over two hundred. Comprehensive lists of affiliated institutions are available on the official NSKK website.


  • Central Theological College, Tokyo. Founded in 1908 from the amalgamation of two older Japanese Anglican seminaries. Has trained more than 600 lay and ordained graduates for work in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai.
  • Williams Theological Seminary, Kyoto

Universities and Colleges


Notable Figures

Early Mission Church (1859–1900)

Continued Growth and Wartime Challenges (1900–1945)

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Arnold, Alfreda (1905). Church Work in Japan. Harvard College Library: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. 
  3. ^ Arnold, Church Work in Japan, p.5.
  4. ^ Ion, A. Hamish (1993). The Cross and the Rising Sun (2 ed.). Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilifrid Laurier University Press. p. 37.  
  5. ^ Ion, Hamish, A. (2009). American Missionaries, Christian oyatoi, and Japan, 1859-73. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. p. 73.  
  6. ^ Arnold, Church Work in Japan, p.8.
  7. ^ Arnold, Church Work in Japan, p.12.
  8. ^ Hobart, Margaret (1912). Japan Mission of the American Church. New York: The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. p. Part II: Training Schools. 
  9. ^ Arnold, Church Work in Japan, p.126.
  10. ^ Bickersteth, M. H. (1908). Handbooks of English Church Expansion, Japan. Oxford: A. R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd. p. 56. 
  11. ^ Ion, A. Hamish (1993). The Cross and the Rising Sun (v.2 ed.). Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.  
  12. ^ Bickersteth, M. H. (1908). Handbooks of English Church Expansion, Japan. Oxford: A. R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd. p. 58. 
  13. ^ Sachs, William L. (1993). The Transformation of Anglicanism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 296.  
  14. ^ Ion, A. Hamish (1999). The Cross and the Dark Valley: The Canadian Protestant Missionary Movement in the Japanese Empire, 1931-1945. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfred Laurier University Press. p. 241.  
  15. ^ Ion, A. Hamish (1999). The Cross and the Dark Valley: The Canadian Protestant Missionary Movement in the Japanese Empire, 1931-1945. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfred Laurier University Press. p. 245.  
  16. ^ Ion, Hamish (1993). The Cross and the Rising Sun. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfred Laurier University Press. p. 254.  
  17. ^ Hemphill, Elizabeth (1969). The Road to KEEP (First ed.). New York and Tokyo: John Weatherhill Inc. p. 108. 
  18. ^ "About the NSKK". NSKK Overview. Provincial Office of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "NSKK General Synod Resolution, 23 May 1996". Statement of War Responsibility. Nippon Sei Ko Kai. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  20. ^ "Online News Report". First Woman Priest Ordained by Japan Anglican Church. UCA News. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  21. ^ "Pastoral Letter". 150th Anniversary of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai. NSKK House of Bishops. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  22. ^ "Conference Communique and Media Coverage". Anglicans call for Peace in Asia and Pacific. Anglican Communion News Service. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  23. ^ "NSKK Newsletter". Inauguration of New Primate of the NSKK. NSKK Provincial Office. September 2006. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  24. ^ "Anglican Kani Mission". Program for Migrants. NSKK Chubu Diocese. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  25. ^ "Remember the Survivors". Tohoku Mission. ACNS Anglican Communion News Service. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 

External links

  • Official site
  • Brief info from official Anglican Communion website
  • Japanese Anglican liturgical resources in English and Japanese
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