While it can be relatively easy to celebrate Christmas in Japan with all the seasonal illumination, food options and perhaps a visit from Santa Claus, finding a spiritual option is not always obvious.
However, during the holiday season many churches across the country offer worship services and other kinds of events on and in the run up to Dec. 24 and 25. It’s always a good idea to connect with the churches in advance to see if they have room for drop-ins, but here are some good places to start.
Tokyoites are lucky to have access to a considerably large Christian community in the capital that is used to welcoming newcomers. Tokyo Union Church in the Omotesando area (www.tokyounion.org) will host an open house from 2-4 p.m. on Dec. 25 in addition to Christmas Eve and Day services. Other churches holding services on the weekend include Franciscan Chapel Center in Roppongi (www.franciscanchapelcentertokyo.org), which offers mass in both English and Japanese several times on both days; St. Alban’s Anglican Episcopal Church in Minato Ward (www.saintalbans.jp); St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Chiyoda Ward (www.ignatius.gr.jp/eng), which normally offers services in several languages; St. Paul International Lutheran Church in Chiyoda Ward (www.spilchurchtokyo.org), which will hold a joint Japanese and English candlelight service on Christmas Eve from 7 p.m. and a morning communion service from 9:30 a.m. the following day; Tokyo Baptist Church in the Daikanyama area (www.tokyobaptist.org), which will hold candlelight services on Christmas Eve and Day; and Tokyo Lutheran Church (www.jelctokyo.org/english) in Shinjuku Ward will hold a candlelight service at 8:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve with a Japanese and English service on Christmas Day starting at 10:30 a.m., followed by a Christmas party.
In Yokohama, Christmas services will be held at Yokohama Christ Church (www.yokohamachristchurch.org), which is an English-speaking Anglican-Episcopalian church offering Midnight Mass starting at 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve and a morning service starting at 9:30 a.m. the next day. Sacred Heart Cathedral (www.catholicyamate.org) will hold an English mass at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve and at 9:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.
In Nagoya, Mikokoro International Catholic Center (www.mikokoro.com) will hold an English service at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and services in English and Tagalog on Christmas Day.
For those in the Kansai area, St. Agnes Church in Kyoto (www.nskk.org/kyoto/stagnes) will feature evening services and midnight mass in addition to caroling, while Assembly Kyoto Church (www.kyotoenglishchurch.org) will offer English services on both Christmas Eve and Day. The Minoh International Church (www.minohchurch.org) in Osaka will host a candlelight service on Christmas Eve in addition to a Christmas Day service, and Osaka International Church (www.oicjapan.org) will host holiday services, too.
Up north the International Christian Fellowship Church in Sapporo (www.icfire.com) plans to host Christmas Candle Night on Dec. 23 from 6:30 p.m., which will include performances by the ICF gospel hula dancers, a Christmas band, skits and more. The church will also hold a service on Christmas Day.
In Fukuoka, the Fukuoka International Church (www.fukuokaic.com), a Baptist church that regularly offers bilingual services, will put on a caroling concert at 5:30 p.m. to get people in the mood for the service later on.
During the holiday season, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with preparing for the new year. If you don’t go to church, make sure to give yourself a spiritual break by taking time out for a walk in the park with some holiday tunes in your headphones.