Christianity is generally believed to have first reached Japan in 1549 with the arrival of Portuguese missionary Francis Xavier.  Initially the gospel was welcomed by nobility and ordinary people, in part because of the arrival of new weaponry and technology from the Portuguese, but also as the people responded to the gospel message with enthusiasm.  Between 1549 and 1595 it is estimated that 300,000 Japanese became Christians.

Sadly, the growth of Christianity did not last following the decision by powerful Japanese ruler Hideyoshi to expel all Christian missionaries in 1587.  This was then followed by increasing persecution and negative sentiment on the part of Japanese rulers, who feared the social and political consequences of a significant Christian population in Japan.  The exclusive claims of Christianity and concern that the faith might be used as a pretext for colonial initiatives by Portuguese and Spanish authorities prompted the Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa to cut off ties with foreign countries and persecute Japanese Christians.

Notable events included the martyrdom through crucifixion of 26 Christian believers, ranging in age from 12 to 64 years of age, in 1597 which took place in Nagasaki.  The authorities then proceeded to implement systematic persecution using tools such as requiring the population to report Christians, offering rewards and setting up small communities which were required to inform on each other.  Many Christians were martyred as they refused to recant or cooperate with these requirements.

After an extended period of isolation, Christianity was again established in Japan following the opening of the country during the Meiji period and arrival of Protestant missionaries in 1859.  New religious laws introduced in 1873 meant that it was once again legally permissible for Japanese to become Christians.  

Today there is a perception among many Japanese that Christianity is a foreign religion and that by becoming Christians Japanese people are betraying their nationality, hence a reluctance on the part of many to be converted.  Many Japanese are open to hearing the gospel and are genuinely interested, however traditions from Buddhism (including ancestor worship) and Shintoism (emperor worship and other rituals) mean that conversions and baptisms have been few, and the church has sadly not grown at an appreciable rate.

It is our prayer that the Lord will enable many to hear, receive and respond to the gospel and we are working to see a significant advance of the gospel among the 130 million Japanese people.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field'"    Matthew 9:37-38