This July the Japan Hiroshima Mission will be discontinued, bringing the number of missions in Japan to six. The Okayama Japan Stake and the Takamatsu Japan and Matsuyama Japan Districts will fall under the jurisdiction of the Japan Kobe Mission. The Hiroshima Japan Stake and Yamaguchi Japan District will join the Japan Fukuoka Mission.
Japan has seen slow membership growth since 2001 and congregations have fallen by 30 since 2000. A large number of the congregations discontinued were small branches. The decision to discontinue the Japan Hiroshima Mission was likely in part was due to low productivity for the large number of missionaries in this region of Japan over the past decade. However the mission president of the Japan Kobe Mission points out that his mission nearly tripled the number of convert baptisms in 2009 compared to 2008. Nationwide there was an increase in convert baptisms in 2009 compared to 2008. 2008 ranks slightly above several other years in the past decade for membership increase, growing at a rate of 0.66% (years with lower membership growth rates include 2003, 2006, and 2007 -- the lowest rate was 0.55% in 2007). Initial reports on membership growth and convert retention in 2009 may indicate that the Church has begun to see a small reverse in the declining trend of membership growth.
President McIntyre of the Japan Kobe Mission further points out that the reduction in the missionary force in Japan has already occurred and will likely not continue. Other missions to consolidate this summer have also reported that their missionary forces have already been reduced and may not continue to see additional reductions. The Church continues to mature and slowly grow in Japan as manifest by the recent temple announcement for Sapporo and two operating temples in Tokyo and Fukuoka. Japan also sends out many local missionaries with some Japanese missions having local missionaries in the dozens. When I served my mission in South Korea, we had one of the larger missions in terms of missionaries serving and only had around a dozen Korean missionaries.
Lastly the mission consolidation also reflects continued emphasis for local members to find and prepare investigators to have missionaries teach and baptize.