YANAI, Japan — Tadao and Toshiko Hayashi were baptized two years apart in the chilling waters of the Pacific Ocean. Sumie and Mitsuo Furutani were baptized one day apart on different islands of Japan. Sumiko Matsuoka learned of the persecution suffered by young Joseph Smith after the First Vision, and that knowledge helped her overcome persecution from her family when she decided to be baptized.
Now these pioneers anchor the Yanai Branch in the gospel as firmly as the anchors that hold the ships in Yanai's harbor.
Tadao and Toshiko Hayashi
For more than four decades the Hayashis have been stalwarts in Yanai, located about 50 miles south of Hiroshima on the southern end of Honshu, Japan's largest island. Brother Hayashi first had the desire to learn more about Christianity when, as a young man, he ran across a Bible while visiting in a relative's home. By fortuitous coincidence, within a week the missionaries knocked on Brother Hayashi's door. He spent six months investigating the Church, riding his bike 20 miles to the city where the missionaries conducted meetings at that time. Most of the group of 20 who met with the missionaries then were not members.
On Dec. 10, 1952, Brother Hayashi was baptized.
Sister Hayashi was invited, shortly after graduating from secondary school, to attend Church by a friend and co-worker who was not a member. Sister Hayashi wasn't enthusiastic about the Church at first, but attended meetings, including MIA where she met her future husband. But her involvement and study led her to a testimony. Her parents held firm to Japanese traditions which led them to say "no" to her request to be baptized. When she became of age to be baptized without parental consent, she committed to do so. At that point, her mother had softened and approved. She was baptized on Nov. 22, 1954. Her father remained resistant to the Church for a few more years until he became ill and then recovered after receiving a priesthood blessing.
Brother and Sister Hayashi were married on April 9, 1956, and reared four children in the Yanai Branch.
For many years, Brother Hayashi worked for Japan Railway, first as a bullet train driver. When he became a supervisor, he arranged his schedule so that when he had to work on Sundays he could attend Church in Hiroshima.
After serving as a branch president and high councilor, Brother Hayashi was ordained a patriarch by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, when the Hiroshima Japan Stake was organized in 1981. Sister Hayashi has faithfully served in many callings, mostly in the Relief Society.
Sumie and Mitsuo Furutani
The Furutanis were blessed because a missionary acted upon the promptings of the Spirit. They learned more about the circumstances of their initial contact with the Church that led to their baptism after recently receiving a letter from Elder Ken Lamb. In the letter, he shared with them his experience of waking up one morning while serving in the area in 1967 and feeling the impression that if he and his companion worked hard that day, they would find a wonderful family to teach. The missionaries increased their efforts and, during the course of the day, dropped in at the building where the branch met. Waiting for them there were the Furutanis, ready to hear about the gospel. They were aware of the Church because Brother Furutani had relatives who were members.
Brother Furutani, who was a sailor at the time, had to leave on a cruise before he could receive the formal missionary lessons, but his wife went ahead and took the lessons. She was baptized on May 1, 1967, in the ocean near Yanai. The next day, Brother Furutani's ship landed on the northern Japanese island of Hokaido and he was baptized, having learned enough about the Church from a brief meeting with missionaries and various other sources to gain a testimony.
They rejoiced when they discovered later they had each been baptized. From that time on, Brother and Sister Furutani were unified in their love for the gospel and their service in the Yanai Branch. They reared two sons and a daughter who served missions; each married in the temple. The parents said that they tried to teach their children the gospel by word and example from the time they were young.
While working alone in her office during lunch, Sister Matsuoka was approached by two missionaries who gave her a pamphlet called "Vision of Joseph Smith," which included a picture of the Prophet. She listened to the missionaries for about 10 minutes and their story of Joseph Smith had a familiar sound; it reminded her of a Japanese picture-story she had once heard. She was impressed with the soberness and conviction of the missionaries.
She said she committed to those missionaries that she would attend Church "once." She ended up going many more times than that and through a testimony of the Book of Mormon — she had not read it completely then — and because of the warm welcome she received from other members, she was baptized on Sept. 24, 1957.
Immediately, at age 19, she was persecuted for joining the Church. That turned her thoughts to Joseph Smith's persecution and she prayed fervently to meet the challenge. However, she struggled to be active for about six months. The missionaries kept teaching her and she finally regained her feelings about the truth of the Book of Mormon and knew she had to go back to Church. She declares a firm desire to stay active in the Church for the rest of her life.