Haven of quiet

St Luke's International Hospital, Tokyo:  Old Building

St Luke’s International Hospital, Tokyo: Old Building

When I visited Tokyo I found time to seek out St Andrew’s Cathedral and St Alban’s Church, two flourishing Japanese-Anglican churches with links to Bishop Samuel Heaslett (1875-1947), whose life story I’d discovered in the course of local-history research in Sheffield.

Relatively few buildings in central Tokyo predate the devastating bombing of 1945, but I read that the chapel of St Luke’s International Hospital was “one of the few original Anglican church structures in central Tokyo built prior to the Second World War”, and realised that it was located in Tsukiji, a couple of metro stops from where I was staying.

St Luke’s International Hospital was founded by an American physician and Episcopal missionary, Dr Rudolf Bolling Teusler (1876 – 1934), who began working in Tokyo in 1900.

His first hospital was ruined in the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923 and rebuilt to the designs of the Czech-American architect Antonin Raymond (1888-1976), who had trained with Cass Gilbert, designer of the Gothic Woolworth Building in Manhattan, and with Frank Lloyd Wright.  (After the war Antonin Raymond designed the timber church of St Alban, Shiba-koen, Tokyo.)

The replacement hospital of 1933, now the administration building of the modern St Luke’s, contains the chapel, completed in 1936.

The first floor landing leads into a high, Gothic Revival nave with a raised chancel and, above the entrance, an elaborate organ case, installed in 1988.  The walls are ashlar and there is geometrical stained glass in the east window.  There is a font, pulpit, lectern and choir stalls, and a lamp indicates the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament:  http://hospital.luke.ac.jp/eng/about/chapel/index.html.

Notices forbidding photography were everywhere.  I was content simply to sit there.  It was the only place in Tokyo where I felt any sense of connection with the past.  It also provides, in the words of the hospital website, “quiet space to find comfort and strength in difficult times”.

Another more modern chapel, Teusler Hall, in the adjacent wing has the same sense of peace.  Indeed, the entire place is capacious, unhurried and dignified.  Corridors are embellished with flower arrangements and pieces of art.  Staff and visitors move about decorously.

Christianity is a minority religion in Japan:  its adherents amount to less than 1% of the population.  Nevertheless, St Luke’s carries an effective mission that has grown directly from the work of missionaries a hundred years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *