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Pastor spreads the word via orange peel

Making art from modest things to spread belief

Reverend Yoshihiro Okada’s book ‘New  Ways to Peel a Mikan’ Reverend Yoshihiro Okada’s book ‘New Ways to Peel a Mikan’
  • ucanews.com special correspondent, Tokyo
  • Japan
  • February 21, 2011
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Reverend Yoshihiro Okada puts a lot of thought and care into peeling a mikan (mandarin orange).

The 45-year-old Christian group pastor in Sapporo, Hokkaido can turn a single unbroken peel into an array of animals and other designs, and now he’s out to spread the word. He has even published a book devoted to the art, sparking widespread interest.

Reverend Okada’s fascination with peel began during a tea break. One day, he happened to notice that a mikan peel he had discarded looked a lot like a scorpion. “I bet I could shape peel to look like other animals, too,” he thought, and soon his mealtime hobby became an obsession.

Family and friends were used to seeing Reverend Okada tinkering with things for novel amusement, so at first they thought his new pastime was just another passing fad.

Then, two years ago, he approached a publisher with an idea. The result, “New Ways to Peel a Mikan,” is a guide to mikan peeling for would-be orange artists featuring 25 designs that include familiar animals, the sun and even Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster).

But the book is a bit more than just a how-to-do-it manual. It is also a story about a boy called “Little Mukio” who amazes people with his orange-peel artistry. The boy’s single-mindedness never fails to make readers laugh.

Reverend Okada majored in painting at a fine arts university in Osaka and first became acquainted with the Bible through an interest connected with his painting. Considering himself a sinner, he began reading it diligently and attended a Bible school in Mexico before finally becoming a pastor.

Reverend Okada tells his congregation to believe in unlikely possibilities, and that nothing is useless in God’s creation.

Consider orange peel, seemingly fit for nothing but trash, and how it can blossom into something more, he said.

We should “see” this, Reverend Okada says, and “believe in unlikely possibilities.”

He sees a connection between his orange-peel art and evangelization.

Something can be made beautiful and intricate “from a modest beginning” and is a lesson about how to live as a Christian, he said.

Reverend Okada says he wants his flock to put everything God has given them to good use, and “go forth” from his church into the world as messengers.

“I want to offer a way of going into the world to proclaim the Gospel,” even if it is as modest as a book based on an interest in oranges, he said.

JA13351.1642

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