Japan's first women's abbey for contemplative prayer

Japan's first women's abbey for contemplative prayer

HAKODATE, Hokkaido - Following the footsteps of generations of nuns before them, about 40 women continue to live and worship at Japan's first women's abbey for contemplative prayer, founded here in 1898.

The main building and the chapel of the Order of Cistercians was completed in 1913 in this northern Japan city, but they were destroyed by fire 12 years later. The present structures were rebuilt with donations in 1927. They were designed by Max Hinder, a Swiss architect who was living in Hokkaido at the time. They are some of the few remaining buildings of Hinder in Hokkaido.

The convent, with its distinctive brick exterior walls and semicircular arched windows, incorporates Romanesque and Gothic styles from the European Middle Ages. Nuns living together offer prayers seven times daily, in addition to lectio divina, or holy reading, and work between their 3: 30 a.m. wakeup and bedtime at 7: 45 p.m.

The abbey had given opportunities for the public to come into the chapel, such as Christmas Mass, but these have been suspended due to the coronaviruses epidemic. This series explores Japan's architectural wonders and secrets of the past.