Week 6: Japanese Culture and Christian Faith May 11-17

Week 6 Japanese Culture and Christian Faith

Reading:

  • Chapter Eleven: Christianity’s Contribution to Japanese Life
  • Chapter Twelve: Elements of Japanese Culture
  • Chapter Thirteen: Spiritual Culture in Japan
  • How to Share the Good News With Your Japanese Friend by Mark Reasoner Page 1-15

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

  • There is no minimum or maximum amount 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.

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:

Discussion

  • 0

    PRAYER FOR TOYAMA

    Shibu AV
    Reply

    PRAYER FOR TOYAMA, MAY 12

    BECAUSE OF THE POWERFUL BUDDHIST INFLUENCE AND SMALL NUMBER OF CHURCHES, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT A STRONG SENSE OF TRUST AND UNITY AMONG THE CHURCHES BE DEVELOPED.

    AS YOU PRAY, PLEASE NOTE THE STATISTICS FOR TOYAMA. PRAY FOR GOD’S BLESSING ON THE 1,070 WHO ARE ATTENDING WORSHIP SERVICES. TOYAMA’S CHURCH ATTENDANCE AND MEMBERSHIP STATISTICS ARE AMONG THE LOWEST IN THE COUNTRY.

    Dear Heavenly Father, I want to thank you so much for the believers in Toyama, they are the light of the world, they may shine for Jesus, they will carry the light into the darkness, the people in Toyama may see the true light, Lord I also pray for the churches that spread in this region, Lord I pray that they may be united and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to break the chain and bring the souls into your kingdom, Lord please use every believer and church to bring more people into Christ, bless these church planting ministries, they may the fruits, there will be a great revival soon my Lord, Lord I trust you for a miracle, you are a miracle-working God, people may experience supernatural miracles through the church planting ministries, you may glorify your name through these church planting ministries, multiply and enlarge your kingdom in this region, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

  • 0

    PRAYER FOR TOYAMA: For more Christian Missions to come into this Prefecture

    Shibu AV
    Reply

    PRAYER FOR TOYAMA, MAY 13
    The prefecture has a very difficult religious climate, so the need is particularly great. Pray for the testimony of Christian students enrolled in colleges and high schools.

    Remember the six missionaries working in the prefecture.

    There are no Christian bookstores, training/camping facilities, Christian schools or Christian medical services in the prefecture.

    Dear Father in Heaven, I want to pray for this prefecture for a great revival, there is nothing impossible for you, you can turn a desert into a beautiful garden, you can bring water out of the desert, you are a miracle-working God, there is a huge need in this place, Lord I pray that many missionaries will head into this place and establish many ministry activities, Bible schools will come, Christian bookshops will come, many churches would be established in Jesus’ name, the Mighty Name, Lord I commit this prefecture into your hand, manifest your love and power to bring many into your kingdom, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

  • 4

    How to share the gospel with the Japanese:

    Shibu AV
    Reply

    How to share the gospel with the Japanese:
    Booklet on “How to share the good news with your Japanese friends” was a helpful material, it is quite similar tips to sharing the gospel with the Hindus, Muslims, and other rigid religious people groups.
    Friendship evangelism is one of the effective ways to share the gospel with the people that come from very staunch religious backgrounds. We have been working among the Hindus in Panama, and other Asian people for the last five years, it has been the most adventurous years in my life. It was difficult to even to get to talk with some of the Indians and Asians that live in Panama, I remember the days that I left in tears back home from the outreach because no one would like to even give a smile or say hello!
    But as time passed, we have seen many friendships being developed. We have many Indian friends from various Indian religious backgrounds, from Hindu, Sikh, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, the new age Hindu group, Indian Muslims, with many other Asian people, Lily was able to meet with few people in the Japanese embassy, few other people from Philippians and China, and people from Pakistan.
    From my experience, it is a long process, it took a while for us to build a friendship with different people from various backgrounds. We were able to invite many of these friends to different activities, especially on Christmas and Easter services, for many people it was the very first time attending a Christian meeting, through these meetings we were able to share the complete gospel with them, and they enjoyed the food and the fellowship in the end, and we continue with the follow-up.
    I believe building friendship would be one of the ways we can share the gospel with the Japanese people. And the author says, we have to be an example, our words and actions have to match, we have to be transparent before the people, they have to see Jesus in us, through the way we speak and do things.
    Being a good listener is very important while we are witnessing to the people that oppressed by the devil and his angels, many people are looking for someone to talk, we love to speak and share the gospel, but many times we listen a little, this is one of the keys from my experiences, sometimes I had to just listen to people for four to five hours, often hearing the same stories! They talk about everything, their failures, their frustration, their ambitions, and their struggles so on… I have seen God is bringing them out of their situation when they dedicated their lives to Jesus. God wants us to be good listeners to hear the heart of non-believers.
    Multiple religious practices and belief system is a great challenge since they are open to some kinds of religiosity I think it would be easy to talk to them about the true living God, though it may take some time for them to digest the idea of one and only God concept. Hindus love to hear about God, so they do not have a problem to hear about Jesus, but the moment we say He is the only way, then there is the issue of dealing with the confusions and differences, we have to pray and ask God for wisdom and favor to share the way they can understand.
    Spiritual warfare is real everywhere, the devil is trying to occupy everywhere, he wants to build his kingdom everywhere, so we will have to face the battle, we need to stand strong as Paul says in Ephesians chapter 6:10-18. Prayer and Fasting are very essentials in dealing with people that are controlled by spiritual forces.
    Japanese people need Jesus for the real freedom of their soul, they are deceived by the devil, blinded by the devil, they need help, God has given the power and authority to the Church to break any chains and bring those who are bound by the spiritual forces into His kingdom, and we are authorized by Jesus. We have to believe in the promise of Jesus, “go to every nation and make disciples, he will be with us to the ends of the earth” Mt. 28:19-20.

    • Emily Frey

      Thanks for your views Shibu. I agree listening is a very important part of the process of sharing and allows for friends to be vulnerable with us. It is always easier to share Jesus with a friend who is demonstrating need versus one that is not. We share in His sufferings, He is strong in our weaknesses, and one must humble themselves before God, so sharing stories of God’s jealousy and Christ’s absolute submission and humility can be helpful when presenting concepts for one way to God through Christ.

      Working with students from different religious backgrounds simultaneously can be overwhelmingly difficult so I find it easier to separate them by language or culture into smaller groups to meet for Bible teaching or discipleship. Prayer is our greatest weapon against spiritual warfare. Without it constantly going before and after our gatherings, we are chasing after ourselves and our good deeds without the power of the Holy Spirit.

    • Naoko Brown

      Shibu,
      When one of our Indian coworkers got sick and went through a difficult surgery, I went to see his wife in the hospital waiting room. She was worried about her husband and very devastated, of course, so I talked to her and comforted her. Then I told her that I am a Christian and asked if I could pray for them. She said Jesus is a god, too, so it is OK to pray. So I held her hands and prayed in the name of Jesus Christ in front of other Indian friends. Later I heard the surgery was successful, thanks to Jesus! I know she was praying for her god, and all of her Indian friends were praying for their gods, but I am very thankful that my friend’w wife was open for my prayers in the waiting room, and I hope the Lord will remind her of his mighty name and His healing hand on her husband.

    • Shibu AV

      wow! That’s great. Indian people are open to pray, especially when they are in need, and this is the best opportunity to do so. You did the right thing, they will remember it and contact you back. Please keep praying for that family, God may work in their lives and family. Thank you for taking the stet of faith, you may get many more opportunities.

    • Shibu AV

      Hello Emily, thank you so much for all your wonderful works that you are doing with the students, I agree it must be overwhelming! May the Lord give you strength and His favor. God may bless all your efforts.

      “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” ICor. 15:58.

  • 2

    Emily's Notes on Japanese Culture & Christian Faith

    Emily Frey
    Reply

    Most of the topics discussed in the elements of Japanese culture were not new. The obligations of giri seem overwhelming and a hard distortion to overturn in explaining free gifts, grace, forgiveness, and faith without deeds. The commitment to wa seems honorable and useful for building up the Church as long as it does not encourage corruption and deception as seen in companies or create unhealthy relationships via uchi and soto.

    Our team visiting Japan learned about sempai and kohai the hard way. As American college ministry equipped folks, we planned to host a large event and send personal invitations to all the students we had befriended in the past three years of hosting students in OKC. We quickly found this was not going to happen because of sempai and kohai. Students of different years—freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors–at the university did not socially or academically mingle. Very strange to us as Americans, we had to ask a lot of questions to understand why one years’ group seemed awkward and did not want to engage an older or younger year student group within the same major at the same university. Maybe less social separation and more collaboration between years would encourage relationships and disseminate bullying. Its so interesting that a culture that seems so much more focused on relational value and back-scratching would have such status divisions even among college age students. It almost seems the status divisions demand relational obligation because there is no other way to make friends!

    So very interesting to read of the several social justice and civil rights movements in which the Gospel has indirectly influenced Japanese culture and society. The author is right to claim that these should never be ignored. For a country of such indirect and ambiguous communication, subtle influence can be more effective than direct and aggressive approaches. It is not surprising that Japanese Christian novelists are also among the greatest influencers.

    • Shibu AV

      You are right Emily that when we are in a particular culture we understand better. For me, it was quite overwhelming to read certain things even though I come from Asia too. We need lots of wisdom from the Lord for how we can communicate the gospel wisely and carefully according to the given situation. I believe many Japanese people must be searching for the truth in spite of all they have materially, due to the culture that they brought up must not letting them address publicly. God may help you with the great work you are doing.

    • Naoko Brown

      Emily,
      Indeed Senpai and Kohai thing is a very difficult and delicate topic to deal with. It is a sort of Uchi and Soto, Us versus Them mentality. We judge senpai, kohai and our own class friends with different standards. I was so amazed how Americans in different ages interact without any boundaries, especially when students interact with teachers like friends.

  • 0

    Pray for Toyama: The Church in Namerikawa

    Shibu AV
    Reply

    PRAYER FOR TOYAMA, MAY 14
    In answer to many prayers, there is now a church in Namerikawa
    . A church building was constructed in March 2004, and evangelism began. Praise God.

    Here is the Prayer Hills Church building. Pray for Pastor Kaneko and the fellowship there.

    Pray for a Christian medical service to be started here and to become an effective tool. A Christian hospice ministry is also needed.

    Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the church in Naerikawa, thank you so much for answering many brothers and sister’ prayer, please bless this church and you may multiply it and make a great fellowship to bring your light into the lives that are in darkness, Lord I also pray the Prayer Hill Church and the pastorKaneko and his family, use their ministry to reach many lives, and provide all the necessities, and protect them from the attack of the enemy, and bless this ministry, also Lord I pray for many other ministry activities would be started in the days to come, I pray for a revival in this place, that will bring many into the kingdom of Jesus, your blessings will fall on this region, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

  • 2

    Reading Report on Understanding Japan: Chapter 11, 12 and 13

    Shibu AV
    Reply

    Christianity’s Contribution to Japanese Life:

    Christianity’s contributions are remarkable everywhere, the power of the gospel bring light into any darkest place, the Bible says, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” Matthew 4:16. This light has brought an enormous change in the nations of the world. Japanese soil is one of the examples.
    It is important to recognize the education for girls was one of the greatest contributions in Japan by the Christian people, which helped many young girls to come up in life with a bright future, God’s favor over the fragile community is enormous. This step of action helped the nation to see the need for empowering the women, it was an eye-opening in the Japanese community. Education has helped many downtrodden communities around the world with a new and bright future, it brought life into their oppressed hearts and situation.
    Other important contributions by the Christian community are the literature and arts, the writing and publishing of the Christian novels, and other Christian literature based on faith and daily life. It is also amazing to see how many Christian writers have had come up in the past years in order to support the growth of the Christian faith in Japan, not only that to help people with identity and dignity.
    One of the things we see throughout the Christian history around the world is that though the Christian missionaries started with a great vision and mission to reach the people with the gospel through various media, many of them were not able to keep up the goal, gradually all the social and charitable activities merely focused on the physical and material aspects, and the spiritual aspect had been degraded. Indian Christian history also is one of the examples. Still, it is quite remarkable to recognize the Christian contributions to the downtrodden communities around the globe.
    Elements of Japanese Culture:
    Understanding Japanese culture was an eye-opening session for me, I learned many things that are really helpful information regards to their culture and how can we prepare for the mission in Japan. It was quite interesting to notice the difference between Honne and Tatemae.
    One of the things I noticed was, we have to be sensitive when we visit a Japanese house if they mention anything about food, and we have to respond to them carefully. Also, it is quite shocking to know the emotional stress that husband and wife go through and unable to express to each other, they try to keep all their problems to themselves, not willing to trouble anyone at any manners. Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest” Mt. 11:28, they need to know that they can cast all their burden to Jesus, they don’t need to carry them. Even they think, if they share their faith with others, it may trouble them, because of that they are not comfortable sharing their faith with other Japanese people.
    It was helpful to know how Uchi and Soto function. How they manage the level of relationships is quite interesting to notice, and also clean and unclean concept. It is also remarkable to notice how they see the people that live in Japan from other countries. It is also good to know that Japanese people are group-oriented than individual, so we need to be careful while we are presenting the gospel, if we offend one person, it may affect the whole community. Personal interests are discouraged and group interest is promoted in the Japanese culture. Unity within the group is encouraged, so maintaining unity among the believers is quite important. It is also very important to know why Japanese people are not quite comfortable to accept Christianity, their strong sense of keeping the Uchi/Soto ideologies. It is quite amazing to see how much pressure one does go through when he/she accepts Christ. The role of various companies also gives people lots of pressure to stay completely committed to the norms and religiosities of companies.
    The concept of Giri was also very interesting to read, an obligation one has with each other in the community. The role of Confucianism in Giri is quite remarkable, it says human beings are obligated to human beings, not to any gods!
    It is also very important to know about Amae concept, which emphasizes the well-being of the other person, one cannot offend anyone, because of this it is hard for a Japanese person to say no, even if they know it is not possible, still they will not say no! We need to be careful about how we use this in the church and in terms of ministry, sometimes we can be influenced by this cultural idea. We need to say “yes” when it is “yes”, and say “no” when it is “no” as Jesus taught us. It is also good to know the animal concept, their idea is to maintain harmony within the group, and the individualistic idea is not encouraged according to this concept. We have to be careful when we share the gospel, we cannot compromise or hide the truth but explain it with careful thoughts and prayer.
    It is quite shocking to read about sempai/kohai, seniority is maintained in various cultures around the world, but when it goes to the extreme level of misuse and self-advantage is dangerous. It is also very important to notice how the role of “Wa” keeping the people from accepting Jesus. The fear of rejection from the community, fear of losing the benefits from the family and society, keep them away from accepting a new faith. Wa places a key role in the Japanese culture, it is important to share the gospel with the group of people than with the individuals, looking at the result of one being converted to Christianity, it is really tough one! But as Jesus said, if anyone wants to follow me, he has to deny himself and take up the cross and follow. Christian faith is a sacrificial step of action. These seeds are planted in the minds of the people around the world by Satan to stop people coming in contact with Jesus and to know the truth, they need to know the truth because the truth will set them free from these bondages.
    Spiritual Culture in Japan:
    India also has a similar festival like Matsuri, calling out the invisible spirit and connecting with people, some time is quite scary to watch about all the things people do. It is quite interesting to read about the Hina Matsuri festival, the doll festival. It is quite helpful to know the festivals that Japanese people have, we can be aware of these and also careful with how we respond to the seasons of their festivals.
    It is quite shocking to notice that even though 73% of people in Japan love to celebrate the day of Christmas, and it is not a holiday in Japan! It is very unfortunate to know that Japan is a fortune-telling nation, people search for answers for everything via fortune-tellers. It shows that people are desperately looking for an answer to their life, problems, and future. Here is what the importance of the good news of Jesus comes. This great nation needs a help from the Lord to come out of the various strongholds, they are gripped strongly by many of the cultural practices and religious practices, but they are very far away from the truth. My prayer is that many churches would be established in this nation to help the many millions of people that are bound by these strongholds, which keep them disconnected from the true living and loving God.

    • Brandalyn

      Uchi and Soto is fascinating to me – just how many sectors of life it is applicable to!

    • Naoko Brown

      Although there are many similarities between Japanese and Indian culture, I know that Indian people do not have strong Uchi and Soto concept. From what I understand from my Indian coworkers, their doors are open for neighbors and family members all the time even late at night.
      I heard sometimes people may how up at dinner time unannounced and eat together, or family members may stay for a long time and live with them for long period of time. Japanese are more closed in that sense even they have hospitality. Yes, all of the points you mentioned are not only interesting, but also possible spiritual strong holds.

  • 0

    PRAYER FOR TOYAMA CHURCHES

    Shibu AV
    Reply

    PRAYER FOR TOYAMA CHURCHES, MAY 15
    Pray for the four kindergartens and three church-affiliated nursery schools. The 2007 Christian Yearbook lists 661 children attending these programs.

    Pictured here are the children in their morning worship time at Aoba Kindergarten
    in Toyama City. May they be powerfully impacted by Jesus.

    Pray for the witness of Christians working in secular welfare programs and for churches who are showing Christ’s love to those in need.

    The Tateyama Ryuugahama Sou
    , a nursing home, was started in 1986 and has 82 residents.

    Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the kindergartens and the nursery schools in Toyama, Lord I pray that these activities may help the churches to share the gospel with the parents of the little ones that attend these schools, Lord please open doors for preaching the gospel, many are living in darkness and emptiness, many are in desperate needs of spiritual freedom, please help all the church activities to result in extending the kingdom of God among the Japanese communities, thank you so much for all the workers, protect them from the attack of the enemy, please bless them and keep them safe and sound under your care, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

  • 0

    Week 6 - brandalyn

    Brandalyn
    Reply

    I appreciate the suggestions in this book on “How to”- again, the emphasis is on first listening and understanding, and only later on speaking and being understood. I think this is critical in so many avenues!

    I would be interested in further elaboration from the author on what they said about spiritual warfare in japan

  • 1

    Lily - Week 6: Japanese Culture and Christian Faith

    Amarilys Vega
    Reply

    Christianity’s Contribution to Japanese Life

    Many countries have recognized the contribution of Christianity, especially in education. Wherever Christianity spread, there has been a great advance in education. And we can see that Christianity also created important changes in society. First colleges for women, improved the women’s position in the society as well. And some values of human worth were some of the contributions of Christianity in Japan.

    Contribution to Social Justice

    Some of the contribution:
    * Extending medical care to all.
    * Social justice and social welfare.
    * Women’s right.
    * In favor of social minorities.
    Some contributions to various areas of intellectual life.

    Japanese Culture and Christian Faith

    Elements of Japanese Culture

    Some of these elements can affect Japanese Christian from sharing their faith.

    * Aimai: ambiguity, indirectness. Some Japanese seem to agree on something, but their response is not totally clear. And many people, especially foreigners fail in understanding their indirectness or the real meaning of what they are trying to communicate.

    * Honne / Tatemae: Japanese people use different ways to express themselves according to the situation and the person that they talk to. Honne is an informal way to speak, the person can express their true feelings to friends, people closer to them. And Tatemae is an official way to express, it is the socially acceptable or correct way to communicate with others. It is used for business protocol and to avoid confrontation.

    * Uchi/Soto: Uchi is referring to a group, family, company that the person belongs to. Usually associated with cleanliness.
    Soto is used to referer to something foreign or from outside. And it is associated with dirtiness.

    * Giri: Social and Ethical Obligations: according to them is the righteous way, the road human beings should follow; something that one does unwillingly to forestall apology to the world.

    * Amae: Difficulty to say “no” or to directly reject or disagree with someone. It is to keep harmony and unity.

    Spiritual Culture in Japan

    Matsuri: are the festivals. Matsu is the welcoming of the invisible to the visible world. Or the invisible spirits get in contact with living people.

    Obon festival: is celebrated according to the lunar calendar and is the festival of the souls. Usually celebrated mid-July or mid-August. Japanese believe that the spirits return to this world to visit their relatives.

    Sutsubun: is celebrated on February 3rd or 4th. The people open the doors to drive demos and bad luck out of the homes, shouting “fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto” (In with good luck, out with demons).

    Hana Matsuri (March 3rd); it is the festival for girls or doll festivals. “Hina ningyo” are dolls set with ancient costumes; some of these dolls pass from generation to generation and some of them can cost thousands of dollars. The families bring the dolls out by mid-February and put them away right after the festival if they are slow to put them back, they think, there will be a problem to get their girls married. They don’t throw away the dolls, they take them to the temple and they are burned in a ceremony. They believe the dolls have soul.

    Tango no Sekku, also known as Ayame no hi (Iris Festival) it is celebrated on Children’s Day (May 5th). Marks the beginner of summer or rainy season. There is a custom of wishing for the healthy growth of boys.

    Some Modern Day Events

    Christmas: even that many Japanese are not Christians, but they celebrate Christmas as a special day to be with their families or the person they are dating.

    Valentine’s Day: it has become important in Japan, especially among young people. The women give “Giri choco” to the men or special presents.

    March 14, “White Day”, then the men give white chocolate to the women, but only the women that gifted them a month before (Valentine’s Day).

    People in Japan are use to fortune-telling, there are places near to the subway stations. When someone’s depressed or is beset with troubling issues, in Japan many would rather visit a fortuneteller than a psychiatrist”.

    There are many things that might sound more complicated in Japan than other countries, all these elements of the culture are even difficult to understand, but they are important to know how to reach them with the gospel.

    • Naoko Brown

      Lily,
      It is very helpful to learn about these things to understand their way of thinking. Thank you very much for the nice summary! I pray that this knowledge will stay with you and helps you to have great conversations with your Japanese friends.