President Gordon B. Hinckley met with U.S. Ambassador Walter Mondale and national media representatives here Saturday before addressing a capacity crowd of Asian church members.
The Tokyo trip is part of an itinerary that includes the dedication of the Hong Kong Temple next weekend.Addressing a crowd of 6,000 packed into the NK Hall adjacent to Japan's version of Disneyland theme park Saturday evening, President Hinckley told Japanese members of the LDS Church that he could weep with gratitude for their strength. The hall was packed to standing-room only.
The 85-year-old church leader is revered not only as the leader of the faith but also as a longtime friend of the Japanese.
"This is my 45th or 46th visit to Japan," President Hinckley said.
The church leader, who arrived in Tokyo Friday, had an emotional reunion with many old acquaintances at a reception Saturday afternoon. Wiping tears from his eyes and smiling brightly - at the same time - he called each by name and spent a few moments with each guest invited to the reception at the home of Elder David E. Sorensen of the church's Quorums of the Seventy and his wife, Verla.
"The members of the church here speak of President Hinckley with much emotion and with a tremendous sense of love and reverence," Elder Sorensen said.
"Most of the growth of the church in Asia has taken place during the past 36 years, since President Hinckley began coming here in the early 1960s in his capacity as a general authority supervising the work of the church in Asia. At that time, he was an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve."
The reception was a prelude to the evening's meeting with Latter-day Saints in the Tokyo area. Although many crowded into the convention center, it seemed at times as though President Hinckley were speaking to each individually.
He spoke of one of his predecessors, Heber J. Grant, who came to Japan as a missionary in 1901. President Grant, he said, was discouraged over his lack of success. President Hinckley then commented on the large congregation.
"If President Grant were here tonight, he would weep with gratitude," he said. "I feel that way as I look into your faces. I see such strength I never dreamed of in this land."
Elder Sorensen said there are 115,000 members of the church in Japan spread among 25 stakes, nine missions and 21 dis-tricts.
President Hinckley began his activities Saturday by visiting with Mondale at the U.S. Embassy. He also spent nearly two hours with reporters from seven of Japan's leading newspapers and magazines.
As he answered questions on a wide range of subjects, the members of the media responded warmly to his quick wit. They seemed to appreciate his openness and frankness in giving thorough answers to their forthright questions.
Today, President Hinckley is traveling to Osaka for a meeting with church members. He travels to Fukuoka this evening.
Japan is the first of seven countries he plans to visit before returning to Salt Lake City on June 2.