Just five years ago, in August 1975, thousands of Japanese Saints assembled in Tokyo for the first area conference in Asia of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The meetings were held in the Budokan, a large public assembly hall centrally located in the heart of the metropolis and capable of seating thousands of people. On this memorable date, President Spencer W. Kimball opened the conference with the building filled to capacity and announced that a temple of the Lord would be built in Japan. As President Kimball made this announcement, the audience gasped and an excited murmur filled the air. Many of the Saints wept as they were filled with the spirit. They were witnessing the culmination of prayer, faith and hope. They envisioned where instructions from the Most High will be received, and will be so constructed as to enable all of the functions of the Priesthood to be fully exercised. They were witnessing the development of events which are unfolding in these latter days of fulfillment of prophecy.
With President Kimball’s announcement, the necessary steps were taken for the temple construction. Servants of the Lord were sent out to find a plot of land to build the temple. Several sites were considered and after much deliberation and prayer, it was decided that the temple would be located on the site of the old Tokyo Mission Home. This building and land had been purchased by the Church shortly after the end of World War II and had since been used by thousands of missionaries. For many of these missionaries, the old home was the first place they stayed upon arrival in Japan. Most would testify that many sacred and spiritual experiences were manifested here.
Seemingly this sacred and hallowed ground was divinely chosen for the construction of the House of the Lord. The site borders a beautifully landscaped Arisugawa Memorial Park along the eastern frontage separated only by a road leading from the Hiroo Subway Station which is just a few minutes walking distance away.
With the construction site selected and approved, design drawings were prepared under the direction of the church architect, Brother Emil B. Fetzer. As these were being drawn, people in Tokyo were busy gearing up for the months and years of difficult negotiations which would be necessary to obtain construction permits to build the temple in the Minami Azabu district, which is an affluent area of Tokyo with neighboring foreign diplomatic missions and embassies. Negotiations with area residents to gain approval for building the temple went slowly. Many of the local people worried about the effects the new building would have on life in the area. One big problem was conforming to the “Sunshine Law” in Tokyo, which requires a certain amount of compensation for any amount of sunlight which is lost due to the shadow cast by multi-story construction.
The months passed following President Kimball’s announcement. Months turned to years and two of the close neighbors continued to put up road blocks to impede the construction of the temple. Time and again word was passed among the Saints that everything was cleared and construction would soon begin. But new problems would arise which prevented the work from commencing. As an example, the church architects learned that the Japanese construction requirements were much more stringent in many respects than anticipated. This was mainly due to the frequency of earthquakes and typhoons in the islands of Japan. These building codes were found to be quite different from the customary standard codes and considerable additional study and architectural review were necessary to make sure that their plans did not conflict with the building codes of Japan.
In the spring of 1978, the decision was made to commence with the construction of the Tokyo Temple, though there were still many problems to be resolved. There were pockets of resistance among some of the neighbors, but it was mandatory to have on record a “commencement of construction”. This phase of work though not fully designed was the only assurance that the temple could be constructed as designed by the Church architect. The structure included a full basement, four floors above ground and a 25 meter symbol tower built into the penthouse structure located on the temple roof to house the mechanical controls. The currently approved construction permit would expire if the design did not conform with any of the newly promulgated sunshine laws. We were concerned that all of our design plans would have to be abandoned and a completely new design of less stature would have to be drawn up. To realize benefits of time and effort expended in the past in planning and design, the decision of Brother McPhie, Director of Temples and Special Projects, to proceed was an answer to our prayers. Missionaries were vacated from the mission home to start preparation for the demolition work. Kajima Corporation was awarded the Tokyo Temple construction contract and the church issued a notice to proceed commencing March 10, 1978.