News Release

What is Happening in Niigata? 

Young Adults Gather for Food, Fun, and Fellowship

In a small, cozy, second-floor ramen shop in Niigata, miracles are happening every Monday evening. Two hours before the restaurant opens for local customers, Young Single Adults (YSAs), missionaries, and friends gather for Family Home Evening (FHE) and ramen. They are joined through Zoom by empty-nesters and single sisters and brothers from the Niigata Branch.

This weekly tradition originated several years ago, when Akira Ikarashi, who now serves as a counselor in the Niigata Japan District Presidency, was a fairly new convert of around four years. From his own experiences of being new to the church, he was concerned about other recent converts, as well as young single adults, who were living away from their parents for the first time.

Brother Ikarashi began an informal weekly gathering in a local restaurant, inviting new members, YSAs, missionaries, and friends. They enjoyed sharing a meal, as well as conversing about the gospel. Being a convert himself, Brother Ikarashi was better able to respond to their questions and concerns, helping them to strengthen their testimonies and understanding.

After President and Sister Ikarashi were married, they moved to the ramen shop. A new calling as the Branch mission leader brought the inspiration to begin the gathering again – this time, as a Family Home Evening.

Covid caused a break in their gatherings, but meetings continued through Zoom, allowing others from the Branch to join in. Slowly, the group grew again. At first there was just one guest and two Elders. Now the room is full each Monday night with more new friends than ever before. 

The missionaries met a friend and invited her to church on Sunday. She came, and the next night she brought two friends with her to FHE. Another friend met the missionaries and was invited to the gathering. He came on his own and was the last to leave; he enjoyed the conversations and felt drawn to the members. 

Family Home Evening begins with everyone participating in some type of game or activity, such as “name-that-hymn,” gospel-related games, English practice games, or games just for fun. Those who attend take turns planning the activities, as well as sharing inspirational thoughts and lessons. And then it is time to eat!


The Ikarashis are known for their unique ramen dishes; they were interviewed by the local news for their Italian ramen. They are also a participating Table For Two (TFT) restaurant, donating as much as 50 yen from each meal served, to help fight hunger in developing countries. Since its founding in 2007, TFT has provided over 80 million school meals to children in Asia and Africa. Their mission motto states, “For every meal eaten in developed countries, one meal is given to developing countries.” With all the meals served in their ramen shop, the Ikarashis are doing their part to “share a meal.” 

These weekly FHE gatherings at the ramen shop have contributed to the growth of the church in Niigata. The Ikarashis have happily supported the missionaries’ efforts to share the gospel. It is easy to invite new friends for a meal and FHE. After relationships are developed, it becomes natural for those who attend FHE to also join in the Sunday meetings.


Recently, President Dale Cook of the Tokyo North Mission formed the Niigata West Group. The Group meets on the 2nd floor of the Kakuzo Building in Nishi-Ku, Niigata City, near Niigata University. This has been an ideal location, as many students have accepted invitations to attend activities, Sunday meetings, and English classes.

The facility has served as a place for missionaries to teach since September 2022. Several fun events have been hosted, with 36 people attending the Christmas party, 20 of whom were invited friends of the missionaries. The first Sacrament Meeting in the building was held on Easter Sunday, with 29 people attending, which included six invited missionaries’ friends. An open house was hosted for the community on May 26th and 27th.  Several members and friends attended; one of the members had not attended church in many years. The miracles just keep coming – tender mercies!

The members and missionaries in Niigata are doing their part to “love, share, and invite.” Remarkable things are happening there!

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