This fall, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada will visit the Anglican Church in Japan for the first time, continuing a historic relationship that began with arrival in 1888 of the first Canadian Anglican missionary in Nagoya.
At the invitation of Bishop Peter Ichiro Shibusawa of the diocese of Chubu, Archbishop Fred Hiltz will attend the 100th anniversary of the Chubu diocese, located in central Japan. The diocese was established by the Canadian Anglican Missionary Society in 1911.
During the Oct. 1 to 9 visit, Hiltz will meet with Archbishop Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, the primate of Japan, and learn more about the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK or the Anglican/Episcopal Church in Japan), its ministries, and the important ties that bind Japanese and Canadian Anglicans.
Established in 1859, the NSKK became an official province of the Anglican Communion in 1930, and is the third largest denomination in Japan, where Christians are a minority and Buddhism and Shintoism are the major religions. The Japanese Anglican population of 57,000 is spread out across 315 parishes in 11 dioceses.
“There are wonderful historic connections between Canada and Japan,” said Hiltz, adding that, “Canadians played a significant part in the development of the Christian church in Japan. My hope for the visit is to listen, learn and share with the people of Japan our partnership in the gospel that we share.”
Hiltz noted that 50 years ago, in 1962, then Canadian primate Archbishop Howard Clark embarked on a similar visit by attending the diocese’s 50th anniversary celebration as part of a three-week visit to Japan. And there are many other connections between the two countries.
The first missionary sent by the Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada was the Rev. John Cooper Robinson, from Wycliffe College in Toronto, who arrived in 1888 and worked in the Aichi and Gifu areas.
In addition, the first bishop of the diocese of Chubu was Canadian. The Most Rev. Heber James Hamilton travelled as a missionary to Japan in 1892, and became diocesan bishop in 1912. Hamilton’s episcopacy was “an especially golden age for activities of the Mission Society,” according to a briefing paper provided by the diocese.
Under Hamilton’s leadership the Mission Society founded a school for the blind in the city of Gifu, and in 1932, a tuberculosis sanatorium (now the New Life General Hospital) in the town of Obuse. Hiltz is scheduled to visit both institutions, and at the New Life Hospital chapel, he will take part in the 80th anniversary service.
Hiltz’ nine-day journey, however, begins with a trip to Sendai, where he will spend a day moving through the area ravaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. More than 10,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by the disaster that hit northeastern Japan.
From there, Hiltz will travel to Karuizawa, a district in Nagano, to visit the Shaw Memorial Chapel and say prayers at the graves of some Canadian missionaries who built summer houses there more than a century ago. While in Nagano, Hiltz will visit the church founded by the Canadian missionary, Rev. John Gage Waller, who arrived in Japan in 1890 and built a missionary base in the Shinyetsu region. Waller, who was the second Canadian Anglican missionary to arrive in Japan, left in 1940.
Hiltz will also travel to Nagoya, where he will attend a service at St. Matthew’s Anglican Cathedral, which was built in part with a bequest made to the Canadian church’s Missionary Society by a Canadian Anglican, Ethel B. Langton.
The Women’s Auxiliary of the Church of England in Canada (as the Anglican Church of Canada was known) sent many Anglican women as missionaries, according to A. Hamish Ion in his book, The Cross and the Rising Sun. The first Canadian Anglican woman missionary, J. Smith, arrived in 1890.
While in Nagoya, Hiltz will visit St. Mary’s College for kindergarten teachers, founded by Canadian missionary, Mrs. Margaret Young, and the Nagoya Youth Centre, founded in the 1950s by Canadian missionaries. Young started the college to train kindergarten teachers in 1898; today, it has about 450 students.
A visit is also being planned to the Kani Mission for Filipino Migrant workers and the Gifu Associa Center for the visually impaired, which was founded in 1894 by Canadian missionary, A.F. Chappell.