Week 3: Japanese Society September 21-27

Week 3 Japanese Society

Reading: Understanding Japan: Part Two: Japanese Society (32 pages)

  • Chapter Three: Japanese Family. If you have time, please view this presentation on “Hikikomori,” called The Lost Generation.
  • Chapter Four: Japanese Working Life
  • Chapter Five: Social Stratification in Japan

If you have time: Japanese Culture 101: Why Japanese and Americans Seem Rude to each Other, by Darien Reinman.

Interviewing:

  • Interview a Japanese.
  • Discuss each of the above three topics from the book.
  • How does his/her experience match or disagree with Samuel Lee’s analysis?

Pray:

  • 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”

  • 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 you comment section of Japan 101.
  • Read as many of the other students’ writings as you have time and comment on at least two of them.

Extra Suggestions:

Questions

  • 3

    Irwin - Week 3 Reflections

    Jed Irwin

    I find it astounding that the number of Hikikkomori conservatively number in the millions, although it’s believed to be higher. And the Protestant Christians only number in the 500,000! There are more shut ins and recluses that can not deal with the Japanese society, then Bible believing Christians!
    And what a group of people that need Christ, the redeemer, the savior, the comforter!
    I asked a neighbor here in the apartment complex about finding Hikikomori’s to talk to, and he said they are kept up with at the schools (if they are of school age). When I was emailing one of the local elementary schoolS, I noticed it had an “extended absence” form on their webpage. This has prompted many hours of prayer for those that are lost and secluded.
    Talking with another Japanese about my daughter and what elementary school we wanted her to attend and what career path we had in mind for her. I was able to see first hand the pressure and intentions of some other parents of other kindergarteners. My eldest is a 5 year old daughter, I’m more worried about raising her up to know God, everything else is supposed to be small fries compared to that. Her career, whatever it might be, is really up to her, and I pray that she will know the Lord and become an heir in Christ, and that will give me more joy than anything else she could become.
    I spoke to another gentleman, a third generation Japanese Christian about work and Christianity. He has run across a prosperity gospel (maybe cult) that deceived him some 20 years ago, and they were only looking for financial gain. This has left him with many doubts and wonders about how churches and businesses should interact. He also minimizes his role as a Christian. I was asking where he was reading in his Bible, and what God was sharing with him and he seemed to think he was only a lay person, a business owner, and didn’t study the Bible, nor read it every day. He has a list of good works that he does, but for his personal relationship he relies on his pastor to feed him, and is frankly put off by my questions. He doesn’t see it as his responsibility as a lay believer to study the Bible (who is not the first I’ve encountered here and in America, with this kind of attitude).
    I’ve been thinking a lot on missions here in Japan. The word is used frankly a lot on the church I attend, and others that I’m aware of. There is this push, this drive, with programs and trips to other neighboring countries (although canceled this year) for missions, one of the local American planted churches is trying to get 10 people from the states to come plant churches on every stop of the Tsukuba Express. God has been pointing out to me personally, that it’s not enough to have a building and a pastor, but the Japanese (and frankly all people) need to be taught to dig deeper and go farther with God. It’s much more about a few quality believes than pews full of wishy washy, luke warm Sunday Christians.
    (2 Cor 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.).
    If we can help lead, guide, and disciple people to be transformed into his image, through Christ, with the Holy Spirit, they will grow to have hearts like God’s and a natural out flow of that love will be missions.
    These are my thoughts and experiences, I am welcome to discussion and disagreements.

    • EshaRJC

      Hi Jed, really enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for sharing the firsthand experience with the Japanese people on issue of educational pressure and the pressure to perform. It doesn’t even surprise me that the parents feel this pressure. It is also the pressure to keep up with everyone around them and to conform to the society they are living in. The pressure to perform in the educational system in India was so high that I specifically remember thanking God for limiting the lifespan of humans to 70 or 80 years.

      About your comment on the lukewarm Christians, I have experienced such kind of Christianity here in the US – namely “cultural Christianity”. I have wondered if the ease of life has anything to do with it. In countries like China or India, one can really suffer for faith, therefore one must really be sure in their heart and believe if something/someone is worth following. These are my thoughts. I understand that this issue is like an onion and there are so many layers.

    • Barbwhiterma31

      I really appreciated your thoughts, Jed. It does seem so often churches are content with adding more churches and members and just checking off the list of to do’s. I have found that working with s. Korean Christian international students that many are content to just go to church to check off the list and they are good to go. Certainly, that’s true of many American Christians as well. It’s very interesting that you can learn first hand about the Hikikomori. I found that to be heart breaking. It was encouraging to see that man who was reaching out to some and seeing some progress. It would be wonderful to see this as a Christian ministry. I also found the video on Why Japanese and Americans are rude to each other very interesting. I wish I had understood more when I was living in Japan. It would be good to talk more in depth about this. I tend to think our way is “more biblical” but I think I need to reflect on this more. Perhaps they are “considering the other more important than oneself. ” I would love to understand this on a deeper level.
      I did show my Japanese student friend the website that talks about the commonalities between Jewish-Japanese common Ancestry Theory. She was very curious. I’m anxious to ask her more.

    • Naoko Brown

      Jed, thank you very much for your passionate comment. There are people who are reaching out to Hikikomori in different ways. I know a Christian lady who is tutoring Hikikomori kids, because they don’t go to school. Depending on the degree of the condition, some are really hard to reach. Perhaps some families are shamed and hiding these kids. It is a social dysfunction, but definitely the father of lies is keeping them in misery. Just like any mental illness, some may get better with certain treatment, but Jesus is the answer and true healing.

      I used to know a Japanese lady who bragged that she was the 5th generation of Japanese Christian family. Those people are so blessed to be raised in a Christian environment, but just like people in any other countries, it is so easy to become “Cultural Christians” if we just going through the motions. Especially in Japan, some people may be afraid to look very “religious” and try to keep a low profile. We all need to have fire in our heart to fulfill our purpose on earth and glorify the Lord.

  • 1

    Week 3 thoughts

    Sarah Moore

    This week I learned a lot about Japanese culture and society. One of the first things that stood out to me was the role of families and their relationships to each other. Japan has historically been a male dominated society and the book said this has its roots in Confucianism. They earned the money and worked a lot often only spending a few minutes with their wives and kids. The role of the mother was to stay at home, take care of kids, cook and clean. Women began working full time in more recent history and this has led to them having a hard time balancing work and life at home. Some have even chosen to stay single and many of these women are in poverty. Another thing I found interesting was the declining interest in marriage and having children. It seems that most Japanese are focusing on their jobs and their own lives and not wanting to get married or have kids. This in turn has led to an aging population with fewer young people to take care of them. Many of these elderly are alone and have even “rented a family” to help them feel connected because their own families won’t see them. Makes me wonder what will happen In a few years when the population is slowing down?
    As far as working life, I found it interesting that most people commit to staying at one company for their lifetime and it almost becomes like a family to them. They even have religious sanctuaries to worship at. I wonder if this would be a requirement of working at a company like this?
    I was also impacted by the chapter on social stratification. It is interesting the ways history has still impacted Japan today as far as how they see women in society and also foreigners. For the most part women still make a lot less money than men and usually are not in leadership positions. The last part of that chapter discussed how they viewed foreigners(such as Korean-Japanese) who have grown up and even lived in Japan for their lifetimes, but are still not considered Japanese or allowed to work/live in certain areas. Even some of their own aboriginal groups that were there from the 8th century were considered outsiders and are still experiencing discrimination.
    Overall I felt these chapters conveyed some pretty heavy material but also helped me understand Japanese culture more especially their society and roles. I do believe that this will help when relating with them and understanding them.

    I’m in the process of getting an interview with a Japanese friend and will report on that soon!

    • Naoko Brown

      Sarah,
      It is concerning in the future that there will be more and more lonely elderlies in Japan. That is a practical concern, but spiritually it is concerning that many younger people are becoming more and more self-centered.

      Just like any culture, deep rooted prejudices, pride and superior/inferior complexes in the Japanese culture are hard to change. However, compare to the time when the author experienced and researched about Japan, I believe Japanese people are much more open minded and accepting foreigners. Still it is sad that their attitude toward “minorities” are harder to change.

  • 2

    Esha: Japan 101: Week 3

    EshaRJC

    This week material has so much to it. There is just so much to write.

    1. This week’s two videos had exactly opposite effects. One made me laugh so hard, my tummy hurt. Another one made my heart break. Let us talk about the video “a lost generation”. Life in India wasn’t much different. Perhaps that’s why it was hard to watch the video. I can relate to the problem of hikkikomori (as a social problem), although I have never met one. I couldn’t keep up with the social expectations as well as the academic expectations of family, school and society. I can see why kids in Japan wants to shut themselves in. Not saying it is right or wrong. Just saying that I understand and relate to them. [How can we reach to this lost generation with the love and Gospel of Lord Jesus if they live a shut-in life? I am curious to know if anyone knows about any mission work being done among these individuals]

    2. Now to the Japanese culture video. I will comment on this more as my experience as a foreigner in the US than in Japan as I don’t have much experience in Japan. Understanding another culture is super important because otherwise it can lead to many miscommunications. I remember when I first came to the US, I asked someone to give me a rubber in the class (I meant eraser in British English), invited a Christian brother in for a cup of tea as a thank you for walking me home at night (and I literally meant a cup of tea), and offended an American lady when she told me “your English is very good”, by replying “no, not at all; in fact my English is pretty bad” proving her to be a bad judge of “what a good English speaking should sound like” while trying to be super modest. On a deeper level, I struggled with the concept that here I didn’t know my neighbor (in India my neighbor was like family to me). I lamented the individualism of the culture and the fact that people didn’t ask for help easily. You were expected to stand on your own feet. I disliked the pretentious talks where every sentence had to end with “please” or “excuse me”; that the words had lost their meaning. On the opposite spectrum, I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to meet anyone’s expectations. And without that pressure, I flourished. Here people genuinely wanted to be my friend and the age difference wasn’t an issue. My Statistics professor, who was a strong Christian, took me in as a daughter and mentee. (I didn’t have close relationship with any of my professors in India. I doubt they even knew my name). Life in America gave me breathing space and I was able to express myself as an individual and how God had made me uniquely! It is here that I fully understood the depth of my faith and scope of my calling.

    3. Now to the Understanding Japan book. I couldn’t believe the paragraph of “Lonely elders” and “rent-a-family” service. It was too painful to read. God, how much more Japan needs you now, if all this is true! “An average Japanese father spends 17 minutes with their children. They are viewed as borderline absentee fathers.” Because at the end of a hard day of work, if boss invites me to a drink, I must go. If time is such an expensive and rare commodity, how is the church finding space in people’s lives to reach out to them with the Gospel? Also, another thought crossed my mind and I prayed about this dream to become a reality. Wouldn’t it be amazing if more and more God-fearing Christian individuals are appointed at high positions in companies, and instead of inviting their subordinates to drink, they send them home to spend time with their spouse and children?

    • Jed Irwin

      Esha,
      I have heard about a Christian Cafe, I think it was called Taro cafe, up north Tohoku area, that is trying to minister to Hikikomori. I’m curious if they would be interested in just having someone to talk to. I am told some Japanese like the English speakers, especially Americans so they can practice their language, or it’s just “cool” to have a foreigner friend. I just don’t know how to find them/reach out to them till I have more Japanese language.
      With the salary men, I’ve thought of riding the trains consistently to and from Tokyo every day, because these men spend an hour or more, twice a day. Could be good conversations, or hand out little thought provoking books or tracts. I’m still working on the language, but I also know that some Japanese people are private, and wary of religion. So I think it would for sure be a tough ministry, but these lost men need to be at least offered some gospel.
      I definitely see the absent father here. It seems like the teachers here have it best because their ours are less, but the hours are still so much. I wonder if part of the desire to go out with coworkers and bosses is because it’s easier to eat, drink, and be merry, because coming home to be a father is so hard. They themselves probably didn’t have a good example and are scared/unsure of how to do it. I grew up in a non-Christian home, and I assure you it a hard to try to figure out how to lead a family because my dad was gone a lot too when I was growing up, it’s twice as hard trying to raise them up in Christ, training them they should go, without having that example to fall on. So I’m floundering around most days. Praying it through, seeking His example. So I can relate some with the Japanese, although you are right, America’s individualism is profoundly different than the collectivism of Asian cultures.

    • Marty Parker

      Esha,
      I enjoyed reading your point #3. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if more and more God-fearing Christian individuals are appointed at high positions in companies…” I think the first part of your idea could be realized as Japanese Christians begin to view themselves as “salt & light” to their cultural context. This position would created the necessary impetus to rise in society in order to effect change in society. But the more modest condition of confidence building must be broached. Whether followers of Christ like it or not, we are the ones to stand up for justice and influence for the Kingdom of God (the Sermon on the Mount leaves little to chance). I would love to see Japanese Christian men point their subordinates back to their families for fulfillment and guidance instead of follow the usual corporate flow! Great comments! Thanks!

  • 1

    Broken Family Reflection, and other segmented thoughts

    Marty Parker

    I was devastated to read on p. 34, about the Japanese woman and child found in an apartment starved to death due to the fatherless family problem. I would have gladly given this woman and her son food from my table.

    More questions emerge… Where was her support system? How do people in a collectivist culture even disconnect from each other? Where do these blind-spots in Japanese society come from? Who is willing to be a neighbor according to Luke 10:29-37 and break social protocol? How can Christians rescue these people before they perish?

    I watched the video on Hikikomori and have seen other documentaries on it. It is painful to observe and to know that each of these problems are avoidable.

    How much is one Japanese person worth to other Japanese people? Each Japanese person (as well as everyone on earth) is far overpaid by the Blood of Jesus Christ. The Japanese must be taught to view one another through what the Father of All was willing to pay for each person. (Obviously, it’s a lesson all nations must learn).

    Bottom line, the DNA that will save Japan is found only in Christ and on the worldview shaping pages of the Scriptures themselves.

    • Sarah Moore

      Thank you for your thoughts! I too was very saddened by the story of the single mother and child who died. The role of a father is so important, but I also wonder in this case where her social supports were. It seems to me that a lot of Japan is growing to be isolated and technology is increasing that as well.
      I agree that the only thing that can truly save and bring transformation to Japan would be knowing Christ and having a personal relationship with Him. The challenge comes in how to effectively share the gospel with them and disciple them so they can understand and find hope in Him.

  • 1

    Thoughts from the Reading Wk3 Tym

    Tym Moore

    These were some heavy chapters to read. Behind all the sushi, samurai and anime that everyone loves is a nation that is hurting and desperately trying to find meaning in life. I feel like a lot of struggles modern Japanese face are similar to struggles faced by Americans yet even more emphasized. For example, I know sometimes the field of Engineering here in the states can demand 60+ hours of work a week, but that’s usually the exception. Yet it seems from these chapters that it is not only common but also expected of Japanese men to spend nearly all their time with their company; leaving the majority of homes without a father. It struck me that a lot of these companies even have their own “company religion” that employees are expected to adhere to. It makes me wonder about how hard it would be for a Christian to work in one of those places, or if they simply just lose their job. Would it be possible for a company religion in Japan to be Christianity? Are their any companies that do this already?

    Another thing that stuck out to me was the problem of the elderly in Japan. I always feel terrible for the elderly here in the states, but it seems like their condition is worse in Japan. Also, with the addition of low birth rates it’s a problem that will only get worse. I agree with the author that caring for these elderly could be a strategic place to spread the gospel.

    Sarah and I sent interview questions to a Japanese friend, but at the time of writing this they have yet to respond. I’ll likely comment on this post with my impressions of that.

    • Ed Thomas

      Hi Tym – Interesting question regarding whether Christianity could be a company religion in Japan. I’m not aware of any Japanese company who would say Christianity is their company religion. There are two companies that advertise regularly in the Japan Harvest publication (which is put out by JEMA) and they are Miyoshi Oil & Fat Co., Ltd. and Yamazaki Biscuits Co., Ltd. but I don’t know much about these companies. I heard there’s a Christian-supporting bread company near Ichikawa in Tokyo but I can’t remember their name. I also believe the President of Murasaki Sports is a Christian but I don’t know much about him.

  • 0

    Ed - Week 3 comment

    Ed Thomas

    Some pretty sad stuff regarding hikikomori and the poverty rate among single women, particularly in the elderly age range. I also had no idea that a full 25% of marriages were due to surprise pregnancies (dekichatta kekkon). Also really striking that Japan has an unusually high crime rate in the above-60 age group as compared to other international countries – just so odd to imagine this in a country where crime is so low. It was interesting that in both the professional world and educational world there is a focus on morals. We as Christians know where this moral law comes from and this could possibly be a conversation starter. I’m sure the initial reaction would be that morals are instilled by their parents and superiors but one could perhaps take the conversation to a more global scale and highlight the fact that there’s a moral code, a moral law, that seems to be present in all cultures of the world … why might that be the case? (answer: God!).

  • 0

    Week 3 - Molly

    Molly Mortimer

    It was interesting to read how the structure of the family and society in general had changed over time, how trends seen in America are also playing out in Japan (higher divorce rates, later marrying age, increasing but still imperfect economic opportunities for women) I was surprised by the crime rate in the elderly population, and the culture of almost religious loyalty to a company.

    This was a hard couple of chapters to read as I felt like it focused a lot on the problems in Japanese society. It felt a bit weird to read about it from a western author’s perspective, which is why I’m glad I got the chance to interview a Japanese friend of mine. I’m hoping to talk also to an older Japanese friend who might have a different perspective having lived through a different generation.