CONVERSIONS TO ORTHODOXY
Rin Yamashita, Japan (1857-1939): From Samurai family to Orthodox Christianity by Saint Nickolas Kasatkin the Enlightener of Japan (+1912)
Rin Yamashita was born in 1857 in a poor Samurai family in the town of Kashima, Japan. As a little girl, she loved drawing and sculpting. When Rin was 16, she went to Tokyo to study art. There she met Saint Nicholas Kasatkin the Enlightener of Japan (+1912) and became seriously interested in the Orthodox faith. Some of her Japanese friends in Tokyo were Orthodox Christians. Rin converted to Christianity and was given the Russian name Irina.
Irina loved Russian art, especially Ivan Kramskoy’s painting Christ in the Desert.
At that time, the Orthodox Church in Tokyo did not have icons, and there was need for an icon-painting school. The Bishop Saint Nicholas Kasatkin of Japan saw how talented Irina was and sent her to Saint Petersburg to study iconography.
The climate of Saint Petersburg was very difficult for Irina, and she was often ill. But she was a good student and learned well. Her favourite place in Saint Petersburg was the Hermitage.
Saint Nicholas Kasatkin sent letters to Irina to encourage her. He told Irina that she would become a wonderful painter.
In 1883 Irina returned to Japan. She painted icons for the church and taught many students. With her help, many Japanese people learned to understand and love Russian culture and art. Her icon of the Theotokos was given to Tsarevich Nicholas, future Saint Tsar Nicholas II, when he visited Japan in 1891.
Irina died in 1939. Sadly, many icons painted by Irina Yamashita were lost in an earthquake. Her icon of the Theotokos presented to Tsar Nicholas II is now kept in the Hermitage.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE STUDY FOR RUSSIAN ORTHODOX LEARNERS