A love for Dostoevsky and modern literature initially brought Rev. Stephen Keiichi Uchida, 50, to the Orthodox Church in Japan, which is under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. After completing seminary in Tokyo, he served as the leader of three churches in eastern Hokkaido. Amid the pandemic and war with Ukraine, Uchida has led the community of Orthodox Christians, whose history traces back to the 1860s.
1. Outside of Shinto and Buddhism, other religions in Japan make up a small minority. How did you encounter the Orthodox Church in Japan? I was born in Saitama and grew up in a Buddhist household. After high school, I attended university and studied modern literature. Christian themes are prevalent in modern literature; after studying Dostoevsky, I learned more about the Orthodox Church and became interested in its beliefs. When I turned 23, I became a believer and took the name Stephen. At that time, I did not intend to become a priest.
2. How did you become a priest? After university, I worked as an editor but unfortunately lost my job due to cutbacks. I volunteered as an acolyte (altar server) for my church and received an offer for part-time work as a clerk at the Holy Resurrection Cathedral, in Chiyoda Ward in Tokyo. I answered phones, consulted and worked with computers for six months. Eventually a priest convinced me to enter the seminary. I was 29 years old.