Week 5: Cultural Concepts October 5-11

Reading:

  • Ch. 5, Pg 41-50 “The Way of the Warrior,” Bushido 武士道
  • Ch. 8, Pg 71-82 “The Do Spirit of Japan,” Do 道
  • Ch. 17, Pg 143-152 “The Japanese Virtue of Modesty,” Kenkyo 謙虚
  • Ch. 9, Pg 83-94 “Japanese Patience and Determination,” Gambari 頑張り

 

View:

RJC Video of Jack and Keiko Marshall’s message at the 2011 International RJC Conference.

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Writing: Weekly Paper: “Impressions and Points from Your Reading”

  • 1. Interact with the discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
  • 2. Discuss how these cultural characteristics might affect your ministry with Japanese people.

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

  • 3

    Week 5

    Alissa Bauer

    “It is important to note that ‘Bushido involved not only martial spirit and skill with weapons, but also absolute loyalty to one’s lord, a strong sense of personal honor, devotion to duty, and the courage, if required, to sacrifice one’s life in battle or in ritual.’”(p.42)
    WOW!! This is amazing. This makes me so excited for Japanese people that become believers. On the surface, I could see this being applied to their relationship with Christ and being such devoted followers!
    The book says that bushido has led to Japanese people overworking, which sometimes ends in death (so crazy!!). I’m just wondering how that works. Does anyone have a practical example they could share with me?
    “Moreover, in modern times, some Japanese are driven to commit suicide when they want to clear an unsavory reputation or when they want to apologize for their sins or mistakes in their company or family. The Japanese people tend to accept and even glorify these kinds of suicide and feel sympathy for the victims, and this has negative influence on people, especially the young, because they may think that suicide is the easiest way to be released form all pain.” (p48) It is so sad to see that suicide in Japan can be glorified…. And that it has such an influence on young people. Has anyone ever talked to a Japanese person about this? I’d be interested to hear your stories of what their perspective is.
    “In Japanese schools, however, most things are done ‘according to a fixed pattern or plan; then it becomes much easier to learn how to do things – all one needs to do is to learn the patterns from someone who knows them’”. (p.81) I am so interested to know how I would do in this setting of learning. I tend to like lectures the most and am not usually the one asking questions. I love to just listen. I love routine, so maybe I would prefer this method of learning where I learn the pattern or plan.
    Japanese Proverbs and Sayings Concerning Modesty (p.143):
    “’The nail that sticks up gets hammered down’ which means that those who display their abilities too openly run the risk of being crushed by others.”
    ‘“A rice plant’s ears grow ripe and hang low’, which is to say that rather than being proud and haughty, it is desirable to be modest and polite, even when one is more mature, experienced, and refined than others.”

    • Steven La Voie

      Alissa,

      I like how you applied the Japanese principle of following the Bushido code to the mentality of a new Christian following Christ. I think that with this mindset, a Japanese person could be a devoted follower of Christ even to death. In fact, this is a very Biblical way for us as Christians to live and it has inspired me to be more devoted to Jesus with all that I have, that is to be willing to die if we need to for the cause of Christ and His Gospel. I wonder how we can get the Japanese people, with God’s help, to follow Jesus in a Bushido way of living?

      While I do not personally know of anyone who has died from overworking, I do know of the ways that they do. Work is something that is highly valued in Japanese society and has been stressed from youth that going to the right university and getting “that” job will make you successful and satisfied. Combine this idolatry of work and finding one’s life purpose in working along with the Bushido principles and you get very zealous business men and women. In order to prove their allegiance and loyalty to the company, many men and even women will work long hours well into the night until the boss leaves to prove to their bosses that they are devoted. Also, these workers literally live to work so that is their purpose in life and what better things to do in life than to spend most of your time in fulfilling your purpose? (In their life, they live to work and to die is gain or honorable) I have switched the verse in Philippians to show how they live for working rather than Jesus who created the work for them to do.

      I do know of a Japanese person who has struggled with suicide as a result of complicated family situations which led to feelings of deep shame and isolation being involved. (Thankfully, this person became a Christian). It seems that if the Japanese person cannot be accepted into the family or society as a whole, then life is not worth living since the group is one’s identity. If the group is one’s identity and not Jesus, then to be outcast or shamed from the group is to lose your value and sense of identity. Many with this loss of identity tend to take their lives unfortunately. I think that this is one of the reasons that suicide is common among the Japanese.

      These are just some of my thoughts on your questions and they may or may not be helpful.

    • Brandalyn

      I thought the same thing as you! The Japanese (perhaps more than most) have such a great potential to really take their walk with the Lord seriously – more seriously than maybe most of the rest of us. It seems that they are already primed as a people for giving their body, mind and soul. Maybe that is why the fight is so fierce to get the gospel to take hold there – maybe Satan knows that if they took hold they’d go 100% and be unstoppable and so the spiritual battle rages intensely there.

    • Riz Crescini

      There are a lot of similarities between the Japanese samurai and the Western cowboy. That’s why many Japanese like Westerns. They can relate to the virtues of honor and sacrifice. The famous filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, for example, was highly influenced by American filmmaker John Ford.

  • 3

    Week 5: 武士道

    Steven La Voie

    Questions 4 and 5: It is interesting to read about how the form of Bushido came originally from Zen Buddhism. In fact, it seems that a lot of the ideas and concepts foundational to Japanese society come from Buddhism and China (but that is a whole other topic that could be discussed). Confucianism also had a hand in influencing the Bushido lifestyle from where the strong sense of loyalty came from.

    Today, in modern Japanese society, overworking comes from many Japanese business men and women looking to appear loyal to their company and will work overtime to prove their allegiance. I see also that companies penalize those who do not work overtime or take more breaks which is a major problem. The idolization of pleasing people and finding purpose in work alone only seems to enforce the negative side to the Bushido code.

    Many of the Japanese families and students that I know spend lots of time working and not enough with their families. Even with Japanese Christians, I see that overworking and not resting properly is a problem. One of the solutions is to have the Japanese understand and be aware of what cost their loyalty to their company and pleasing others has on them.

    • Alissa Bauer

      Steven, yeah it’s interesting to see the positive and negative impacts of the Buishido code. If it’s placed in the proper direction (to Christ), it’s such a great thing but if it’s directed towards pleasing people and purpose in work alone I could see how the enemy would use that to his advantage. Thanks for your insight and long reply to my post!

    • Brandalyn

      I have sure seen this over-working first hand as well. It’s so sad to me. There are laws in Japan about being paid for overtime etc, yet there is the cultural norm that it is ignored and so many extra days and hours are put in as Steven has said, to prove loyalty. And even when workers don’t want to, when they want to be home with their families, when they don’t FEEL that loyalty to their boss to want to stay or go out after work for drinks and yakitori… but they feel that they have no choice. This is how the system works. I have seen it from somewhat of the inside and it is so sad when it looks like bondage.

    • Fred

      I wonder if this overwork ethic and emphasis on social belonging can be misapplied within the local church, with people ‘overworking’ and seeking group approval, or local church approval, or pastoral approval, instead of God’s approval.

  • 1

    Prayers for Okayama

    Steven La Voie

    This prefecture looks like it has a high church attendance compared to the other Japanese prefectures. Praise God for this! I am praying that more churches are planted here and for Japanese pastors to shepherd churches here.

    • Brandalyn

      My friend and her family live there. This is the city that I spend most of my time in. I have attended a few different churches. A few are tiny and hardly “surviving”. But i was surprised by the number in her city – and a fair few Christian organizations/outreaches.

      I’m praying with you!

  • 2

    week 5 - Brandalyn

    Brandalyn

    Questions:
    1 – These seem to be the epitome of Bushido
    2 – I think that many do. I know some who sure embody this spirit – to the detriment of their families and their own lives and health.
    3 – Many do. And it does contribute to the incidences of suicide I think. It can be seen in the expectations in education and getting a good job.
    4 – For my friend’s husband, it is the expectation of the boss and company and he is so loyal and devoted, he ensures that he is never the first one to leave – showing less commitment than the others. I think it is the modern spirit of Bushido.
    5 – I think it is all the same – deep loyalty, deep obligation. And it doesn’t fit with a balanced life – you can’t be that loyal and committed and generally take care of your own family and physical and mental health.
    6 – I like the coach’s response. I wouldn’t have been as intense (I wouldn’t have slapped him), but I likely would have tried to convey the same message. I think it is a core kill/characteristic that is needed – you can be great at what you do, but if your mind/mouth/spirit is out of control, you’ll be more of a negative than a positive to those around you.
    From the perspective of Bushido – self control is important which is deeply related to personal honor. You want to be able to maintain your peace and composure (and skill) even during stressful situations.

    Cross Cultural –
    1 – I think it is quite similar – except that I think Bushido in Japan has retained the stronger version that we used to see further back in our history. It sounds more akin to what we read about in the old testament of how kings and warriors conducted themselves in battles etc.
    2 – I think it is akin, but I don’t know enough to comment further.
    3 – I am not familiar enough with Yakyu to comment
    4 – It just relates to what I’ve read in the old testament – kings and warriors would rather kill themselves or have their shield bearer kill them than to be captured or killed by the enemy.
    5 – I think so. I see this intense, committed, loyal, military spirit in the people today, but it is channeled toward economic endeavors, not militantly domination. However, I suspect that if the Japanese got back onto a pre WWII track, they’d be a scary force to be rezoned with. Few nations have the iron focus and dedication found in the Japanese. And that it isn’t solely based out of fear and intimidation, but seems to be more deeply rooted in loyalty and national pride/commitment (which in my opinion is much stronger than simply fear-based obedience).

    • Brandalyn

      Do – questions
      1 – I think that I still see it permeate much of Japanese society – homes are quite simple compared to western, perfection in how things are done (from house cleaning to one’s job), discipline in school and work, harmony with nature in appreciation for nature beyond what is seen in most cultures.
      2 – I think I agree. I think that maybe essential truth has to be experienced, rather than communicated. We can tell people all we want, but until they experience and believe it for themselves, it isn’t essential truth to them. Yes, I think they prefer intuition and emotion to logic and analysis – but I have been pressed on how I can believe in creation and a God of the Bible when there is so much logical evidence for evolution. And my friend has said that she is fascinated that my husband and I can be so educated and yet believe in a God and pray to him and believe in prayer…. so…. that leads me to believe that at least in this family, there is an importance in logic and analysis.
      3 – YES! Maybe some has been lost over time, but compared to the rest of the world, I still think that they are the world leaders in these areas.
      4 – I don’t know how to answer that. To be honest, I’m always a bit confused by the tea ceremony.
      5 – I think there is a real mix, but I think in general the statement is true. I think it means that the spirit of Do is getting cloudy and having to compete with other things like modern materialism etc. I think young people are influenced by it, but many are also rebelling against it. I think that if there could be more freedom of choice and encouraged freedom of thought and expression such that people could CHOOSE Do, it might work out better, but it has the potential to become (or to be) a historical tradition that people feel forced into but don’t believe in.

      Cross Cultural –
      1 – Those driving trains, the ladies serving food with the carts on the trains, some store clerks, airline stewardesses and all those working for the airline in the airport.
      I always REALLY WANT TO KNOW how people feel about doing these jobs this way. personally I would feel very tired and worn from it quickly, but when I ask about such things, Japanese seem to not understand what I’m asking. I suspect they’re too polite to answer, but it might just be that is the known role and expectation of the job. – It’s certainly less foreign in Japan that those actions would be in Canada! (hence why i get such terrible culture shock coming back home after being in Japan!)
      2 – I guess I always break into it with very friendly, personal interaction…. so it doesn’t bother me. But if I responded with the same, stiff, robotic, I could see it being bothersome.
      3 – I have been a bit concerned about this myself. There seems to be the belief that students should not ask questions in class because it draws attention to self and disturbs others, even if students don’t understand. I can see the polite-ness, but it’s a bit counter-productive to not understand and not be able to get clarification or further instruction. I doubt that best learning in a school setting can truly happen from just listening and observing – maybe this is why there is so much tutoring and cramming etc – not as much gleaned from in -class. I also wonder how much creativity and individual thought is stifled that might otherwise really benefit the individual, the school, the business or the country. The educational system doesn’t seem to encourage creative thought and problem solving.
      4 – As stated above, I don’t think so. I think you can still keep a class quiet, respectful and submissive, while teaching creative thinking and problem solving. But people might have to get a little uncomfortable trying something new!
      5 – I can see this working in martial arts – I have found this kind of learning best in dance. I don’t think it would work well in mathematics, but it works well for dance! But without words it can take time to learn the nuances and details. Some verbal correction and instruction to reduce frustration and provide a more direct route to the end goal. I don’t know how others adapt, I can see being reasonably frustrated, but all the more, I can see the teachers being really frustrated by students from other cultures asking a lot of questions and not just quietly following! I think it is fine to retain for certain activities like martial arts if the people who learn and have learned feel that it is good and effective.

    • Brandalyn

      Kenkyo – questions
      1 – I don’t know enough about it to know. All that I know, is that as a new language learner it is highly intimidating!
      2 – A belief in the equal value of others – I think it is still important because it seems to underpin all of who the Japanese are. I think it is the foundation that makes their nation and people so wonderful!
      3 – Tough question – sure seems an obligatory action akin to Giri/Honne/tatemae… but… coming from a very free western nation, I think I really appreciate some “shut up and don’t give everyone you’re real opinion. Think of others and be polite!”
      4 – In the Japanese cultural context this makes perfect sense. I can appreciate this in my own culture (Canada) where as a child we always referred to adults as Mr. and Mrs. or Aunty and Uncle and never by first names. I remember the first time that an elementary school child swore at me when I was in high school and I was horrified by where our world was going. So few kids refer to adults by the “honorific” terms I used as a kid. I feel the same about my country and culture.
      5 – I’m not sure how much it is used within the family. Even within my own family we are more careful about what and how we say things to the generations older than us. I haven’t heard super formal dialogue with the grandparents in kanako’s family… but I can see it making sense in business and school government etc.
      6 – I think more of a middle ground would be good for Japanese. It seems that it goes too far such that skill is stifled and looked down upon rather than celebrated and utilized as it could be. Already as humans we have the tendency to be insecure and look down on those who have skills that we don’t – so this Japanese way could amplify that.
      7 – This seems to be an amplified situation of what you can find in other cultures (even my own). I think that where it is about respect it is OK. Where it is stifling learning and creativity and understanding it is not good. I think that people (in all cultures) need to be taught how to discern right and wrong, good and bad and how to evaluate information and make good decisions.
      8 – I think quietly and humbly. let people discover them, don’t parade them. People will notice as Japanese appreciate skills, quality and a job well done.
      9 – I don’t really know, but from what I’ve read they treat it as a cultural expression displaying humility, not as derogatory as we hear it. Yes, I think that taking it too far, pushes it the other way. You almost beg people to convince you of your value…

      Cross Cultural –
      1 – yes – except that I don’t know how international people can have a hope of understanding and accurately utilizing Keigo – so in that regard it’s not so good!
      2 – I am not sure. All my friends have told me that in my context it’s not really worth my time at this point of language learning. But I’m not doing formal interactions with important people and in business settings….I guess it depends on your context. I am sure that I’ll need to understand it somewhat as time goes on and I encounter more Japanese in broader circles
      3 – Japanese one: tow the line or pay the consequences.
      English one: if you don’t speak up you’re unlikely to get what you need addressed.
      They’re kind of total opposites, but they do explain our 2 cultures!
      4 – So far the people I know find it fascinating and attractive/appealing. We appreciate it.
      5 – Not sure of many other cultures. English – Mr and Mrs., Aunty, Uncle, Ma’am, Sir, Pastor/Reverend. We do have it, but to a much lesser degree. No sentence fragments and emojis when speaking to superiors or those in professional roles!
      6 – It can be confusing if we’re not expecting it to be a strong as the Japanese do it!
      7 – I’m not sure that I understand this question enough to answer.
      8 – I don’t think so. I think it still very much reflects the culture and foundation of Japan.
      9 – It would be curious and shocking! It can be much more normal in other countries – especially India comes to mind. I’m as skeptical as she is! And if he is Japanese, he’s sure not a typical Japanese!

  • 1

    Marshall's message

    Brandalyn

    This is a fantastic message and brings up a critical point:
    – especially with the Japanese tendency to be polite and not terribly honest in favour of maintaining WA and respect – it can be so hard to see or know true, repentant conversion and regeneration and not just saying “yes” when it is expected and giving the gentle, desired answer. Such importance to do as they said and ensure a clear presentation and continued dialogue of the gospel for full understanding and a true decision. (Same is also needed in all other countries including north America, but probably few are as prone to polite agreement as Japanese!)

    • Fred

      So what do you look for to see if there is genuine fruit? Initiative? Applying lessons where the teacher has not suggested it?

  • 0

    Are they harmonious, or neutered?

    Fred

    The lack of a consensus, national concrete morality jeopardizes their interpersonal relationships, as they must focus on the current group’s values, in order to find their alignment, instead of an overarching narrative. Fuzzy thinking is encouraged, grasping of opposites, for example, which aides group harmony as ‘evey one is right’. The social pressure leads to social distancing from loved ones, and among co-workers, group harmony replaces group closeness, as people do not challenge others to change because their real thoughts are not expressed.