Week 2: Japanese History April 12-18

Week 2 Japanese History

Week 2 Video
Article on Emperor and General MacArther
Christ and the remaking of the Orient

Reading: Understanding Japan: Part One: Japan – A Brief Review

      • Chapter Two: A Brief History of Japan
      • Japan-Guide. Read any of the historical sections.


      • 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”

    • Reflective Writing
    • Read as many of the other students’ writings as you have time and comment on at least two of them.

Extra Suggestions:


  • 4

    Week2- Brandalyn


    I am intrigued to learn about the history and continued legacy of Zaibatsu where a few big companies became controllers of much of Japan’s industry. I have been surprised to see company names that I normally associate with transportation companies listed on banks or other businesses in other sectors.

    The close of ch2 touches on something that I have found shocking in Japan – that is the vibrant porn/sex industry. It is surprising to me, given the controlled, proper, professional, respectful demeanor of the Japanese in general. It seems like an out of place bit of cultural dirt. I am curious how this has grown and thrived in this culture. And also why it is so out in the open and much less hidden than I am accustomed to in Canada. You find pornographic material openly out on display in various places in Japan that always catch me by surprise. It seems as though it might not been seen as bad, or dirty or shameful…? Anyone have any more insight into that?

    • Rachel

      Brandalyn: Sadly, I find the information on Japan’s porn & sex industries unsurprising. In the past I think “manga” often meant adult comic books featuring pornographic content. Many men read them openly on trains and buses when I was a child. Nowadays everything is available online. I wonder how many in Japanese churches are entrapped by pornography?

      As they grow up, Japanese people seem to learn the ability to isolate behaviors or develop different personas based on setting — for example they may be professional, respectful and controlled at work, and very different when relaxing over drinks or alone at home. This is true in North America also, but I think perhaps more starkly the case in Nihon.

    • brandk09


      I find is somewhat shocking as well given the fact that from the outside looking in Japan is a sharp culture built around honor and respect. Im reminded of our depravity, im reminded of the gospel urgency. As the prophet isaiah said in Isaiah chapter 6,”Here I am, send me.”

    • WCathy

      I find that the openness of the sex industry in Japan is a one of its kind existence in Asian countries, because most countries would hid the ugly sides of their culture yet they’re so open about it. I appreciate their honesty (instead of people forced into sex trafficking or having deals with sex as a condition), but on the other hand I do believe that this phenomenon needs to change because the pure existence of this industry is creating a vicious cycle in society (whether people realize or not).

    • Naoko Brown

      Everything you all said is so true. Walking in Tokyo, there were times when I went into a wrong street by accident where there were a cluster of adult entertaining stores and bars, and I got embarrassed and quickly ran out of the area. It was before I became a Christian, but I felt spiritual darkness in these areas. Adult movie posters were shamelessly displayed, and as a child I learned to block out what I didn’t want to see. As Rachel said, there are many adult Manga comics, that can get young children’s attention.

  • 0

    Facebook Group for RJC Academy


    We touched on it during the call, but if anyone wants to dig further into topics than we are able to here, or connect with other past or prospective students on topics, or propose other topics that we should look into offering in the future etc…. we have the RJC Academy facebook group that you are all welcome to.

    Find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/academyrjc

  • 3

    Joze (Week 2) Reflection


    VIDEO: Firstly, great job, Naoko-sensei, on the video! The pictures you included were so invaluable! And YUM to the samurai burger!

    Questions on the video:
    1. Some of the era names are clear (as location, like Nara, Muromachi and Edo, or emperor name, like Showa, Heisei, Reiwa, or potter like Jomon), but some are not clear to me. What about Yayoi, Kofun, Asuka and Azuchi-Momoyama? Are they places, people or something else? And do they mean anything?

    2. How does the emperor-ship (is that a word) pass from one family to another these days (like Heisei to Reiwa)?

    MacArthur ARTICLES: I would say that MacArthur’s decision to not impose Christianity as a national religion was wise, but I do wonder what could have been the possibilities if Emperor Hirohito, who seems to be revered even to this day with the celebration of his b-day (Showa-no-hi), had become a follower of Jesus and what influence he could have had among the Japanese at the time. However, overall, if MacArthur had made Christianity a national religion in Japan, it would likely have just furthered the cause of Christendom (the Western religion franchise that popularized televangelists and megachurches) rather than raising up disciples of Jesus Christ (whose seed would grow within and accepted by the Japanese people and culture). But then again Japanization might have taken the Western religion franchise and made it better with bigger megachurches. 😉

    UJ Book: It was a better experience for me reading this chapter as the author seemed to be in much better footing in explaining the facts and periods well. And it was good to have a cross-reference of the Japan Guide website to clarify things in my mind.

    As I was reflecting on this history of Japan, although it’s admittedly overwhelming and I still need to relearn and review things, I found that I wasn’t working from a blank slate as I previously thought. Funnily enough, the connection points that help me create a backbone to my understanding of Japanese history were through either travel or movies or board games (ones that I’ve played and own, or ones that I’ve heard about):
    – Yamatai (board game) – I think it’s Queen Himiko on the cover art.
    – Nara (travel) – I only remember the deer that swarm you for their snack.
    – Bushido (movies) – Mostly from Kurasawa’s depiction of samurais.
    – Sekigahara (board game) – This was when I’d first heard about the Tokugawa shogunate and the battle of Sekigahara.
    – Edo (board game) – That it’s the former name of Tokyo.
    – IKI (board game) – A game about artisans in the Nihonbashi district.
    – Nippon (board game) – This where I first learned about zaibatsus and Japanese industrialization.
    – Kanban (board game) – About the efficient method of just-in-time production of cars.
    – Hiroshima (travel) – One of the most impactful sad life moments was seeing the images of the shadows of the victims incinerated by the bomb.
    – Edo-Tokyo Museum (travel) – This was my first entrance into Japanese history and culture. I was fascinated by how the Japanese were able to rebuild after such a devastating loss (i.e. the war, emperor-god, shame)!

    Lesson learned: play more board games! 😉

    • Peggy Burkosky

      I appreciate your comment: “Christendom (the Western religion franchise that popularized televangelists and megachurches) rather than raising up disciples of Jesus Christ (whose seed would grow within and accepted by the Japanese people and culture). But then again Japanization might have taken the Western religion franchise and made it better with bigger megachurches”. Well said. It has me wondering if the body of Christ in Japan is following that model. Frankly at this point in history with a lot of the “shaking” going on in Western Christendom directly or indirectly related to the pandemic, it seems that we’re in such a period of waiting. What will discipleship look like up ahead? This is why I joined up with RJC, attended the conference and now doing this course. I’m wanting to be equipped when I head to Japan. How will I “do church”? I don’t want to be disconnected with a disconnected body, if you know what I mean. Asking. Seeking. Waiting. The enemy is assaulting our peace with “you’re a lone ranger, where’s your covering, etc etc.” This stepping out in faith takes courage. BTW if any of the group reads this, do you know of a way of being hooked up with prayer or some kind of ongoing fellowship with RJC?

    • brandk09


      Great point. From my experience, the Japanese are highly relational people and in order for them to open up trust needs to be built. But the culture and society in japan is basically the opposite. That intentional pursuit is much needed in the Japanese culture to effectively reach them with the gospel. Hanging out with them, sharing meals together, getting to know and learn their story. Getting to the heart! We see Jesus ask good careful questions that exposed the heart.

    • Naoko Brown

      Joze, thank you very much for your valuable comment! I am going to improve the video when I have time. And, wow! I have never played those board games!!! I will definitely try some of those!

  • 3

    Takako - week 2 Reflections


    Hello everyone!

    Naoko-sensei, thank you so much for the video. I definitely agree with Joze that pictures and names definitely helps! I’m a visual learner and you made me hungry at the end of the presentation. That’s impressive that you were about to summarize and highlight Japanese history in under 9 minutes! =) I did visit Kinkakuji with mom in 2004… beautiful temple! And the SS Missouri in Oahu with my family. I did not know that General McArthur turned down the offer from Emperor Hirohito to make Japan a Christian nation. Definitely an interesting article.

    What I’ve been praying for this week comes from Operation Japan, page 14. To pray for the emperor and the imperial family. Praying for the few Christian politicians and government workers who might represent Jesus. In October, 2019 Naruhito was proclaimed the next enthronement as the next emperor. The deep rituals and century-old ceremonies were performed at the Imperial Palace. See article below.


    • Rachel

      Hello Takako: Thank you for linking to the CNN piece on Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement in 2019. There are some very ancient and mysterious aspects to the ceremonies surrounding his becoming Emperor. (What was the meaning of the white garments he & Empress Masako wore, I wonder? Traditionally i Japan white garments signify death.) I am reminded to pray for him & his wife, and also for his father Emperor Emeritus Akihito, as well as for the whole Imperial Family.

    • Joze

      Thanks for the article, Takako-san! Interesting read and it answered my questions about how does emperor-ship pass on (by blood line) and how are the eras named and what do they mean. It was also interesting to read about the 550,000 petty criminals that were pardoned – which to me seems more gracious and impartial compared with some other ones, say, presidential pardons.

    • Naoko Brown

      Takako, thank you so much for the link!! It is very helpful. There was a rumor about the previous emperor Akihito several years agi. Some believed that he became a Christian through a Christian physician who served the imperial family. However, there is no way to confirm it, because he is supposed to be following Shinto religion as an emperor. Both Akihito’s wife Michiko and current empress Masako went to Catholic high school. I pray that whatever they learned in school about God comes back to them when needed. Regarding white color, it is true that dead people wear white in Japan. However, white is a color of formal ceremony including wedding. I can see why the empress wore white at this ceremony.

  • 2

    Rachel -- Week 2


    Wow, what a Speedy Overview of Japan’s history — from AD 300 to post-WW2 in about 13 pages! And the Japan Guide is just as cursory, with a bit different angle in relation to Christianity.

    Throughout Chapter 2 of S. Lee’s book I note the recurring themes of social stratification, group & class obligation, governmental and military control, and bureaucratic machinery. Perhaps these are themes throughout history anywhere in the world, but I can certainly see how a deeper study of Japan’s historical experience will translate into a practical understanding of the Japanese mindset today.

    I found the topic of “Impersonalization” (pgs. 17-18) particularly interesting. (Perhaps the Nihongo terms are “hi jinkaku-teki” or “hi kojin-ka”?) The author’s statement that “political and social developments altered the status of individuals,” (pg. 17) deserves a more involved discussion, Perhaps further chapters will touch on this topic again.

    This week in Operation Japan I read about “Japanese Ministries Abroad” (pg. 41) and “The Church in Japan” (pg. 65). Both types of ministries are have been deeply impacted by the global health crisis this past year. I am reminded to pray continually for the needs of Japan’s churches, as well as for ministries to expat Nihonjin worldwide.

    • Naoko Brown

      Hi, Rachel! Yes, “Impersonalization” is a very important concept in order to understand the Japanese people, and the effect of it is lingering even today. I do not think the book will talk about it any more, but I will see if I can find something to share.

    • Rachel

      Thank you Naoko !!

  • 0

    NYTimes and Christian HIstory articles


    The April 7, 1964 New York Times article (in which Billy Graham recounts a conversation with General Douglas MacArthur) and the Christian History article by Darren Lewis (2017) were both very interesting. I am so thankful that Japan was not “made a Christian nation” after WW2. John 4:24 comes to mind — I pray that Japan (and every nation) is filled with those who worship God from their hearts, not because of official edicts or cultural expectations.

  • 2

    Week 2 for Peggy

    Don Wright

    I appreciate the video presented by Naoko san for week 2. I find it to be a useful overview and have already sent it to our son who resides in Japan who is 15 years fluent in Japanese, married to our beautiful daughter-in-law in her mid-thirties who comes from a family that became involved with the Unification church. Needless to say a great amount of wounding and harm came out of that situation and I am hopeful that through this relationship I am able to bring the light of the true gospel. I enjoyed the history surrounding Kamakura, an artsy region (close to where son and daughter-in-la live). It is good news to hear that there is a stronger Christian presence and history in that area and I look forward to making connections when I get there (bags PACKED!!! lol). Of interest is the Operation Japan prayer guide which is focusing on this region this week.
    Naoko san suggests from her video that we consider the similarities and influence of Hebrew letters and Kanji. Allow me to share some facts from a link that I mentioned in Week 1 observations:
    “… prior to the fall of the assyrian empire in 612 BC babylonia came to power as the new babylonian empire or chaldean empire allying itself with the medes and persians under king nebipolassar and his son nebuchadnezzar they defeated the egyptians in 605 BC jerusalem was sacked and destroyed consequently the king and nobles of the kingdom of judah were imprisoned in babylon and remained in babylonian captivity until their liberation in 529 BC by cyrus the great king of the persian empire the israelites migrated through central asia along the silkroute silk route into the north western region of china perhaps during the latter part of the zhou dynasty approximately 600 BC the people of israel upon their arrival in china at their best taught the highest ideas of moral and ethical excellence their social principles and values were identical with that of the chinese ethical rules and systems therefore the israelites were accepted as a civilized race of people by the chinese and concepts such as the redeemer or the holy one T Z were also introduced to the chinese in the ancient chinese ne e elassie classic lassle writing lieh tse jong ni pianrj4 piananj t akl tub jeb tul there is the following passage ettiagftemasicaathasiitawsiyafttemsnasfe saa aad eat which is translated as follows shang premier visited confucius and asked him whether the three kings and the five emperors of china were the holies confucius answered that he knew not the shang premier was very astonished and asked again then whom is to be the holy one after a while with a very touching expression on his face confucius said that there will be one born in the west west to china the middle east he would be the only one to be the holy one … ”

    The paper goes on to include some fascinating facts which I am sure that we will all enjoy:

    • Gina Kato

      Hi, Peggy

      I had a family member involved in the Unification Church. I prayed and prayed and prayed, and one day this family member decided to leave that church.

    • Rachel

      Don — Very interesting paper by HH Chen! (Published when, I wonder?) Also, I will add my prayers for your son & daughter-in-law.

  • 1

    Jocelyn (Week 2) Reflections


    I also wanted to say thank you, Naoko San, for the video presentation. It was really helpful to watch each time period and the pictures to see the progression of religion within Japan. I found it interesting that in your presentation that you think that suicide is prevalent in the society because of how harakiri was seen as honourable with the samurai. It shows how much honour and shame still plays such an important role in the society today.

    I think it’s interesting that early on that they adopted Buddhism and Confucianism because those who brought it were not threats to their society. But when the Portugal and Spain came, they shut them out because of the threat of being colonialized by them. It makes me wonder how people perceive Westerners now and if culture and religion are directly correlated when they first meet them and how standoffish they can be because they don’t want to be “converted” to Christianity or other religions.

    With MacArthur, it was interesting that even during that time, that he had the wisdom to not say yes to making Japan a Christian nation. It seems that it has also only been recently that we have had the wisdom in not colonizing areas and forcing religion on people as we have seen how it has affected other countries. In many places in this world, culture and religion are so intertwined that it has made people more nominal in whatever religion is associated with their culture. As MacArthur said, it’s better to see people have a deep relationship with Christ than to force religion on them.

    • Gina Kato

      Hi, Jocelyn

      My mother would take me to Obon Festival as a child. Obon Festival is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestor. It included a dance where people wore kimonos and lined up in a circle around a wooden scaffold. The wooden scaffold is used as a bandstand for musicians and singers.

  • 2

    Gina - Week 2 Reflection

    Gina Kato

    From my understanding of what I read, I learned Christianity was introduced to Japan and it had to end in Japan until the ban was lifted in 1873. According to Understanding Japan, in 1543 during the Muromachi period (aka Ashikaga period 1338 — 1573), firearms and Catholicism were introduced. According to the video, in 1549 Catholicism was introduced when the Portuguese Jesuit priest, Francis Xavier arrived. I learned that during the Edo period (aka Tokugawa period 1603 – 1868), “Buddhism was made a national religion in order to eliminate Christianity. Everybody had to be a registered at a Buddhist temple or else they were killed.” From my outside reading, in 1614 Christianity was banned and European missionaries were killed or forced to leave Japan.

    • Naoko Brown

      Gina, thank you for your comment. Christianity prospered, then banned and persecuted, and then reintroduced but after the trauma of persecution, it is understandable that people have been slow to open their heart to the Gospel. There is a missionary who is currently serving in Japan, and he said this: “Japan has a dark blanket over it that descended during the time of intense persecution of Christians. At that time, Satan gained his grip on Japan and he has never let go.” We got to remove the dark blanket with our love and prayers!

    • Rachel

      Hello Gina & Naoko San — Corrie TenBoom was an amazing Christian evangelist & speaker who visited many countries during her ministry after WW2. She said that she could feel a very deep spiritual darkness in Japan. This must be connected to Japan’s strong Anti-Christian history. I will try to find the quote in her books …

  • 2

    Week 2 Reflections - Kyle


    Through my lens and the relationships I have with Japanese. Japan seems to be a very reserved mystique country. Japan was closed off to any foreigner for 200-250 years. I believe alot of the current culture (although changing) has so much to do with Japans past. For example, Bushido, the way of the warrior, loyal to the very end. no matter what i will be loyal to my master. This seems to be the case now in Japan. The salaryman working his life away for the company. Neglecting his family for the sake of the company. Doing everything possible to be loyal and bring the company honor. The last thing the salaryman wants is to bring shame or dishonor to his company. This stems from the dangerous “bushido.” There seems to be no time for anything but work and a little rest. This may be a reason why japan is tough soil to penetrate with the gospel. The only priority is the company. Also to conform to a different belief systems seems to be a big no no. The Japanese culture seems to be deeply rooted in its traditions and any “going against the grain” sounds like the individual may be cut off from friends and even family.

    • WCathy

      This is an interesting point that you have pointed out! It made me recall a conversation with my dad on the difference between the Chinese and Japanese. In Chinese history, every new era is marked by a riot and defeat of the previous era’s emperor, but in Japanese history things just seem to happen naturally that comes from a place of loyalty and making sure people are in the right places. The Japanese don’t fight to become Emperor because they actually believe that the Emperor’s bloodline are ‘god-chosen’ (a very rare thought in East Asian countries).

    • Naoko Brown

      Kyle and Cathy, you both made very good points!!! Yes, I believe the past has molded Japan, just like we were molded by our own past. The coexisting religious teaching and political manipulation in the history made Japanese people’s heart turned hard toward religion.

  • 1

    Cathy week 2 reflection


    My comment did not post properly the first time, so I’m hoping it works properly this time.

    From the readings and my own reflection, I realized that throughout the history of Japan and even today, the mainstream Japanese likes to learn adapt ideas from others but dislikes it when someone tries to bring something new to them. They’re still a fairly traditional country. I learned why Japan rejected and persecuted the Spanish and their religious agendas but worked with the Dutches who didn’t have much of a religious agenda, it’s because they feared that these westerners would colonize them. Yet when they became stronger they ended up doing horrendous things to many neighbouring countries. It makes me feel like they don’t have a right/firm moral value. Even today they are the country known for their AV industry and host clubs are often spotted in metropolitan cities. Just talking about the current society, Japanese are very polite and hardworking, but there is something missing inside their hearts that makes a lot of people feel empty.

    I loved the article that talked about the General rejecting the Emperor’s offer to turn Japan into a Christian nation, because salvation should be voluntary not forced. This was a biblical action but not an easy one. The General must have prayed for wisdom on this offer.

    I pray that more Japanese open their hearts; that different ministries can reach more people; and for God to equip the younger generations to do Kingdom work.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, Cathy. Earlier Brandaly and others were talking about how Japanese are so shameless about adult entertainment. There are many aspects of Japanese, and they could be very cold blooded and cruel in one aspect. Yes, something is missing in their heart, and that is why we want to carry the Good News to them. I appreciate for your care and love for the Japanese people.

  • 1

    MacArthur article


    I have never been able to read the full article, after it loads it says that I have used up my allotment of free articles to view and I can’t finish reading it. Can someone copy the text or print it as a PDF for me?

    • Naoko Brown

      Brandalyn, I just saw this message. Sorry! I used to be able to read it when I sent the link to Don, but now it is not available any more. I will see if I can find a different article and let you know!