“Japanese Saints Celebrate Eightieth Anniversary,” Ensign, Aug. 1981, 75–76
In 1901, Elder Heber J. Grant of the Quorum of the Twelve arrived in Japan from Utah with three companions and a commission to begin missionary work in that country.
Now, eighty years later, Japan has a temple, dozens of fully organized wards, and thousands of members. In 1980, some 10,500 converts were baptized, a 200 percent increase over 1979. Approximately 1,300 missionaries are laboring in Japan, and 1,018 converts were baptized in the Tokyo south mission alone in March 1981.
And the Japanese Saints are celebrating with a year of sports activities, leadership seminars, and special conferences—but especially sports. A ski meet, a marathon, a martial arts championship, and a pingpong tournament have already taken place with other, more spiritual events, scheduled through November.
The Japanese have a passionate interest in sports, and by having a variety of sports events hosted by different regions, members can pick favorite sports and meet others who share the same interest.
The year’s festivities began with a “White Conference,” a February ski meeting sponsored by the Nagoya Region in the central part of Japan, near Okuhida, about three hours from Nagoya and five from Tokyo and Osaka. About a hundred members attended, accompanied by investigators. Participants learned how to ski, if they were first-timers, from qualified instructors, danced, and had apres-ski seminars and discussions.
The Mormon Marathon, sponsored by Fukuoka Stake on March 21, drew about four hundred runners. The location, participants agreed, was “ideal”—Shikanoshima Island in Fukuoka. This event, a countrywide championship, drew runners from Hokkaido, Takasaki, Tokyo, Okayama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Leaders plan to make it an annual event.
A week later, the kendo (“way of the sword”) martial arts champions squared off in Hiroshima with twenty-seven men and five women competing from Hiroshima, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Machida, and Tokyo. Judges were Atsuo Horikawa and Hiroshi Muraoka, high-ranking black belt holders. (Approximately a hundred members of the Church in Japan are blackbelt holders of various degrees.) This championship competition will also continue in the future.
May’s pingpong tournament in Nagoya drew about 120 participants from Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka regions.
April’s event was a “Scarlet Fair” sponsored by Osaka Region which brought young singles from Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Hiroshima together for dance and seminar programs. This three-day event was designed to let young Latter-day Saints meet each other for serious discussions about the importance of temple marriage. Each region in the area will follow up with August summer conferences for their single adults for three days of sports, seminars, and discussions on subjects such as missionary calls and temple marriage.
Another important regional event is Eightieth Anniversary Training seminars held on successive days in Sendai, Sapporo, Nagoya, Tokyo, Okinawa, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, and Osaka under the direction of Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Administrator for Japan and Korea. A few general officers have been invited for the instructional sessions.
This leadership conference culminates on September 1 with a commemoration of the original dedication of the land of Japan for the teaching of the gospel, a spiritual highlight that the entire membership is awaiting.
Two subsequent events will round out the year’s festivities—an October Music Fair in Osaka, in which each regional choir and popular music group will meet to compete nation-wide for top honors, and a November speech contest in Tokyo, open to any age in either Japanese or English.