Week 1 Japanese Religion April 19-25

Session 1

Japanese Religion

* View Week One Video.
* Read Religion in Japan Wikipedia
* Read A Guide to Japanese Buddhism by Buddhanet.
* Participate in a telephone conference call. The call will help to get acquainted with the students, explain procedures and answer any questions.


  • 1

    What are some loaded or "hot button" topics to the Japanese?


    Tsumi – Sin
    Tsumi hito – sinner
    Kami/Kamisama – god/gods/God of the Bible?
    Hottokesama – can it be used for God? Deceased ancestor/buddah

    I don’t have personal experience with this, but I have read that the word Church – Kyokai – can be a little loaded for Japanese. I can’t remember where I came across this to share the reference, but I remember that this word can be problematic because it’s direct translation is a “teaching group” (as Don told us in the course call). This doesn’t bring up a really positive or enticing image for many Japanese people apparently. And really, is our “church” supposed to be just sitting and learning like a course lecture? Is it only learning? I can see that there very much could be better words to describe a gathering of believers to encourage one another in their walk with the Lord and worship God together.

    • Brandalyn

      A piece from John Jenn’s book on starting and developing churches: “In the early introduction of the church in Japan, missionaries used a “school approach” to plant the church. Many students and educated people were reached through an approach that used lectures, discussions, and study (Yamamori 1974, 57–58). This church-as-school approach, often linked with Christian schools, continues to profoundly influence the church in Japan to this day (Miyamoto 2008, 160). Many believers and non-Christians see discipleship and the church (kyōkai [teaching association or study society]) as simply mastering a body of information.”

  • 0

    How do we introduce a Jewish Jesus?


    As Don asked this, it seems good to post it here so that we remember it.
    How can we do this beyond just saying that he was a Jew and lived in Israel?

    I read a book recently about the Jewish-ness of Jesus. Some may find this of interest:

  • 0

    Demeanor matters


    I think that Marty’s question was about experience relating to using potentially loaded or hot-button words with a very gentle and loving demeanor and then having the opportunity to re-define them or clarify them.

    Marty, did I capture that correctly?

  • 1

    Further to Naoko's comments about the tearing down of temples and shrines


    I read this in a book in 2019 (I don’t seem to have recorded which one). This little historical tidbit jumped out at me. I feel like it is an important nugget that can give us some insight into some of the “baggage” that has come with the notion of Christianity in Japan. This sure wouldn’t have helped develop positive initial thoughts on “Christianity!”:

    “Hideyoshi took no steps against them, a fact which fueled the anger of the Jesuits against the Franciscans. The anger of Hideyoshi, was however, aroused by the brutal language of the captain of a wrecked ship. He complained about the treatment of the vessel and its extremely valuable cargo, which had fallen into the hands of the lord of Tosa and Hideyoshi, himself. The captain left for Osaka to seek remedy from Hideyoshi, but used reckless language in addressing him. Specifically, he threatened him and boasted that the long arm of the law (i.e., the King of Spain) would soon arrive in Japan and Japanese Christians would rise up in his favor. He also added that the missionaries were there to prepare Japan for conquest.”

    I can imagine that this would plant (quite deeply) a seed of dislike and distrust for those those Christians who would follow. Then over time hearing about or experiencing a history of “Christian”/western colonialism, this could create quite a deep impact on people for generations to come.

  • 0

    The Unseen Face of Japan Book


    Chapter 13 of the book The Unseen Face of Japan is called “Communicating the Christian gospel”. I think that it is another great resource in digging into our topic of Cultural Specific Evangelism for Japan.

    “What is needed is ‘receptor oriented communication’. One of the principles of communication theory is: ‘What is understood is at least as dependent on how the receptor perceives the message (plus the paramessages) as on how the communicator presents it.’ Thus, in order to effectively communicate the Good News of God’s message to all human beings everywhere, it must be done in each culture’s own thought patterns and symbols… History has shown that when presented in primarily Western thought patterns and concepts, relatively few Japanese have understood the message properly and accepted it as God’s communication to them as Japanese.’719”

    “…I believe that to a large extent the slow growth of the church in Japan can be attributed to the way in which Christianity has been presented.”

    Lewis, David. The Unseen Face of Japan (p. 281). Wide Margin. Kindle Edition.

  • 0

    Week one

    Linda Grimms

    To avoid loaded terms among Japanese people, can you tell me which is preferable:
    Jesus follower
    What is a recommended way to introduce myself to a Japanese person (someone that I do not have an existing relationship with), that I am a Jesus follower?
    Talking to Joan Stoller, she suggested to me that I might wear a cross (necklace) because it is a visual identifier. What do you think about that?

  • 0

    Week 1 Comments

    Jim Woo

    I noticed a lot of similarities with Christianity. But, as stated in the description about Buddhism, and also implied by Inazou Nitobe in *Bushido: The Soul of Japan*, Japan assimilates pieces from other cultures that it encounters. I noticed a lot of sevens in the Buddhist rituals, as well as an incorrect assumption that Jesus’ birth is the most important event in Christianity. I think I remember seeing something about calling on the name of (some) god, but I can’t seem to find where I saw that.

  • 0

    Minako's comments on Week 1 Assignments

    Minako Wilkinson

    Week 1 video: Dr. Kikawa talked about why we’re not “selling” the true God of the universe well to the Japanese people and urged us to examine the ways in which we’re “selling” Him. Although I agree with him that our efforts of evangelism and discipleship have not seen missiological breakthroughs in Japan and we need to examine and improve our efforts, God’s sovereignty is also in the mix. He knows and plans when the breakthroughs will be. Dr. Kikawa also talked about finding influences of religion in Japanese society in this course, which I’m looking forward to.

    Religion in Japan (Wikipedia): It was interesting to learn that “In early Japanese history, the ruling class was responsible for performing propitiatory rituals, which later came to be identified as Shinto, and for the introduction and support of Buddhism. Later, religious organization was used by regimes for political purposes; for instance, the Tokugawa government required each family to be registered as a member of a Buddhist temple. In the early 19th century, the government required that each family belong to a shrine instead, and in the early 20th century, this was supplemented with the concept of a divine right to rule bestowed on the emperor. The Meiji Constitution reads: “Japanese subjects shall, within limits not prejudicial to peace and order, and not antagonistic to their duties as subjects, enjoy freedom of religious belief”.” And even though the 1947 Constitution states freedom of religion and the separation of state and religion is guaranteed, in practice, Shintoism seems to be still part of the Japanese politics (as in the case of Japanese politicians’ routine visits to the Yasukuni Shrine).

    A Guide to Japanese Buddhism: The history of Buddhism in Japan was interesting, how it was introduced from China to the Japanese elite in the 500s and then in the 1300s it spread to samurai and merchants and eventually the masses. Buddhist influences are evident in the common life of the Japanese even though the people practice Buddhist traditions without really knowing the meanings. As a Japanese myself, I can see its main concepts such as harmony, the Middle Way and the Oneness of Life show up in common thoughts and practices. How can we use these concepts to converse our faith in Jesus with the Japanese? I think there’re many, many applications. I’m looking forward to thinking about this further. What do you all think about these Buddhist concepts being used for our purposes?

    Class discussion: One topic that came up was “hot-button words” and “tsumi” is definitely one of them. I also tend to avoid the word “kurisuchan” (= Christian) because even though people don’t react to this word strongly, the word has certain associations as someone who goes to church on Sundays, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, etc. I think the image of a Christian to the mind of a typical Japanese is someone who keeps a set of rules. What do you all think? I want Christians to be defined not only by what we do or don’t do but also what we are (the fruit of the Spirit) and who we are in Christ (child of God). Another word I’d like to be careful about is “kami” as a Judge who punishes us because of our sin, even though it’s true and may be effective in guilt-innocence cultures. I’d like to talk about God as the Creator “soozoo shu” and as our Father in heaven “ten no otoosama” who longs for a relationship with a wandering child. I also think that talking about God as our ultimate Ancestor may be effective in places like Okinawa where ancestor worship is practiced strongly. Dr. Kikawa’s story about a missionary who went to a native American village who told its chief about Jesus being Ancestor is a case in point.

  • 0

    Week 1 comment


    I am so excited to take this class, CSE201 this spring, looking forward to learn more about the relation between culture and evangelism. I liked the point of Dr.Kikawa from the video that we should find a way to let Japanese people understand that our God is not only a foreign God, but he is God for Japanese people too. People’ mindset is so much influenced by their own culture, historical background, worldview but we are not really aware of it. Current westernized Christianity can bring unnecessary misunderstanding to the people who are not in that cultural zone. God is almighty and sovereign in all culture.