Week 3: Japanese Society April 19-25

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.

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”

  • 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:

Questions

  • 4

    Reflection week 3 - Kyle

    brandk09

    Hikikomori is heartbreaking to learn about and to find out how common it is in Japan. Roughly 1 in 10 men are hikikomori. This is troubling. We are relational people created for relationships, we need them. To learn that so many Japanese are in willful isolation is burdening. The Hikikomori seem in a state of hopelessness. This is the physical, mental, emotional reality that they are in but this also points to the spiritual reality that their souls long for. In their hopeless state there is hope. Christ has come and conquered to bring hope to humanity. But if the Hikikomori do not hear about the hope that is found in Christ alone and how He will wash away their sins and set them free from the bondage of sin for all who trust in Christ with their life, then how can their souls be satisfied? How can they experience true peace and purpose for this life? They cannot. Having been commissioned by God for God and as a steward of the gospel and knowing the hope that is found in having a personal relationship with Jesus. The Lord has commanded for the church go and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. As a steward of Gods grace, learning about Hikikomori is compelling knowing that in there is hope for these people. I believe it takes intentionality and pursuit! Sharing the gospel through word and deed! Meeting Hikikomori where they are at and loving them well. Asking good careful questions that expose the heart and when the heart is exposed people see their brokenness and their need for Jesus. That is when the church can point them to the ultimate healer, the one who has defeated sin and death and promised to save all those who call upon Him!

    • tuchidalee

      I completely agree, Kyle! We need the help from the local churches in these times of hopelessness. Praying that the Christian workers and counselors will intervene to share the love of Christ. That these men will be lead and compelled to make changes as they hear the gospel.

    • Joze

      This phenomenon of hikikomori also broke my heart when I’d learned about this just a few months ago. It seems to be like depression that also millions in North American go through, but also different due to various causes (i.e. societal pressures, identity crisis, lack of mental health support). But it was also encouraging that just recently, Japan finally appointed someone as a Minister of Loneliness to address the various social struggles, such as depression, suicide and hikikomori, that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. I’m praying that he and his team would do their best to address this in a holistic and comprehensive way.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, Kyle! I know a Christian lady who is tutoring Hikikomori kids in Japan, because they do not go to school. She is showing His love and kindness to the children in order to help them get better. However, those kids who come to her are not the most serious cases.

    • WCathy

      For Naoko sensei: Wow does Hikikomori still exist in Japan? I thought it was a thing of the past when I watched the video. Where do these schools operate? It hurts my heart to see these children pushing themselves like that.

  • 2

    Takako - week 3 reflections

    tuchidalee

    No doubt, the problem of hikikomori is really sad and dark. It was heartbreaking to see the young girl being pulled and forced out of her room to get into the car. I was just wondering if that was the most helpful or caused more harm. Also taking taking young adolescent men to a drink and smoke as part of intervention, is that really necessary? Maybe I don’t really understand the reasoning behind that.

    I know for certain that one of the reasons why my family immigrated to the USA was because of the rigorous education system in Japan. Back in the 70’s my dad was a physics and chemistry high school teacher in the height of his teaching career. He realized how detrimental the education system effected the children’s minds and the future, not promising if we continued to live in Fukushima. He felt the American education system was more reasonable for his 2 daughters and didn’t want us to suffer the way he did when he grew up. I know all he wanted for us was to be happy and healthy. This was in the early 1980’s! I’m thankful that my parents made that decision for us. My sister and I turn out fine, I think!

    I interviewed my dear friend, Eri Kobayashi this week. We attend the same church and much more “Japanese” than me. I learn so much from her every time I speak to her. Extremely accomplished women with a Master’s degree from Fuller in Theology and Miinistry. She is an ESL teacher/missionary to the Diaspora Japanese in LA area. She holds afterschool English classes to mostly school-aged children. Eri shared, her father was very involved in her childhood and her mom was the one who worked long hours. For this reason, Eri remembers her and her brother being bullied from friends who asked, “where’s your mom?” and the moms didn’t want their children playing with her. In addition, my dad was strict with me and my sister, but he was always present in our lives growing up and encouraged us to study well. He also wanted us to have fun and surprising us with gifts from time to time. At the same time, he worked really hard to provide for us and took pride in his job. This is a little different from the absentee fathers described in Samuel Lee’s chapter, but I think every family is different.

    It was interesting to hear from her that men in the 50’s has had their jobs down-graded or demoted, salaries decreased so that their previous positions may be passed down to younger colleagues. People are not holding the same positions. Nowadays jobs are going to foreign workers and young people don’t want to take lowly job positions as described in chapter 5. Eri confirmed that this is happening in current Japan. In conclusion, I felt kind of disappointed and sad to learn that Japan was and is suffering from so many social issues and mental agony when the media shows so much pride, humility, and amazing sights and sounds of Japan. We need to pray that God will break through these social and mental bondage of sin in ths country. May Jesus bring healing to the brokenness.

    • Joze

      Perhaps, Takako-san, it was just a poor choice of shot by the filming crew because, you’re right, they didn’t need to encourage smoking. Maybe it was more exciting than filming them reading manga together in silence at a cafe. But the worker (Kudo-san?) gave me the Good Will Hunting vibe as a father-figure gently easing the men out of their shells to learn to be social again. I’m praying that there would be more of this kind of technique rather than violently taking them out of their rooms.

    • Naoko Brown

      Takako-san, thank you very much for your comment. Your interview with Eri-san was a good one! I am so glad her father was heavily involved with the kids. Are her parents Christians? It seems as if you and Eri-san are great friends who have a lot in common!

  • 1

    Joze (Week 3) Reflections

    Joze

    Wow! That’s a lot of information to take in for one week. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the small percentage that I’ve gleaned from this week.

    1. It was interesting that the author notes how the concept of the “uchi” was adopted by companies. Positively viewed, it seems to have given the companies structure and stability through the hierarchies and roles that are clearly defined and executed. This in turn has led to low unemployment rate and a lifetime employment system. Negatively viewed, the transfer of the closeness of the “uchi” of the family to the closeness of the worker to the company has led to more implications that are now being felt in the last few decades, such as hikikomori, suicide, “fatherless” families, elderly neglect, etc. This has also led to adverse effects in the Gospel penetrating the Japanese – they simply don’t have time! And since the company itself is providing the “religious atmosphere” the salary men and women don’t see the need to explore other faiths, or even to reflect on their faith, family and legacy. However, as noted by the author, there is a generational shift happening and the company “uchi” is not as strong as it used to be. This means that there will be widespread implications that the Japanese church and missionaries need to discern and to be a positive prophetic voice for the culture.

    2. The part about the five major minority groups astonished me. I had only known little about the Okinawans and migrant workers. But I have never heard about the “buraku,” Koreans and the Ainu and how they have been mistreated and oppressed by their own people so to speak. On the one hand, it’s not new to me. Racism and ethoncentricity is more prevalent and insidious than we’d like to think. We only have to look in our backyards to see whites oppressing blacks for centuries, deculturization of First Nations in Canada, and the ever-changing forms of anti-semitism for millennia. On the other hand, even though I’m not surprised that this does happen in Japan, it’s nonetheless heart-rending. I think part of the message of the Gospel (putting on my theology hat now) for the Japanese has to include the biblical storyline of how two different groups of people can be brought to unity in its diversity. I’m thinking about the progression of fratricide of Abel by Cain, of Isaac and Ishmael, of Jacob and Esau, of Josep and his brothers, of Israel and the tumultuous history with her neighbouring nations, of Jew and Gentile divide in the early church. All of these Jesus Christ has made the two into one people with him as their king who unites them.

    3. That was a cool talk by Darien Reinman. I liked his reference to the “polite fiction.” Does anybody know if anyone has this book that he referenced? It seems to be quite expensive on Amazon. Anyway, interesting to hear how he has processed what the two Japanese women authors have proposed as the divergent “social contracts” that Americans (or Westerners in general) and the Japanese have have formulated separately in their cultural milieu. This will be a good one to review when we get to Japan. One particular element that he highlighted was “keigo” (or the use of honorific language and register to show respect to the listener). This was interesting at this point in time because my wife and I are learning Japanese and we’ve only been learning the respectful way to say things (and we’ll be learning the casual way to say things later on in the course).

    • Naoko Brown

      Joze, thank you very much for your insight!!! Regarding the minorities – from 2000’s, Korean drama and music started to be very popular in Japan. I believe this changed the old prejudice toward Korean people at least among younger generation.

      I remember a Japanese lady in her 80s told me this story back in 2007. She said, “I was very upset because so many Japanese friends are crazy about some popular Korean drama and the main actor. I said to the Japanese friends, ‘What a shame! We are Japanese ! How can you be crazy about a Korean man!’ Then one of the women brought me the DVD of the drama and insisted me to watch it. I didn’t touch it for a long time, but one day I was bored so decided to watch it. Then…I discovered the actor was SOOOOO handsome! I binge watched the entire drama!” Since many Korean Christians have been praying for Japan, I think the Korean boom was one fo the answers to their prayers.

      I love Darien’s presentation, too! Yah, many Japan 101 students asked about the book, but I do not know anybody who has a copy.

  • 2

    Reflections (Week 3) - Jocelyn

    Jocelyn

    I think this week’s readings were really insightful into the Japanese culture. Much of the readings pointed to a lot of hopelessness within the culture.

    One aspect that really stood out to me was the education system. As a parent who is about to put her child into that specific system, I have to wonder what affect it will have on her. I know that this kind of system (similar to the one in Hong Kong) can cause stress on kids at a young age. However, I am also hopeful that as we are aware of these things in the system, that we can navigate the system with her that will be a positive experience for her. I know that this will be a challenge for her but we also hope that we can show that as a family that we can be a positive influence in this specific community. My hope is that we will have enough wisdom to navigate through this as this is one opportunity we want to have in order to connect with families we live in community with them.

    Another part of the readings that really stood out to me were all the different minority groups that have been targeted. It was really important for me to read how they are seen and the effect it has as a society. I had no idea that there were so many minority groups that are looked down upon and treated so differently.

    I think after reading these past 3 chapters, it made me so sad to see the hopelessness that many are feeling there; that family life is non-existent, school systems are causing stress on young people and the many inequalities of the way society functions there.

    • Naoko Brown

      Jocely, thank you for your comment. It is not that every Japanese family is broken and every Japanese kid is oppressed. However, the general description of he book is correct. In my high school days, I was under a lot of pressure from school work, but I had so much fun with my friends. We laughed and laughed about anything and everything! It was our stress relief! I thought pressure and brokenness was a part of normal life, and I did not know what I was missing until later when the Lord showed me how empty my heart was. Then a Christian woman told me about God and His love. Jocelyn, I know you are showing His bright Light through your life and will touch many Japanese people’s lives!

    • WCathy

      I have am starting to watch a Japanese drama called “Smile”. It talks about the issue of minority groups in Japan, the male lead is a Japanese Filipino boy who never been to the Philippines before but because of his dark skin tone he gets looked at weirdly or lowly. He got excused for no reason yet still tries to live positively. I don’t know what happened in the end yet. I was very hesitant to watch it before because it seemed like a sad drama. This drama came out in 2009 so obviously the issue has been around for longer than that, and I don’t know if it’s getting better today. I also heard many foreign workers died in Japan due to stress, no support and not being able to fit into Japan’s society. Most of these people are from south east Asia. Yet it seems that western foreigners have much easier.

  • 0

    Rachel (Week 3)

    Rachel

    UJ Chapter 5: Social Stratification

    I was particularly interested in this chapter, because it touches on a vast topic about which I understand very little. Nihonjin friends do not always seem (in my limited experience) to be very interested in explaining social stratification to foreigners. And to be honest, I don’t think I know the right questions to ask about this broad topic!

    I’m sure some have spent their careers studying & explaining social stratification (status, relative position, levels, ranking systems, class, stratum, family line, group, position, and caste) within Japan, and its impact on the nation’s history and modern culture. Of course, Chapter 5 is a very brief overview of the topic.

    A few questions that arise from this chapter include —

    Why might some (a few) people who come from high-status backgrounds and have attended well-known schools, seek out low-status jobs or positions?

    Does “moral education” in Japan center wholly on the welfare & cohesion of the Group? Is there any acknowledgment of the importance of the Individual, other than his/her contribution to the Group?

    The examples of Japanese racism & ethnocentrism (PM Nakasone and the story of Igarashi Terumi, pgs 54-55) can be shocking to non-Japanese. But perhaps these anecdotes are indicative of the author’s statement that “The Japanese cannot accept other ethnicities (or even sub-groups within Japan?) into their inner circle or treat them as equals” (pg 58). North Americans may struggle more than others to understand Japan’s complex landscape of social stratification.

    *****

    My father was of Okinawan descent, and my mother had a Chinese heritage. Both experienced social discrimination in various ways upon arriving in Japan in 1963. My mother explained that shop owners were often very rude to her, assuming that she was Korean.

    I learned something from my father which relates to social class, and to Japan’s deeply held doctrine of uchi-soto 内外. Serving with a North American mission board, his work was to develop Christian bookstores. To those around him, he was simply a 本屋さん (honyasan) or bookseller/bookshop owner.

    My father explained that generally, Japanese people assumed that he (or his family) had not “made it “ or had somehow failed in America, which was why he had now returned to work in Tokyo. I wonder if this attitude was shared by non-believers and fellow Christians alike? As a child, I was quite unaware of all that my parents experienced during their time in Japan.

    We will all worship our Heavenly Father equally around His throne someday, and Romans 2:11 comes to mind: “For God shows no partiality [no arbitrary favoritism; with Him one person is not more important than another].” (Amplified Version)

  • 0

    Rachel (Week 3)

    Rachel

    On Chapter 5: Social Stratification

    I was particularly interested in this chapter, because it touches on a vast topic about which I understand very little. Nihonjin friends do not seem (in my limited experience) very willing to explain the complexities of Japan’s social stratification to foreigners. And to be honest, I’m not sure I know the right questions to ask!

    I’m sure some have spent their careers studying & explaining social stratification (status, relative position, levels, ranking systems, class, stratum, family line, group, position, and caste) within Japan, and its impact on the nation’s history and modern culture. Of course, Chapter 5 is a very brief overview of the topic. A few questions that arise from this chapter include —

    Why might some (a few) people who come from high-status backgrounds and have attended well-known schools, seek out low-status jobs or positions?

    Does “moral education” in Japan center wholly on the welfare & cohesion of the Group? Is there any acknowledgment of the importance of the Individual, other than his/her contribution to the Group?

    The examples of Japanese racism & ethnocentrism (PM Nakasone and the story of Igarashi Terumi, pgs 54-55) can be shocking to non-Japanese. But perhaps these anecdotes are indicative of the author’s statement that “The Japanese cannot accept other ethnicities (or even sub-groups within Japan?) into their inner circle or treat them as equals” (pg 58). North Americans may struggle more than others to understand Japan’s complex landscape of social stratification.

    *****

    My father was of Okinawan descent, and my mother had a Chinese heritage. Both experienced social discrimination in various ways upon arriving in Japan in 1963. My mother explained that shop owners were often very rude to her, assuming that she was Korean.

    I learned something from my father which relates to social class, and to Japan’s deeply held doctrine of uchi-soto 内外. Serving with a North American mission board, his work was to develop Christian bookstores. To those around him, he was simply a 本屋さん (honyasan) or bookseller/bookshop owner.

    My father explained that generally, Japanese people assumed that he (or his family) had not “made it “ or had somehow failed in America, which was why he had now returned to work in Tokyo. I wonder if this attitude was shared by non-believers and fellow Christians alike? As a child, I was quite unaware of all that my parents experienced during their time in Japan.

    We will all worship our Heavenly Father equally around His throne someday, and Romans 2:11 comes to mind: “For God shows no partiality [no arbitrary favoritism; with Him one person is not more important than another].” (Amplified Version)

  • 1

    For Peggy

    Don Wright

    PeggyWeek3Comments

    My ‘take-away” from studying Japanese society is that although it is changing rapidly the
    cultural and moral challenges that it faces are not unlike western society that has prevailed for decades. Sadly it is typically the women, children, and minorities that are the most vulnerable groups
    that suffer no matter what society or culture we come from.

    It is informative to learn that Confucianism contributed to an oppressive male oriented society. It has me asking the question: what is western society’s excuse for such oppression that continues to this day? I personally believe that it is the fall of man that has created such an abuse of position and power and that only the gospel of Christ who exemplified respect and parity regardless of gender can heal and bring order.

    I frankly was quite troubled after watching the video on the Hikikomori phenomenon. It always seems that the children suffer the most in society, as one generation after another keeps passing on the “sins of the fathers”. My hope and prayer is that the promises of scripture will heal the “land” starting with families.

    I turned to my Japanese daughter-in-law who resides in Kanagawa prefecture to interview her about some of the points in our study this week. In regards to the disparity between what men and women earn in the same job, her comments were:
    “At companies and companies, you may find it difficult for women raising children.
    Still, I think it has improved a lot compared to the past.
    Overseas, I think there are many places where the understanding of the company is great in some countries.”

    She also commented about female influence in leadership roles:
    I’m not interested in politics, but I think there are very few female politicians.
    It has increased significantly compared to the past. I think there are still few.”

    And her comments about Hikikomori:
    “Hikikomori can be said to be a generation created by Japanese society and culture. On the other hand, I think there are many people who are active.
    I think it’s a generation that loses confidence, has a strong idea, or can’t keep up with society, or doesn’t want to keep up.”

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, Peggy. Those who believes in the Bible know that we were fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator, and He loves us dearly. Without the knowledge and confidence in the Lord, our daily life can be very scary and painful. Those who are not aggressive and sometimes very kind and gentle ones cannot take the pressure and pain any more and chose to hide away. It is such a big spiritual battle!! Yes, I agree with your prayer of healing of the land starting with families!

      I am glad you have a Japanese family member, who can help you to understand the culture!

  • 1

    Cathy week 3 reflection

    WCathy

    From this week’s reading & videos, I did get a bit of cultural shock.
    1. Japanese family – very patriarchally structured, traditional mindset that wives are to take care of what happens in the family whether they work or not. Children are under pressure since a very young age to prepare to enter a good university. In China there is a similar educational system that puts pressure on both children and parents but at least the family structure is more balanced compared to Japan, and couples feel like they’re supporting each other instead of just husband making the money.
    2. Japanese working life – horrible in my opinion, especially if you’re working as a salaryman in companies. It’s normal to have meals with colleagues but sometimes the Japanese take it too extreme and start judging if you don’t comply with the customs. I think having a company family is a good thing but if it takes you away from your family time or just puts pressure on you to be the same as the group then it’s not that good. Also having sexual benefits as a stress reliever is ridiculous (in my opinion).
    3. social stratification in Japan – the nationalistic views that the general Japanese have, and the way that these views are shown through their systems, society structures, and not-so-open mindsets proves this point. I really hope foreign Japanese residents, mixed families and migrant workers can be accepted and helped with better economic support when needed. And that they will not be judged for being themselves.

    From the video by Darien, I am really taken aback from the way Japanese people talk about their wife. The concept of uchi & sotto is also new to me and that explains why Japanese emphasis taking off their shoes when entering the house/school. It seems to be an unspoken rule that no one dares to break, even foreigners. This course has been showing me many new things about the Japanese culture that I wouldn’t have known about if just looking at what the media presents. I do feel like that sometimes the Japanese family unit lack love and affection, and the work culture does not help this situation at all. The kids are affected by this atmosphere and this lack of love can shape how they grow up to be. Older wives are also divorcing their husbands because the legislation allows them to get half of what their husbands have, they feel like they have completed their duties and should enjoy their benefits but they don’t want to live with someone that they ‘lost feelings’ for. Hopefully with the younger generations, the society can be changed for the better for Japan in the future, but this country has a lot of deep rooted cultural issues that doesn’t seem to be an issue when people are used to it but it’s also killing the liveliness & productivity of the nation.

    • Naoko Brown

      Cathy, thank you very much for your comment!
      1. I met many Chinese people at work, and I remember how surprised I was when I heard that many of the Chinese husbands prepare meals for the family often. I think it is something Japanese husbands should do! I also know many Chinese families decided to stay in the US for their children since the competition and pressure in China are very difficult for the kids. But as you said, if the family structure in China is more balanced, that makes a huge difference!!
      2. I think having sexual benefits as a stress reliever has lasting negative consequences in personal level, entire family and generations to come.
      3. I also hope foreign Japanese residents are treated well. I saw many Chinese people, who speak Chinese, English and Japanese, were working in Japan as store clerks as well as workers at train stations because of many tourists especially Chinese tourists. I hope they are enjoying the job.

      The Japanese husband in Darien’s video was just a very old fashioned Japanese man, who did not want to “brag” about his wife. My husband, Jonathan is an American, and he had a few similar experiences as Darian. He was invited to a Japanese house and the Japanese wife cooked dinner. When Jonathan complemented her cooking, the Japanese husband just bluntly said, “It is ok.” Jonathan thought the Japanese husband was very rude. We experienced many other similar incidences, but basically the Japanese people try to down play good qualities of their own family members, and that is a way to show humbleness. It is their cultural norm. However, I am well aware that “From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good” (proverbs 13:2). Without being obnoxious, there are plenty of ways to say good things about family members and close friends. We need to say positive things about our family members in front of Japanese friends so that they will learn from us!

  • 0

    Week 3 - Brandalyn

    Brandalyn

    Naoko, I LOVE your introduction videos! They are so awesome!

    From the reading Ch 3: “In the past, Japan’s social welfare system has relied strongly on families to provide care, assistance, and resources to family members in need. The increasing divorce rate is shaking the foundations of such a family-based social welfare system.” This passage along with the section on the elderly explaining: “rent-a-family” seem like great areas of need and therefore amazing open doors for ministry to be and create the family of God that people need. They may not have the biological family to lean on, but what if there was the church family who took care of one another. It could be so powerful!