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Orthodox Church in Japan

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Orthodox Church in Japan

MetropolitanDaniel (Nushiro)
HeadquartersTokyo, Japan
- Total

DenominationEastern Orthodox
Sui iuris churchAutonomous Orthodox Church within the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate (the status of autonomy not recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople[2])
Established10 April 1970 by the Moscow Patriarchate
LanguageClassical Japanese
Current leadership
Metropolitan of All Japan and Archbishop of TokyoMetropolitan Daniel (Nushiro)

The Orthodox Church in Japan (or the Orthodox Church of Japan) (日本ハリストス正教会, Nihon Harisutosu Seikyōkai, OCJ) is an autonomous Orthodox Church within the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.


The first purpose-built Orthodox Christian church to open in Japan was a wooden Russian Consulate chapel of the Resurrection of Christ, in Hakodate, Hokkaidō, consecrated in October 1860.[3][4]

In July 1861, the young Russian Hieromonk, Nikolay Kassatkin (subsequently canonized and known as Nicholas of Japan), arrived in Hakodate to serve at the Consulate as a priest. He proved to be the first to learn the local language and customs to be able to spread Orthodox Christianity amongst the local populace.[5] Though the shōgun's government at the time prohibited Japanese conversion to Christianity, some locals who frequented the chapel did convert in 1864. While they were his first converts in Japan, they were not the first Japanese to become Orthodox Christians: some Japanese who had settled in Russia had converted to Orthodox Christianity. On Kassatkin′s initiative, the Russian Imperial government established the Russian Spiritual Mission to Japan in 1870.

1882 council of the Orthodox Church in Japan

Kassatkin moved to Tokyo in 1872 and went on to stay in Japan most of the time until his death in 1912, even during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). He was consecrated bishop in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in Saint Petersburg, the Russian Empire, in March 1880 (initially, his title was that of the auxiliary bishop of Reval; Archbishop of Tokyo and Japan since March 1906). Kassatkin travelled across Russia to collect funds for construction of the Orthodox Cathedral in Tokyo, which was inaugurated in Kanda district in 1891 and went on to be known after him as Nikorai-do. Nikolay Kassatkin made Japanese translations of the New Testament and some liturgical books (Lenten Triodion, Pentecostarion, Feast Services, Book of Psalms, Irmologion).[6]

By the end of 1890, according to Kassatkin′s report, the Orthodox Church in Japan (the Russian Spiritual Mission to Japan) had 18,625 baptized faithful.[7]

The Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) created a politically difficult situation for the Church. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, communications and the support from the Church in Russia (the USSR) were severely curtailed.[8] The Japanese government had new suspicions about the Japanese Orthodox Church; in particular, that it was used by the Soviets as a cover for espionage. The second bishop of Japan (from 1912), Sergius (Sergii) Tikhomirov, who was one of a handful of Russian émigré bishops who remained loyal to the USSR-based Moscow Patriarchate (rather than the Kingdom of Yugoslavia-based ROCOR, which from the late 1920s automatically meant loyalty to the government of the USSR) suffered from such suspicions on the part of the Japanese government, and was forced to resign his position in September 1940.

The Great Kantō earthquake in 1923 did serious damage to the Japanese Orthodox Church. The headquarters, Nikorai-do, was destroyed and burnt, including its library with many valuable documents. Nikorai-do was rebuilt in 1929 thanks to contributions gathered from the faithful, whom metropolitan Sergius visited nationwide.[8]

During the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), which from 1939 to 1945 was part of World War II, the Christians in Japan suffered severe conditions, the Orthodox Church especially. During the war the Japanese Orthodox Church had had almost no foreign contact. Following the surrender of Japan (August 1945), the occupation regime had a benevolent attitude toward Christian groups, given their predominantly American connections. As the majority of the Slavic- and Greek-Americans would attend local Orthodox Christian parishes and more Russian refugees began to arrive in Japan fleeing the Communist regime in China, the Orthodox Christian community in Japan was re-invigorated. In 1946, the precursor to the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Metropolia (a de facto independent jurisdiction at the time), on the initiative of U.S. Army Colonel Boris Pash, took steps to prevent the Moscow Patriarchate from re-establishing its control over the Japanese Church despite the vigorous efforts the latter undertook to this end.[9] The following year, the Japanese Church largely switched over under the Metropolia′s jurisdiction and would be governed by bishops sent from the U.S. by the Metroplia until March 1972. Several Japanese youths who would study at the Metroplia's Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, then in New York City, would subsequently become leaders (primates) of the Japanese Church.

Annunciation Cathedral in Kyoto

As the Metroplia in the late 1960s gradually restored relations with the Moscow Patriarchate (whose external activity was fully controlled and guided by the Soviet government and specifically by the KGB[10]) with a view to obtaining autocephaly (i. e. legitimate administrative independence), the Japanese Church was handed over to the Russian jurisdiction. On 10 April 1970, a few days prior to the death of Russian Patriarch Alexius I, Nikolay Kassatkin was canonised by the Moscow Patriarchate in a package deal of granting autocephaly to the OCA and re-establishing control over the Church of Japan.[11] The act of granting autocephaly by the Moscow Patriarchate was strongly condemned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as violating canon law.[12]

In 2005, the first Orthodox Christian monastic house (male) of the Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church was opened in Tokyo near Holy Resurrection Cathedral (Nikolai-do). The abbot of the monastic community, Hieromonk Gerasimus (Shevtsov) of the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra, was dispatched by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patrirchate and arrived in Japan at the end of 2005.[13][14]

Current administrative organization and statistics[edit]

The Orthodox Church in Japan has three dioceses:

The Primate of the Orthodox Church in Japan is Daniel (Nushiro), Metropolitan of All Japan and Archbishop of Tokyo (since May 2000).[15] Before becoming Archbishop of Tokyo and Metropolitan of all Japan, Daniel had been bishop of Kyoto and since 2001 he has been also in charge of the Kyoto diocese as locum tenens.

As of the end of 2014, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Culture of Japan, the Orthodox Church had a total of 67 parishes (communities), 37 clergymen, and 9,619 followers (registered members).[16]

The Orthodox Church in Japan runs the Tokyo Orthodox Seminary. The seminary accepts only male faithfuls and gives a three-year theological education to those who expect to become ordained presbyters and missionaries. The Seminary also publishes a monthly journal, "Seikyo Jiho".[17]

The Orthodox Church in Japan publishes religious books, including the Japanese Orthodox translation of the New Testament and Psalms and liturgical texts, available as texts alone or with musical scores. Its headquarters in Tokyo and local parishes publish brochures for the faithful looking for further religious education.


The Orthodox Church in Japan celebrates its liturgy in Japanese, and occasionally in other languages such as Church Slavonic or Greek. As many liturgical and Biblical texts were first translated into Japanese by Archbishop Nicolas and Nakai Tsugumaro, a Japanese Christian scholar of literary Chinese, their Japanese today reads archaically.

The liturgical style found in the community of the Orthodox Church in Japan remains influenced by that of the Church in late 19th-century Russia.

See also[edit]


  2. EXCLUSIVE: How the Moscow Patriarchate Tramples on Church Canons and Undermines Orthodox Unity in Korea. The interview by Ambrosios Zografos, the Metropolitan of Korea and Exarch of Japan. The Orthodox World, 12 February 2019.
  3. "Святейший Патриарх Кирилл посетил Воскресенский храм в Хакодате / Новости / Патриархия.ru". Патриархия.ru (in русский). Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  4. "函館ハリストス正教会関連略年表". Retrieved 2020-04-06. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. St. Nicholas, Equal of the Apostles and Archbishop of Japan. OCA.
  6. ""Православие в Корее" - Orthodox Translation of Gospel into Japanese". Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  7. "Токийский кафедральный Воскресенский собор в истории Японской Православной Церкви / Поместные Церкви // проект портала Православие.Ru". Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "日本の正教会の歴史と現代 "History and Modernity of Japanese Orthodox Church"" (in Japanese). The Orthodox Church in Japan. 2008. Retrieved 2019-05-05.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  9. ""За веру и бомбу": удивительная жизнь полковника Бориса Пашковского-Пэша". Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrene (in русский). Retrieved 2019-08-18.
  10. Felix Corley. The Svyatoslav Files: Metropolitan Nikodim and the KGB
  11. Agreement on the Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in America // Article X – Orthodox Church in Japan. The official web site of the OCA.
  12. "1970 Letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras on Autocephaly". Orthodox History. 2018-09-21. Retrieved 2020-04-06. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  13. ЖУРНАЛЫ заседания Священного Синода Русской Православной Церкви от 16 июля 2005 года / ЖУРНАЛ № 47, 16 July 2005.
  14. "В каком-то смысле в Японии сегодня мода на христианство". 30 January 2007. Retrieved 2020-04-06. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  15. "東京の大主教、全日本の府主教ダニイル "Daniel, Archbishof of Tokyo and metropolitan of all Japan"" (in Japanese). The Orthodox Church in Japan. 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2007-08-25.CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
  16. 宗教統計調査結果 ― 平成 26 年 12 月 31 日現在 ― / 文化庁 文化部 宗務課: See pp. 80 and 81.
  17. Matsushima, Maria Junko. "ST. NIKOLAI of JAPAN and the Japanese Church Singing". Retrieved 2020-04-06. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)

External links[edit]