A postscript on our visit to the shrine in Akita

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Freeman

Akita, Japan — I woke up early in the morning and I looked over the window from my room at the Metropolitan Hotel in Akita and I was greeted by a sight that I rarely see… snow falling on the ground, turning everything to white. While Christmas is already over… seeing snow after a long time reminded me of a White Christmas.

So after breakfast we took four taxis to visit the Chapel up in the hills in Akita to visit the 3-foot wooden statue of Our Lady of Akita. While waiting for the rest to arrive…we frolicked in the snow… reminding me of the Disney movie “Frozen.” Then we all got inside the chapel where a Japanese nun told us to remove our shoes and put on their slippers. This was the 4th time that my sister Adela and her husband Yuki Kono have visited this chapel, made of carved wood, which was very elegant in its simplicity.

Then the nun led us to a very small room on the right hand side of the chapel where they placed the statue of the Our Lady of Akita, with a wooden statue of St. Joseph standing behind her. Thankfully there was a heater inside the room where we all gathered and prayed the Rosary together with the Akita Prayer led by my wife Jessica. Here’s the Akita Prayer.

“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist, I consecrate my body and soul to be entirely one with Thy Heart, being sacrificed at every instant on all the altars of the world and giving praise to the Father pleading for the coming of his Kingdom. Please receive this humble offering of myself. Use me as Thou wilt for the glory of the Father and salvation of souls. Most Holy Mother of God, never let me be separated from Thine Divine Son. Please defend and protect me as Thy special child. Amen.”

If you want to know where Sister Agnes Sasagawa is, we really do not know. But since those apparitions happened in 1973, she must be very old by now. There is no doubt that the tears from the wooden statue in Akita attracted world attention way back in the 70’s. The Japanese government even put in a Shinkansen Line to Akita, which is a bit out of the way. But during our visit there… we were the only big group that came. There were two people who came after us. Yes, the statue has already stopped shedding tears. 

Perhaps because Catholics only comprise less than one percent of the Japanese population, after the sensational news of the crying statue of the Virgin Mary died down…so did the interest in this phenomenon in Japan. But the nuns of the Handmaids of the Holy Eucharist did put on display the cotton balls that they used to wipe the tears of the statue for the 101 times that the statue shed its tears. But then again, the Lady of Akita prophesied this and allow me to reprint what she told Sister Sasagawa.

“With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests. “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres...churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them.”

Contrast this to the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Simala, Sibonga where every day, a multitude of pilgrims go for a visit, to the point that it has become too commercialized. Yet there were no apparitions in Simala! On the other hand, the Akita Shrine was very much like a monastery far detached from the hustle and bustle of city life, which was for me good for our spiritual nourishment. Of course it is easy to say that Japan is not a Catholic country. But many Catholics have lost their faith and don’t believe in the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Host. Remember what the Lord said, “Blessed are those who do not see but yet believe!

Thankfully we in Cebu still have our Sinulog Festival and next week we shall play host to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress and we can only hope that this international event would rekindle the faith of many Filipinos who have lost their faith in the Lord. Let us all hope for more conversions in the week to come!

As we left the Akita Shrine… I had mixed emotions, as I really didn’t want to go back so soon, because this was one famous image that we could sit down and pray, kiss and touch it. But the cold was quite unbearable, as the main chapel wasn’t heated except for some areas where they had heaters. So you may ask…was this trip worth going? Well as I pointed out, before we went on this pilgrimage to Akita, we were told not to expect the same kind of enthusiasm that we Catholics have for the Simala Shrine. But hey, the Lord granted us a bonus… snow, which we never expected and reminded me of Our Lady of Snows in Rome, in the site of the Mariae Marjorie is located.


For email responses to this article, write to [email protected] or [email protected]. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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