TOKYO, Japan The BYU-Hawaii Concert Choir performed "Come, Come, Ye Saints," at the famous Meiji Shinto Shrine in Tokyo during its recent Asia Benefit Tour 2004.
Hideaki Asanuma, Chiba Japan Stake President, called the May 21 performance "one of those important events in the history of the Church" in Japan. "There will now be an awakening about the Church in Japan," he said.
Plans began for a BYU-Hawaii Concert Choir tour through Japan and Korea three years ago.
Osamu Sekiguchi of Church public affairs in Japan asked if the choir could perform at the shrine and was surprised and delighted to learn the choir could sing in the sacred, inner courtyard of the temple, where the public is not generally allowed.
Two Church members Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and first counselor in the Asia North Area Presidency and Eric B. Shumway, BYU-Hawaii president were also invited to enter the precincts of the altar, an unprecedented move as typically only the chief priest, the royal family and heads of state are allowed in that sacred place.
"Many people in Japan consider Meiji Shrine to be the heart of Japan," said Atsushi Adachi of Church public affairs in the country. "They have great affection for Meiji Shrine. They look to it and respect it as the center of Shintoism (the ancient, indigenous religion of Japan). It is the elite shrine, because it is the shrine of the emperors. It is probably the shrine that is most important to the general public."
The Tokyo Metropolitan Television Channel and The Mainichi Times covered the performance by the 55-member choir. The next day, two radio personalities, on the Tokyo Broadcast System, described for listeners the unlikely scenario of a Christian choir singing at Meiji Shrine.