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Japanese Orthodox Church

Japanese Orthodox Church
Territory  Japan
Headquarters Tokyo, Japan
- Total

30,000 estimated
Denomination Eastern Orthodox
Sui iuris church Autonomous church of Eastern Orthodoxy under the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church
Established July 2, 1861 by St. Nicolas of Japan
Language Japanese
Current leadership
Bishop Metropolitan Daniel (Nushiro) of All Japan and Archbishop of Tokyo.

The Japanese Orthodox Church or the Orthodox Church in Japan (日本ハリストス正教会 Nihon Harisutosu Seikyōkai, OCJ) is an autonomous church within the Orthodox Church, under the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church.


  • History 1
  • Organization and hierarchy 2
  • Liturgy 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


St. Nicholas of Japan (baptized as Ivan Dmitrievich Kasatkin) brought Orthodox Christianity to Japan in the 19th century.[1] In 1861 he was sent by the Russian Orthodox Church to Hakodate, Hokkaidō as a presbyter to a chapel of the Russian consulate.[2] Though the contemporary Shogun's government prohibited Japanese conversion to Christianity, some neighbors who frequently visited the chapel converted in 1864[3]—Nicolai's first three converts in Japan. 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.

Apart from brief trips Nicholas stayed in Japan, even during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). He proclaimed Orthodox Christianity nationwide, and was appointed as the first bishop of the Japanese Orthodox Church. He moved his headquarters from Hakodate to Tokyo around 1863. In 1886 the Japanese Orthodox Church had over 10,000 baptized faithful.[4] In 1891 Nicholas founded a cathedral church in Tokyo in Kanda district. He spent most of the last half of his life there, and hence Tokyo Resurrection Cathedral became nicknamed Nikorai-do by Kanda citizens.

St. Nicholas of Japan is also known for his Japanese translation of the New Testament and some Christian liturgical books (Lenten Triodion, Pentecostarion, Feast Services, Book of Psalms, Irmologion).[5]

The early mission to establish a Japanese Orthodox Church depended on the Russian Orthodox Church, especially in financial matters. The war between Russia and Japan created a politically difficult situation for the church. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the support and communications both spiritual and financial from the Russian Orthodox Church were severely curtailed.[6] The Japanese government had new suspicions about the Japanese Orthodox Church; in particular, that it was used as a cover for communist Russian espionage. The second bishop of Japan, Metropolitan Sergius (Tikhomirov), called Sergii by the Japanese, suffered from such governmental suspicion, and was forced to resign his episcopacy. The Russian Church similarly was suffering from Stalinist policy and had no ability to help the young Church in Japan.

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.[7]

During the Fifteen Years War (1930–1945), which from 1939 to 1945 was part of World War II, the Christians in Japan suffered severe conditions, the Orthodox Church especially. In 1945 after the Japanese surrender the Allied Occupation leaders had a generous attitude to Christian groups, given their predominantly American connections. As the majority of the Slavic- and Greek-Americans would attend local Orthodox Christian parishes, the Orthodox Christian community in Japan took a step forward. During the war the Japanese Orthodox Church had had almost no foreign contact. After the war instead of the Russian Orthodox Church the precursors of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) helped re-invigorate the Japanese Orthodox Church. The Japanese Orthodox Church became governed by bishops from the Orthodox Church in America,[2] and several youths who studied at the OCA's Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, then in New York City, are now leaders of the Japanese Orthodox Church.

Annunciation Cathedral in Kyoto

Later, as the situation of the Orthodox Church improved in Russia, the Japanese Orthodox Church came under their leadership again.[2] In 1970 the founder of the Orthodox Church in Japan, Nicolai Kasatkin, was glorified by the Patriarch of Moscow and is recognized as St. Nicholas, Equal-to-the-Apostles to Japan; his commemoration day is February 16. In 2000 the Russian Orthodox Church also canonized as a saint bishop Andronik (Nikolsky) who had been appointed the first bishop of Kyoto and had later as archbishop of Perm become a martyr during the Russian Revolution.

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 is hieromonk Gerasimus (Shevtsov), who came from Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra.[8]

As of 2007, the leader of the Orthodox Church in Japan is Daniel (Nushiro), Metropolitan of All Japan and Archbishop of Tokyo, elevated to his seat in 2000.[9] It is estimated that the Church has some 30,000 adherents today.[10]

Organization and hierarchy

The Japanese Orthodox Church has three dioceses:

Before becoming arch-bishop of Tokyo and metropolitan of all Japan Metropolitan Daniel had been bishop of Kyoto and since 2001 he has been also in charge of the Kyoto diocese as locum tenens.

The Japanese Orthodox Church 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".[11]

The Japanese Orthodox Church 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 Japanese Orthodox Church 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 Japanese Orthodox Church community remains influenced by that of the Church in late 19th-century Russia.

See also


  • Japanese Orthodox Church Official Site (Japanese/English)
  • Derived with permission from Orthodox Church of Japan at OrthodoxWiki.
  1. ^ Equal-to-the-Apostles St. Nicholas of Japan, Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist web-site, Washington D.C.
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Orthodox translation of Gospel into Japanese, Pravostok Orthodox Portal, October 2006.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Pravoslavie.RU" Portal, in Russian
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ St. Nikolai of Japan and Japanese church singing, by Maria J. Matsushima, The Orthodox Church Singing in Japan web-site.

External links

  • "The Orthodox Church of Japan" in The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey (2008) by Ronald Roberson, on the CNEWA website.
  • Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Tokyo(Nicorai-do) Unofficial website.
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