TOKYO - In January this year, 100 Christian men got together in Tokyo for a "kickoff rally" that was small in numbers but big in dreams.
Inspired by the U.S. Promise Keepers movement that brought an estimated 1 million men to Washington this month, the Japanese group aims to build itself step by step with ever larger rallies.
"Everybody who went to America came back convinced that something like this, with some cultural adaptations, is needed here," said Motoyoshi Tago, who attended the Oct. 4 rally in Washington.
Mr. Tago, president of an organization called Word of Life Press Ministries, said Japan is going through a dark period economically and politically and that moral standards are falling.
"This has created a spiritual hunger. People sense they need something to get out of this predicament," Mr. Tago said.
Despite the enthusiasm of Mr. Tago and his colleagues, Japanese organizers understand it will not be possible to rival the size of the Washington rally in Japan, a country where just 1 percent of the 125 million Japanese are Christian.
"Rather than immediately planning a huge rally, the need is to introduce the vision of Promise Keepers to Japan - a small meeting of about 500 men would be more appropriate," Mr. Tago said. Such a rally is being planned for early next year.
Word of Life has no formal ties with the U.S. group, but beginning last year, it began sending groups of 15 to 20 men at a time to Promise Keepers rallies at stadiums throughout the United States.
In return, senior Promise Keepers officials are slated to visit Japan next month as part of a worldwide effort to establish what they call "beachheads" outside the United States.
Steve Chavis, U.S. spokesman, said last week that Promise Keepers has an overseas division with 10 staffers, but will not launch large-scale activities abroad until January 2000. Small events of several hundred men is how the group got started in the United States in 1990.
Kiyoko Cho-Takeda, a professor at International Christian University in Tokyo, also sees a future for the movement in Japan. She said Promise Keepers' central goal - to make men better husbands and fathers - should resonate with many people here. …