- The growth of Christianity in Japan was stymied by the country's isolationist policies following the arrival of Catholicism in the 16th century. That isolation ended in 1854, when the United States forced an opening of the country to foreign trade and cultural influence. The 1858 Townsend Harris Treaty provided an opening for Protestants, and a spectrum of groups initiated work beginning the next year.The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Reformed Church in America were the first to take advantage of the new opportunity; they were able to react quickly by drawing personnel from China. They began translating the Bible and other Christian materials into Japanese and developed strategies to respond to Japanese hostility to "un-Japanese" culture. During their first decade, work was confined to Nagasaki and Yokohama, where the first permanent Protestant church was built in 1872.The early missionaries tried to keep American sectarian differences out of Japan, and the first groups of converts were brought together in congregations simply called the Church of Christ. A united Protestant seminary was opened in 1877, and that same year the churches of the Calvinist tradition merged their work as the United Church of Christ of Japan.in 1878, the Japanese government removed all of the restrictions that had limited access by missionaries, and a new wave of missionaries representing different churches flocked to the country. Many churches established schools and hospitals. By the end of the century, there were almost 100,000 Japanese Protestants, mostly affiliated with denominations that had originated in the United States.in 1940, the Japanese government ordered all Protestant and Free Church groups to merge into a single United Church of Christ of Japan. A few churches,including the Anglicans, the Seventh-day Adventists, and most of the Holiness bodies (such as the Salvation Army) refused to join. Their existence as legal entities ended, though they survived the war years underground and were able to reestablish themselves after the war. After the declaration of religious freedom by the American occupation authorities, many of the denominations decided to continue as the United Church of Christ of Japan, while others withdrew to reestablish their separate work.in the generation after the war, more than 2,500 Western missionaries arrived, most of them representing the hundreds of smaller Evangelical church bodies in the United States. The number of Christian denominations in Japan rose sharply (while at the same time the number of new Buddhist groups also rapidly increased).Today, some 300 separate Protestant and Free Church groups operate in Japan, though most remain quite small. The total Christian community includes around 3 percent of the Japanese citizenry. Among the older Protestant bodies, the United Church of Christ of Japan and the Japan Holy Catholic Church (Anglican) are among the larger ones; they are the backbone (along with the Holy Orthodox Church of Japan) of the National Christian Council of Japan, which is affiliated with the World Council of Churches. Some of the more conservative churches are affiliated with the Japan Evangelical Association affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.Since World War II, Japan has also been the target of missionary work from countries other than the United States. Most notably, a number of Korean churches have emerged in the country.David Yonghi Cho's large center in Seoul has spurred the formation of the Japan Full Gospel Church, and Korean expatriates have formed the Korean Christian Church in Japan. The Little Flock (the Local Church) has come to Japan from China, and a variety of groups have developed from Scandinavian missionary efforts. Several of the churches more on the fringe of Protestantism - the Unification Movement, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - have also enjoyed great success.People who accepted Christianity but rejected the foreignness of the missionaries formed the No-Church movement (mukyokai) under the leadership of a former Methodist, Uchimura Kanzo (1861-1930), in the 1920s. The Spirit of Jesus Church, formed by former members of the Assemblies of God in 1937, now reports more than 400,000 members, making it the largest Protestant church in the country. Christians throughout the West have been deeply affected by the example of the independent social activist Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960), who became an exemplar of the Christian Social Gospel message.Further reading:■ J. Breen and M. Williams, eds., Japan and Christianity: Impacts and Responses (New York: St. Martin's, 1995)■ Otis Cary, History of Christianity in Japan, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Missions (Rutland, Vt./Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1982)■ A. Lande, Meiji Protestantism in History and Historiography: A Comparative Study of Japanese and Western Interpreters of Early Protestantism in Japan (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1989)■ P. J. Patterson, The Way of Faithfulness: Study Guide to Christians in Japan (New York: Friendship Press, 1991)■ K. Yoshinobu and D. C. Swain, Christianity in Japan, 1971-1990 (Tokyo: Kyo Bun Kwan [Christian Literature Society], 1991).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.