My wife, Denise and I spent about three months carrying the cross in Japan. We rented a car at Narita Airport near Tokyo. An estate car or as some would call it a station wagon. It was our home on the road. We would often put down the back seat and lay out our blankets and make it our bed for the night. The hotels were so expensive and this was a way to cut costs.
I would carry the cross and Denise would drive up the road in about three or four miles in front of me. She would find a place to park and wait for me. She kept our food, water and supplies in the car.
Several times we got very ‘lost’ from each other. The highway would split in different directions and there was no place for her to stop and wait. Often she had to drive for miles to turn around. I would have gone one way and she another. All the road signs were in Japanese and often it was even more confusing as Highway 1 would be Highway 1a or 1b or 1c etc. All we could do when we got lost was she would drive back to the last place where we had parked and I would turn back and carry the cross to the last place we had stopped! Some days we went backward as much as we went forward.
Mt. Fuji, standing in its majestic beauty is the symbol of Japan. It rises from the sea in a cone shape to a towering 12,388 feet. It took me three days climbing up a winding road, a distance of about 32 miles, with a highway up to the fifth stage to a height of about 7500 feet. Denise joined me on foot to do the major climb to the top. Our cross walk in Japan would not be complete without this. God had specifically told me to carry the cross up Mt. Fuji. Denise carried the backpack, I carried the cross up, up, up. The air was getting gradually thinner with less oxygen the higher we got. Mt. Fuji is a dormant volcano with the ground being covered in volcanic boulders and fine ash. The climb gets progressively tougher. There were few Japanese going up but there were two platoons of U.S. Marines from the bases in Japan making the climb. They were climbing a bit faster than us so we had a great witness to them as they would pass. These young men were so kind and often help me up and over a tough place. Denise and I had a plate of rice and curry at a rest camp about half way up. Then we made our final struggle to the summit. Oh, I tell you it was tough. My poor cross was crashing against the huge rocks. We climbed up past snow and the air grew colder, dense clouds swept by us but on this day none engulfed us, nor did it rain. On the final ascent, in the toughest area, a group of six Marines were resting where we stopped. They volunteered to help me get the cross to the top. They said, “All the way with the cross, we’ll raise it up at the top like the flag on Iwo Jima!” They carried the cross with three or four at a time holding it. It exhausted us all but finally we made it. The cross of Jesus was uplifted atop Mt. Fuji! Hallelujah. All these young men gathered around the crater and we posed for photos and had a prayer together. One Marine gave his life to Jesus on the climb up. Another Marine gave his life to Jesus on the way down. Truly this was a tough but glorious walk with the cross. Getting down was difficult also because of the weight of the cross pushing. The ash was slippery and it was difficult to stand. A group of Marines also helped us get the cross down.
Just after nightfall, Denise and I fell into each other arms in joy, tiredness and thanksgiving. A great miracle of healing took place on the mountains…Denise. She has suffered a lot of illness in her life and she was even sick the day before we climbed the mountain. There was just no way she could have made it, but she said in Jesus name, “I’m going to climb that mountain”. The Lord had promised to meet us there in glory. He did, Denise was completely healed and sickness has left her. All glory to God.
We were about to begin the morning walk after sleeping in the car. A little man came up and was watching us. He could speak English and I explained to him about Jesus dying on the cross for him. He said, “Oh yes, my sister is a Christian, they go Amen, Amen!” We had a long talk. He said, “Maybe before I die I believe in Jesus”. He took Denise to his flower stand nearby to meet his wife and they gave her beautiful flowers.
We were led into the Japanese home of a family in Tokyo. Taking
our shoes off at the door we entered a home of love and of Jesus.
Denise had always dreamed of staying in a real Japanese home.
This was it. Our room had a straw floor with sliding doors on two
sides both opening into a garden. We put out bed mats at night.
We were treated as family with food and hospitality for two weeks
as we carried the cross in a big circle around and through Tokyo.
From my diary:
All day we saw people pray to receive Jesus, Japanese, and even some Russians. Some Japanese young people joined us to witness and interpret. We preached, gave out gospel material and shared in central Tokyo. We had interpreters with us all the time in the Tokyo area. We saw many Japanese pray and welcome Jesus to be their Savior and Lord.
One young lady I witnessed to today said, “I was interested in Jesus and went to church but there someone stole my purse. I never went back! I explained that not all people in church are true followers of Jesus. Surely it was not Jesus that stole your purse! She prayed and invited Jesus into her heart.
One businessman was playing golf on a huge Japanese driving range. He saw the cross, Denise and I and he asked her what I was doing. She explained the good news of Jesus and he received Christ as Savior.
We did several outreaches with a well-known Japanese evangelist named Arthur Holland. He is really a fire for Jesus! We also did outreach with a youth evangelistic group called YWAM in the Tokyo area. They were wonderful young people.
We carried the cross through Kyoto and later Yamaguchi, two cities where St. Francis Xavier first preached the gospel in 1551-52.
In Yamaguchi there is a big cross in his memory and a lovely Catholic Church on a hill. Here some of the first Japanese heard of Jesus and were baptized
We arrived in Hiroshima where the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. 80 year old Father Henri Van Boven, a Belgian priest, who was imprisoned in China and was in a Japanese concentration camp for four years, warmly welcomed us. At night, we kept the cross at the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace. Each day we carried the cross in different directions from the Peace Park. We found the people here the most responsive in Japan. We stayed for the anniversary of the atomic blast on August 6th. The world still lives in danger of this horrible weapon. The message of the angels at the birth of Jesus ‘Peace on earth, good will toward men’ still needs to be repeated.
Walking in Japan is very difficult as the traffic is almost always jammed and the roads are narrow. One can’t read the road signs and often different highways use the same number. At one point there were three roads using the number 1. It was very difficult for Denise and I not to lose each other. She usually waits at a major road intersection so we don’t go different directions but in Japan there are almost no places to pull over or to park.
In the coastal areas of Japan it is just like one long city. Tokyo seems to never stop stretching out its metropolitan area. Most days we were in Japan it rained and many times in the mountains there was a dense fog. The cars and trucks would spray the water all over me as they passed. At the end of the day I’d be wet, cold, oily and muddy. The costs of a hotel room are astronomical and were prohibitive to us. So we mostly slept in the car. It was uncomfortable but it had to do. There is almost no place to park except in the parking lot of the Pachinko gambling places located all along the highways. Sometimes we would go to a ‘love’ hotel. It’s usually used for short sexual encounters. They are very nice, clean and rent by the hour. We would get the shortest time allowed, go in with our bag, and get washed and clean. Then we would sleep in the car. The store signs lay low over the street so I must be careful not to hit them. Often people would simply crash into the cross as they walked briskly along the street, more than anywhere in the world, except perhaps in New York.
Restaurants are too expensive for us to eat in so we would buy some canned food in a store or eat sushi in a local Japanese place. Food is very cheap out on the street.
There are a lot of Buddhist Temples but people were always respectful of our faith and witness. The people that prayed with me seemed to make a very deep commitment to Christ. However, family pressure to conform and not be an embarrassment is a strong pressure against a change of faith.
We basically carried the cross from the airport at Narita near Tokyo to Hiroshima with side trips and a huge circle around Tokyo.
We had a wonderful time walking in Japan and can only say with all my heart “God bless Japan!”
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt