When the Tokyo Japan Temple was dedicated in October 1980, it was the only temple in the Orient. As other temples were built in the Far East, Tokyo primarily served the members in Japan. It was centrally located in the island nation on its largest island of Honshu, but still required substantial travel for members from the southern island of Kyushu and the northern island of Hokkaido.
Members on Kyushu were blessed when the Fukuoka Japan Temple was dedicated in June 2000. It is about 650 miles south of Tokyo.
And now, members on Hokkaido are thrilled that President Thomas S. Monson announced in October general conference that a temple will be built in Sapporo, about 500 miles north of Tokyo.
There are three stakes on Hokkaido, two in Sapporo, a city raised to prominence when it hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics. There is also one district under the Japan Sapporo Mission.
Gratitude was the word Sapporo West Stake President Hiroyuki Domon used to describe his feelings when he heard about a new temple in his city. He said in an e-mail to the Church News, "When I received an e-mail from my friend in the United States at night informing that the temple was to be built in Sapporo, my heart was filled with gratitude to the Lord. As soon as I heard this announcement, I knelt down and offered my prayer of thanksgiving. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I felt the Lord so closely. My heart was literally burning like a fire. There are no words to express my joyous feelings.
"In the Sapporo West Stake, we started to have one vision five years ago. 'Let us build a temple in this northern island. ... It is our dream, it is our mission.' ... Many brothers and sisters showed their faith and visited the temple far away. I believe that God has watched their faith. ...
"We have prepared ourselves so that we may be worthy to enter the temple and the Lord has given us the greatest blessing. During the testimony meeting following the announcement, many members bore their testimonies in tears in many wards. We are determined to do the best we can and serve in the temple with all our energy."
Other members of President Domon's stake expressed their feelings upon hearing the temple announcement.
Sister Kanako Yamabuki, Young Women president in the Kotoni Ward, said, "I heard the announcement at just after 1 a.m. through an e-mail from a friend. At that time, I was with my father who is hospitalized, so to hear the wonderful news while [in the hospital] was a truly happy occasion. I couldn't hold back my shouts of 'All right!' and 'Yeah!' To have a temple — the thing we have so long desired — is like a dream. Now we will be able to pray at the temple when we have problems, pray at the temple when we need to make an important decision and so on.
"We can attend to celebrate our birthdays, or the anniversaries of our baptisms, and even attend weekly without difficulty. It is truly like a dream. We will no longer have to hurry away from the celestial room due to the constraints of a two-day trip to and from Tokyo.
"Children who turn 12 will be able to perform proxy baptisms with their families and on their birthdays without having to wait for the next trip. Couples with small children will be able to leave them with family and attend together rather than going separately due to baby-sitting needs. This is a truly wonderful blessing.
Brother Shintaro Shinden, a high councilor who oversees temple work in the stake and is a member of the Moiwa Ward, said, "My phone rang late at night on Oct. 3. It was a call from my son who lives in Tokyo. … At the first session of general conference, President Monson announced that Sapporo will be one of the next temples built, he breathlessly informed me.
"My wife repeatedly shouted, 'A temple will be built in Sapporo!' … I am truly grateful that our desire has been fulfilled. … 'Banzai! Banzai! Banzai! (Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!)' is the way I honestly feel."
The daughter of the stake president, 7-year-old Yuki Domon of the Moiwa Ward, said, "I am so happy that a temple will be built. When I am older, I want to attend the Sapporo temple with my family. Thank you, Jesus."
At the general conference session where President Monson announced the Sapporo temple, he also announced temples would be built in Brigham City, Utah; Concepcion, Chile; Fortaleza, Brazil; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.