“Health for Every Day! A 10-minute supplement for your mind and body! This health message is for you and your loved ones.”
So begins an Adventist health radio program every morning, Monday through Friday, that is being heard by many non-Christian Japanese in the capital city of Tokyo. It is the first time in the history of the Japan Union Conference (JUC) church region that a church-operated radio program is making inroads into Japanese homes and offices.
Only once before, in 1952, did the Adventist Church have a radio presence in Japan, explained JUC assistant health director Atsushi Yamamuro. The Voice of Prophecy aired a program through Radio Tokyo (now TBS) to reach people who were interested in spiritual topics. This time, however, the goal is to engage listeners who are interested in health, which many Japanese are.
Off to a Rough Start
In March 2017, Adventist World Radio planned radio broadcasting in preparation for the Total Member Involvement (TMI) evangelistic meetings in the Philippines. Its success moved leaders to use the same strategy for the TMI evangelistic meetings planned for this month in Japan. In Japan, however, radio stations are strict about broadcasting programs with religious content. Leaders had challenges from the start.
First, Tokyo FM, which is listed among the top five most popular FM radio stations in the Tokyo area, was contacted. “Despite its high broadcasting price, we knew that this station would reach a large percentage of the population,” said Yamamuro. “What we did not know was that, even though the focus of our programs is health, just the mere mention of our church or the Adventist Hospital as the sponsor was enough to make the station flatly refuse any negotiation with us. We were back to square one.”
After several attempts with major FM and AM stations, leaders continued to hit dead ends. The only station that did not mind our church connection would not allow advertisements or announcements for health seminars.
“We knew God wanted us to reach out, but somehow the direction we were trying to go was not in his will,” said Yamamuro.
An Opening at Last
A positive development occurred as leaders realized that they had been thinking about how to promote a health program to radio stations. “Our focus had somehow become how to reach radio stations, but it was supposed to be to how to reach people! So, our prayer changed,” confessed Yamamuro. “Instead of asking for our desires to be fulfilled, we asked for God’s will to be done.”
“What do we have in our hand?” church leaders asked.
Yamamuro explained, “We already had a small radio program using Radio NIKKEI shortwave since 2000. We did not think people listen to shortwave radio, but shortwave can cover the entire area of Japan. After several meetings and lots of prayers, we were impressed to try this short-wave radio station.”
When Radio NIKKEI was contacted, the door swung wide open. “Radio NIKKEI said that using the name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a sponsor was no problem,” shared Yamamuro. “It was okay to announce our health seminars. They created a website page for our program for free. They even put an advertisement in their newspaper for free. And the cost of broadcasting was significantly lower than the other stations. When we sent our sample program to them, they accepted our program within two weeks, and in another two weeks, our radio program was ready to go on air.”
Rippling Effects Beyond Tokyo
The program was launched in November 2017. Two months later, seven community FM stations in Tokyo began broadcasting the Church’s health radio program as well. Since the first broadcast in November 2017, the listening audience on NIKKEI’s website has grown to more than 30,000, not counting the additional community FM stations in Tokyo. “We have no idea how many are following the program,” said Yamamuro.
Last month, leaders received a report from a church member in Osaka, a city about 310 miles (500 km) south of Tokyo. One day, while she was outside cleaning her front yard, her elderly neighbor came over to talk to her. He was so excited about a health radio program that he had been listening to, and he wanted to share some of the wonderful health tips with her. He said that he listens to the business stock market information on Radio NIKKEI and had started hearing this health program too. The more he listened, the more he wanted to share the health tips with someone. When he discovered that the church member knew the program hosts personally, he was even more excited. The church member invited him to come to church with her, and he has been coming ever since.
“Who would have thought that there were listeners in Osaka?” said Yamamuro. “Since our target was primarily the Tokyo area, we find this story very surprising.”
Leaders said it is hard to find out exactly how many are listening to the program, but God knows those who are seeking. “We just need to trust God, who is faithful. Please keep this program in your prayers!” they said.