Week 7: Conclusions and Analysis May 17-23

Week 7 Conclusions and Analysis

Week Seven Video (Elements of Japanese Culture)
Reading:

    • Understanding Japan: Conclusions and Analysis
      • Chapter Fourteen: Analyses and Strategies
      • How to Share the Good News With Your Japanese Friend by Mark Reasoner Page 16-29

Interview: a non-Japanese who has visited Japan. Discuss their impressions. Offer insights from your Japan 101studies.

    • 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:

      • 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

  • 1

    Joze (Week 7) Reflections

    Joze

    I’ve appreciated the author’s identification of many of the social strongholds such as the work-orientedness, the increasing fragmentation of the nuclear family, bullying in schools, suicide and “hikikomori,” addictions, suppression of women in higher positions in business and government, and the discrimination against minorities.

    I don’t understand why in a concluding chapter he would include new information, such as how Japanese people express themselves more through texting (p.154), or incest (p.156), without having talked about them previously. These don’t seem to be minor things and probably needed at least a paragraph to talk about them.

    I also wonder to what extent and how society has changed since the author has visited the country. Are some of his sociological analyses and conclusions needing some revision and update? Are there new problematic trends that he might need to talk about? What about other sociological topics that he didn’t cover in his research, such as the “yakuza,” the video gaming culture, “karaoke,” the obsession with “girl idols,” how anime affects culture, or the effects of the student exchange programs.

    While I also appreciated his describing some of the worldview features (or cultural values), such as “wa” and “uchi/soto” and “honne/tatemae,” his posture towards them seems antagonistic and contrary to his own suggestion to “contextualize your approach” (p.157). It seems to me that there are many ways to redeem these concepts and values that are actually more consonant with the non-Western Biblical Gospel. Where a Western Christianity emphasizes individuality and personal choice, a Majority World Christianity would emphasize a collectivistic approach; that is, as followers of Jesus the Christ, we are representatives of his kingdom whatever we do reflects on the honour or shame of the family name (of “belonging to YHWH”) and this is a responsibility (giri) of those within the group (uchi). Yes, there is nothing we can do to earn salvation or acceptance into the kingdom/family of God, but when we are in the family, we can no longer do our own thing; we now belong to something greater than the “me” and to be a “we” in community practicing the “one anothers” of loving God and loving others, including those outside of the community (soto). When we are all in synch with the values of the kingdom, we have “shalom” which is the Jewish equivalent of harmony (wa). We learn to be interdependent, having a sense of duty (giri) towards others and relying on the kindness of others (amae). Anyway, these are just preliminary thoughts, and I would be open to correction from and to dialogue with Japanese Christians who are thinking through these things theologically from their worldview and from the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

    His approach to the Gospel is also a Western theological approach. While he’s rightly identified the Japanese as a “shame-oriented” (p.151) people, he continues to formulate the Gospel in “sin-oriented” ways. The juridicial approach adovocates for the total depravity of humanity, which is an Augustinian and Calvinistic legal necessity, so that the work of Jesus on the cross becomes the penal substitution solution to that problem. Instead, when approached from biblical theology (rather than systematic theology), humanity was created in the image of God to care for creation, and later, the Israelites were gathered as a people on Sinai to bear the name of YHWH to the nations. With both groups, who chose to do things their own way and who fell short of the honour that God had given them, dishonoured God because they did not trust in Him and brought shame upon themselves. This shame led them to becoming separated from God, but God is faithful and has not given up on humanity and on Israel. So, God promised to once again act mightily, like he did in the Exodus experience of the Israelites, in order to renew his covenant with his people who will become a blessing to the nations by doing righteousness and justice. This happened with Jesus, whose life, death and resurrection restored the honour and covered the shame of nations in order to draw the nations to Himself and his kingdom. Again, these are just some preliminary thoughts, but this contextualization of the Gospel has been the approach of many who represent King Jesus in Muslim countries whose people are more “honour-shame” oriented than “innocence-guilt” oriented.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you very much, Joze to your brilliant analysis. I think Samuel Lee sort of squeezed things at the end when he revised the book. Instead it would have been ideal if he rewrote the book with new items as well as updated informations.

      Probably I have mentioned somewhere else, Daniel Kikawa always says we should take the culture, clean it and return back to the Lord. I liked what you wrote about redemption of those Japanese cultural elements. Thinking about Israel-Japan theory, I wonder some of the Japanese cultural elements are rooted in Jewish Biblical way of thinking. I would like to think more about it and have discussion with you sometime in the future. I have your email address!!

  • 1

    Interview

    Brandalyn

    Almost every non-Japanese that I have ever spoken to who has gone to Japan has loved it and fallen in love with the people. Most say that once you have gone once that “Japan gets under your skin and calls you back” and that “you can’t just go once.” Most are overcome by the politeness of the people, their intentional interactions with you, their helpfulness, the cleanness of the country, the efficiently of how things are run and how relatively easy it is for visitors who don’t read or speak Japanese. Much of the country appeals to most of us it seems.

    Most of them are struck by just how different almost EVERYTHING is. Many have said that although they love the country they couldn’t imagine staying long term because of the food. (it is just too different)

    Most who have come from western countries are struck by the numerous temples and shrines and generally left rather confused about just what it all means.

    I have only ever heard of one person (a niece of a friend) who said that she had a really bad experience in Japan and found the people unfriendly and difficult. But I am skeptical about this story as it also included something about her getting in trouble with the police for suspected shoplifting and sent home early – so I think she might have been doing something that asked for it.

    I think that coming from the west, we really appreciate the honor/respect that is so central to Japan. We are not used to places where people are putting us first like they do in Japan. All the ways that that manifests itself in Japanese culture appeals to us (cleanliness, customer service, efficiency). Also, the “do your best” mentality is very agreeable to us when we are visiting and on the receiving end of people’s best efforts. However, I doubt that many of us could happily assimilate into the culture and workforce of being the ones from whom this best is always expected. And thinking of the other person first is great as visitors until we individualistic westerners are expected to sacrifice our thoughts, feelings and freedoms for the benefit of others! I have never encountered a foreign visitor to Japan who had much of an in-depth understanding of the concepts that we have looked at in this book unless they were there as missionaries etc.

    • Naoko Brown

      Brandalyn, it is good to read your report!

      I appreciate that Westerners appreciate many of the Japanese ways! Most of the Japanese store clerks are always always polite and treat customers like kings and queens. They are apologetic and some of them walk with you to the entrance of the store and bow down deeply to see you off. Japanese flight attendants are very kind and super polite. American flight attendants are also kind, but they rather treat you like equal friends. Both are good but different.

      Anyway, I am still thinking about differences in Japanese and American culture…

  • 1

    Cathy week 7 reflection

    WCathy

    This last chapter did a great job in summarizing the entire book and the different ideas that it talked about. In my opinion, I think the hardest part of reaching the Japanese is for them to understand there is only one way to the God of the Bible and the concept of sin as we know from the Bible. I think the urgent project is for the Japanese to see christianity in their native context and not as a western religion, and for them to see God as their personal redeemer. The strategy for the church in Japan to present the Christian message in an indigenous manner without changing the gospel.
    I agree with the author on reaching the youths, women & minorities, but I also think that effort should be put in to reach the men both single & married so that the church will flourish in all directions with collective efforts. The youths and women struggles to find their worth in the patriarchal society sometimes and the church can be there for them. I also think the church network in Japan can partner up with each other in order to reach more people and be more effective in the field.

    • Naoko Brown

      Cathy, thank you very much for your thoughts! I agree with all of these!