Japanese Christian newspaper uses manga and cosplay to attract young followers

A Christian newspaper based in Japan is using smartphone games, manga comics, and cosplay events in an effort to attract young followers to Christianity and provide them with a fun way to learn about the faith.

(REUTERS / Yuya Shino)A Japanese Manga "Ichi Efu" (2nd R), which centres on workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, is seen on a bookshelf as a staff adjusts manga comics at a bookstore in Tokyo June 23, 2014.

In July, Christ Newspaper (Kirisuto Shimbun) launched a thrice-monthly tabloid version of its religious paper and an online edition. The long-standing publication, which was founded by the late Toyohiko Kagawa 71 years ago and is now under the leadership of its new president Shinji Matsutani, now features more photos and illustrations, Kyodo News detailed.

Kirisuto Shimbun also has a serial comic strip with a main character named Pyuri-tan and other cute personas that represented Catholics, Anglicans, and other Christian groups. The manga has also been adapted into a game app for mobile devices.

In addition, Kirisuto Shimbun has a line of card games that feature Biblical characters and a Christian-themed novel contest. The publisher also sponsors comic fairs and holds cosplay photo sessions at a church.

The Christian newspaper is set to accept entries to its Christian-themed novel contest soon. The winner will get the chance to have his or her entry published as a serial in the publisher's issues and later on as a completed light novel, Rocket News 24 reported.

"Although Christian churches in Japan say they are eager to actively engage in missionary work and attract youth, they often remain closed to outsiders and scare away newcomers as members too fervently ask them to become followers," Matsutani explained. "With the aging of members, churches will die out if they do business as usual. We'd like to counter that trend."

At the end of the year, Kirisuto Shimbun plans to launch a free phone app called "Jun + Rei" (Pilgrimage) which can be used to locate churches and lead people to other religious facilities. Matsutani said this app aims to attract first-time churchgoers by displaying detailed information on every religious institution.