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KSL’s Shara Park Visits Tokyo Japan Temple, Speaks With Local Church Members

TOKYO — As the Tokyo Olympics wrap up, our KSL team has been able to visit several important religious and cultural sites in Japan, including one that is important to member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Tokyo Japan Temple holds a lot of meaning to the people of Japan, and it’s been closed for quite some time.

KSL’s Shara Park spoke to members who said they’re anxious for it to be open once again.

Sitting above the treetops of Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park, you’ll find the gleaming spire of the Tokyo Japan Temple — a temple sacred to Japanese members of the Latter-day Saint faith.

“It has a long history,” said Ruri Toma. It has great meaning, significance for us.”

The temple was the first built in Asia for the Latter-day Saint Church. It was dedicated in 1980 by the Church’s then President, Spencer W. Kimball.

Kazuko Nibley was there and sang a solo for him.

“Were you nervous?” Shara asked Nibley.

“Yes,” Nibley replied, laughing.

For Nibley, the temple has been a place of enlightenment for its Japanese members.

“Japan is a blessed country, but this gives them the chance to feel and understand what deep and true happiness is,” she said.

But in 2017, the temple closed and underwent an extensive renovation.

“We have the new Annex building and it’s really beautiful,” said Ken Toma, coordinator for the Tokyo Japan Temple rededication and open house. “We didn’t have a big meeting house before.”

One of the biggest changes was made to the exterior of the temple.

Before, members felt it was closed off to the community, but now, beautiful gardens and fountains welcome visitors in.

“Obviously, they want a lot of people to feel free to come to the temple and feel closer to the temple,” said Ken.

On the grounds of the temple, you’ll find two historic pieces of stonework — pre-World War II lanterns that are still used today. 

“This property used to be owned by the Japanese Imperial Family,” said Ken.

Walking the exterior of the temple is all these members can do right now. The temple’s finished, but it’s still closed due to COVID-19.

“We’ve been waiting, waiting to open up, but still, it hasn’t opened yet,” said Ken Toma, coordinator for the Tokyo Temple rededication and open house.

The Japanese members remain faithful, continuing to study and learn.

“It still feels like we’ve got a lid on top, but now, the lid is opening,” said Nibley.

They pray their temple will be rededicated and opened soon.

“For 40 years, we’ve kept and protected and preserved our temple, and now, we’ll be able to go back to our temple,” said Ruri.

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