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Japanese Bible translation began when Catholic missionaries (Kirishitan) entered Japan in 1549, and Jesuits published portions of the New Testament in Kyoto, in 1613, though no copy survives.

Work on translation started outside of Japan in the 19th century by Protestant missionaries interested in Japan. Karl Gutzlaff of the London Missionary Society translated the Gospel of John in Macau in 1837. The Franciscans completed a translation of the whole Bible, based on the Greek and Hebrew text, in 1978. This project was inspired by the Jerusalem Bible. In the Orthodox Church, Nicholas and Tsugumaro Nakai translated the New Testament as an official text in 1901.