The Challenges of Church Planting in Tokyo

Drew Cho is starting a new church in Shinagawa, Tokyo and you can help! Let's give $10,000 to New Community Church. 

Ask anyone in Japan, you will find that Japanese people are allergic to any organized religion.


In 1995, there was a major incident that shook the entire nation. Deadly sarin gas was released in multiple train stations in central Tokyo during the morning rush hour leaving 13 dead, and over 6,500 sent to the emergency room. The attack was planned and executed by Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese doomsday cult. 

Ever since, the entire country became very suspicious of all the organized religions. This played a significant role in people trying to stay away from any religious group. When I tell people I am a pastor, I usually get an uneasy look on their face. So, one of the biggest challenges we church planters must overcome before preaching the gospel is to fight off any stereotype people may have against the organized religion.

So for us, church planting is more than just a Sunday gathering or a Bible study or an invitation to join a hip new church. We invest a lot of time building relationships with people in the neighborhood where our church community is being formed. People may not be interested in a new church plant or in Christianity per se, but they are open to developing a friendship with anyone who shows a genuine concern for them.  

Japanese society has a very delicate culture of honne (true feelings) and tatemae (façade) embedded into an every human relationship. When you interact with someone in Japan, what you see on the outside may not necessarily be what is on the inside. Traditionally, one is not expected to express their true feelings in public for the sake of being considerate to others, so it is often liberating for them to interact with someone outside of their culture. Seeing our transparency could be one of the things people may find Christian culture attractive and liberating.