In 1860 the Japanese and Americans, under the diplomatic leadership of
Townsend Harris, proclaimed their Treaty of Amity and Commerce, Article VIII of
which gave foreigners the freedom to practice Christianity (when had been
punishable by death) and to "erect suitable places of worship."
Nine years later the city of Tokyo was opened officially to Westerners, who were
confined to the are of reclaimed land called Tsukiji, now famous as the world's
largest fish market.
By January of 1870, missionaries of various denominations
had begun having Sunday afternoon worship services which they called 'Union
Church services'. Two years later in Tsukiji, the first Tokyo Union Church
building was completed; funds of its construction were donated by diplomats,
missionaries and businessmen. This building served the TUC congregation as
well as Japanese and German-speaking congregations until 1902.
At that time,
Japan finally allowed foreigners to reside outside Tsukiji, and the church moved
out with them. Until 1930 Tokyo Union Church had no fixed home; services
were held in various churches, such as Ginza Methodist Church, before deciding
to buy land for a new church in Toranomon. The 1923 earthquake which devastated
most of Tokyo halted all building plans. After that the TUC congregation
worshipped first in St. Andrews Episcopal Church and then at Aoyama
Gakuin. TUC eventually sold the Toranomon lot and bought the present site
on Omote-Sando. The architect J.Van Wie Bergamini designed the first church
on this site, which was dedicate in 1930.
During World War II, Tokyo Union
Church entrusted the church to a Japanese pastor, Ugo Nakada, a member of the
congregation who struggled throughout the war to keep the church from being
taken over for secular purposes. On May 25, 1945, during a fierce bombing
raid, Tokyo Union Church was hit by a firebomb that completely gutted the
building. By 1947, however, worship services had begun again for the TUC
congregation at Aoyama Gakuin, and in November 1951, the rebuilt church,
restored to the
design, was rededicated.
After the war, the composition and character of the
TUC congregation changed as the foreign community gradually expanded; the
congregation began to include more business and professional people and fewer
missionaries. Up to this point, ordained pastors from among the missionary
community had always volunteered to lead worship services. In 1952, however,
the church decided to call the first full-time pastor for the
In 1979, after almost thirty years of constant use, the church building
on Omote-Sando needed drastic repairs and expansion. The congregation,
after much consideration, decided to tear down and rebuild on the same
site. The new building, designed and built by Nishimatsu Construction Co.,
was dedicated on November 16, 1980. Former members of the church who are
scattered all over the world provided the furnishing for the building.
Union Church is well into its second century of ministry to Christians from many
nationalities, races and denominations. We can celebrate the past and look
forward to the future of this extraordinary family of God.
information on the fascinating history of TUC, please see Robert
Hemphill's A Church for All Seasons, a complete history of TUC.
Unfortunately, this book is now out of print.
Click here for time line of events in the life of
Tokyo Union Church.
Click here to see a snapshot of our Website
circa June 2001!