Survey Trip to Japan

Last week we got back from our survey trip to Japan! We had a great trip and were spoiled by the cool Fall weather. With Japan being one of the most unreached Asian nations in the 10/40 window, and with the Japanese people being the second largest unreached people group in the world, the nation of Japan has long been on our hearts as a possible destination for future church planting.  

In Shinsaibashi, one of the most popular areas of Tokyo.

Shinsaibashi is one of the most popular areas of Tokyo.

See more pictures from our trip here: Japan Pictures Part 1 and Japan Pictures Part 2

Over our trip we were able to visit a few different cities. We wanted to see what ways God is currently at work among the people of Japan and what kind of possibilities God might have in store for us there in the future. Achieving this goal was not an easy task especially on a short time table so on our trip we tried to visit with local church leaders and to visit areas of Japan where church planting could be a possibility.  

The Japanese rail system is the most advanced in the world and made our trip a whole lot easier!

The Japanese rail system is the most advanced in the world and made our trip a whole lot easier!

After a one night stay in Tokyo (the nation’s capital) we jumped on a train to Mito (Ibaraki Prefecture). The stretch between Tokyo and Ibaraki has been nicknamed the Bible Belt of Japan since it is where there is the highest concentration of congregations. The number of churches is still very small, but with the church there being strong, it was a great place to go visit with local leaders.

Fun at the park in Mito!

Fun at the park in Mito!

We were able to spend some time with members of the Mito Church of Christ. They have a vibrant group of young people there. The church does outreach towards the Ibaraki Christian University and the Saturday night when we arrived they had a big bonfire on the beach. It was fun meeting people and enjoying the cool weather by the fire. We even got to enjoy some S’mores! On Sunday we were encouraged by our time with the church. We spent time in the afternoon hanging out with a few Christians at a park and enjoying the lovely day together! Later that night we went out to coffee with Joel Osborne who has been a missionary in Japan for 12 years now. We were able to pick his brain about all things missions and Christian in Japan. We’re super thankful for the time he gave us, and are excited about all that they are doing in Mito.

Coffee with Joel.

Coffee with Joel.

Leaving Mito, we hopped back on the train to travel to another small town in the same prefecture called Tsuchuria to visit with Bryan and Minako Snow. Brian and Minako are both old friends of Gary’s that he first met during his AIM training in Lubbock in 2004. Minako went to school at Ibaraki Christian and became a Christian during her time there. Over the past several years Minako has been our primary contact as we’ve been researching Japan. It was great being able to spend time with them. Their kids were super cute and while we were there Minako made an some amazing traditional local Japanese food for us! We loved our little visit with their sweet family!

Enjoyed visiting the Snows in their home.

Enjoyed visiting with the Snows in their home.

Our next stop was Kyoto! Being the historical and cultural center of Japan, things in Kyoto are much slower and more traditional than in Tokyo. We loved experiencing it’s rich culture and taking in all of the beauty there. It was Interesting visiting the temples in Kyoto and seeing the differences between the Japanese Buddhism (Zen / Shinto) and Thai (Theravada) Buddhism. We noticed how much less religious and ceremonial the Japanese were in their worship than the Thai Buddhist.


The final leg of our trip was spent in the Osaka area. We’ve been most curious about this region of Japan since it’s said that the people there are more laid back and open to new ideas and change than in the east. The people of Osaka have a long history of going against the grain of Tokyo and even speak their own Kansai dialect.

Todaiji Temple in Nara.

Todaiji Temple in Nara.

We spent a couple of days in the suburb of Nara. We had a really hard time finding hotels in Osaka since that weekend there were two home games of the much beloved Osaka Tigers baseball team. So while there we ended up staying at an Airbnb bed-and-breakfast run by two American twin sisters who grew up in Japan. We really saw it, in the long run, as God’s leading since we had such great time in the Nara region and with these cool sisters at their cute mountain home.

With our hosts Johnna and Reylia!

With our hosts Johnna and Reylia!

We really enjoyed the time we had with the church in Osaka on Sunday. The church we met with has been an active part of the clean up efforts in Ishinomaki from the 2011 tsunami. We’ve followed their efforts from that time and have prayed many times for their work with the Japanese people. It was great to finally meet some of their group! On Monday we began our very long journey back to Bangkok. We had a 61/2 hour flight from Japan to Malaysia and then an overnight layover in the airport in KL for 71/2 hours. Then continuing on another 2 hours to Bangkok. Upon landing we were immediately greeted by Bangkok’s infamous heat, traffic and crowds of people. It’s strange to think how big Bangkok still seemed after having been in Tokyo the largest city in the world.

With the church in Osaka.

With the church in Osaka.

Please continue to keep our ministries here in Thailand in your prayers and our future in missions as well. Over the next year we will be developing our next steps for church planting here in Asia. Pray that God gives us wisdom and discernment as we consider our long term field location for church planting. It’s heavy on our hearts right now, but we’re excited about how God will use us to further His kingdom in Asia!


4 Responses to Survey Trip to Japan

  1. Michelle says:

    M&g, your report was so well- written and interesting! You are in my thoughts daily… (that happens when you put someone’s face on your fridge!). Love you both!

  2. Steve Burns says:

    It was great to read about your trip and see all your photos. Praying for your current work and your future plans, too!

  3. Doreen Waldbieser says:

    Hi Gary and Michelle!
    I always enjoy reading your email updates! And I pray over you via all that you share.
    I am noticing that your pictures contain young people. Are you just spending time with that age group, or are the churches you visit truly having success at primarily reaching young people? I ask because, as you know, the churches in the US are having trouble reaching the 18-29 year old age group.
    Many continued blessings to you both, and to those you minister!
    – Doreen

  4. Papa says:

    you make it sound so exciting in Japan . The last city sounds laid back and sounds like you guys. Just wish I was younger so I could be a part of your wonderful future for God.. Praying that God will lead you to his right field for you. You are two special people who are truly dedicated to serving God and Meme and I are so very proud of you. God bless and know that He will lead you to where you are most needed. Love you both. Meme & Papa

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