The Orthodox Church in Japan is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox denomination in Japan. The church is governed by the Moscow Patriarchate. It is a vibrant community, with a thriving parish life and strong missionary activities. However, the orthodox church in Japan has been marred by Syncretism. This article will discuss how this tradition hindered the growth of real church singing. You will also learn why a strong presence of Orthodoxy is needed in Japan.
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St. Nicholas of Japan brought Orthodoxy to Japan
The first Japanese Orthodox mission was led by St. Nicholas of Japan. He was an Orthodox priest who came to Japan in 1870 and began missionary work. The conversion of three Japanese was remarkable – Sawabe Takuma, a former samurai, and Anatolius, a Shinto priest. After the conversion of these Japanese, Nicholas went to Tokyo, where he began an extensive missionary work. The next year, he bought property on a high point of Kanda Surugadai, where he established the Orthodox Archbishopate of Japan. By 1912, he had converted over three thousand people, and his ascetic labor was recognized and rewarded by the Orthodox hierarchy.
After gaining a degree in theology from a Russian seminary, Fr. Nicholas began his missionary work by translating and publishing service books in Japanese. He also published spiritual and moral magazines. He also translated the Bible and other important texts from Slavonic to Japanese and collated them with other texts. In addition to translating service books and Bibles, Bishop Nicholas worked on a Russian-Japanese dictionary and a dictionary of theological terms.
Russian Hieromonk Nikolay Kassatkin converted to Orthodoxy in Japan
The Russian Hieromonk Nikolay Kassatkin was one of the first Orthodox monks to convert to Japan. He lived from 1896 to 1912 and died in Japan. His conversion is a great historical event and an inspiration to all who practice Orthodoxy. His conversion to Japan led to many other converts in the country. Here are some of the most important conversions from the Orthodox Church in Japan.
In 1871 Fr Nicholas Kassatkin left for Japan to convert Japanese Buddhists. He wanted to open an Orthodox church and mission in Japan. He petitioned the Holy Governing Synod to open a mission in the country. In 1871, the Synod opened a mission in Japan. Fr Nicholas was assigned as the mission’s head. He was subsequently elevated to archimandrite. Fr Nicholas’ assistant was Hieromonk Anatoly (Tikhai), a graduate of the Kiev Theological Academy. Anatoly studied the Japanese language for one year before the mission opened.
Syncretism hindered growth of real church singing in Japan
Japanese evangelization brought Latin into Japan, and in 1536 the Portuguese founded a Gregorian chant seminary. Syncretism inhibited the growth of real church singing in Japan, but it did not completely thwart it. In fact, the Latin chants were often translated into Japanese, and the Portuguese used Japanese vocabulary words for musical ideas. By the sixteenth century, many Asian converts to Catholicism learned Gregorian chant in Latin. Today, elderly Indian Catholics fondly remember Latin chants in the Mass, but likely had no idea of the deeper themes in the music.
Syncretism characterized the orthodox church in Japan
Syncretism is the blending of elements of more than one culture or religion. Examples of syncretism include the blending of Confucianism and Legalism in China. Syncretism has been described as the birth of a new characteristic in culture. It highlights the importance of boundaries and reveals the ongoing contestation over them. Japanese religion is no exception. In Japan, for example, Buddhism and Shinto are both considered one faith.
In the autonomous Orthodox Church in Japan, Metropolitan Daniel, also known as Nusiro Ikuo, is the primate. He is assisted by four priests who are native Japanese. They are graduates of St. Nicholas Seminary, which opened in 1876 by St. Nicholas. Since its founding, St. Nicholas Seminary has never closed. Metropolitan Daniel himself graduated from the seminary and then went to St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York. The seminary has a constantly changing enrollment.
Syncretism characterizes the orthodox church in Japan
Syncretism refers to the mixing of elements from different cultures. The orthodox church in Japan is an example of syncretism, combining elements of Buddhism and Shinto into one faith. Most Japanese are syncretists, and this explains why they tolerate religious difference among themselves. However, this type of religious mixing is not necessarily positive. Here are some examples of how syncretism affects the orthodox church in Japan:
During the Sino-Japanese War, Christians in Japan suffered harsh conditions. Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate was prohibited because of a possible association with the USSR. However, after the Japanese surrender, the Allied occupation regime was more friendly toward the Japanese Orthodox Church. This allowed more Russian and Greek immigrants to settle in Japan, who began to attend Orthodox Christian parishes in the country.