Week 1: A Brief Review September 7-13

Week 1 Japan – A Brief Review

Conference Call: The time for the call will be arranged so that the participants will all be able to get acquainted.
Reading: 1. Understanding Japan: Part One Japan–A Brief Review

  • Chapter One: Origin of the Japanese People

2. Japan-Guide

  • As you have time and interest, read Historical Section-Early Japan through Azuchi-Momoyama Period.
  • You may read as many sections as you have time for.

Writing: Weekly Paper: “Impressions and Points from Your Reading”

  • There is no minimum or maximum amount for this assignment. Use this as an opportunity to reflect and apply what you have read. This is to be written in your comment section of Japan 101.
  • Read as many of the other students’ writings and comment on at least two of them.

Pray:

  • Pray daily for Japan and Japanese, using Operation Japan. Make a note in your blog concerning the information and/or your prayer.

Extra Suggestions:

Here are some of the links that others have shared:

Questions

  • 0

    Ed - Hello all!

    Ed Thomas

    Hello everyone!

  • 1

    Not sure how this is supposed to go, so I’m just going to give y’all the notes/comments I made while reading. Might be difficult to follow, gomen.

    encarnacion9

    Understanding Japan
    I’ve heard all of these names from the mythology in various forms of media from Japan, particularly the “Persona” game franchise. Interesting to hear the actual story.
    I was very interested in the Isaac parallel story. Really curious why this festival is performed? All of the connections are interesting, but at this time I’m not buying that Israelites made it there.

    Japan-Guide
    Heian period seems important to me. It gives me the impression that it is the start of a uniquely Japanese culture
    Militant Buddhist Monasteries
    I was always under the impression that Japan had no form of centralized government and a singular leading figure before Oda Nobunaga came on the scene. The Muromachi period explains the decline of emperors and rise of regional daimyos which create this impression I held. I have realized that the Sengoku Jidai is a popular subject in Japanese media and has colored my perception of Japanese history. Interesting that the fall of Kamakura was because they couldn’t pay the military.
    1542 Jesuits arrived, 1597 Christianity is effectively destroyed in Japan. Not so long Peasants being above merchants in the hierarchy makes me happy. Farmers don’t get the respect they deserve.

    • Naoko Brown

      Hi, Tony! Thank you very much for your comment!
      I am glad you learned about the Japanese mythological characters. It is interesting to me that they use these characters in game franchise. Actually I do not know what “Persona” game is, but I am assuming that they use these characters to fight battles?? There are some shrines that are dedicated to those gods, but they are still dead gods who are supposedly “watching over” Japan. Obviously younger generation is taking them lightly enough to use in games.

      Israel-Japan theory is not a proven fact, but there are lots of people studying the subject. I read a few books by Jewish people who saw similarities in these two cultures and started investigating it. It is fascinating to me!

      Knowing Japanese history is helpful when you visit Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura and all other places!

      Naoko

  • 1

    Esha: Japan 101: Week 1

    EshaRJC

    It fascinates me how Japan stood up from the ruins of world war so fast. That shows people’s hardworking nature and determination (concept of Gambari). The theory that Japanese people might have descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel is truly intriguing. The names Amaterasu, Susano and Izunami aren’t too unfamiliar to me because I watch Anime. It is amazing how the Japanese anime makers have embedded the god and goddesses of Japan’s mythological origins into the 21st century art. The origin of Japan story also explains why Japanese people are proud about their country, culture and heritage. It also influences how they relate to other culture and why they prefer to be mono-ethnic. If Japan is believed to be the god-created and divine nation among the Japanese, then mixing with other “lower” nations would be taking a step backward. This also explains why people want to fit in and the adage “the nail that sticks out must be hammered down”.

    The earliest times of Japan was related with pottery making, which reminds me this verse from the Bible “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the works of your hand.” I prayed for Japan and Japanese people who are beautiful works of our God’s mighty hands.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, Esha!

      Yes, even though most of the Japanese do not literally believe in the story of origin of Japan, it still has influence on people. It is good to love the country and having a healthy pride to be Japanese, but when the pride changes into superior complex, all kinds of problem rises. Only when we realize that each one of us is “fearfully wonderfully made”, we start to be able to truly love and respect others and ourselves.

      I love the verse you wrote! Thank you for your prayers!

      Naoko

      Naoko

  • 3

    Week 1 Reflections

    Jed Irwin

    The largest new thing that stood out to me was during the Nara and Heian Era reading, specifically during the Heian Era it talked about warring and militant Buddhist clans. I have never heard or read about fighting Buddhists. I would like to dig deeper into that in the future just for fun.
    After reviewing Chapter 1, the incredible thing to me is that the creation story, about stirring the world with a halberd was told to me over breakfast at a CoCo’s here maybe a month or two back. I kind of glossed over some of this information last year, looking for the practical, modern day information last year when I read this book. For those of you learning, Japan is a very old country, and they remember these kinds of stories. Take it to heart when you read these, and think of ways to respond to them when they are told to you. How can you point them toward the gospel? How can you, lovingly, ask more questions about their beliefs (that might challenges them), and how can you, lovingly, point them toward God and His gospel.

    • EshaRJC

      Hi Jed, thank you for these great thoughts. I agree with you about Japan being a country with heavy reliance on “stories”. India is very similar. My mom had a story for everything. We learned the truths of the life through stories. Most of the non-western countries would fall into this “storytelling” category. No surprise Jesus told 24 parables in the Gospel of Luke (again – a heavily storytelling culture). When I came to the US, I was surprised to learn that “storytelling” was only limited to children here. As an Asian person myself, even though I am science major, when it comes to faith, I like to “feel” things more than to discuss the theology or apologetic behind it. Stories can be helpful tools in reaching out to Asian. As for example, when we encounter someone who feels exhaustion due to long work hours, instead of discussing the theology of sabbath, we can share the story when Jesus call us to Him saying “come to me you all who are weak and heavily burdened and I will give you rest”. What a beautiful invitation.

    • Naoko Brown

      Great point, Jed! Even though most of them do not totally believe in these stories, they are ingrained in Japanese brains, and they will use these stories to counter your Bible stories. I would say do not argue or fight, but listen to these stories with respect. Sometimes you feel like you are not going anywhere in your conversations with Japanese, but you are definitely making an impression by shining Jesus’ Light to them.

      Eisha, thank you for your good comment.

    • Sarah Moore

      Hi Jed,thank you for sharing! I agree that these stories are important and can definitely be a tool for sharing with them. When I lived in China , I did notice how stories were part of the culture and oftentimes there was a holiday associated with a particular story. Knowing some of this history definitely helps to build a relationship!

  • 2

    Thoughts from the Readings

    Tym Moore

    These are my impressions and points from the reading. Starting with the history from the Japan guide, something that stuck out to me was the Chinese influence early in their history. I always knew Japan had a lot of Chinese influence, but I never knew when or at what capacity it was introduced. It makes me wonder if, since Japan’s origins are closely tied to the Chinese, ministering to Japanese would be similar to ministering to Chinese. Another thing that struck me from the Japan guide is the fact that Christianity wasn’t introduced to Japan until the 16th century. Even though that was 500 years ago, I guess Christianity is still relatively new to their land and culture.
    On the flip side of that, moving to chapter one of Understanding Japan, it seems it may be possible that Christianity has been part of Japanese culture all along. In addition to the many similarities listed in the Japanese-Jewish Common Ancestry Theory, I also noticed that the very beginning of their mythical origins is very similar the beginning of Genesis 1; with the deities in both stories hovering over the waters or oils before creation. I’ve heard before that evangelizing to Japanese can be difficult because Christianity is often considered “Un-Japanese”. With that I feel like this theory on a common ancestor with Israel could be valuable when ministering to them. Whether it’s true or not, it can show that Judaism and by extension, Christianity, have been part of the Japanese culture and values since the beginning.

    • Naoko Brown

      Hi, Tym! Thank you for your comment!

      Indeed Japan was influenced by China a lot! They absorbed great things from Chinese culture and then made these things their own over time. I have worked with many Chinese scholars, and I always felt like we could understand each other in depth. At the same time, definitely there are some big differences in Chinese and Japanese cultural standards and people’s general temperament.

      Although it is still a theory, Japan-Israel theory is a good conversation piece. This is also a good chance to educate Japanese friends that Judaism is the origin of Christianity, and what are Old Testament and New Testament are. However, we would like to be careful, because some Japanese may not like to hear that Shintoism borrowed a lot from Judaism.

      Thank you!

      Naoko

    • Molly Mortimer

      Hi Tym!

      I had similar thoughts as I was reading about the potential Japan/Israel connection. If nothing else it’s interesting to see the commonalities and draw the conclusion that Christianity was not of western origin. Could be a cool way to create some common ground!

  • 1

    Thoughts from week one

    Sarah Moore

    Japan class

    After completing the readings this week, several things really stood out to me. First, I found it interesting that in Shintoism, the country of Japan is considered a divine/holy land created by the gods, Izanagi and Izanami. This is important to their culture and how they relate to others. The next thing that stood out was the Japanese-Jewish common ancestry theory. I have heard that in many cultures there are stories that have been passed down that are very similar to biblical stories in the Old Testament such as the flood and creation story. In the Shinto religion, there are several festivals and objects that seem to have Jewish origin or influence. I do believe that this is possible that the lost tribes of Israel spread out as far as China and Japan. I was really intrigued by the Ontosai Festival which is very similar to the story of Abraham and Isaac. I also saw how close the Ark of the Covenant looks to the Omikoshi which is a portable shrine. The other similarity that stood out was the way the Shinto shrines are set up as it resembles the way the tabernacle in the Old Testament was also set up. There were two areas in both – the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Only Shinto priests were allowed to enter the Holy Place.

    In reading some of the history of Japan, I noticed that there was a lot of Chinese influence especially with how their buildings are designed and with the introduction of Buddhism. I also noticed that there were a lot of power struggles between military families and with the rise and fall of the emperors and shoguns. The first introduction of Christianity to Japan was in 1542 by Jesuit priests. However in 1597, the leader, Hideyoshi, intensely persecuted Christian missionaries and also did not allow people to convert. He was trying to wipe out foreign influence and maintain absolute control of Japan.

    My last note is on my reading in Operation Japan. I was shocked by the statistics of the number of churches, missionaries, and believers in Japan. There are still many cities that do not even have a church! This really has stirred my heart to be praying for the country and for more Japanese to come to know Christ.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, Sarah! Have you seen a movie called “Silence”? It is a fiction based on true history, and it is about persecution of Christians. It is hard to watch but interesting and gives you some insight.

      I am glad you are praying Operation Japan. It is also eye opening that there are many Christian influenced schools, hospitals and other facilities in Japan.

      Naoko

  • 2

    Ed - Week 1 thoughts

    Ed Thomas

    I’m always intrigued by the full range of the Israel-Japan connections. While it’s not conclusive, each time I review the list, I’m left with the feeling that it’s more than mere coincidence. I’ve shared a few of these just once or twice with some Japanese colleagues and they seemed genuinely shocked to learn of these connections. I think it can open the door to the discussion that Christianity, with it’s Jewish roots, in not an “American religion” or even a “western religion.” One could simply turn the conversation to the fact that the Bible we read today is translated directly from original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek – these are clearly not American/Western languages (OK Greek maybe, but clearly not the OT languages). Another conversation starter would be the fact that Buddhism, clearly accepted by nearly all Japanese in some form or fashion, was introduced to Japan from “the outside” and would have been completely new to them at the time. I have never tried this, but one might ask the question, “why was this new ‘overseas’ religion so readily adopted at that time?” Probably a variety of different answers would be offered, but I think it can plant the seed that Japan already has a history of widely embracing religious beliefs introduced from outside Japan … if they were to do the same with Christianity it would not be inconsistent with their rich history, would not be an ‘anti-Japanese’ thing to do.

    • EshaRJC

      Hi Ed, thank you for your thoughts. May I share something along the idea of Christianity being considered a “western” religion?

      My family became Christian 5 or 6 generations ago thru the efforts of missionaries from UK and US. I have deep appreciation for these missionaries for risking their lives to share the love of Jesus with my people. I walk on the paths that William Carey and Amy Carmichael paved. But let us adjust the lenses a little more here.

      Last week I talked over zoom with a missionary couple who are serving in Tokyo right now. The man shared with me that when he shares about Jesus with someone, they would listen to him kindly and without interruptions, but in their hearts, they are thinking “its good to hear about “his” religion. It definitely doesn’t concern me”.

      Can we really blame India or Japan to believe that Christianity is a “western religion”? All they have seen is western missionaries. Wouldn’t it be powerful for them to hear the Gospel from a “non-western” person? So why don’t more non-western people become missionaries in unreached parts. What is the barrier?

      US is one of the most leading Missionary sending country in the world. It also means it has the most resources, training framework and funding to send. When IV gave me a target of 60K to raise, I thought I could do it in two years which was reasonable in my mind. After raising funds for over 2 years, I have reached 20 K. If my math is correct, it will take me a total of 6 years to raise 60 K. And if I am going as a missionary to Japan with husband and two kids, I can easily expect my target to be double and so I will be raising funds for 12 years. (smile). This almost hilarious yet stinging example shows that non-western people can really lack resources and networks. How can the western church help non-western people who have burning desire for the Gospel but lack resources and have limited networks? These are good questions to ponder upon.

      May be my “logic” isn’t perfect here, but there might be a hint of truth. The puzzle of why India and Japan has only 0.5% Christianity, after being introduced Gospel in 1st century and 3rd century respectively, is complex. Only God can lead us into taking the right actions.

    • Naoko Brown

      Ed, thank you very much for your thoughts! What you are saying is very logical. I also know that some of very intelligent and logical people in any nationalities can be very illogical when it comes to spiritual matters. But God makes a way! I believe some Japanese may be intrigued and listen to you intently and give a serious thoughts!

      Esha, I appreciate your comment as well. Your comment is very insightful!! And I pray you will be able to raise your support!

  • 2

    Hello! Thoughts on week one~

    Molly Mortimer

    Hello all!

    Sorry I’m late on this post, I ordered my books late and they took a while to ship to me 🙁

    I was intrigued by the idea of a connection to ancient Israel in Japan, I hadn’t heard of any of those similarities before. Whether or not there is a direct lineage to trace back to Israel I think the connections could build some interesting common ground for conversations on the gospel or the story of the Old Testament.

    I was also really excited to learn about the mythology of the origins of Japan! I always love learning the myths and folklore of a culture, although the people of Japan may not believe in these stories literally, you can see a lot of what a people values by looking at their stories and art. Since Japan was a holy place formed by the gods, I can see where many Japanese would have a lot of pride and faith in their culture, nation and community. I also see a high value on art and agriculture since these things were also said to come from the goddess Amaterasu. I’d be curious to learn more about these ancient myths, it sounds ideas like heaven, demons, and creation could have common ground with the gospel as well.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, Molly. I am glad you got the textbook!
      There are many folklores and as you said if we prayerfully think about these stories, we may be able to find some ethical points that we could relate to the Biblical truth. I know a guy who try to relate the Gospel to Disney stories. Analogies always break down at some point, but it gives us opportunities to talk about our God and His Word.

      Naoko

    • Sarah Moore

      Hi Molly,
      Thank you for sharing! I also was intrigued by the idea of the Japan and Israel connection. It seems that many of the stories/traditions in Shintoism reflect some of the Jewish practices. I also enjoyed the mythology and the story of how Japan was formed definitely seems to point to how the Japanese view their own culture. Definitely seems that this would be good to know for relating to the Japanese people.

  • 1

    Not sure where to post this but here are my thoughts

    Barbwhiterma31

    I’m finding the reading intriguing. Starting off with the two gods who formed an island and then gave birth to Susanowo, the storm god and Amaterasu. I’ve been studying the OT lately and it’s interesting that Baal is the storm god. There are many things to bring up in conversation. I found the Japanese-Jewish connection fascinating. I have a Japanese gal I have been doing Bible study with and I have brought in the different things I have been studying (the tabernacle, etc.) so I am excited to bring this up with her to see what she thinks. I also found it helpful to see how Japan has been influenced by outside countries and cultures and yet they make things their own. Understanding Confucianism helped me to understand why they seem to fit into a certain structure in their society even today and why they conform to roles and expectations. Also, I enjoyed learning about how the nationalism started and what led to WWII.

    • Naoko Brown

      Barb,
      Great to have you in the class and I am excited to hear that you are doing Bible study with a Japanese lady. Nobody can deny the similaritis between the tabernacle and Japanese mikoshi, so I am curious how your friend reacted when you pointed out these things.
      I respect your dedication to minister internationals!