Whether in Suffolk or the Japanese city he had grown to call home, Reverend John Russell Berg MBE will be remembered by those who knew him as one of the kindest people they ever knew.

John was born into a Plymouth Brethren family on March 11, 1936, at Cookley Green Farm.

The family later moved to Burgh, near Grundisburgh, and the young John would cycle to and from Woodbridge School.

Throughout his life, he would be prone to chest infections and suffered several bouts of pneumonia, likely to due to his having to cycle in all weathers. To combat this, John began became a boarder. He enjoyed his time at school, and besides his flourishing academic studies, he soon became a proficient pianist, and later, an organist.

Upon leaving school, John first became a court clerk in Woodbridge. However, the pull of his faith soon became too strong to resist, and John soon decided to become a priest in the Anglican Church.

Following his training, John found a position as curate at St Augustine’s Church in Ipswich, where he remained for five years.

It was then that John was offered the chance to become a chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers, and set sail on a six-week voyage bound for Hong Kong via Aden and Penang.

After three years in Hong Kong, John was asked to go to Yokohama, Japan, standing in as chaplain on a temporary basis.

This short-term placement lasted 35 years.

John fell in love with Japan and its people, and they in turn fell in love with him. John was highly respected and loved by his local parishioners and visiting seamen from around the world, and made many lifelong friends.

John’s hard work and dutiful service did not go unrecognised. In 1975, he was honoured to be introduced to the late Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the British Embassy. On another occasion, he met with Diana, Princess of Wales.

In 1978, he received an MBE for welfare services to the Mission to Seafarers in Yokohama.

Aside from his work as chaplain, John kept himself busy. He wrote, produced and directed plays which performed by members of his congregation. He also performed his own compositions, being an ardent admirer of classical music.

Ipswich Star: Reverend Berg spent 42 years in Japan over the course of his life. Image: Bryan KnibbsReverend Berg spent 42 years in Japan over the course of his life. Image: Bryan Knibbs (Image: Bryan Knibbs)Ipswich Star: Reverend Berg was also a talented pianist, and a great admirer of classical music. Image: Bryan KnibbsReverend Berg was also a talented pianist, and a great admirer of classical music. Image: Bryan Knibbs (Image: Bryan Knibbs)

In 2003, John retired from chaplaincy and returned to England, purchasing a flat in Melton. John settled into life in Suffolk, spending time with his sister, Anne, and taking the occasional service at St Andrew’s Church in Melton.

It was in Melton that John met Bryan Knibbs, with whom he became close friends.

“He was one of the nicest, most caring people I have had the honour of knowing,” said Bryan.

John was a born entertainer, and Bryan enjoyed many dinners with John, being regaled with stories of his life in Japan and enjoying his excellent cooking.

However, he said John was also an attentive listener.

“He would always ask after family or friends when meeting one, so kind and thoughtful,” said Bryan. “A true gentleman of honour and integrity.

“On several occasions, he willingly stated that he had lived a wonderful, happy life with no regrets and was happy to meet his maker whenever he was called.”

In 2008, John was asked to take on another ‘temporary’ placement in Japan, this time in Kobe. This lasted seven years, until John finally returned to Suffolk for good.

In Woodbridge once more, John became a much-loved member of the community, especially at St Andrew’s Church where he continued to preach.

Sadly, the pandemic put paid to John returning to his beloved Yokohama. However, before he died, he made provisions for his ashes to be transported back to the city he loved and had grown to call home.

Reverend John Russell Berg died peacefully at home on January 20, aged 87.