Week 3: Japanese Society September 20-26

Week 3 Japanese Society

Week Three Video (Ancestor Worship)
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.


  • 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 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”

  • Continue to adhere to the 100 word minimum 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 as you have time and comment on at least two of them.

Extra Suggestions:


  • 2

    Faith: Video Reflections

    Faith Minter

    So thankful for this class and all the information it goes over. I really enjoyed the video on ancestor worship and explaining that more. I’ve heard of the saying “I don’t want to go to the Christian heaven if my ancestors aren’t there” before, and it hurts my heart so much. How can we hold space for the Japanese beliefs yet still show them how serious choosing to not follow Christ is?

    Hoping this is talked about in this week’s reading that I’m about to dive into.

    For the interview section this week, could I be provided with a contact please?

    Thanks so much 🙂

    • Naoko Brown

      Faith, thank you very much for your comment, and I am sorry that I am late to get back to you about your interview contact by email!!

    • nhendradi

      I agree with your, the phrase “I don’t want to go to the Christian heaven if my ancestors aren’t there” was also hurt my heart. I also often hear that phrase said by people around me. Some people try to explain this reality by explaining that problem in doctrinal and logical explanation. But, I believe that deep inside their heart, they are not looking for logical explanation towards reality. These are emotional and existential struggle that is faced by all people around the world. Maybe we should grief with those who grief. May God give us wisdom when we face that kind of circumstances

  • 4

    Max: Reflections

    Max Chau

    It was interesting to read about the Japanese family system and that it was actually recently abolished since the end of WWII. One of the things that made me reflect was actually in the video when Ms. Boatwright mentioned that some Japanese might say “I don’t want to go to the Christian heaven if my family is not there”. It made me reflect if I have a friend that gave me this response what could be my response. I think my main response would be the same answer I’d give for the question, where would someone go if they never heard the gospel and was never given the chance to choose Christ? My response to that answer would be I don’t know, but I trust that God is perfectly just and will make the best decisions.

    • Faith Minter

      I also reflected on that saying about not wanting to go to heaven if their family is not there! Definitely some food for thought. I am not sure how I would respond, but pray the Lord would give us wisdom in that situation!

    • Kmara1222

      Hey Max, that’s an interesting scenario to envision, isn’t it? I couldn’t agree with you more that God would equip you with the words that you needed in the moment. I also feel like if I were in that scenario, if my friend found hope in the perspective I was sharing, that I’d encourage them to accept Jesus and then together they and Jesus would be the ones who loved their family members into the Kingdom.

      It reminds me of a time when I was talking about Jesus to one of my close girl friends and she said to me, “If Jesus really were as loving and kind as you make Him sound, I would love to follow Him.” It broke my heart because I tried to explain to her that He is, we continued talking, but I could sense that her perspectives of Jesus had been skewed (like so many people in the USA too) but other human beings and she couldn’t fathom Him to love her just as she is.

      Ugh. A lot of these things listed in these three chapters sounds so daunting, but I realize that these problems exist everywhere. But so does JESUS. He makes a way where there is none and streams in the desert. I keep reminding myself of this when I think about the move He is undoubtedly orchestrating for Japan.

    • Paxton Blunier

      Hi, Max!
      Thanks for sharing! Also very good point you shared about Japanese not wanting to go to heaven or becoming a Jesus follower if there family isn’t there. Heartbreaking to know some think that way but it’s a good thought to process and wrestle through. Wanting to ask the Lord how to guide a conversation if a Japanese is unsure or if that question were to ever come up.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, Max, and all others who commented! When thinking about friends and family members who do not know the Lord yet, Universalism and Pluralism, and other “all go to heaven” ways of thinking start to look rather attractive. But we know Jesus and what He said. As we walk close to the Lord daily, I am sure He will give us the wisdom to say the right thing in this kind of situation.

  • 3

    Faith: Week Three Reflections

    Faith Minter

    Hikikomori Video and Chapter Three Reflections:

    I have heard about the high suicide rates in Japan before, but this is the first time I have heard about the Hikikomori situation in Japan. I think it is so sad, especially when these children turn to violence. I am so glad that they have people who are trying to help those young individuals. They are definitely a group in need of His love.
    It was also interesting to me watching the video about how rigorous the school system is. I can see how it can cause some kids to “crack”, yet I still find it very admirable about how much effort the children put in. I feel like education is very important and am glad that it is seen as a good thing to achieve in Japan – yet in all things we need balance. How can they still instil the value of education, and determination – but not have it be “too intense”?

    In regards to Chapter Three and what the book mentioned about marriages, I love that the Japanese value their family’s input. I think family is a wonderful value and I know it is somewhat counter-cultural as an American, but I wish more people considered the broader view of a relationship when it comes to marriage. Something I told my husband when we were engaged is “you are marrying my family too”.

    Reading about the wage disparity and how almost a third of single women live below the poverty line was heartbreaking. I have heard about the gender disparity but hadn’t seen the stats before. I personally have a heart for single mothers, so thinking about this added challenge they face is difficult. Also, reading “on average, fathers spend 17 minutes a day with their children and helping look after them (Masako Ishii-Kuntz, 2004).” was really hard. My heart is now so burdened for the entire family unit in Japan. It seems as though even those with fathers seem to be nearly fatherless.

    Chapter 4 Reflections

    On one hand I think it is great that the workplace offers such a community atmosphere. That employees can go out with other employees and that they even vacation together. Yet, I imagine this is why the men can spend so little time with their children and wish that instead of the workplace taking away the men from the family they instead chose to include the wives and children in these vacations and activities after work.

    I found it really interesting where the author talked about the workplace religion and them not wanting to hire people who were overly religious because of the torn devotion. Is this another wall we have to figure out how to overcome when presenting the gospel?

    I’m glad that the younger generation is choosing not to make work the center of their lives – and am curious as to how this is going to continue to impact Japan in the future. Will it decrease the divorce rate? Will there be less “fatherless” homes? Will there be an increase in “parasite singles”?

    Chapter 5 Reflections:

    The gender inequality section of this chapter was so sad to me. Especially this statement: “Society views divorced women as being strange, weak, and childish. Even if the man misbehaves, the woman is blamed and made to feel ashamed” as well as the bullying of pregnant women in the workplace. I’m hopeful that gender inequality will continue to lessen, but it’s still such a challenge in so many cultures.

    I know one of the videos this week emphasized some challenges of the japanese school system but I liked how the book also mentioned the benefits like this: “Japanese education
    emphasizes moral education such as diligence, endurance, deciding to do hard things, wholehearted dedication, and cooperation.” I have heard about the positive parts of the Japanese school system before this class and really enjoy the moral education being wrapped into the school system.

    It was hard for me to read about the discrimination the minorities in Japan face though, and the challenges they have that go along with that. It was nice reading about how the Korean christian church at least helps fill some of that gap and provide services and support for the Korean community in Japan though.

    Overall, I learned so much in the reading this week and I really enjoyed all the added videos we could watch! This class has definitely burdened my heart even more for the Japanese. I just want them to know the healing power of Jesus. Praying for the Hikikomori, the families and marriages in Japan, as well as the minorities in Japan this week.

    • Kmara1222

      Hi Faith, I thought that it was super interesting to hear that companies avoid hiring religious employees too! I will say that as the familial lifestyle of the company dissipates and more Japanese people find their identities in friendships and hobbies outside of work that there is a great potential for the gospel to spread! Also, my friends that I know who work at western companies in the city are regularly exposed to Christian coworkers who aren’t shy about their faith. That’s super encouraging!

      I also like to believe that we are “only as sick as our secrets,” meaning that the more information is shared about tragic cases such as the “hikikomori,” “Karoshi,” or the “batsuichi” divorcees, that more Christians will be called, more benevolent organizations will rise up, and people will seek to be the change that Jesus wishes to see in the world.

      It’s an exciting time, Japan gradually opening to the gospel! Our prayers are so potent for these situations!

    • Max Chau

      I was readin the absentee father and I never really thought about it, I forgot all the negative socio economic aspect of Japan, it’s reminding me, Japan has major issues as well. The readings this time really reminded me that Japan does need God.

    • Naoko Brown

      Hi, Faith! I have a Japanese friend, whose husband is a doctor. They have beautiful children, but most of the pictures she sends me are only her and her children. They even went to a photo studio to take professional photos without the father, just because he is super busy. Although younger generations have been changing, basic work ethic and feeling of obligations to the company and coworkers haven’t changed too much.

  • 3

    Kristen: Week 3 Reflections


    I was very excited by this week’s “homework” as a chance to pick my friend Wakana’s brain about the way that she views Japan as a whole right now. Obviously, these are very deep topics that we don’t always delve into so this was a nice door-opener. She works in the Kanto area, staying in Chiba, so her personal experience and perspective is rooted there.

    Chapter 3: The Japanese Family. The chapter does a nice job describing the former and current situations of the Japanese home life. I’d never put the rampant alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, and extra long working hours together with the concept of “absentee Dad,” but that is 100% truth! Of all of my friends and coworkers, I can only think of ONE who had a good relationship with their father throughout their lives. Recently, there is a painful rash of men leaving their wives with a houseful of school-aged children that is absolutely devastating in a society that only recently started to treat a divorced woman as less taboo.

    Wakana san agreed that the structure of the family unit has largely changed in Japan, but despite the fact that she and most Millenial women she knows plan on continuing working after marriage and giving birth, they still face severe gender discrimination in the workplace. She couldn’t fathom working for a company where woman could be in upper level management positions.

    Chapter 4 Japanese Working Life
    It is infamous, the long working hours and obligatory drinking with coworkers until the wee hours of the morning. Wakana san explained that while “flex time” has been implemented, where companies allow their employees to slide a regular length shift up or down a few hours, it is still very little help for their workloads. The main benefit of “flex time” is to dissipate a bit of the crushing commuting crowds. Ironically enough, with the COVID-19 state of emergency in place, the corporate drinking culture took a massive blow, according to my friend. Bars and restaurants unable to sell alcohol are no longer the late night respite for coworkers and bosses to stay out even longer. She says that unfortunately while the work-life balance is regularly questioned, very little has changed from what she has seen in the Tokyo area specifically.

    Chapter 5 Social Stratification
    This chapter does another great job of outlining many of the struggles facing the minorities living in Japan for years. As a homogenous society and an island with a large population, it’s understandable why a lot of people in Japan may struggle with racist tendencies and not even recognize their behavior. I’ve had a few discussions with Christian Japanese friends specifically who didn’t realize that some of their perspectives on minority cultures were biased and not based in reality. It is getting better, Wakana mentioned this as well, for foreigners in Japan, but there is still much work to be done. Similarly, as mentioned above concerning gender roles, the women of Japan hold few positions of power– and one can even see as recently as the Tokyo Olympic games that Japanese officials were called out for misogynistic remarks.

    Overall, Wakana san wanted to know what year the book was published, and you could tell that she was a bit concerned if simply negative information was being spread about Japan. I explained to her the purpose of our study, and she agreed that most of Samuel Lee’s observations and analysis seemed accurate.

    But I am excited to personally know multicultural and Christian organizations and non-profits in Japan that are overturning these previously negative situations and stereotypes one life at a time!

    • Max Chau

      In the book, Samuel Mentions as well the economic bubble a couple of times, I might have missed it but it’s also interesting to know how the bubble existed and came to be, this video was informative:

      But it’s great that your friend, wakana also gave a bit of her perspective haha.

      I worked for a Japanese law firm 11 years ago, my work hours were 9AM to 10PM with no over time pay and it took me 1 hour to get to work, so I’m out of home 8AM to 11PM every day…and if I had stayed longer, I’d have to work on weekends too. I had no life on weekayds, so yeah totally understand why fathers have a hard time spending time with their kids.

    • Paxton Blunier

      Hi, Kristen!
      I really enjoyed reading your observations and thoughts! I also enjoyed what your Japanese friend said and her thoughts on it as well. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Naoko Brown

      Kristen, I am so glad you got to talk to Wakana-san. I hope this experience would allow your friend to open up to you more and you two will be able to have even deeper conversations in the near future!

  • 3

    April: Week 3

    April Buben

    This week’s work was very heavy. Normally, I am always intrigued by Japanese society but after learning about these systems and their brokenness, my heart breaks even more for Japan.

    A few words have stuck out to me during this reading. Unity, Unclean, Purity, Lineage, and Group.

    There’s a constant need for group unity and yet there’s a cry of loneliness. It’s interesting because in a society where there is such a huge effort for everyone to work together and be a successful wheel in the system, they’re unable to truly connect with individuals. If you’re unclean, you’re out, if you’re practicing another religion, you’re out, if you don’t conform to the Japanese way, you’re out. For wanting a group centered society it feels like only a few could even fit into the group!

    It makes it obvious why there are children who don’t want to leave their rooms, and women who divorce to leave the pressures of the home life. They don’t want to be a part of the system. It’s almost as if Japan has caused social burn out among the people themselves. I would feel hopeless too if I grew up in a society that didn’t value what I could bring to the table as unique.

    Even the elderly are abandoned. Where is the group system in that? I had no idea there was such a large amount of seniors in Japan. Makes me think about how that people group is being reached and ministered to.

    The work environment was jaw dropping when I found that companies have the employees practically worship the companies deemed “gods”. I see this as a major hurtle to be able to bring the gospel to the country itself. How can we encourage new believers to stay firm in their faith when Japan’s companies will turn them down for doing so? I see this as another way to minister.

    Another common theme I’ve seen is the numbing view Japan has to porn. The fact that there are special rooms in some companies for their employee’s to relieve “stress” is extremely saddening and in no way will give them the stress relief they’re truly looking for.

    A person’s lineage, both in the country and out play a major roll in society. I was surprised to find that there is a class of people who are considered “unclean” due to their heritage. How much more freedom will they find in Jesus who has forgiven them from all past AND future! This thinking should start with the individual but how can we make the society as a whole view this too? To forgive the past when that individual has no control?

    Even hearing about the Japanese being unfriendly towards Koreans. I didn’t know Japan occupied their country for a time. I had only assumed there were bad relations only with the Chinese. It seems all of Asia does not like each other…it was hopeful to read that the Korean churches have been a place of refuge for Korean-Japanese as well as internationals. This could also be anther point of interest in ministry.

    With this information revealed, it makes me see how knotted up the society is right now, that there needs to be many large changes in order to truly heal the nation. I would hope that a bottom up approach would be sufficient but I’m not so sure after reading these chapters. There are so many road blocks along the way from child hood all the way to adulthood and searching for a career that could hinder a person of faith.

    How can we encourage someone if the entire society is against it? I hope that through continued ministry, areas will open up to true change down to the core.

    • Faith Minter

      April, I really enjoyed how you pulled out those key words in the reading this week! I also was intrigued about possible social burn out like you suggested. It definitely seems as though there is a very high standard in Japan, and it can be so tiring being expected to reach it over and over in so many different areas.

    • Naoko Brown

      April, I know it is very depressive to read these dark parts of Japan. However, as we all know, when it is dark, the LIGHT shines even more brilliantly!!! You are the Light of the world. Praying for you all to make a difference in many lives in Japan and all over the world.

    • nhendradi

      I am blessed by reading your reflections! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • 1

    Paxton: Week 3 Reflections

    Paxton Blunier

    These chapters were very eye opening to me and very fascinating. Some things I have heard before but a lot were completely new. I really enjoyed reading this weeks chapters. In chapter 3 I was very excited to read about how a family and there dynamics work. In general I really enjoy studying and learning about what makes up a person and why they do the things that they do. It’s interesting that they base the family off of honor and loyalty, as well as the father who oversees everyone. I would think that would be a lot of pressure put on one person. It broke my heart when I read how women are treated to feel inferior to men. I know that to be the case in many other cultures. I pray and hope that God would soften the hearts of the men to have a love for their wives and family, also that the women would find the love and know their identity in Christ. I thought it to be interesting when reading that children are raised to be group oriented instead of self focused. I think it’s good to be aware or more mindful of others and their surroundings, I wish some cultures could adapt a healthy balance of that. I pray for the children not growing up knowing their fathers because they work so much. I pray that God would reveal Himself as their father. It saddens me to see how lonely relationships in Japan really are. I see a lot of pressure put on the business men to succeed and on the women to stay home and do everything there. I wish there one day would be more balanced in there relationships as well as work. It shocked me how high the divorce rate is in Japan but I have heard that it was very high. It was interested to see how time changes and so does the way they view family, marriage and life. As I was reading about the elderly and the loneliness as well as them not receiving the help and care that they need. I hope that a younger generation can rise up and grow in caring for the elderly.

    Chapter 4 was very interesting. Even though in school aged kids they try not to point out a child’s difference from their class but it was very different to see the pressure that they have put on them to get good grades so that they can go to a good school and then get a good job through that. I didn’t realize that the business men stay at one company for life and if they change jobs it is kind of looked down upon. That is so different to America because people switch jobs all the time.

    Chapter 5 I thought it interesting that they base people’s business cards on their status and how they would communicate with others. In America I feel like we base our status on what level of education and degrees you have. As Christ followers though that is different. It also opened my eyes to see how women were treated and viewed in the workplace, how children were taught to act in school and I was intrigued by how they viewed and treated foreigners as well as other people groups in Japan.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you very much for your report. You said,” I really enjoy studying and learning about what makes up a person and why they do the things that they do.” I think it is a great skill to be able to step back and analyze the person with the background. When we don’t understand a person, it is easy to judge and turn away from them without even try to understand the history and culture behind them. It takes patience and lots of love, but it will make a significant difference when you interact with them. I appreciate you are learning about Japanese society, and I know it will make big difference as you reach out to them in Christ.

  • 0

    Andrew: Week 3


    What stood out to me was how much Confucianism has influenced Japanese society through its history, specifically the order and structure of how each class/gender/parent&child should relate to each other. Regarding the “ie” and “zaibatsu” business system, it’s sad that the author mentions that, “Even though women are legally equal with men in some aspects, they are still treated inferior to men.”

    I found all the different phenomenons like the herbivores and fruiitas interesting as a response to the “salaryman” and performance-based culture. These movements attempt to deal with the societal issue but they still have no real long-term solutions. It looks like the “herbivores” and “fruiitas” are just movements that prolong adolescence in the Japanese young people.

    I have recently learned about the overwhelming amount of Koreans that live in Japan with Japanese names. I can’t imagine how a people group can live in a foreign country and get rid of their own name in order to assimilate.

  • 0

    Nathan Week 3 Reflections


    As a foreigner, I see Japan culture from my own eyes and compare them with my own society. And, the more I see the problem in their society (as being described in this reading), the more I tend to see japanese culture in the negative way. To be honest, I tend to emphasize the negative aspect of their culture. I can list many of them such as: racism, sexism, mental health problem, hikikomori, divorce, seniorization, forced marriages, and many more. The problems that are being described help me to empathize, but at the same time it acts as a trap. I mean, I could easily be deceived that I am, as a Christian with a mission heart, I want to save the society from sinking. I am the answer – a savior syndrome issues. I forgot that every society has their own problem. I read their culture from my culture. Because their problem is not my society’s problem, I tend to see the ultimate answer is from my society’s perspective. So I, as a foreigner, tend to think that I am a doctor with a cure. But, the more I dive in this enigmatic dialogue with myself, the more I am afraid with this thinking. How if the cure that I think is the cure is not really the cure? I am afraid that I generalize and oversimplify their problem with my oversimplified answer. I know Gospel is the answer, but I am afraid that I give them a Gospel tailored with my cultural bias that doesn’t fit with their existensial problem. May God help me and purify my heart.