Week 4: Cultural Concepts: Wabisabi, Bigaku, Kenkyo October 4-10

Reading:

  • Ch. 27, Pg 223-232 “Simplicity and Elegance as Japanese Ideals for Beauty,” Wabi-Sabi 侘び寂び
  • Ch. 4, Pg 35-40 “The Japanese Sense of Beauty,” Bigaku 美学
  • Ch. 17, Pg 143-152 “The Japanese Virtue of Modesty,” Kenkyo 謙虚
  • Anne’s Blog post title: お返しの方が価値あるバイor Return Gifts Cost More</li>

Visit

Visit a Japanese Church. Observe different ways that the cultural characteristics in the book are seen at the Japanese church. (If that is not possible, interview someone who has attended.)

Writing:

Weekly Paper: “Impressions and Points from Your Reading”

    • Do you think that there should be more of a focus on intentionally including (or even perhaps emphasizing) elements of more traditional Japanese beauty into the Japanese Christian church? (e.g. wafuku, hogaku, simple, monochromatic art; aware, ma). Would this help the Japanese to view Christianity not as being a “western religion”  with a “western God”?
    •  How can we disciple believers to recognize and reject false doctrine while not being considered obnoxious for going against the Japanese style of sunao?
    • How do we live out and teach Biblical expressions of humility? (e.g. Are expressions of negative self-image compatible with the Biblical description of who we, as God’s children, are?)
    • Optional: Read the discussion questions at the end of the chapter. Are there any that you think highlights a key point that merits further discussion by the class, specifically as it relates to how we think about and approach ministry to the Japanese?

Pray:

  • Pray daily for Japan and Japanese, using Operation Japan. Make a note in your blog concerning the information and/or your prayer.

Extra Suggestions:

Questions

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    1

    Barbwhiterma31

    I guess it depends on the person and how much they know/appreciate the traditional elements of Japanese beauty. But I think we could have a discussion on beauty and how they view beauty. It seems like there are elements that could be talked about. Such as silence and being alone to listen to God. Also, their view of a flower wilting is very interesting and I will think or that a little more differently now. There is a sense of loss and loss is a part of life but for Christians there is hope with the loss.

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    2

    Barbwhiterma31

    It seems that the way we go about helping disciples to recognize false doctrine is what is really important. Maybe asking gentle questions. Or having them explain their thinking and gently pointing to the scripture.

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    3

    Barbwhiterma31

    I have learned that true humility is having an accurate view of oneself which means that we understand our strengths and weaknesses. I think it is helpful to admit where we have been wrong. I think there are things that are appropriate in the Japanese culture to use such as the expression in the gift giving that expresses “please accept this boring little gift!” I think it is also good to encourage our Japanese friends by pointing out what is good about them.

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    Anne's blog

    Barbwhiterma31

    I really enjoyed Anne’s blog because of my experience in Japan. I remember returning from a trip to S. Korea and bringing back gifts to my neighbors. After handing her the gift I had brought, she promptly ran back into her house and brought me something. It’s really frustrating because you end up with something you don’t want or need and I just wanted to give a gift that was from my heart with no strings attached. But, alas, I guess that is not going to happen!

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    Jim's Comments

    Jim Woo

    I visited a few Japanese churches (and my home church is also a Japanese church). I also attend Menlo church, which is a Caucasian church. I found more prayer in the Japanese churches, particularly the one in Tokyo. Worship songs varied, but with the two Japanese churches visited, singspiration included Japanese songs. (My home church has a separate Japanese service, so our English service only has English songs. Though *Hana Mo* is sung in English, which seems a bit strange to me.) One Japanese church is undergoing extreme duress, so it has visiting English-speaking pastors and has simultaneous translation through Line. Aside from this, the order of worship seems to be similar. When hosted from home (the pastor’s home?), the room seems like traditional Japanese homes, with few simple decorations. The church settings seem to be similar, with instruments on stage, a pulpit and one or two microphones for the pastor. Modesty of Americans seem similar to that of the Japanese.

    By the way, I like Anne’s idea of giving gifts in disposable containers!

    • Joze

      Thanks, Jim. I had attended an international (with Japanese worshippers) Baptist church in Tokyo and afterwards I felt that I had just come out of a karaoke bar. This was just my first impression, and I’m sure that the church has a deeper community life. I’m wondering if you’ve felt that the Japanese churches that you’ve experienced seem too Westernized. How might they have been made to be more Japanese culturally-appropriate?

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    Joze (Week 4) Reflection

    Joze

    Do you think that there should be more of a focus on intentionally including (or even perhaps emphasizing) elements of more traditional Japanese beauty into the Japanese Christian church? (e.g. wafuku, hogaku, simple, monochromatic art; aware, ma). Would this help the Japanese to view Christianity not as being a “western religion” with a “western God”?

    – Much like how some Western churches rarely sing hymnals or read the KJV, it really has to do with the current cultural climate. In Japan, the Church cannot be “forced” to implement more traditional Japanese cultural elements if the local church doesn’t decide on these elements themselves. Perhaps they wouldn’t add one element, but they would include another element. For example, if the wafuku is too uncomfortable or considered to be too high class, why include it?

    If many do not listen to hougaku, what might be the benefit of its inclusion? However, in contrast, perhaps many of the contemporary worship music is too individualistic and lack style and artistry, then perhaps it might be a good idea to include hougaku and encourage Japanese believers to tap into their cultural traditions and values to create their own worship music.

    How can we disciple believers to recognize and reject false doctrine while not being considered obnoxious for going against the Japanese style of sunao?

    – This is a very good question. Would love to hear ideas from Japanese believers or expats who’ve worked among the Japanese. It seems like one would have to try to teach this indirectly or through telling a story from one’s experience.

    How do we live out and teach Biblical expressions of humility? (e.g. Are expressions of negative self-image compatible with the Biblical description of who we, as God’s children, are?)

    – It seems that the Japanese concept of sunao seems to be closer to the biblical expression of humility. In contrast with the West which focuses on developing a healthy self-image, the Japanese way of sunao seems to necessitate looking at oneself in relation to the other or to the group. The Western way seems more inward focused while the Eastern way seems more outward focused.

    The Bible tries to develop a healthy self-image for the Israelites (and later the Early Church) by saying that humans are part of God’s good creation, that males and females are created in God’s image, that humans are made to co-rule with God in His creation here on earth to care for creation and each other, that the Israelites and later the Early Church were formed into a people who bear God’s name among the nations to show not only the character of God but also to show that others are welcome to be part of His kingdom, that those who represent God’s name are humble in character and are those who treat others with respect and value, and that those who walk in the way of YHWH are to do righteousness and restorative justice in their communities. In other words, humility, self-image and our status as God’s children are part of a larger discussion, but essentially, we are meant to have a healthy view of ourselves as part of humanity, but strives to be outward focused.

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    Q1 Localized God

    Gideon8

    Not just unique to the Japanese. For most Asians and I suspect for other regions, God is a Middle Eastern originated diety delivered by Westerners. And unfortunately, in the past, it was associated with the Western colonisers who use Christianity as a means to indoctrinate the local population.

    My parents who do not speak Englsih came to to the faith late in their lives. It is because the love of God transcends geographical origins, but the use of people of faith who understand local culture and quirks help to facilitate the willingness of the locals to step into the presence of our good Lord. And the Holy Spirit make possible what seems impossible with men.