July 22, 2015
by Yuya Fukuda
If you walk a few minutes from the Kyoto Imperial Palace, you will be able to see a mint green pretty church in the middle of local residential area. This building is The Holy Annunciation Cathedral in Kyoto of The Orthodox Church in Japan.
On the 10th of 1903, this Church was built. At that time, this church imported many iconostasis. For example, St. appliance, Chandelier, chandelle stands and carpets from Russia. Nowadays, those important things are not exist in other orthodox churches in Japan, and even in Russia, many of those things were lost after the Russian revolution.
During the Russo-Japanese war, this church had a difficult time, but after the war, they solaced Russian prisoners of war. When they returned to Russia, they offered 2 Icons to this church. At the end of the World War II, this church faced the danger of demolition. But immediately after this decision, the war finished, and the church was saved from the danger of demolition. Though twice restorations, in 1987 and in 1999, the original building still exists. In 1986, this church was designated a cultural property of Kyoto city.
The building was designed by Shigemitsu Matsumuro. This Church is one of the oldest Byzantine Architecture Orthodox Church in existence in Japan. The total area of the building is 21,778m, in addition to that, the dimensions are: 1) Depth 27,21m 2) width 15m 3) height 22,3m. The unique part about this building is the wooden copper roofing.
Our first contact with the Orthodox Church was in 1861. It was brought by St. Nicholas of Japan (baptised as Ivan Domitrievich Kasatkin). St, Nicholas was sent as a presbyter to a chapel of the Russian consulate in Hakodate, Hokkaido.
His first converts in Japan were the retainers of the Sendai Domain. For that reason, there are many Orthodox churches in Tohoku region. In 1891 St. Nicholas founded a cathedral church in Kanda, Tokyo. This Tokyo Resurrection Cathedral is known as Nikorai-do today. Japanese Orthodox Churches got over very difficulties, such as Russo-Japanese war, the Great Kanto earthquake, the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Fifteen Years War(1930-1945), which was part of World War II. In 1970, Orthodox Church in Japan became an Autonomous church of Eastern Orthodoxy under the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church.
On the 5th of July, I visited this Church, and joined in its Divine Liturgy for the first time. It was my first time to visit a church or worship. At first, I was surprised at its simplicity. I thought churches were more gorgeous, like Catholic churches with stained glass windows. In this church, there were no frescos on the ceiling, or statues. In spite of its simplicity, I felt the holiness from the many icons, hymns and the sounds of the bell. And through the worship, I found that this church is not only a legacy, it is still used today among local Japanese, Russians and other foreigners from orthodox countries. I also felt that these Orthodox Churches are a centre for the Slavic community in Japan. In the church, they think about their home, and they receive peace of mind in the far away and foreign country of Japan.
Address; 6-283, 2-Jo Agaru, Yanagino-banba, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto city