Joge Christian Church

Hello there everyone! This is Mary, back with another entry in my JOGE blog series.
Joge is a small town in northern Hiroshima where the charm of traditional Japanese lifestyle, architecture, and hospitality abounds. It is my hope that by writing English content about Joge, many people will come to know and love this town like I do.

As we are now wrapping up the Christmas season, I thought it an appropriate time to introduce Joge Christian Church, a famous symbol of Joge. My friend Mr. Oue, the church secretary, kindly agreed to show us around, as the church holds a deep and personal significance for him.

The building itself was erected in 1887, not as a church, but as the Sumikura family storehouse. What appears to be a steeple was originally a lookout tower for the watchmen guarding the valuables stored inside.


If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that Joge was a tenryo territory, meaning it was under the direct control of the Shogunate, the rulers of Japan. It was a prosperous town of wealthy bankers and financiers who appreciated and admired the culture of the west. Due to this openness and interest, Joge boasted a healthy and thriving Christian community. (About Joge history>>Joge “tenryou” tourism

Mr. Oue standing inside the iconic lookout tower turned church steeple.

When Mr. Sumikura, one of Joge’s most distinguished landowners, relocated to Tokyo in the 1950s, he sought to sell his storehouse. At the time, Mr. Oue’s father, a Christian minister, visited Joge from a nearby town. He laid eyes on the storehouse and its steeple-like lookout, and thought it would make for the perfect church! When Mr. Oue was four-years-old, he and his family moved to Joge to transform the storehouse into a branch of the United Church of Christ in Japan. His father became Joge’s first pastor.

A room in the church where Mr. Oue lived with his family.

The church is not only his father’s passion project and his faith community—it is also Mr. Oue’s childhood home! He lived here with his eleven other siblings, helping his father with church duties. As we passed through each room, Mr. Oue regaled me with stories suggesting a once bustling Christian community.

Every Sunday Mr. Oue, his siblings, and local kids would attend Sunday school in this chapel. During the annual Christmas pageant, this room was filled to the brim with delighted parents and children.

The beautiful Japanese garden behind Joge Christian Church was also a playground for students attending the church’s kindergarten and the location of the yearly Easter egg hunt. Mr. Oue explained to me that a landscape designer had come all the way from Kyoto to create the garden.


As a Christian myself, I truly enjoyed hearing about and imagining the Joge Christian Church community of years past. Just as Joge’s population has shrunk over the years, the number of congregants has dwindled to seven or eight believers. They gather each Sunday to attend service, pray, and converse. The weekly service is run by a minister from another city, since the community is too small to warrant its own pastor.


Mr. Oue makes the treacherous climb up the church steeple to decorate for Christmas.

Despite these challenges, however, Mr. Oue and the congregants of Joge Christian Church continue to be quite active, using their space and energy to preserve Joge’s history and bring the community together. Each spring, they plan a chapel concert for local folks that draws many spectators. They hang lights and bells in the church steeple for Christmas, brightening up the Joge townscape. Middle school and high school students help maintain the facility, weed the garden, and guide foreign tourists (as many as 30 at a time!) through the building in English.


A passion for handing down the culture, traditions, hospitality, and atmosphere of Joge to future generations is a staple of Joge people, and the believers at Joge Christian Church are unexception.

【Joge Christ Church】


Mary Popeo has lived in Hiroshima Prefecture for four years, three of which she spent in Joge. She is passionate about sharing the magic of the Japanese countryside with people from around the world. Mary currently works at a peace education nonprofit in Hiroshima City, and collaborates with Fuchu City and the Joge Town to plan programs for inbound English-speaking tourists.