The LCMS began work in Japan in 1948. In 1976, the Japan Lutheran Church (JLC), or Nihon Ruteru Kyodan (NRK), became a sister/partner church of the LCMS. It is also a member of the International Lutheran Council. LCMS missionaries support the work of the Japan Lutheran Church in the areas of Lutheran school education and theological education at the seminary. Since 1965, the LCMS Volunteer Youth Ministry (VYM) program (originally Prince of Peace Volunteers) brought 300 lay missionaries to serve in three Japanese church districts, supporting the evangelistic efforts of Japan Lutheran Church congregations by building relationships through English-as-a-Second-Language classes and other ministries. The VYM Program officially drew to a close in March 2011, due to recruiting challenges. However, the JLC and the LCMS continue to explore ways of walking together in God’s mission and partnering in Gospel proclamation in Japan.
With a baptized membership of approximately 3,000, the Japan Lutheran Church (JLC) has 37 congregations and preaching stations and a national staff of 29 ordained pastors. The JLC operates a program of theological education (referred to as Japan Lutheran Church Seminary), in West Tokyo, in cooperation with the theological education program of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC). The two programs together make up the seminary proper, Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary.
In addition to the seminary, the JLC operates a college in cooperation with the JELC, known as Japan Lutheran College. Several members of the JLC sit on the college's Board of Regents. The percentage of Christian students ranges between 15 and 20 percent and currently, three members of JLC congregations are students at Japan Lutheran College. Daily college chapel services serve as an important means for evangelism. The college often becomes a "doorway" to the seminary, as students of Christian Studies sometimes decide to pursue careers in full-time church work.
The JLC also operates 11 kindergartens, four preschools, an elementary school, two middle schools and two secondary schools.
LCMS World Relief and Human Care first supported mercy ministry in Japan in 1995 by providing earthquake relief, including seminary dormitory repair. Following the March 2011 earthquake, on behalf of the LCMS, LCMS World Relief and Human Care provided funds to the Japan Lutheran Church for use in post-earthquake ministry and relief efforts.