St. Nicholas of Japan



  1. Students should be able to name Nicholas as the evangelizer of Japan.
  2. Students should know a bit about the Japanese culture and language.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. Tell the story of St. Nicholas of Japan:

John Kasatkin was born almost 200 years ago in the land of Russia. John’s mother died when he was only five years old. John and his father were very poor, but John was smart and studied hard in school. In school, John heard about many lands far away – China and Japan. He wanted to tell the people of these lands about Jesus.

Then one day a note was put up on the bulletin at John’s school. The Russians in Japan were asking for a priest. John had finished his studies to be a priest. He first became a monk, and was given the name, Nicholas. Then he was ordained a priest. He was ready to go to Japan.

But, the samurai who ruled Japan hated all foreigners! They had their Shinto religion and did not want anyone talking about Jesus. One samurai appeared before Nicholas, angry at very thought that foreigners would come to change their beliefs. But Nicholas showed such love, the man could not hate him. Nicholas spent several years waiting, but while he waited he learned the language and customs of the Japanese people. Officially, Nicholas taught Russian to Japan’s future ministers and teachers. But, a few came to him in secret and learned about the Christian faith. Finally, Takuma Sawabe, the angry samurai, became Fr. Nicholas’s first convert. Many of these early believers including Sawabe were thrown in prison, just as the Romans had the earlier Christians. Not one of these Japanese Christians denied his faith.

Finally, the rulers allowed the Christian faith. Nicholas could print Bibles in the Japanese language and open churches and teach priests. Foreigners were still not allowed in most parts of Japan, but these new Japanese priests could tell the people all over the country about Jesus. Soon there were hundreds of Christians all over Japan. Nicholas opened schools, both for boys and girls. This was new for the Japanese; girls usually did not go to school.  

Nicholas became the first bishop of Japan. He built the beautiful Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Tokyo. He traveled all over Japan visiting Churches. He loved the Japanese people, so much so, that he stayed in Japan during the Russian-Japanese war, even though many of the Japanese rulers thought he was a spy! Nicholas died at the age of 76 in his beloved Japan and is called “Equal to the Apostles”.


  1. Talk a bit about Japanese culture: This time, act it out. Have the children take off their shoes and line them up at the door. Bring some small blankets they can lie down on and roll up along the walls of the classroom. Teach a few words of Japanese, bowing a bit when saying “Ko-nee-chee-wah”, or “Hello”. Have a cup of tea, sitting on the floor, bowing to each other. Talk about the importance of learning other people’s ways, which shows you respect their customs. This is what Nicholas did in Japan; he learned the Japanese language, good Japanese manners, ate Japanese food, and lived in a Japanese home. He was loved for this by the Japanese people.


  1. Play a learning game: The Big Step – Line the students up against the far wall of the classroom, with the teacher at the other end. Ask a question from today’s lesson of each student in turn. If he can answer the question correctly, he can take one step toward the teacher. If not, the question goes to the next student. First student to reach the teacher is the winner. Some questions:


What was the birth name of St. Nicholas of Japan?

Where was he born?

What was the religion of Japan?

Who was Nicholas’s first convert?

What were the rulers and priests of the Japanese people called?

Who was the first bishop of Japan?

What was the first cathedral built in Japan called?

How old was St. Nicholas when he died?

Nicholas is called “Equal to Whom”?


  1. Make a Japanese pearl necklace: Japan is known for its pearl divers. Do you know where pearls come from? Use a piece of fishing line for the necklace. Buy a bag of mixed size fake pearls. There is no need to put enough pearls on the line to go all the way around the neck. Use 10-12 pearls per student and make a beautiful necklace arranging them by size. In the end, tie the ends to fit exactly around the neck but able to get over the head; alternatively, you can purchase necklace fasteners and tie one on each end. The knots must be cemented with household cement or something similar; fishing line will otherwise untie itself! The boys can make these for their mothers.


  1. Alternate craft idea: Make an origami dove. Use the pattern on the next page.


  1. Close with prayer: Lord, help me to love other people enough to learn what they like and do things their way.