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Anglicans Online last updated 19 November 2017
Death of a priest-missionary-historian
by the Rev. Timothy M. Nakayama
23 January 1999
The Rev. Andrew Naofumi Otani, 95, died on January 3, 1999 in California. Born in Fukui, Japan, he emigrated to Hawaii. He became an Episcopal priest and served among Japanese Americans on the Island of Kauai before and during Word War II. Shortly after the Japanese Americans returned from the internment camps to the Pacific Coast, Fr. Otani was invited by Bishop Stephen F. Bayne, Jr., to serve the Japanese American Episcopal congregation of St Peter's Church, Seattle, Washington (Diocese of Olympia). Then in the early 1950's he went to serve the Japanese American community in Minneapolis, Minnesota that came into being through Japanese Americans who resettled there in the 1940's and 1950's, as well as those who subsequently came directly from Japan.
Fr. Otani succeeded the Rev. Daisuke Kitagawa in both Seattle and Minneapolis. Fr. Daisuke Kitagawa, with his brother, Fr. Joseph Mitsuo Kitagawa, came to the USA shortly before World War II began. The Kitagawa brothers, born in Taiwan, were educated in mainland Japan and had become priests in the Nippon Sei Ko Kai. They came to the USA for further study, but because of the war could not return to Japan. Instead they were caught up with the Japanese American community and incarcerated in the internment camps. Fr. Dai faced the task of closing the doors of St Peter's Church, Seattle because the members of the Japanese American congregation had been evacuated. After serving among the incarcerated, he was among those who left camp to resettle in the Midwest, and although he was a Japanese national, he became an instructor of the Japanese language to American service personnel. Fr Joe Kitagawa helped to re-open St Peter's, Seattle, and the Japanese Mission in White River near Kent, Washington. Then he went to Chicago where he taught theology, becoming a noted scholar and author of books about comparative religion, and eventually the Dean of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago.
Fr. Dai Kitagawa served in college cork at the Episcopal Church's national office and then went to serve in the Division of Studies at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, which took him from time to time to Africa. To avoid the demeaning expression, "underdeveloped countries," he coined the phrase, "areas of rapid social change," to describe the situation in Africa and other parts of the world. He died in Switzerland on Good Friday, 1970. He is the author of the book, "Issei and Nisei: the Internment Years."
Fr. Otani put his journalistic gifts to use in writing several volumes on the history of the missionary work of the Episcopal Church among Japanese Americans; one was translated into English.
These three Priests, natives of Japan, functioned effectively in both the Japanese and English languages lesving their Christian witness on the American scene.
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