Irina Yamashita

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Orthodoxy in Japan
Holy Resurrection Cathedral (Tokyo, Japan)
Timeline of Orthodoxy in Japan
Church of Japan
Nicholas of Japan
Andronik of Perm
Sergius (Tikhomirov)
Nicholas (Ono)
Benjamin (Basalyga)
Ireney (Bekish)
Nikon (de Greve)
Vladimir (Nagosky)
Theodosius (Nagashima)
Seraphim (Sigrist) of Sendai
Daniel (Nushiro) of Japan
Seraphim (Tsujie) of Sendai
Fr Paul Sawabe
Fr Simeon Michiro Mii
Fr Anatoly Tikhai
Yakov Tikhai
Victor Pokrovsky
Irina Yamashita
Holy Resurrection Cathedral
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Irina Rin Yamashita, an early convert of Archimandrite Nicholas, later St. Nicholas of Japan, to Orthodox Christianity, was the leading iconographer and painter of religious art for Nicholas' Orthodox mission in Japan. Examples of her works are preserved in many of the older Orthodox churches in Japan as well as in private collections in her hometown of Kasama.


Irina Yamashita was born in Kasama, Japan, in 1857. As a teenager she moved to Edo (Tokyo) to learn the art of traditional Japanese woodblock printing (Ukiyo-e) as an understudy at various studios. In 1877, she entered the newly established National Academy for Fine Arts. Through a friend, Varvara (Barbara) Yamamuro, at the institute she met Archimandrite Nicholas and became interested in Orthodox Christianity. Soon, she was baptized an Orthodox Christian. Noting her talent as an artist, Bp. Nicholas, in 1880, arranged for her to study iconography in Russia. She studied at the Novodevichy Resurrection Monastery for women in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 1881 to 1883. Then she returned to Japan where she became the principal artist of religious art, including iconography, at the mission headquarters in Kanda Suragadai in Tokyo.

Over the ensuing years, Irina produced many icons and other religious works and illustrations for the Japanese Orthodox Mission. She is remembered as the leader and forerunner of iconography in Japan. Irina never married and lived a life of celibacy, much in the style of an Orthodox monastic. She died in 1939.