The recently renovated Tokyo Japan Temple has begun the public-facing phase prior to its July 3 rededication, with the release of interior and exterior photos and an Apostle presiding over the initial media and special-guest tours prior to the temple’s upcoming public open house.
Originally dedicated more than 40 years ago as the 18th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Tokyo Japan Temple will be rededicated on July 3 by President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is presiding over the start of the temple’s media and special-guest tours, which began at 11 a.m. Monday, May 30, in Tokyo (8 p.m. Mountain Time on Sunday, May 29).
Coinciding with the start, the Church released interior and exterior photos of the Tokyo Japan Temple as well as a YouTube video on the renovated temple’s public events.
“This is a special opportunity to come and see the temple in the great city of Tokyo,” said Elder Stevenson in a ChurchofJesusChrist.org report. “It is a sacred place for us because we consider it the ‘house of the Lord’.”
The public open house runs from Friday, June 3, through Saturday, June 18, excluding Sundays, June 5 and June 12. More information on the open house is available at tokyojapantemple.jp.
As a young man, Elder Stevenson served in the Japan Fukuoka Mission, and from 2004 to 2007, he and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, were president and companion in the Japan Nagoya Mission.
He underscored the shared value that Latter-day Saints and the Japanese people place on temples and shrines.
“Temples are such an important part of the culture in Japan. I have admired how Japanese people are temple-going people. Important days in their lives are celebrated by visiting a temple or shrine. It has a striking similarity to what we as Latter-day Saints hold as one of our sacred rites and customs as being able to go to the temple.”
President Eyring will rededicate the temple on Sunday, July 3, in three sessions, at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. local time. A youth devotional is scheduled for Saturday, July 2.
Dedicated by President Spencer W. Kimball in October 1980, the Tokyo Japan Temple was not only the Church’s first in Japan but the first in Asia.
Additional temples in the country are the Fukuoka Japan Temple (dedicated in 2000) and the Sapporo Japan Temple (dedicated in 2016), with a fourth temple currently under construction in Okinawa.
The Tokyo temple district comprises nearly 93,000 Latter-day Saints in 20 stakes in the Tokyo area. Japan is now home to some 130,000 Church members in 261 congregations across the country.
The renovated temple and site
The temple closed September 2017 for extensive renovations to its interior and exterior and to auxiliary buildings at the site. A four-story annex added to the temple will house a visitors’ center, chapel, area and mission offices and a family history center.
Besides upgrades in the electrical, mechanical, plumbing and ventilation systems, the temple was strengthened to meet current seismic standards.
Located in a residential area across from the historic Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park, the temple sits on a 1.22-acre site where a mission home once stood. The building of 53,779 square feet consists of four floors and a basement.
The temple stands 70.5 feet tall to the top of its main wall, with a spire rising an additional 91.2 feet and the Angel Moroni statue — added in 2004 — extending the temple’s height 16.7 more feet.
The 289 panels of precast stone give the temple an exterior appearance of light gray granite.
Previously limited on the property, landscaping now surrounds the temple, with a wall removed to create an open space complementing the vegetation of the nearby park. The indigenous plants, shrubs and trees include Japanese maple and bamboo, with water features being a small waterfall and two Japanese-style shallow ponds.
The temple originally had art glass only in the temple’s center main window. Following the renovation, art glass is found throughout the temple, with earth-toned glass borders surrounding carved and frosted glass centers for the main windows and simple, frosted center panels for side windows.
To create a sense of reverence inside the temple, furniture and features reflect the Japanese style of “Shibui” — a feeling of quiet elegance. Interior design patterns replicate or are reminiscent of traditional Japanese patterns in kimono fabric, shoji screens and other historical Japanese arts.
One area noticeably improved from the renovation was the temple’s baptistry, said Elder Takashi Wada, a General Authority Seventy who presides over the Asia North Area.
“The baptismal font downstairs used to be such a small space, especially in the chapel,” he said. “It became easily congested, making it difficult to maintain a spirit of reverence. Now we have a spacious chapel in front of the baptismal font. It gives reverence and a nice feel to it.”
The rugs for the entry and bride’s room are based on historic kimono patterns. Six consoles in the corridors on the third and fourth floors include hand-painted doors based on historic Japanese screens, with three different scenes based on cherry blossom, chrysanthemum and pine tree themes.
One design for interior lighting suggests the traditional shoji lantern, with glass that looks like rice paper. The lighting features become more ornate as rooms progress in importance of instruction and ordinance, including crystals in the ordinance rooms.
The Church’s history in Japan
The Church’s first introduction to Japanese individuals came in 1871, by way of the then-new Meiji government. Traveling to the United States to investigate its financial system, government envoy Hirobumi Ito met Angus M. Cannon while traveling on the recently completed transcontinental railroad — the two discussed the Church’s Restoration and history for more than two days.
Later that year, the government’s Iwakura Mission — comprised of more than 100 people, including Ito, traveling throughout the United States and Europe — was stranded in Salt Lake City for 19 days because of heavy snows. During the extended stay, mission members visited the Church’s businesses, schools, museums, theaters and the homes of Church leaders and members, becoming the first Japanese to participate in Church meetings.
The involvement of and interest from the Iwakura delegation later prompted President Lorenzo Snow to initiate missionary activities in Japan in 1901. The Asia Mission was headquartered in Tokyo, and the first missionaries included future Church President Heber J. Grant and Alma O. Taylor, who later translated the Book of Mormon into Japanese in 1909.
Special leather-bound editions of the Book of Mormon in Japanese were then given to His Majesty the Emperor (Emperor Meiji), His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince (later Emperor Taisho) and other government officials.
Baptized March 8, 1902, off of Tokyo’s Omori Coast, Hijime Nakazawa became the Church’s first convert in Japan.
Missionary work was suspended in Japan in the mid-1920s because of anti-American sentiment. With Latter-day Saint soldiers residing in Japan after World War II, worship services resumed in Japan in the late 1940s and preceded a return to missionary work in the Asian nation.
Church membership had reached 11,000 members over the next two decades. At the Osaka World’s Fair in 1970, the Mormon Pavilion and its “Man’s Search for Happiness” theme proved a popular attraction, drawing an estimated 6.6 million visitors over a six-month period.
At an area conference in August 1975 in Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, President Kimball proposed plans for a temple in that city. At the time, the Laie Hawaii Temple was the Church’s closest temple, more than 3,800 miles away.
“When President Kimball made a proposal for the building of a temple, there was a spontaneous applause of joy and happiness by the congregation; then a quiet appreciation of tears followed while they raised their hands to sustain the proposal,” Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, an assistant to the Council of the Twelve, reported at October 1975 general conference.