Week 2: Communication September 14-20


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

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

    • 1. Interact with the discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
    • 2. Discuss how these cultural characteristics might affect your ministry with Japanese people.

Extra Suggestions:


  • 1

    Brandalyn Week 2 thoughts on Ch 6


    Q1 – I don’t have direct experience, but I can imagine it is correct.

    Q2 – It seems a sticky situation. Personally, I see more value in teaching children how to think and be creative while not being disruptive. I find it concerning that asking questions for clarification is looked down on. But I can see these kinds of outspoken or outburst-prone students being socially troubling for the Japanese culture.

    Q3 – It could – when people feel restrained and restricted it can lead to a build up of emotion and pressure that when released, can do so explosively. I don’t know about that 9yr old girl incident. hard to say.

    Q4 – I think that children are taught the value of being quiet. Mothers parenting styles aren’t overt and verbal. Schools teach more about being quiet than speaking up.

    Q5 – I am the same! It can be helpful in avoiding unnecessary hurts by knee-jerk responses…. but it can also result in some longer-term tensions as issues don’t get discussed or effectively worked out. It can be more painful, but in some ways easier to just know where people stand than everyone to be being polite and you don’t really know the real state of hearts and minds. What is real? What isn’t? That can be hard to decipher.

    Q6 – The general concept seems aligned with Biblical wisdom from the Psalms and proverbs. We have similar sayings in the west about not opening your mouth to confirm you’re a fool. Interesting that people have more freedom – maybe because they are not held to the same professional standards (generally) because they are viewed more as house wives…?

    Q7 – Hard to say. I can see that many wouldn’t be. But some might be just fine with it. I guess it also depends on your environment/upbringing and expectations.

    Q8 – It seems less than honest, not super efficient for communicating, understanding or getting things done… but…. may have value if meetings don’t turn into wild town-hall madness like we can get in the west in group meetings.

    Q9 – It all seems to be one in the same. A consistent concept.

    Cross Cultural Issues:
    Q1 – I can’t speak to many other countries, but we aren’t as restrictive in Canada. However, it isn’t necessarily appreciated, even here, to pipe up too much and offer too much that isn’t in your assigned lane. I think that people start to feel threatened and uncomfortable and concerned about losing their jobs to someone better skilled.

    Q2 – Maybe, but I don’t see it being a huge issue. Cultural awareness of other cultures is likely all that is needed to know how to interact with other non-Japanese effectively.

    Q3 – It can easily lead to mis-understandings as people try to read one another (especially strangers with whom you’re not specifically familiar).

    Q4 – I think this was more common in many (or most) countries in times past. The west has migrated away from it (in many cases now).

    Q5 – I don’t know too much about it. I haven’t noticed this with my friend’s children, but maybe they are all, as of yet, too young. I think that an intermediate version would be beneficial (between Japan and the West’s ways).

    Q6 – quite the opposite where questions and discussion are encouraged – to build the skills and for teachers to know where the students are at.

    Q7 – Teaching Japanese students something very simple – every day say something like “I am having a good time here.” “I am happy” – they don’t need to say a lot or often, but key reinforcing phrases on a consistent basis can address much angst.

    Q8 – I don’t know – but likely. Especially countries that value concepts like zen.

    • Steven La Voie

      I agree with your response on addressing the silence a Japanese exchange student may have while in the Americas. Yes, if you tell them and teach them about your culture and a phrase or two to say, you will not be left wondering if they are happy or not while staying with you.

  • 2

    Silence and Unresolved Conflict

    Steven La Voie


    Question 5: The idea of silence in Japanese society as a way to avoid hurting others feelings is something that I have noticed with Japanese people. The idea of keeping the harmony (wa) is very important to the Japanese and it seems that being silent and indirect in a tense situation should defuse and avoid hurting others feelings. I see that this concept is very biblical as we are commanded to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31 paraphrased). Yes, we should be considerate of others’ feelings and the Japanese do this quite well even if to avoid unnecessary conflict. I agree that in many situations it is best not say anything, even if it is truthful, to avoid hurting someone and just not say anything. The advantage is to show respect towards someone and maintain the peace as much a possible with the other person or the group. A disadvantage of remaining silent and not telling the truth is if I offend one of my Japanese friends and they remain silent or indirect about the incident. If I offend one of my Japanese friends and he or she is angry with me and does not say anything about it, then I have no idea that there is even a problem. Then, there would be this conflict under the surface of our relationship and I would not even be aware all the while this persons is steaming over the unresolved conflict to avoid hurting my feelings. I see where a grudge and bitterness can develop at the cost of unresolved conflict over not wanting to hurt the other person’s feelings.

    • Brandalyn

      I always struggle with this. I am very “conflict phobic” and so I will do most anything I can to avoid tense situations and keep the peace/harmony. But I know the internal toll it can take on me. I think that many people never know the hurt or the struggle or whatever feelings I’m fighting. I wish I could be more open about things to bring about resolution. Sometimes when discussion has to happen, things end up being cleared up much more quickly without the longer-term hurt/stress.

      One of my greatest questions to/about my Japanese friends is “I want to know what you (and others) actually think and feel. Are you as happy/content as you put on? Do you actually feel how it looks like you feel? And I think with openness can come deeper relationship and safety (ideally).

    • Riz Crescini

      Great thought here, Steven, on the value of silence. In addition to your reference in Mark, I also thought of 1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you must live in harmony, be sympathetic, love as brothers, and be compassionate and humble.” Romans 12:16 is also good: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”

      You wrote:
      “A disadvantage of remaining silent and not telling the truth is if I offend one of my Japanese friends and they remain silent or indirect about the incident.”

      Anne and I know this all too well. In fact, we lost a friendship over it. One of our Japanese friends just stopped communicating with us. To this day, we don’t know what we did or said that created a fracture in our relationship. We tried reaching out to this person, but the person would not reply to us. It was very sad and frustrating at the same time. It made us paranoid for awhile with our other Japanese friendships because we didn’t want the same thing to happen.

  • 4

    Week 2

    Alissa Bauer

    Week 2: Communication September 14-20
    Alissa Bauer

    Wow! So many thoughts come to mind as I read through the ambiguous nature of Japanese culture and the way that silence holds so much weight. My first thought is that actually my personality may fit in a little more than an average westerner. Many of the Japanese quotes I really resonated with as someone who respects when the smartest one in the room is silent out of respect for others who may not be on that level.

    “…what is important and what is true in Japan will often exist in silence, not in verbal expression.” (p. 52)
    “Zen training is designed to teach that truth cannot be described verbally, but can exist only in silence.” (p. 52)
    “…it is better to say nothing than cause misunderstanding or trouble.” (p. 53)

    All that is coming to my mind right now is how the gospel relates to all of this. Speaking the gospel will cause trouble. Speaking the gospel is a matter of words and cannot only exist in the silence. The gospel must also be spoken in verbal expression. I’m starting to see why it seems so difficult for the Japanese people to come to know Jesus!

    I’ve been praying for the hearts of the Japanese people to be softened for the believers that are there, that they would have boldness to share Christ with their families and receive encouragement from the Holy Spirit as some believers may not even be able to attend a local church!

    • Brandalyn

      YES! The Bible message is pretty controversial and shaking – not a real fit for the Japanese culture of Wa! I agree with you, this perspective helps to identify some of the hindrances to sharing the gospel there!

    • Steven La Voie

      Alissa, you have very good insights into the the use of silence in Japanese culture and how you tend to fit into that category very well. You are right in that speaking the Gospel will cause conflict and cannot exist in silence. If the Gospel is not spoken in some way, then who will hear the good news about salvation? However, would having a silent play about the Gospel be an effective way to share it with Japanese without words? Could such a thing be an effective way to share Christ? It would be good to think about how we could communicate the Gospel in a more silent way yet still be accurate in what it teaches while reaching their hearts.

    • Riz Crescini

      Alissa, after reading your comment, I thought of Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Jesus is, after all, the Logos; he is the Word. Words are meant to be communicated and Jesus is the ultimate Word that we must communicate. But another aspect of Logos is the idea of God’s activity and power. Jesus, as the Logos, is active in creation and in the order of the cosmos. I share this to say that we should also avail ourselves of this other idea of Logos as present in and ordering creation because the Japanese have a deep connection with creation; with nature. The Word spoken and the Word displayed is a good strategy for ministry among the Japanese.

    • Riz Crescini

      I like your out-of-the-box thinking regarding the use of silence in outreach to the Japanese. We need to do a better job of using the imagination in our engagement. I believe the use of imagination has been sorely neglected in witnessing. With the Japanese, both reason and imagination must be harnessed in communicating truth.

  • 1

    Brandalyn Week 1 thoughts on Ch 1


    I wonder what kinds of unintended messages we might convey to Japanese when we are unintentionally (naively because of language or culture limitations) vague or unclear in our communications!!?

    Q1 – It’s better to be safe and say nothing than risk saying the wrong thing and lose face or lose your position/place in the group.

    Q2 – I can understand this. I feel the same thing! It does draw one towards saying nothing. But I think it could be overcome by articulating that we disagree with someone’s words/thoughts/actions, but not devalue them as a person.

    Q3 – It can be very hard on the receiving end to know the right thing to do (the right response). It can stand in the way of closer relationships and meeting the real needs/desires (a bit of a fake mask). I think it likely results in built up, locked in emotions that are destructive.

    Q4 – Again – this is a lot of me. It sure does make it hard! Maybe it can be done, but not sure I’ve figured it out!

    Q5 – Yes, it seems to be a core foundation of the fabric of the Japanese. I can see that if people suddenly were free from their ambiguous communication, there could be social upheaval as they would have to work through disagreements etc. Things wouldn’t likely be as smooth and pleasant as I currently see.

    Q6 – There are ambiguous elements that I have come across and work to understand. I think it is logical if you understand the cultural context and don’t just try to understand the Japanese in a direct translation format from English. (to understand how they think and communicate it starts to make pretty good sense)

    Q7 – I don’t know that I know what to say to this

    Q8 – If they did, it would change the flow of the culture. It would likely rock the society – home life, school, families, work places. It would be quite a dramatic shift! I guess the question is – how much do the Japanese see their ambiguity as an issue? If it is working for them and they are happy with it, I don’t see a great need to suggested change.

    Q9 – HA! That would explain why I never understand Haiku!

    Cross-Cultural Issues:
    Q1 – I don’t know about this in many other cultures, but I’ve not come across it being considered childish before. But it makes sense as it being viewed as “someone who hasn’t learned how to limit their speech” (as a child takes time to learn aimai).

    Q2 – I agree, that attitudes usually shine through. Most cultures don’t seem to be as good at hiding feeling as Japanese.

    Q3 – Give the benefit of the doubt. Learn the culture and do your best to read between the lines and understand how they communicate.

    Q4 – ‘How are you?’ ‘I’m fine’ – can typically be AKA “I’m not so good, but not going to say what/why.
    ‘Will you come to the party on the Weekend?” “Maybe/I don’t know” – typically AKA “no, but I don’t want to say no”

    Q5 – Identify the elephant in the room (the difference in communication styles) early on so that both parties can be aware of and work together at it. Try to learn the other person’s culture and way of communicating. Try to identify your way/limitations/assumptions in how you communicate. Leave lots of bread crumb trails and clues for them to follow!

    • Steven La Voie

      Do you think that hiding your true feelings and expecting others to read what they are in order to preserve harmony (wa) is helpful for members of Japanese society? I can see the positive and negative effects of acting this way to keep the peace with everyone which God wants us to do with as many people as we can (we are called to be peace-makers).

  • 0

    Brandalyn Week 2 thoughts on Ch 11


    Something I keep thinking about is the difference between close relationships and more formal, distant relationships. The majority of my time in Japan is spent in a family that I have known and been a part of for 18 years. It gives me a bit of a strange experience, because I get a more real and less formal view of people than I do of the strangers that I meet (neighbours, school teachers etc.). I do still see many of these elements, but not near as many in the family setting where I am close to the individuals. It makes me think about ministry and the relationships with people – I feel like my chances would be so much higher in having effective ministry with my family there than strangers because we have such a less guarded relationship and interactions. And on the flip side, it could be a lot harder for me to communicate with and connect with “new people” than what I have become used to.

    Q1, Q2, – I don’t know
    Q3 – It fits that saying/belief. It is a reasonable response to that belief. The bible gives some similar sentiments. A loose tongue and many words don’t lead to good outcomes.

    Q4 – It does seem that way

    Q5 – I don’t know, but I wouldn’t doubt it. There does seem to be (as with many other countries) a slow move from more traditional to more “western” ways)

    Q6 – Positive – more potential concern for the feelings and position of others. Less unfiltered and potentially damaging words. Negative – less honesty, likely more deception/2-faced, more work needed to understand people (tiring?), potentially less validation of difficult feelings because of the duty to hide them and that can be physically, emotionally and mentally damaging.

    Q7 – Don’t know enough to comment well

    Cross Cultural Issues
    Q1 – I’m not sure what to add that hasn’t already been addressed in the chapter.

    Q2 – It does make good sense. If you know to be a detective for these other cues it can work to use haragei.

    Q3 – I agree – the onus should never be on one culture to exclusively change to fit the other. In international relations, both sides should be aware of how the other operates, do their part to understand and adjust their own communication to help the other party understand them. But, the Japanese seem quite unique in the world in this regard, and so they might find it more beneficial and less frustrating to take a proactive role in being understood.

    Q4 – Yes, it exists to varying degrees in different cultures, relationships, people. Sometimes those of us who are more fearful of relationship issues will utilize it more than those who are comfortable throwing caution to the wind.

    Q5 – I think it is distinctly Japanese because it is so common in all levels of society and seems to come from the desire to maintain WA – not just to be 2-faced and deceitful to get your own way (not as self-serving). There is a genuine concern for others in Japan that I don’t find elsewhere. One of the big things I love about the nation!

  • 1

    Prayers for the Yamaguchi Prefecture

    Steven La Voie

    I prayed today that the Lord would raise up more Japanese and international missionaries to go to the unreached towns and villages. May a person of peace be found in these towns and may churches be planted.

    • Riz Crescini

      I join you in your prayers, Steven. I teach at a university in Yamaguchi so I appreciate that you prayed for the prefecture. There is a church in Shimonoseki City that has a wonderful ministry. Please pray that God will build other churches like it.