Our Lady of Akita Shrine, Akita

Introduction

The “Seitai Hoshikai” (Institute of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist) / Our Lady of Akita Shrine, Akita is located on a hill in the outskirts of Akita, where you find beautiful nature surrounding the convent.

The beauty of nature created by God. The shrine designed in traditional Japanese style. The presence of the praying hospitable sisters. It is a space of prayer where we can leave our busy daily life and open our heart to the silent and holy surroundings.

For us Christians, prayer is the foundation of our daily life, and it is the same for Christian communities. The sisters are always praying there. We can join in their prayer. It is a precious gift to have the Seitai Hoshikai, which is a community of prayer that offers a space for prayer, in the Niigata Diocese.

Our Lady of Akita Shrine, Akita, Japan – Since the statue of Mary miraculously shed tears, many people from both within and outside Japan have visited the Seitai Hoshikai as pilgrims. Those who saw the tears as well as those who come to visit the shrine and pray, follow the example of Holy Mary. They reflect on their lives in accordance with the example of Mary, deepen their faith, and are sent back to their daily life with renewed dedication.

I hope many people will visit the Seitai Hoshikai to pray together. I also pray that there will be people who offer their life as sisters of the Seitai Hoshikai to continue this important mission for the Gospel.

History of Our Lady of Akita Shrine, Akita

The chapel of Seitai Hoshikai, called Our Lady of Akita, was done in a Japanese “irimoya-juso-style” architecture which was built by Japanese temple building carpenters from Urano Domiya Kogei, Takasaki City in Gunma. The reason this church was constructed in this traditional style was to convey to the Japanese people that the Catholic Church is universal and that Jesus Christ is the savior of all people—including the Japanese.

After 7 years of construction, the chapel was dedicated on May 1, 2002 to Mary, Redemptoris Mater, “Mother of the Redeemer.” The statue of Our Lady of Akita is enshrined on the left corridor and the statue of Saint Joseph is on the right side.

Our Lady of Akita

Our Lady of Akita (Japanese: 秋田の聖母マリア) is the Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a wooden statue venerated by faithful Japanese who hold it to be miraculous. The image is known due to the Marian apparitions reported in 1973 by Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa in the remote area of Yuzawadai, an outskirt of Akita, Japan. The messages emphasize prayer (especially recitation of the Holy Rosary) and penance in combination with cryptic visions prophesying sacerdotal persecution and heresy within the Catholic Church.

Our Lady of Akita Shrine, Akita, Japan – The apparitions were unusual in that the weeping statue of the Virgin Mary was broadcast on Japanese national television, and gained further notice with the sudden healing of hearing impairment experienced by Sasagawa after the apparitions. The image also became affiliated with The Lady of All Nations movement, with which the message shares some similarities.

The local ordinary of the convent, John Shojiro Ito, Bishop of Niigata (r. 1962–1985), recognized “the supernatural character of a series of mysterious events concerning the statue of the Holy Mother Mary” and authorized “the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita” within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Niigata in a 1984 pastoral letter.

Apparitions

For several decades, Sasagawa, originally from a Buddhist family, had encountered many health problems. She was born premature and suffered poor health most of her life. She also had a poorly performed appendix operation and was immobile for over a decade. Her health reportedly improved after drinking water from Lourdes while under the care of a Catholic nun. After going totally deaf, she went to live with the nuns near Akita.

In 1973, Sasagawa reported apparitions, as well as stigmata and a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary which was said to have wept on 101 occasions. The nuns at Yuzawadai also reported stigmata on the statue, as well as on the hands of Sasagawa; the stigmata on the statue supposedly appeared before the tears started, and disappeared after the tears.

Sasagawa reported three messages from the Blessed Virgin during 1973, but the statue itself is reported to have continued weeping thereafter. Sasagawa reported that she first heard the statue calling her, and then the first message began.

Messages from the Virgin Mary

Sasagawa claimed to have started receiving the first of the messages from the Virgin Mary on July 6, 1973. Sasagawa described that when this happened, the statue became illuminated as it acknowledged her stigmata and hearing impairment. She was instructed to recite the prayer of the Handmaids of the Eucharist, which the Virgin Mary said would cure her deafness. The other reported messages ask for the praying of the rosary and to pray Acts of Reparation.

The second message includes the following: “Many men in this world afflict the Lord. I desire souls to console Him to soften the anger of the Heavenly Father. I wish, with my Son, for souls who will repair by their suffering and their poverty for the sinners and ingrates.”

The third message was communicated on October 13, 1973. It was claimed that the statue became animated for an extended period and was witnessed by a number of nuns. The third Our Lady of Akita message is:

My dear daughter, listen well to what I have to say to you… As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity… the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead… Each day recite the prayer of the rosary.

With the rosary pray for the Pope, bishops and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres… churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them. With courage, speak to your superior… It is Bishop Ito, who directs your community. You have still something to ask? Today is the last time that I will speak to you in living voice. From now on you will obey the one sent to you and your superior… I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach.

Medical Cures

Sasagawa was admitted to the community of the Sisters of Junshin in Nagasaki. She experienced hearing loss in her left ear years earlier; she experienced hearing loss in her right ear for first time in March 1973 at Myōkō, Niigata.

Sasagawa moved into the convent of the Seitai Hoshikai Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist at Yuzawadai on 12 May 1973. The three messages from the statue were “perceived by the deaf ears of” Sasagawa while she was a novice at the convent.

In October 1974, Sasagawa experienced a sudden improvement in hearing. In March 1975, Sasagawa began to “experience violent headaches” and hearing loss. The diagnoses of two hearing examinations in March 1975 was hearing loss in both ears. Dr. Sawada of the Niigata Rosai Hospital at Jōetsu, Niigata, verified that she was ‘incurably deaf’ and issued documents for her to receive a state subsidy. Dr. Arai of the Eye and Ear Division of the Akita Red Cross Hospital also verified her complete deafness.

In May 1982, Sasagawa experienced a sudden improvement in hearing. In June 1982, Sawada attested that Sasagawa’s hearing was fully restored. According to Yasuda, the hearing improvement noticed during Sasagawa’s 1982 hearing examination was not certified as a “miraculous cure” by the hospital.

On August 4, 1981, a Korean woman with a terminal brain tumor was miraculously cured after friends and relatives prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of Akita. Her name is Teresa Chun Sun Ho. She received visions of Mary related to the Akita events during her recovery, the first while comatose. Her disease was diagnosed and the subsequent cure verified by medical professionals in South Korea. Yasuda wrote that according to Chun and other October 1983 Korean pilgrims, Chun’s cure “had been declared miraculous by Church authorities of Korea”.

Stigmata

Sasagawa “claimed to have had a stigmatic-like experience.” Her left hand developed bleeding marks. Yasuda wrote that in June 1973 “in the center of [Sasagawa’s] palm were two red scratches in the form of a cross” which seemed to have “been engraved in the skin” and began to bleed a few days later. “There were two red traces in the form of a cross and they seemed to cause [Sasagawa] pain,” according to one nun.

According to Sasagawa’s account, the stigmata emerged after she began seeing supernatural beings, which appeared to be angels, and two incidents where she felt piercing pain in the palm of her hand. When the wound appeared in her hand, there were several explanations proposed, including the theory of ectoplasmic capability, although theologians said that the stigmata on Sasagawa and the statue’s hands were meant as signs.

The Statue of Our Lady of Akita

The statue of Our Lady of Akita was carved in 1963 by Mr. Saburo Wakasa, a wood sculptor living in Akita City.

On the morning of January 4th 1975, tears started to flow from the statue. The “lacrimations” (shedding of tears) started this day and continued, sometimes on consecutive days and sometimes at intervals for a total of 101 times. This persisted until September 15th, 1981—the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Every time the statue wept, the sisters would pause to gather in front of the statue to recite the Rosary. Afterwords, a priest would wipe away the tears. The cotton swabs used were later sent to the forensic labs of Akita University and Gifu University for testing and were certified to be comprised of “bodily fluid.”

Weeping Statue

The palm of the statue’s right hand oozed a liquid from two short intersecting lines. It was described as “a blackish mark,” by one nun; “one would have said that it had been traced with a fine point of a pencil. “One would have said that they were traced by a pen with black ink,” according to a second nun. On these lines there stood out two darker points. It resembled very much ink which had spread under the effect of heat.

I said to myself that the Novice Mistress must have spoken of these points when she saw blood flow through a hole as large as that of a needle.” A third nun, who had been the sacristan, described that she “saw in the middle of the palm of the right hand that a wound in the form of a cross had been cut with something like the tip of a blade.”

TV Tokyo Channel 12 videotaped the weeping statue in December 1973. The blood type of the statue and its sweat and tear type were found to be types B and AB, respectively.

Approval Timeline

1975: Bishop Ito begins initial consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

1976: Ito creates an inquiry commission which arrives at the conclusion that it is “not in a position to prove the supernatural events.”

1979: On the basis of new CDF norms for examining “presumed apparitions or revelations”, which had been published the previous year, Bishop Ido requests a CDF intervention to create another inquiry commission.

1981: The CDF, being “unfavorable to the events,” responds that it will not initiate a new examination.

1982: Bishop Ito, asserting that the 1981 CDF response “contained some misunderstandings,” sends a “complete dossier, augmented with the new facts” to the CDF.

1983: Ito meets with CDF officials while the case remains under examination.

1984: On April 22, Bishop Ito, noting that the case had been under examination for eight years, writes that he does not find in the events “any elements which are contrary to Catholic faith and morals.” He asserts “the supernatural character of a series of mysterious events concerning the statue” in the convent, authorizes “the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita” within the Diocese of Niigata (“while awaiting definitive judgment on this matter” pronounced by the Holy See), and clarifies that the events were a private revelation and not necessary for salvation like public revelation.

1988: Ito meets with Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the CDF, in June. Ratzinger gives his verbal approval to Ito’s 1984 letter, but without rendering “judgement about the credibility of the events.”

The Holy See never rendered definitive judgement, either positive or negative. Because Ito’s declaration of approval has not been reversed by his successors or by the Holy See, the apparition remains officially approved according to the guidelines of the Catholic Church.

The Garden of Mary

Our Lady of Akita Shrine, Akita, Japan – Work on the Japanese garden, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, started in the spring of 1974 and was completed on October 11, 1976. The circular promenade garden was completed not by professional landscapers but by novice laypeople. Trees were donated by friends from different places throughout Japan.

The Garden of the Lamb

Our Lady of Akita Shrine, Akita, Japan – The Garden of the Lamb is for meditation and prayer. The Way of the Cross was constructed through the center of the Garden and blessed by Bishop Francis Keiichi Sato of Niigata on August 18, 1994.

Feast Day – 12th June

Annual Feast Day of Our Lady of Akita is held on 12th June.

Church Visiting Time

April to November

  • Every Days : 9:00 am to 11:30 am & 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm

December to March

  • Every Days : 10:00 am to 11:30 am & 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm

Contact Info

Our Lady of Akita Shrine,
Yuzawadai-1 Soegawa,
Akita, 010-0822, Japan

Phone No.

How to reach the shrine

Akita (AXT) Airport is the nearby airport to the Shrine.

Kamisugi Railway Station located in the city of Kitaakita, Akita is the nearby train station to the Shrine.

By Bus: (Akita Chuo Kotsu Bus): Use the West Exit; Take bus ‘To Akita Onsen’ or ‘To Nibetsu Resort Park’; Get off at ‘Yuzawa:(20 minutes ride); Seitai Hoshikai; Walk uphill about 10 minutes.

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