日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【April 2019 No.402】Atami Church’s 100 Years of Witness and Ministry


As Atami Church celebrates its centennial anniversary year, the current pastor shares its history and present ministry, and a long-time member remembers its nurturing role in his own life.

A Church Built in a Resort Area

by Noguchi Kei, pastor

                                       Atami Church, Tokai District

The Atami Church, located on the Izu Penninsula, is believed to have begun as a house meeting at the home of Morimura Ichizaemon, an entrepreneur who was a Christian. In 1919 the location was changed, and it was formally established as Japan Christian Alliance Association (Nihon Domei Kirisuto Kyokai) Atami Church. In 1941, it was incorporated within the Kyodan, and when several of the former Alliance churches withdrew after World War II, Atami Church decided to remain in the Kyodan, as it is today.

Over this period of 100 years, Atami Church has survived several trying periods, such as the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923), World War II, and the Great Atami Fire (1950), while continuing to shine the Gospel light. Atami (meaning “hot ocean”) is a rural hot springs area that rode on the wave of economic growth after World War II and was transformed into a town of buildings standing in a row, flourishing as a tourist area. But in the 1990s, it was adversely affected by the collapse of the bubble economy and other factors.

At present, Atami is a small town with a population of 37,000 people. The trend is toward a decrease in population, with signs of few births and an aging society. There are very few colleges in the area, and since there is limited work outside of tourism and service occupations, many young people are leaving for Tokyo or other large cities. The present condition of the town also directly impacts the vitality of Atami Church. Due to the aging of its members, every year there is a decrease in the number of believers who frequently attend church. And since this is a tourist area, believers cannot take off work on Sunday, so many are unable to observe Sunday worship.

However, the resurgence of activity in Atami in recent years is a very hopeful sign. Tourism has revived in the shopping area where there were many closed stores, and with the restoration of the town’s business condition, tourists and newcomers to the town are attending worship frequently. The baptism of four persons at Christmas in 2017 and one person at Christmas in 2018 were great blessings for us. We have done nothing special. We have only spoken the Word in a slow but sure way, observed worship services, and entrusted everything else to God. I think the seed sown, after the passing of many years, now at last has borne fruit.

The people of Izu Peninsula have been raised in a scenic region. On the one hand, they are gentle and affectionate, and on the other hand, they love freedom and have a thriving spirit of independence. Enrolled together as members at Atami Church are many who were reared in Atami as well as more recent arrivals from Tokyo and elsewhere. To become one in heart, believers with different personal histories, personalities, and church backgrounds have made the Word of Jesus Christ their foundation and are intentionally developing a worship-centered corporate body structure.

The year 2019 is the 100th anniversary of our church’s establishment, and in January we held a founding celebration worship service. The sanctuary was built 20 years ago and now needs repair. For a small church, we are fortunate to have a splendid sanctuary. Repairs are not an easy thing, but as a witness to our faith, we plan to tackle a “2020-and-beyond” goal. (Tr. RT)



熱海教会牧師 野口 敬(Noguchi Kei)






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The Sown Seed

by Fujima Takao, member

                                      Atami Church, Tokai District

Now 87 years old, I am healthy and continue to attend worship services every week and do various church jobs. However, for a long time my life of faith was one of continual twists and turns.

I remember going to Sunday school sometime before World War II, but when I became a fourth grader, education became militaristic. The dream boys had of the future was to become an army general. After the war, the church gate that had been locked was opened once again. Many young people seeking culture with a foreign fragrance gathered at the church, and I myself was also among them.

Mukoyama Jisuke, Atami Church’s pastor at the end of the war, had not yet returned from the war-front, and every Sunday, Pastor Matsumoto Hiroshi of Ito Church preached at Ito Church in the morning, Atami Church in the afternoon, and Usami Church for evening worship. I went to church half-heartedly, attending worship services while hoping that the sermon wouldn't be long. One day, while surrounded by other young people, the subject of baptism was raised. Not even understanding what it was, I thought, “Well, if we all receive it…,” and was baptized together with a group of five or six persons. When the service was over, members of the church said “Congratulations” and gave words of blessing. I still was not understanding this very well, but when we went to the parsonage on the second floor and I saw that a meal had been prepared, at last the meaning of “congratulations” became real. (At that time there was little rice to eat each day, and it was distributed according to a rationing system.)

Atami is a town of hot springs and rest and was not an object of B29 bombing; we only experienced a few times the deafening roar of the Grumman F6F Hellcat planes on strafing runs. But following the war, in 1950, the central part of the town was almost totally burned by a great fire. Atami Church was also in danger, and as we prayed a parting prayer at the church, thinking the church would soon be burned, a fire truck from another town rushed in, and it was saved. After graduation from high school, I became a salaried
worker for a short time, but as being “self-employed” had become a trend in Japanese society, I dared to begin my own business.

The life of faith for me has been like a single thin stake driven into the current of a river, and every day like constantly fighting the current. Isn’t what I am today the product of the Sunday school of my boyhood, and before that the single seed sown in the church kindergarten, being nurtured over a long period of time in the midst of weeds, having come into bud?

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them…..” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

(Tr. RT)


熱海教会員 藤間孝夫




 熱海の町は温泉と静養の町なので、B29の空爆対象ではなくグラマン戦闘機(The Grumman F6F Hellcat)の雷のような轟音で機上掃射が数回あっただけでしたが、戦後の昭和25(1950)年に大火で町の中心部がほとんど焼けました。熱海教会も危険となり、もはやこれまでと会堂でお別れの祈りをしていた時に、よその町から応援に駆け付けた一台の消防車によって類焼は逃れたのでした。私は、学校を卒業後しばらくサラリーマンになりましたが、世の中に“脱サラ”の掛け声が広がり、思い切って事業を始めました。


(東海教区報No. 167, 18.11.2)

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