Schools have historically been seen as Catholicism's last strong foothold in evangelizing to the Japanese. While parishes shrink with the rest of the population and clergy shortages are becoming more and more of a problem, the prestige of the Catholic high school and Catholic university have endured and even strengthened in Japan since as far back as the Meiji Reformation.
Once highly-regarded for their access to Western-style education and foreign-born instructors in a time that the country was just beginning to interact with the outside world, Catholic universities are still greatly respected today.
Sophia University is known as one of the best private universities in the nation, one of a handful of institutions that rival the National Universities, Japan's equivalent to the Ivy League.
However, Archbishop Kikuchi says that this ongoing prestige has come with a hefty cost.
"While the schools should be independent from national politics, unfortunately they are tied up with subsidies from the country, and thus they are gradually losing their uniqueness, with only the name 'Catholic' remaining," he said.
"Many priests, religious and the laity are completely losing their involvement with them."
The Church in Japan has also spent time in recent years engaged in disaster relief projects.
"Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11th March 2011, support activities by the Church which continues to date through the eight volunteer centers set up in the affected areas, has been widely accepted, and serve as a witness to the Gospel through works of mercy."
Through these efforts, the archbishop says, "the Church gives priority to witnessing the Gospel in a visible way through these steadfast works of mercy. Certainly, these activities may not lead immediately to the reception of baptism, but there is hope that many people who were touched by the spirit of the Gospel would actually be led to the Church."
The second most powerful evangelization tool, Kikuchi says, is the Catholics population that have come and made their lives in Japan from abroad.
"Secondly, the Gospel is preached through the presence of Catholics from abroad who have come to Japan. In particular, those who have settled in marriage and built their homes in the rural areas make it possible for the Gospel to be brought in areas where the Church had never had an opportunity to get involved."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Immigrants from the Philippines make up a large portion of the incoming foreigners in recent years. Filipinos are being tapped for jobs as English educators in eikaiwa, kindergartens, assistant-teaching positions, and more.
They are the fourth largest foreign community in Japan. It is estimated that close to 250,000 Filipinos live and work across Japan.
The Philippines' population is close to 90% Christian – 86% is specifically Catholic.
Filipinos and their families make up large portions of the laity in Japan, attending masses and integrating into religious communities in both rural and urban areas.
"Therefore, an important task that must be given priority is to encourage foreign nationals who have settled in Japan to become aware of their missionary vocation as Catholics."
Kikuchi believes it's up to the clergy to instill in foreigners this sense of missionary spirituality.