Yamagata-ken sites山形県の場所

Sakata, Tsuruoka, Yamagata, Yonezawa


Sakata (now closed)

Sakata is a port city of over 100,000 people located where the Mogami river flows to the Sea of Japan, on the same Shōnai plain as Tsuruoka. A branch in Sakata was first opened in 1971 during the days of Japan East Mission. In 2002, after a 30-year struggle to nuture a congregation, Sakata's branch was merged into Tsuruoka's, which is 20-30 minutes away by car or train. The idea behind the 2002 closure was that one strong branch would result from two smaller branches. Sakata's branch was reopened in 2017 during then President Sekiguchi's campaign to (re)open new missionary locations. Some time after the mission split in 2019, perhaps in conjunction with the pandemic that hit in 2020, Sakata was once again closed and members who live in that area now attend church in Tsuruoka.  

Historic Sakata

Aioi-chou 1-6-61 was the narrow street site near the eki (train station) for Sakata's combined church and missionary quarters through most of the 1970s.
In April 1977, the church/elders quarters relocated to this house behind the eki in Asahi Shin Machi.  The elders built a tarp-lined plywood font in the carport, according to Daniel Young, who served there then and provided the move-in date (thanks!). 
In the 1990s and up until the branch closing in 2002, meetings were being held at this rented building near the bypass road, about a 15-minute walk on the back side of the eki, in the Kitashinbashi neighborhood.

There may have been other interim meetinghouses.


Tsuruoka and Sakata are similar sized cities in the Shounai-plain that is famous for rice production. Sakata is a port and industrial city while Tsuruoka has more tech-industry. Being on the 'back side' of Japan, in my observation, the recession that began in 2008 appears to have taken a larger toll on the economy here than in cities elsewhere in the mission.  

Tsuruoka was established as a branch in early 1975.  As noted above, after the Sakata congregation was merged into Tsuruoka's in 2002, one stronger branch resulted from the two smaller branches. 

By 2007 this custom-built rented building was moved into. The landlord, with whom missionaries had developed a strong friendship, agreed to build the building on land he owned for the church to rent. (If you are one of the missionaries from this era and are willing to share details about this relationship that Tsuruoka members talk about with a sense of honor and pride, please give us some details using a 'Contact Us' entry.) Branch President Sugawara's ultimate goal is for a church-built building, which will require higher attendance.  The street address is Nishishinsai-machi 3-32 (map)(street view), and is about 25 minutes walk from the eki, just a few blocks off the main drag that goes west out of town. (Map shows both this and the previous rented building that is just a block or two away, described below)

Historic Tsuruoka

Tsuruoka's first church/missionary quarters--established in January 1975 at Kirizoe 5-12. Yep, it was just a "big," fairly new house out in the boonies (on the East side of town between two rivers), but it seemed cozy and modern/new back then. On recent visits, I learned the elders now live in an apartment near here. Guuzen! By the end of 1976, church/elders' quarters were moved to Niigata-machi 18-24.

This rented building in the same Nishishinsai-machi neighborhood served as Tsuruoka's meetinghouse from the 1990s until the new building above was completed in 2008. The map link above from the current building's location shows the proximity.




The first branch in Yamagata opened in 1950 during the days of Japanese Mission that was administered from Hawaii after World War II. Yamagata branch was made a ward in the late 1980s and is part of the Sendai Stake. Sendai is about two hours by train.

Yamagata is the largest city in the prefecture (population 255,000) and is located in a high mountain plain. The metropolitan area is populous enough that over the years, missionaries have also lived in the Yamagata suburbs of Chitose and Tendo. In October 2010, the congregation in Yamagata commemorated 60 years of existence with special celebrations. I'm soliciting for a report and pictures for inclusion here.

Yamagata's obakeyashiki hospital (described below) was bulldozed to make way for the new Yamagata building, completed in September 1979. This picture was taken in May 2000. The building is located at Nanokamachi 4-12-20, (map) (street viewwhere an LDS meetinghouse has been found since 1963.

Historic Yamagata

A old dilapidated hospital was home to both church and missionary quarters dating back to 1963. Here's an interesting history by L. Dwight Pinnock, who was serving there when the Church purchased the land and missionaries 'fixed up' the building. Even into the mid-1970s when I served, it had a lot of scary, dusty, web-filled rooms and corridors and was often referred to as an "obakeyashiki" (haunted house).
Church archives tell us that missionaries first worked in Yamagata in September 1950, with two elders commuting from Sendai. One month later, starting in October 1950, missionaries were stationed in Yamagata on a permanent basis.

The church purchased the land and the building early on for a future chapel, which over 16 years later was finally built and dedicated. This picture is taken from roughly the same angle as the hospital shot above. Finishing touches were still being applied in this August 1979 pre-dedication picture.


The branch in Yonezawa was first opened in October 1975, a little more than one year after the formation of the Sendai Mission.

Yonezawa's current rented church building is located at least 25 minutes walking distance from the eki (train station) at Rinsenji 1-2-104 (map) (street view). The street is fairly well traveled. Yonezawa's population is less than 100,000. In the late 2000s when missionary counts dwindled, the missionary apartment in Yonezawa was closed but missionaries from Yamagata visited the city and attended church meetings at the branch on a rotating basis. In 2011 a missionary couple was assigned to the branch, and in the Spring of 2012, elders replaced them.

Historic Yonezawa

Missionaries were first assigned to Yonezawa in October 1975. At the end of 1976, the meetinghouse was located at Oomachi 2-3-32. If anyone has historical pictures of earlier branch locations, please Contact Us.

Here's a picture taken in the early 2000s.  Modifications to make the building look less like a convenience store were made in 2016. 

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