Cowley’s prophecy of a temple in Japan took many years to be fulfilled. During that time the closest temple was in Laie, Hawaii, more than 3,840 miles (6,180 km) away. The expense of travel—up to one-half of the average wage earner’s annual salary at the time—meant that few could afford to make the trip.
In 1963, Dwayne N. Andersen, president of the Northern Far East Mission, determined that the Japanese Saints should benefit from the increased spirituality that comes from temple worship. President Andersen began a campaign to teach the Saints the importance of temple attendance and to help offset the cost of going to the temple. Lessons in all of the branches were focused on the doctrines of the temple and the promised blessings for those who seek to participate in its ordinances.
Many Japanese Saints donated their time and talents and used their personal networks to assist in the project. Kenji Yamanaka was vital to the effort to plan, fund, and execute a temple excursion. Yamanaka, a pearl merchant by trade, used his professional contacts to research and negotiate a chartered flight; provided Church members with pearls to make tie tacks, necklaces, and other jewelry; and helped to produce a recording of a local Church choir. The proceeds from the sale of the pearl jewelry and the recording went to the temple excursion fund.
In July 1965, 166 Japanese Saints boarded a chartered flight from Tokyo to Laie, Hawaii. They became the first of many to make an annual trip to Hawaii to participate in temple ordinances. When the Saints arrived in Hawaii, they became the first to hear the new translation of the ordinances in Japanese. Tatsui Sato, who had translated the ceremonies, administered these first ordinances. Temple worship became a central part of the lives of Japanese Saints who sacrificed significantly to make the journey.
On August 9, 1975, when Spencer W. Kimball, President of the Church, announced at an area conference in Tokyo that a temple would be built in Japan, many of the Saints folded their arms and wept for joy. The mission office in Tokyo was chosen as the site for the new temple. Today, three temples—in Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Sapporo—serve the Saints of Japan.