Week 5: Christianity and Japan May 3-9

Week 5 Christianity and Japan


  • Chapter Eight: A Brief History of Christianity in Japan
  • Chapter Nine: Christianity in Contemporary Japan
  • Chapter Ten: Japanese Theology


  • If you have time:
  • Watch video from the Nobita from Japan channel: Being a Christian in Japan. This video provides a deeper look into lives of various Japanese Christians in Japan and barriers they experience.

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.


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

Extra Suggestions:


  • 3

    Joze (Week 5) Reflections


    Chapter 8
    – Are there updated websites to the references the author cites? Both http://www.keikyo.com and http://www.onmarkproductions.com don’t exist anymore.

    – While the author’s claim of Early Christianity in Japan isn’t as compelling for me (i.e. reference links no longer accessible and books are out of print), I do wonder what is the motivation for this? Is it because Japan reveres tradition highly that an Early Christianity claim could legitimize Christianity as a Japanese “thing” over and against Christianity as a Western/colonizer “thing”?

    – Why is it called a “Christian Holocaust” (p.99)? Maybe I’m missing something, but were there other information (e.g. how many recanted their faith? how many were executed? how many were excommunicated or persecuted?)? If it was indeed 300,000 (from estimated number of Christians, p.92,96) that were executed, that claim to be a “holocaust” needs to be backed up with a bit more data. It just seems unfair to claim that when the Jewish Holocaust has verified data of 6,000,000 murdered.

    Chapter 9
    – The author’s research seems to be much better here and his proposed barriers that he summarizes here (p.108) I assume he’ll address in subsequent chapters.

    Chapter 10
    – This was the most interesting for me because I’m interested in knowing if and how the seed of the Gospel has grown in the indigenous soil of Japan.

    – The denominational differences discussion (from p.110) was interesting because it highlighted how some denominations were just national forms of Christianity (rooted in their original cultures), such as Lutheran as German, Presbyterian as Scottish, etc..

    – I was also intrigued by the indigenous Japanese theology wrestling with the concept of “tsurasa” (suffering to save others from pain) on p.113. I wonder how that cultural value can be seen in practice and if that might be a “redemptive analogy” that could communicate Jesus’ sacrifice among the Japanese. Still lots to learn here…

    – I would also agree with the author of his opinion that “Japanese Christians have often hoped for an indigenous version of Christianity but did not fully get a chance” to develop it. This is exciting and this is what I’m praying for this week!

    • WCathy

      Regarding “tsurasa”: I also feel this theology isn’t complete. I wonder why the Japanese think that our pain is a resemblance of God’s pain? (Personally don’t think this is a valid comparison because God is sovereign and we can never compare) But like you said it might be a “redemptive analogy”, but to be honest, from the field workers that I’ve spoken to no one talked about this theology.

    • Naoko Brown


      SO sorry for my delayed comment. I fell behind!!

      These two links you mentioned work for me. Don also said they work for him…. Could you try again?

      Your comment on “Tsurasa” reminded me of a novel called “The Shiokari Pass”. If you look up on Youtube “The Shiokari Pass with English subtitle”, you will find an old movie from the 70s. It is a very famous novel written in the 60s by Ayako Miura and based on a true story. The movie is about one hour long. Of course, the original novel is better than the movie, but you will get it.
      Let me know what you think.

    • Naoko Brown

      Joze, I just read your comment to Takako. I see what you are saying about the websites.

  • 2

    Takako - Week 5 Reflections


    I was able to access keikyo.com, Joze! Lots of information, that i don’t have much time to read everything.

    Chap 8 – I did not realize Christianity was introduced in Japan so early in history. I’m no 100% sure or convinced that the story of Keikyo – shining faith, but very interesting to note. It was also noteworthy that through the Nestorians, Catholic Christianity was favored at first. Also that samurais and farmers were the first to be introduced to the faith. And Christians were persecuted not because of their faith, but because of social/political factors. Hidden Christian and holocaust that happened is definitely sad.

    Chap 9 – For the Japanese, becoming a Christian will betray their culture and seen as a foreign, Western religion. I think the problems of the faith such as the questions of “What happens to the Japanese people who died before?” and the lack of bridges between Christianity and main religions of Japan still exists today. Also that there are more older pastors than younger ones. We need to pray that the younger generations will be uprooted into the faith and become the next leaders.

    Chap 10 – The theology of Kazoh, redem ptive pain and suffering of God in order to save others stool out to me. Also that the Japanese view Western Christianity as ethnocentric and previously poor treatment of Japanese. Pre-war wanting a Japanese indegenious version of Christianity is understandable.

    We need to pray for Japan because the country is still considered the most unreached people in the world of less that 1.5% of believers, maybe that has increased since the book was published?

    • Joze

      Thanks, Takako-san! I tried it again. The website works, but many of the links don’t work. The virtual museum was interesting (and working).

      What you commented about “what happens to the Japanese people who died before” was thought-provoking. Did you or others you know wrestle with this question from a Japanese-American Christian point of view? That does seem to be a tough one, for me at least, to comprehend and to give a reasonable response to. I think there are some hints toward a response, such as the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb.12) and the veneration of “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” among Jewish people when used in context of “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (e.g. Ex.3:15)

    • Naoko Brown

      Indeed it is one of the toughest questions we have to answer. I always say, “You never know what the Lord does at the very last moment of someone’s life. He may reveal Himself to the dying person.” That is what I am hoping happened to my grandparents, my father, and all other Japanese people who really did not hear the Gospel. Our God is JUST. I hope we will be all surprised when we get to heaven, but meanwhile, we do what we can do to spread the Gospel!!

  • 1

    Cathy week 5 reflection


    This week’s readings on Christianity in Japan was very thought-provoking. In chapter 8 we learned about how Christianity came to Japan. I have learned in a world religions class about the famous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, but knowing that he was a Catholic priest I wonder how they spread the faith when they first entered Japan? I also did not know that Xian (where I was born) played an important role in Christianity in the East, so it’s interesting how the 2 paths came together in Japan.
    The prosecutions during the Tokugawa regime reminds me of what is happening in China right now. It seems that politics has always played a big role in organized religious prosecutions, especially when it comes to a traditional strong central government system. This is probably caused by their inability to relate Christianity to the society, and they fear that religion is a way for Western colonization of the country.
    In contemporary Japanese society, one of the barriers in sharing the Gospel is helping the Japanese understand the concept of the one and only living God. Since they grew up in a society where literally anything and everything can be called a god, if they can accept Jesus as God they’re closer to understanding the Gospel. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised that the Japanese are included in the top most difficult people group to share the Gospel, but as I’ve been hearing and learning the statistics it becomes a sad but apparent truth.

    • Naoko Brown

      Yes, it is hard for Japanese to believe in one and only God. Beside big temples and shrines, there are so many little shrines and Jizo (a small Buddha) statues everywhere in Japan. They adore and fear them, and seek comfort from them as the heart of Japanese culture.

  • 0

    Week 5 Brandalyn


    I really appreciate the “cultural barriers to belief”. I think that it highlights some of the most key points that are relevant to Japanese and receiving the gospel. One of the big things that comes up for me is the need to be honest and humbly. We DON’T know everything. We DON’T have all the answers. We are NOT the final authority. I think that we Christians get ourselves in trouble when we think we know it all or that we have to know it all. And actually, I think that when we get in that mind-set we stop ourselves from going to the Lord for answers and direction, and we stop others from first going to the Lord for answers, direction and discernment.

    I am also becoming more convinced that the way I am most interested in evangelism now is to focus on fewer but to do a better job. I think that I have been exposed to so much of the “go for the dozens, hundreds, thousands. Go fast, go to many” approach. Although there are people and structures where it can work, I think that we do people a great disservice by trying to force feed them the gospel at a rapid pace. As time goes on, I am convinced that more listening, less talking and taking time to hear their fears, needs, concerns, beliefs and questions is a better way to get a positive response to the gospel and to have people genuinely interested or accepting the Lord in a deep, authentic way. But I think that to do this well, it takes time. Lots of time and patience. If we do get to go to Japan for a longer term and ministry focus, I think my focus will be much smaller. Not church planting and reaching the city and the prefecture and the region. But reaching the half a dozen or so people that we can have those close relationships with and then discipling them to do the same with their half a dozen people.

  • 0

    Week 5 Peggy

    Peggy Burkosky

    I appreciated listening to Gordon Kaneda’s audio presentation after reading the overview history of Christianity in Japan, Contemporary Japan and Japanese Theology. Gordon’s insights brought some hopeful conclusions in response to the overwhelming amount of spin-offs of beliefs and outright cults in Japan. I want to know the hearts of Japanese people and understandably they are wary and need a very good reason to trust the gospel. It would have been helpful to have English sub-titles in the video “Nobita from Japan channel: Being a Christian in Japan” since most of it was spoken in Japanese.