I first came to Osaka International Church in 2001. I was heartbroken, having moved halfway across the world, but determined to make a new start. When I was at NTT Docomo, I was served by a young English Japanese lady from London called Mariko, whose name meant the bonds that hold for a thousand miles, and soon she invited me to visit Osaka International Church. It was like we were meant to meet.
Sometimes when I am staying a hotel, I wonder why they have a listing of nearby churches in their directory, or why they have Gideon bibles in the rooms. At the same time, when you are away from your familiar environment, you pause and reflect about life and your place in this immense universe. In the film Dearest (anata e in Japanese), Ken is on a road trip after losing the love of his life. Like a weaver’s shuttle, he knits his disparate contacts into a piercingly close community. One of the people at a road stop shares with him a prose about the difference between travelers and drifters. Travelers have a destination, and part of the joy of traveling is knowing that you have a home to go to. Having a home gives you solace in the storms of life. I am reminded of this metaphor when I am at the Osaka International Church.
This church has a funny way of welcoming you. They get you to do stuff. Soon I was telling my life story and meeting friends who were teaching the free English Class or Sunday School. To me, a good sign of knowing when you are accepted by a new family is when they treat you as one of their own. When you start cooking Christmas Dinner and washing the dishes, you know that you are no longer “them”, but “us”. I have made many friends from here, and was privileged to be invited to my first Sumo game and Cherry Blossom viewing (hanami) in Japan with my friends here.
Being an international Church, there are people from Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Japan, New Zealand Nigeria, Philippines, Taiwan and the United States. It was a great way to meet people in an authentic, natural environment. Whether you are an expatriate, short term visitor, someone drifting through or someone who calls Osaka home, this church has a place for you. Most people can speak some English, which made it easy to chat, but it also meant that I didn’t learn much Japanese. Yes, the services are usually packed, with up to 80 people, but don’t feel shy, go up to someone and say hi or konnichiwa. On Sundays they have church services at 10 am.
The Osaka International Church is located in the 1st floor of the Osaka Christian Center. It is a new building from 2005, with good acoustics and comfortable seating. It is approximately a 5 minute walk from Tamatsukuri subway station and 10 minute walk from JR Tamatsukuri, on the Eastern part of the Osaka Loop line, Osaka’s equivalent to Tokyo’s Yamanote circle line. So whether you are coming from Namba, Umeda or Tennoji, it should not take more than 15 minutes to get to Tamatsukuri. Don’t look for the church steeples or stained glass windows, as the building has a modern box like appearance. The light wood paneling inside the meeting hall has a warm and comfortable feel. There are also meeting and function rooms available for hire, and strangers who have met each other at this Church have gone on to get married here.
It is reassuring to know I have a home to go to whenever I pass by in Osaka, but the hardest part is saying good bye. In Japanese, farewell or good bye is loosely translated as the word “Sayonara”, though that does not capture its full meaning. The word Sayonara literally means “if this must be it, then so it must be.” It reflects the sentiment of the longing pain of having to part ways.