Yokohama Tenshudo

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The Yokohama Tenshudô, as seen in an old photograph, reproduced on a plaque on the site today
  • Date: 1861/12 (Jan 1862)
  • Japanese: 横浜天主堂 (Yokohama Tenshudou)

The Yokohama Tenshudô was the first Catholic church to be built in Japan following the lifting of the bans on Christianity. Located in the 80-banchi (block) of the Foreign Settlement in Yokohama (today, Yamashita-chô, 80-banchi), the building was dedicated in January 1862 (Bunkyû 1/12). Though officially named Eglise du Sacre-Couer (Church of Sacred Heart), it also bore the characters Tenshudô (lit. "Hall of Heavenly Lord," or "Hall of God") displayed on the building, and so came to be known by that name as well.

The French missionary Girard, sent by the French Missionary Society to be head of the French Catholic religious jurisdiction of Japan, and translator for the Ambassador of France to Japan, secured a loan of land around 1860/6 upon which to built the church. The priest's home was the first section to be built, and was completed by 1860/12. Father Mounciou arrived in Yokohama in 1860/11, and took up residence there, helping to oversee the construction of the rest of the church. Girard came to Yokohama the following month, in 1861/1, and by the end of that year (on the Japanese calendar; January of the next year on the Western calendar) the construction was complete.

The church was relocated in 1906 to Yamate 4-ban, where it was destroyed in the 1923 Great Kantô Earthquake, but was reconstructed, and a Catholic church remains in operation there today. A marker, explanatory plaque, and statue of Jesus was erected in 1962 at the original site of the Tenshudô, today on the edges of Yokohama Chinatown.


  • Plaque at the original site of the Tenshudô, Yokohama Chinatown.