Week 2: Japanese History September 14-20

Week 2 Japanese History

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

    Wk 2 reflection-Tony E


    This time around it really hit me how old Japan is, and it was interesting to see how many features relating to societal structure carry through to this day. Someone mentioned this last week, but it’s interesting that Buddhism cemented itself so easily into Japanese culture while Christianity was completely rejected. Even when rampant corruption led the culture to revive Shinto and the emperor, Buddhism remains integral.
    Getting to the modernization of Japan in the Meiji era was very interesting. I like the term “Japanization process”, it is something we see very clearly today. I wonder if this concept can be applied to Christianity; can the Japanese take the work of western Christianity (particularly theology and expressions of worship) imbue it with a Japanese identity and ship it back to the post modern west?
    The last thing that interested me was the emerging status of a world power gained through victories in war. It just reminded me of a video I saw about the rising nationalist party in Japan; how they wish to return Japan to its golden age. Is imperialism and great conquest in war what they have in mind?

    • Sarah Moore

      Hi Tony,
      It is very interesting that Buddhism was able to really build a strong foundation In Japan but Christianity was not accepted. I also was intrigued by the japanization process and wonder how it could impact Christianity. Maybe they would be more willing to believe and accept it if this happened? I do believe God can speak through and use different cultures for His glory and kingdom! He is the one who created each unique culture and understands them the best.

    • Tym Moore

      Hi Tony,

      I agree, it is interesting that Japan has accepted Buddhism and not Christianity, despite both coming from outside sources. It’ll be interesting and useful to continue studying that and see exactly why that is.

      I like your Japanization of Christianity idea too. As long as they don’t change the core beliefs, that could potentially be a good thing for Japan.

    • Jed Irwin

      Christianity wasn’t rejected straight away, it actually spread widely kind fo quickly, but because of the Buddhist influence with the leaders, Christians were highly persecuted. Check out the Kakure Kirishitan. There are some very interesting stories of them. And I still hear of hidden Christians here in present day Japan. The Japanese feel being Christian makes them less Japanese, and so they hide it from those around them. I thought it was odd reading about, but I have heard the term crop up a few time with modern day Japanese.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you Tony for your comment! Indeed Japanese have some magic to take good things and make them better and unique. Also there are many cults that were born in Japan, and some of them acknowledge Jesus or use His name in their teachings, which is a shame. Nowadays I know many churches are doing contexualization and celebrating Japanese traditional ceremonies in church, just like American churches allow kids to celebrate Halloween in safe way.

  • 2

    Week 2 thoughts

    Sarah Moore

    I found the history of Japan to be very intriguing. The Tokugawa time period stood out to me a lot for it’s power and influence during it’s 250 years. Japan isolated itself from most of the world. Buddhism became the main religion and it was heavily influenced by Confucianism principles which also impacted the social classes and roles of everyone in society. The four main social classes were the samurai, farmer, artisans and merchants. Many Christians were killed during this time since everyone had to be registered at a Buddhist temple or they were killed. The shogun Tokugawa believed in eliminating most all Western influences in order to build up the Japanese identity. Part of me wonders if this still affects the Japanese culture today – if they see Christianity as a Western thing and therefore not something to believe in as Japanese. I also was curious about how the social classes might still be evident in the modern Japanese culture too. I was intrigued by how much of a role Confucianism played in daily life then. Especially how they emphasized the duties in and to the family. In some ways, I think these principles are similar to Christian beliefs on the importance of the family and the role of husband and wife.

    The Meiji period also stood out to me as the emperor came back into power and there was more desire for Western influence and modernization. Shintoism also rose in popularity. The phrase oitsuki oikose was used during this time with meant “to catch up and surpass the West.” I thought this was really interesting as in the previous period they wanted almost nothing to do with the West and now their goal was to be like them and better. During this time, Western influence helped to modernize Japan and assisted them on their way to becoming a superpower. I did notice there was a change in attitude towards Christianity during the Meiji period as they were more open to the West. Many hospitals and schools were opened by Christians.

    Today, I notice that Japan is becoming a more isolated and individualistic society with the rise of the internet and video games especially among the youth. It has led to increased suicide rates, social problems, moral decline, and a lack of hope. This stirs my heart to pray more for the Japanese people and I long for them to find hope and peace that only Jesus can give! I am trusting God to lead Tym and I if we are to be a part of the ministry there.

    • EshaRJC

      Hi Sarah, thank you for your thoughts and insights. Very helpful. I wanted to comment on “Part of me wonders if this still affects the Japanese culture today – if they see Christianity as a Western thing and therefore not something to believe in as Japanese.” Just three weeks ago, I talked with a couple who are from Missouri and live as missionaries in Tokyo. I asked them the same question. And this is what I learned. They said they can talk with people about Christianity and they would politely listen and nod their heads. but in their minds they are thinking “its their religion, it does not concern me”. so accordingly to the missionary couple, it seems that Christianity still seems very foreign to Japanese people. I haven’t experienced personally doing mission work in Japan. But coming from India, I can attest to the fact that it is similar to India where Christianity is viewed as a “western” religion; and leaving one’s faith or accepting something “foreign” would be considered betraying your own family/society/country.

    • Naoko Brown

      Hi, Sarah! Thank you for your love and compassion toward Japanese! I would like to ask; how about Chinese people? Compared to Japanese people, is it much easier for Chinese people to open their heart to Jesus? I would love to hear your experiences!

  • 1

    Thoughts from the Readings Wk2 Tym

    Tym Moore

    I’ll admit history can sometimes be tough for me to read through, but I did my best to pay attention through this. First thing that stuck out to me was the emphasis on the Tokugawa period. The author seems to press this time period as a very influential part of Japanese history and the point that starts the process of Japan becoming the nation it is today. Even more interesting was the Meiji Period and their several slogans that motivated them to catch up and surpass Western civilization, all while making their own. I can see this ideology still lasting to today as Japan strives to be at the forefront of many influential technologies in the western world such as cars and electronics and even media.
    Another thing was how much of an influential role Confucianism played throughout the history of Japan. Typically, Confucianism is attributed to China, but it looks like here that it had just as large of a role in Japan. The chapter didn’t seem to mention any influence it had on Japan after WWII. While I can see many of the ideals still in Japanese culture I don’t know if Confucianism is something people still hold fast to, especially with the recent reduction in moral values. On that note, I think a loss of moral values could be a great time to introduce new ones and eventually lead them to Christ.
    Also, apparently Japanese comic books/manga started in 17th century Japan?!

    • Naoko Brown

      Tym, I agree that “a loss of moral values could be a great time to introduce new ones and eventually lead them to Christ.” Regarding Confucianism, I do not think many Japanese people say clearly “I am a follower of Confucius” but it is indeed integrated in our culture and they are holding fast to some of the teachings without knowing where the value came from.

      Thank you for reading through the history part of the book. I know it was not easy!

  • 2

    Esha: Japan 101: Week 2


    The author does an amazing job in detailing the chronicles of Japan’s history in terms of different kingdoms. It was eye-opening to read that the principles and framework of class and society that was established in the 3rd century AD has shaped Japan through centuries and is still operative in modern Japan today. This also shows that Japan is a country where “old is gold” and traditional values and culture matter a lot.

    It was interesting to read about how Buddhism, a foreign religion, got accepted and completely embedded into the Japanese life and culture.

    The introduction of Catholicism through the arrival of European missionary Francis Xavier was most interesting because I know of all of his work in India but was unaware of his influence in Japan. I braced myself as I read though Tokugawa period as I anticipated reading about persecution of Christians. However, even in such hard times, God makes way for good things to come out of bad situations. Schools were established and there was a higher push towards literacy and knowledge. The Meiji period was the most interesting to learn about.

    It was important to note that the isolation of Japan only ended around the end of the 19th century, when they started foreign relationship with other countries. All the years leading upto that, Japan stood as an isolated nation, thus protecting its values and old traditions. Another fascinating thing in this chapter was “Japanization Process”, taking an original idea and improving it with the Japanese essence. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Japanese people accepts Gospel, Japanize it (keeping it true to the Bible) and spread it around the whole world!

    • Jed Irwin

      I read a book by Jonathan Clements called ‘Christ’s Samurai’.
      It was a great read, but it detailed some of the persecution that the Japanese Christians endured in the past. It harkens back to the early churches persecution. The Japanese were made to walk across metal images of Mary or Jesus, called a Fumi-e, their faces are warm off from so many people walking across their images (they are a little surreal to look at). I imagine that more people went to die for Christ than to reject him publicly. Interestingly, they did crucify a few of them, even though that is not in the Japanese culture, they crucified believers here in Japan. Such amazing faith they had, we need to get them back to it, but they need to find a way to rebel against the idea of not being the nail that sticks out to be beat down.

    • Naoko Brown

      I did not know Francis Xavier was a missionary in India, too. How wonderful. My Indian friends talk about Thomas in India. It is very exciting to know that Thomas went all the way to India!

  • 3

    Ed - Week 2 thoughts

    Ed Thomas

    Such an interesting history Japan has! Greatly influenced from the outside, but still uniquely her own. Like others have commented, I was stuck by the lasting impact of prior movements, such as bushido (the way of the warrior/samurai ethics) and Confucianism. I’m sure mounds of books have been written on the topic, but I wonder if these can be conversation hooks to show which characteristics of these movements are found in Christianity (as well as those which aren’t!). For example, in bushido, selfless service to one’s lord is revered – likewise, as Christians, we are to serve Jesus selflessly but will never do so perfectly … but Jesus, who we believe is God Himself, perfected selfless service to the point of death on a cross, and did so not for an individual human lord, but for all of humanity, and for you and for me. Regarding Confucianism, with its defined roles, perhaps we could speak of the body of Christ, each member with his/her own unique role(s) based on gifting from the Holy Spirit. I wouldn’t take these analogies too far, but nonetheless they might be good conversation starters. Would be interested to know if anyone in the group has tried this, or has perhaps read a bit more on these topics.

    • EshaRJC

      Hi Ed, I really enjoyed reading your comment. And especially the pointers for the conversation starters. Thank you.

    • Naoko Brown

      Ed, I think you now have many good conversation starters! Perhaps some of us have some experiences to share. Maybe we can talk about this on next zoom call!

    • Molly Mortimer

      Interesting thoughts! I love the connections you’ve made, I’d also be curious how those conversations would go or if anyone has used these topics to create common ground

  • 2

    Jed - Week 2

    Jed Irwin

    I enjoy history, there is so much to consume about Japan.
    I haven’t noticed any specifically class hierarchy here (but I don’t speak the language and am not in the know), but I do see the hierarchy being played out in the boss to employee relationship. I have a half Catholic Japanese friend here that works in a Shabu Shabu restaurant, and he shares with me stories of how the Japanese treat those that are serving them. He says the customers are filled with a superior attitude toward those that are serving them, like they are lords of their own family and deserve to be treated as such.
    I have also heard there are establishments where they cater to that kind of attitude.
    It is interesting to see how the Japanese history and attitudes have progressed.
    While they are trying to modernize and surpass the western world, they do still stand on some fairly old traditions. For example they use fax machines still. Getting my wife’s medical records from the states had to come via fax. When I went to the police station to get my parking permit, none of the forms or filing is computerized. The poor clerk dug through a fairly large stack of papers to find it when I picked it up. They have stamps that represent money they paste to the forms. They also have tickets for everything.
    It’s interesting how when lords won the wars they would redistribute land to their supporters. Land here is a high commodity the older generations apparently hate to let go of. I think it’s probably pride in the family owning land, a symbol of status, but I’m not sure yet. So when they get older, they can’t work it any more, and they apparently tell the city, and the fields go on a registrar of land you can rent yearly from the city. I fully expect a huge clipboard and a map with pencil markings at it at best, compared to an excel sheet and GIS map for efficiencies sake. I would like to go in one day and find out.

    • Naoko Brown

      Great point, Jed!!! Japan has amazing technology and at the same time they are still hanging on to traditions. I think in some way younger people are showing respect to older generations and yielding to their the old way, waiting for the chance to change. I bet you have new discoveries in Japan every day!

    • Molly Mortimer

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Interesting to hear about the sort of outdated practices you’ve experienced like still using fax machines and paper filing systems. Even with a high efficiency in other areas, like super fast and timely public transport, it’s interesting that some things haven’t become as ‘efficient’.

  • 0

    Week 2 - Molly

    Molly Mortimer

    I really enjoyed the overview of Japanese history in this chapter. I had learned some bits and pieces along the way but it helped put things into perspective to have it all laid out in a chronological timeline. It was helpful to read about the different eras, who held the power and what changed between each time period.

    In reading about more recent modernization during the Meiji period, I thought it was interesting to see the tension Japanese leaders faced between wanting to be like the west, but also wanting to retain a certain national identity and pride. Even now in Japan you can kinda see this juxtaposition, I think back to a time I was riding the very modern subway in Fukuoka and seeing other passengers wearing Yukata and Geta. Or a time I was walking around the city and passing tall skyscrapers, shopping malls and also a 500-year old shrine right in the middle of all the modernity.