Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kaigi, Japan
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|Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kaigi|
Kesatsugu Kuroki 
The Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference (not to be confused with the conference of the same name located on the island of Hokkaido) is a conference of fifteen churches located mainly on the island of Kyushu but with churches located in Hiroshima and Kobe on the island of Honshu respectively.
In the 50s, following the American occupation of Japan and General MacArthur's call for churches in America to send 'missionaries and bibles' to Japan, The North American General Mennonite Conference sent William C. Voth to Japan to conduct a preliminary survey on his way back to America from China. Based on his findings the North American General Mennonite Conference sent a group of missionaries to Japan in 1951. One group settled in the city Kobe in the Miyazaki prefecture on the island of Honshu to study Japanese before moving on to their main work on the smaller island of Kyushu. During this brief interlude the missionaries did do some work in the area and so when they moved to Kyushu in 1952 they left several converts behind. These converts organized themselves a small church called the Kobe Garage group named for the garage where they held their meetings which was the biggest space available to them. The missionary efforts in Kyushu were not typical of the time. Even though Japan had suffered in World War II enough infrastructure remained to make the building of schools and hospitals unnecessary. As such the missionaries focused more on church building efforts and evangelism. This was difficult because even though the emperor had denounced his divinity after World War II Shintoism was such an ingrained part of Japanese culture and Japanese nationalism that to embrace another religion was to be seen as less then Japanese. Despite this difficulty the church experienced significant growth during this period and in the 1960s the missionaries handed control of the churches over to local ministers. The missionaries still served on the church conferences but they no longer made all the decisions and the churches no longer reported back to America. The church continues to grow from there and in 1973 the Kobe church joins with the Kyushu Mennonite Church Conference which shortly afterwards is renamed Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference.
-14th August 1945, Japan surrenders to the allied forces following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
-30th August 1945, General MacArthur calls for churches in America to send ‘Missionaries and Bibles’ to Japan.
-1st January 1946, Emperor Hirohita of Japan formally denounces his divinity, ending a history of Shintoism as the official religion in Japan.
-1949, North American General Conference Mennonite Church conducts a preliminary survey of Japan.
-1950, North American General Conference Mennonite Church sends William C. Voth to assess the situation in Japan on his way back to America from China.
-1951, Following Voth’s report North American General Conference Mennonite Church sends missionaries to Japan who set up operations in the Miyazaki Prefecture on the island of Honshu. Particularly in the cities of Kobe and Hiroshima.
-January 1952, William C. Voth and his wife Mathilda join the missionaries in the Miyazaki Prefecture.
-1952, The first Mennonite church is established in Miyazaki city.
-1952, The missionaries in Honshu move on to the island of Kyushu leaving the converts in Kobe to their own devices. these converts form the Kobe Garage Group.
-1954, All of the churches founded thus far gather and the Kyushu Mennonite Council is established.
-1965, The GC Mennonite Mission joins the Kyushu Mennonite Conference and becomes the Kyushu Mennonite Church Conference.
-1973, The Kobe church joins the Kyushu Mennonite Church Conference.
-1975, The Kyushu Mennonite Church Conference is renamed the Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference.
-1986, The Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference boasts 730 baptized members.
-1991, The Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference sends a statement opposing the gulf war to the UN, the Japanese Government and the American Mennonite Church.
-2000, By this time all of the expatriate missionaries have either retired or gone home.
-2003, The Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference sends missionaries to Africa, England and Vietnam,
-Takashi Yamada, the most influential pastor of the Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference. He was a young man from Kobe who became a pacifist during the Second World War. After the war he fell in with Mennonite missionaries in Kobe while studying English and became a member of the Kobe Garage Groups. Yamada went to Tokyo to receive theological training before becoming a pastor to the Aburatsu Church in Nichinan in the Miyazaki Prefecture. Yamada was highly intelligent, fluent in English, and read widely in both Japanese and English. At one point, his church had a very active youth group. These students went off to college, then settled in various parts of Japan from Tokyo south and west. They started house meetings and he would visit all these places several times a year. For each trip he wrote out several sermons and passed them around. Later in life Yamada moved to the Kobayashi Church and was still a pastor there when he died. After he died his sons (Yamada and his wife had 5 children--3 boys and 2 girls) collected his sermons and edited them into 4 books.
-Hiroshi Yanada, another member of the Kobe group. Yanada was pastor of the Oyodo Church in Miyazaki for many years until retirement.
-Shozo Sato is a native of Miyazaki. Still an active pastor Sato started a kindergarten in his church, went up to Fukushima to help people after the tsunami, and has been active in other inter-Mennonite activities.
-Chizuko Katakabe grew un in the Nobeoka church and is now the pastor of the Nobeoka church. She was, for a time, on the executive committee of Mennonite World Conference.
-Tadayuki Ishiya is pastor of the Hiroshima Mennonite Church.
-Junji Sasaki is pastor of the Oita Mennonite Church.
Challenges and the Future:
When the Mennonite missionaries originally arrived in Japan their primary struggle was against shintoism. Since shintoism had been an integral part of Japanese national identity for hundreds of years it was unthinkable to be anything but Shinto. However World War II had shaken the Japanese people's faith in Shintoism which allowed Christian missionaries to present an alternative. Especially to the younger generation who had not had grown up with Shintoism as long as their parents had. The challenge facing the contemporary Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference is church growth. While the conference reached peak membership in 1986 with 730 baptized members this number had fallen to 679 by 2003. This is because Japanese society has stabilized since the 50s and contemporary Japanese society is not terribly interested in religion in any context. As a result while old converts are dying off no new converts are replacing them. While this outlook seems dire the Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference has sent missionaries to Africa, England, and Vietnam so the church is still active to some degree.
Yamade Masakazu, 2011, "Churches Engage Asian Traditions", Lapp John A. Intercourse PA: Pandora Press, 2011, -Gives an overview of the Mennonite churches in Japan and some general information about Takashi Yamada and the Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference.
Isobe, Hiroshi. "Nihon Menonaito Kirisutokyo Kyokai Kaigi (Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 8 Dec 2016. -Gives a more in depth look at the Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference.
Drummond Richard H, 1971, "A History of Christianity in Japan", Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971. -Gives a general overview of Christianity in Japan.
Lee Kun Sam, 1966, "The Christian Confrontation With Shinto Nationalism", Rushdoony Rousas J., Philadelphia PA: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1966 -Discusses the difficulties Christianity in Japan faces against Shintoism.
Yanada Hiroshi, 1978, "Mennonite World Handbook", Kraybill Paul N., Lombard IL: Mennonite World Conference. 1978 -Gives some brief information about Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference.
https://www.mennonitemission.net/partners/Japan%20Mennonite%20Christian%20Church%20Conference%20(Kyushu), -Gives a brief overview of the Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference.
http://www.kyokaikaigi60.com, -The official website for the Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference, includes a timeline, line of churches in this conference, history of the conference and contact information.
http://www.aproundtable.org/history-blog/blog.cfm?ID=743&AUTHOR_ID=9 -Gives some information about General MacArthur's plan to bring Christianity to Japan after World War II.
- "Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches Worldwide, 2009: Asia & Pacific." Mennonite World Conference. http://www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/files/Members%202009/Asia%20&%20Pacific%20Summary.doc (accessed 11 April 2011).