Osaka Evangelistic Tabernacle 大阪救霊会館

The Brutalist facade of the Evangelistic Tabernacle in Osaka's Kamagasaki district
The Brutalist facade of the Evangelistic Tabernacle in Osaka's Kamagasaki district

In late November 2016, when I was last in Osaka, I spent an evening wandering somewhat aimlessly throughout Nishinari District, during which I came across this bizarre, fortress-like church looming over the main street near Shin-Imamiya station.

The angular, Brutal, Modernist facade, combined with the spike tipped concrete walls replete with CRT televisions recessed into them broadcasting distorted, ghostly sermons that I imagine contained all of the worst parts of the Old Testament; in addition to the many curling posters affixed to them depicting the fiery wastes of damnation, didn’t exactly portray it to be the most welcoming place, but instead gave it a certain post-apocalyptic, Fallout-esque air that I thought was worth documenting.

I snapped a few photos with the point-and-shoot I had with me at the time but the results didn’t come out great. Partly due to my lack of skill, and also the limitations of the camera’s small sensor causing issues with focus and noise.

Fast-forward to November 2019 though, and a return trip saw me head back again to hopefully do it some justice and capture the place in all its sinister glory. Not much has changed in the intervening 3 years apart from some of the televisions appear to have been upgraded and instead of dry sermons, were instead tuned to gospel music videos, complete with karaoke-esque lyrics for some sing-along potential, and yes I have given these images the ‘Black & White’ treatment which makes everything feel more threatening (but also looks better than the colour they were shot in).

An oblique shot of the main church and attached ramshackle outbuilding which I believe is used to distribute food to the nearby homeless population
An oblique shot of the main church and attached ramshackle outbuilding which I believe is used to distribute food to the nearby homeless population
Isaiah 53:5 seems to be a favourite verse for making intimidatory posters
Isaiah 53:5 seems to be a favourite verse for making intimidatory posters

For some extra background, this is known as the Osaka Evangelistic Tabernacle 大阪救霊会館, which somewhat explains the propaganda posters – what better way to convert those to your faith than prey on their fear? It’s location is somewhat telling too, falling inside the area known as ‘Kamagasaki 釜ヶ崎‘, known for containing the largest population of day labourers in the whole of Japan1 – many of them homeless and desperate. It’s not hard to see why many would turn to religion to derive whatever comfort they can from life.

More sins to repent from, lest you burn in eternal torment forever
More sins to repent from, lest you burn in eternal torment forever
Pictoral examples from Romans 1:24
Pictoral examples from Romans 1:24" - God gave them over to their Sins": Prostitution, shoplifting, abortion and drunkenness.
A poster written in Burmese script. Presumably there are a number of labourers from Myanmar in the area that this is aimed at
A poster written in Burmese script. Presumably there are a number of labourers from Myanmar in the area that this is aimed at
A Street-facing TV belting out hymnal karaoke
A Street-facing TV belting out hymnal karaoke

Just to be clear, I don’t doubt that some good will have been done by this organisation – offering food and perhaps shelter to those in need (the shack adjacent the main structure looks like it may well be used to distribute food and other essentials), and I’m sure everyone involved are perfectly nice people, but with the Evangelist philosophy of mass-conversion, and a doctrine (from outward appearances at least) based primarily on fear, I can’t help but think that there are some rather disquieting wheels in motion.

Presumably this cross was once illuminated, but sadly not on the night of my visit
Presumably this cross was once illuminated, but sadly not on the night of my visit
  1. And also somewhat notorious for what the government have labelled ‘riots’ resulting from friction between this population and the authorities – likely the reason for the fortified facade.
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