Christianity in Japan: Why is it not Widely Believed?

November 23, 2019

 

As Pope Francis is visiting Japan, I thought it is appropriate to share this article on my blog today!

 

The relationship between Japan and Christianity is a long and fascinating story. Since mid-sixteenth century, Christianity has been notably active in Japan, yet today, less than 1.54 percent of Japanese people are Christians (1) ; hence Japan is one of the least evangelized nations in the world. The main question here is therefore, “What are the main reasons why Christianity has not yet succeeded in Japan?”  There are a number of reasons why Christianity has not yet been successful in Japan, i.e. the interaction between worldviews, theologies, missiologies and society as well as historical-political factors have prevented this.  Understanding these factors may help the reader in answering the question above. I will be examining each of them separately, subdividing them into various elements and so as to take a more detailed look at them. 

 

Worldviews 

 

The Japanese worldview is more or less in conflict with the Western one.  This can be traced to conditions in various areas such as religion and culture. In what follows, I discuss some areas where these two worldviews clash.

 

Corporatism / Individualism 

Corporatism is central to the Japanese worldview. Mutual benefits are sought between the group and individual and harmony is a regarded as a crucial element of life. Unless one grasps the importance of this sense of belonging to a group, it is difficult to understand the mentality of a typical Japanese person (2). 

 

Three major categories of groups are vital for a Japanese person. He or she must belong to: family and neighborhood and have some sort of vocational affiliation such as a company or a school, college or university. In Japanese culture, decisions are made based on corporatism within and between these categories. Personal decisions are not allowed to disturb the harmony of these groups even when such decisions are logically beneficial to the individual decision maker. Here the concept of wa becomes important. 

 

Wa recognizes that people are not one, yet it expresses the desire to be one by practicing and respecting harmony. In other words, although people are distinct individuals, in Japanese culture, it is generally best if they want the same thing. This deep level of sharing underpins the desire for harmony in interpersonal relations and the consideration of other member of the group. In the context of wa, most Japanese might feel that if they become a Christian they will relinquish some of their ‘Japaneseness’ and abandon the group wa. Christians can be perceived as being antisocial and selfish for disrupting the harmony of the family unit by refusing to observe many traditional Shinto and Buddhist rituals, especially those of praying to spirits and reverencing the dead (3).  During his presentation at the 2010 Tokyo Global Mission Consultation, Minoru Okuyama, the director of the Missionary Training Center in Japan, indicated that the Japanese are afraid of disturbing the human relationships within their families or neighborhoods by becoming Christian. Okuyama emphasized that one of the most important things in Japan is harmony or wa. He indicated that those who disturb it are bad, whether they are right or wrong (4). Therefore it is quite hard for a Japanese to decide to become a Christian, for his/her choice means disturbing that harmony. There is a saying in Japanese, deru kugi wa utareru, which means “the protruding nail will be hammered down.” This proverb is a very good example of the manner in which individuals are trained from an early age. Disturbing the group by being too individualistic or out of step with others is considered selfish. 

 

The corporatism/individualism dichotomy can also be found in the concepts honne and tatemae. Honne refers to ‘informal, personal reality in disregard of social parameters’, while tatemae means ‘official, public and socially required or politically correct.’ Honne is an opinion or an action motivated by a person’s true inner feelings, whereas tatemae is an opinion or action influenced by social norms. Thus, honne refers to a person’s deep beliefs or intentions, while tatemae refers to motives or intentions that are the result of social attunement, those that are shaped, encouraged, or suppressed by the norms accepted by the majority. These two concepts are often considered dichotomous and in conflict with the genuinely held personal feelings and convictions of those who are socially controlled. It can happen that a person in his/her honne chooses Jesus Christ silently and continues with this usual lifestyle without disturbing the group harmony. He or she does this by suppressing the honne in such a way that his/her decision will not be openly noticed by the groups to which the person belongs.  

 

In short, Christianity in Japan cannot succeed if it disturbs the spirit of corporatism and undermines the individual’s sense of belonging to these groups. For instance, when a person becomes a Christian, they stop attending ancestor related ceremonies and rituals. Yet, this act is regarded as a disgrace to the family. Another example is that companies hesitate to employ people who are active members of a religious group. They do this because it is thought that, if they are already a committed member of a religious group they will not be completely devoted to the company; in other words, they will be opposing the spirit of the company. 

 

Non-absolutism 

In Japanese culture truth is often viewed as relative. The Japanese evaluate information on the basis of its relational context (5). Fukuda calls this contextual logic: no religion, no view is taken to be absolute. Throughout their history, the Japanese have developed an important way of allowing the religions of Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism to co-exist. This is called shinbutsuju shugo a harmonious fusion of Buddhism, Shinto and Confucianism initiated by Prince Shotoku (574 A.D. – 622) (6).  It is difficult for the Japanese to accept the concept of an absolute God, presented by an absolute gospel and pointing to a paradise exclusively for those who choose to accept the absolute gospel. But it is also not considered acceptable to think that there is only one absolute law written in one absolute and infallible word of God.  In fact, being committed to this places one outside the Japanese worldview. Even the concept of a creator God who is independent of all things is external to it.  Thus, Christianity with its message of absolutism is only accepted with difficulty.  

 

Religion 

The concept of harmony is also reflected in the way in which the Japanese view religion. Their understanding of it differs from that of the West. The way they view concepts such as god (as mentioned above), rituals, supernaturalism and life after death contradicts the Christian doctrines introduced there by the Western missionaries.

The Japanese people do not understand religion simply by separating it into individual components. Fukuda suggests that Shinto, Buddhism, etc. express different facets of a single, syncretized Japanese religion (7). But the average Japanese views religion as one entity which contains diverse religious traditions within it –Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity and various new religions as well as the less formal traditions of Confucianism and Taoism and the belief in folk traditions (8).  Earhart formulates this as one “Sacred Way” that includes various traditions within it (9).  

 

On the other hand, Buddhism and Confucianism, which are foreign belief systems, are seen as part of Japanese culture. Miyake suggests that the Japanese people have long accepted other religions incoming from other countries, mainly the Korean Peninsula and China. They were able to add them into their own folk religions. When they received a new religion, they did not deny their own folk religions but rather modified the incoming faith to some extent so that they could easily incorporate it into their existing religious life (10). Yet, Christianity with its centuries long heritage in Japan, it is still viewed as foreign.  Its incorporation has not taken place.  

 

Most Japanese associate Christianity with the West and consider it to be incompatible with Japanese culture. While they tolerate the Christian church personally and legislatively, many feel that Christianity does not really belong there.  This sense that Christianity is foreign to the culture has to do with the fact that the Japanese culture generally tends to be inclusive; in contradistinction to this, Christianity takes a peculiarly exclusive approach when it comes to the concepts such as God and salvation. In sum, the Japanese people do not think of themselves as belonging exclusively to one religion. Most believe that everything is interlinked and interrelated, several traditions may be combined into a single religious activity, or a person may resort to one tradition for one specific purpose and then rely on another for another (11). Christians, however, have difficulty any participation in traditions that are of the limits of their doctrines. The Japanese may culturally and traditionally accept the Christian God into their belief system as one of many gods, but Christians see Jesus Christ as the only way to come to God and the only way to salvation. Such worldviews have hindered Christianity’s expansion in Japan and make it hard for the Japanese to give it full credence as a Japanese religion. 

 

Further, there is a crucial difference between the Japanese and the Christian views on the existence of God as this relates to the meaning of life. Fukuda suggests that, in the Christian world, it is the existence of God that gives ultimate meaning and value to everything. Nature and humanity, then, derive meaning and value from God but at the beginning of creation they were damaged by sin of man. The Japanese worldview, however, insists that human life and nature are valuable in and of themselves, and sin is understood as a partial, contemporary, surface stain. Human life is an entity in and of itself and valued without any relationship to a transcendent God (12). In the context of such a view, original sin, the fallen man who has lost his relationship with the creator becomes less relevant. The need for salvation as it is portrayed in Christianity is thus also seen as less relevant. God is not a singular being. Gods for the Japanese are life forces, sources of the manifestation of the energy that is found in the world and people are those who benefit from such life force. People are expected to be the upholders of life and its goodness (13). These gods are unpredictable as is nature, and like humans, they are disposed to jealousy, rage, and other disturbing habits that can interrupt the flow of life and cause problems. In order to harmonize with them the Japanese perform rituals to honor, venerate and thank them. This ensures the balance and harmony between gods and man (14).  Bad fortune occurs when humans disrupt this harmony with nature and gods. This makes the Japanese fear that malicious spirits might damage the living. Counter-rituals with strong purification and exorcist themes are performed against the unhappy spirits, so that hindrances may be removed and unhappy spirits calmed (15). Gods are not to be worshipped, but they have to be treated correctly. Correct treatment entails rituals of respect, veneration, propitiation and offerings which seek to gain access to the life giving powers of gods (16). This is not about a personal relationship with God in a Christian sense, but the correct treatment of the gods. Such a view is borne out of fear of misfortune, calamity or the need for good health, luck and fortune. Becoming a Christian can therefore undo this harmony with nature, and with the territorial and family gods. This, in turn, may trigger anger on the part of the gods and spirits that are and have been present to the family or territory for generations. 

 

Theological Factors 

The conflict between these two worldviews, that of the Japanese and that of Western Christianity, of course, effects the Japanese view of Western theological concepts, such as sin, life after death, ancestor venerations, the exclusiveness of Christ. Some of these fundamental theological concepts are in direct conflict with Japanese religious views. 

 

Sin

As mentioned earlier, sin is considered to be a disturbance of the harmony between gods and a given group of people. The word the Japanese use for “sin” is tsumi which is the same word used for “crime”, so when an evangelist or a missionary claims,  “we all have sinned” or “we are all sinners” the average Japanese may not understand what is being—he or she does not consider himself a "criminal". I believe that the concept of sin is more or less unique to the Abrahamic faiths with their origins in the Middle East. Disobedience of God’s laws is considered sin. Yet, how can sin be understood if the concept of God is not the same as the one in Judeo-Christian traditions, and if it is presented in the absence of the concept of "law", the latter being connected to the Judeo-Christian God?

The Japanese worldview considers that human beings and the world of nature itself are basically good, and there is no need for universal redemption. Purification rituals can cleanse the Japanese from their “sins”. Yet, in Christianity, humanity is regarded as fallen, as rooted in the original sin. Human nature is evil and the world is cursed; it can only be redeemed through Christ Jesus. This makes it hard for the Japanese to understand the Christian concept of sin, and thus so also limits the success of Christianity in Japan. 

 

Ancestors & Salvation 

Another problematic area is the question of what happened to Japanese people who died before they had the chance to hear the gospel? Almost every Japanese who is evangelized by Western missionaries asks this question. Of course, missionaries try to answer it as sensitively as possible, but ultimately they will have to mention the word hell. A Japanese woman once told a missionary who was trying to evangelize her that she would rather spend eternity in hell with her ancestors than in the paradise preached by Christians. If the Christian God has no solution to the fact that her ancestors did not have a chance to hear about Jesus, she would rather spend all eternity in hell. In Japanese worldview, ancestors are to be venerated. In Christian doctrine salvation is by choice and if this choice disturbs the harmony with the family’s ancestors, then it is then hard for a Japanese to openly become a Christian. 

 

According to evangelical Christian doctrine, generally, the dead are either in hell or in heaven. They can be in heaven by the personal choice they have made for Jesus Christ. If one did not make this choice, he/she has no place in heaven. He/she will rather be punished for the wrongdoings and mistakes he/she has committed and nothing can change that fact. In the Japanese context, this can be seen as arrogant and insensitive to those who have passed away. There have been many attempts to address this theological doctrine from the perspective of Japanese culture. One of the recent ones is the so-called Sekundo Chansu Ron (セカンドチャンス論) or Second Chance Theory. The concept of Second Chance Theory is simply about salvation for the dead, especially those who have never had a chance to hear the gospel, in Japan’s case, the ancestors. Thus, accepting Western Christianity could disturb the already existing harmony with these ancestors. 

 

Missiological Factors 

The answer to the question of why Christianity has not succeed in Japan yet can be found in part in the way the Christian mission has been conducted there throughout history, and even in the way in which it is conducted today! Western missionaries have had have a positive influence on the development of Christianity there.  Western Christianity in all its forms and varieties has played a dominant role in transmitting the Christian message and this was done by sending out missionaries around the globe. Robert Lee suggests that enlightenment in the West envisioned the world as a homogeneous entity, a vision reinforced by the rise of the world market in the nineteenth century after the earlier industrial revolution (17).

In historical context, the work of Western missionaries is to a certain degree influenced by the Western colonial views of other peoples and cultures. Often, these missionaries viewed non-Western peoples as heathens and claimed that they needed to know Christ. In other words, the Western Christian missionary has in some ways operated within a colonialist and imperialist framework. Non-Western theologians consider this a form of Western Imperialism given the Western stress on the continuing validity of the terminology of the early church. That terminology was appropriated by the Greco-Roman culture and then became absolutized (18). As John Parratt states: “If economic and political disruption resulted from Western imperialism, the demonization of indigenous cultures was more likely to be the result of European Christian missions. This happened most dramatically with ‘traditional’ or folk cultures, from which the majority of Christian converts were drawn.  Popular Hindu ‘idolatry’ or African ‘fetishism’ became frequent themes, especially for Christian missionaries who were eager to gain support from their Western churches. These forms of religiosity were demonized by the use of emotive and pejorative terminology. Little attempt was made to understand the kind of spirituality, which had given  rise to these forms of religion (19). ” 

Yoshinobu Kumazawa suggests that in the past, the Western styles of  missionary work caused the non-Western world to believe that God's action towards the world is always mediated by the Western church, that God's work in non-Christian countries is mediated only by so-called Christian countries; that Christianity is to be exported from Christian countries and implanted in non-Christian ones (20).  Kumazawa observes that this has created many problems in the history of the missions, because it has led to the mistaken thought that the so-called Christian countries are superior to non-Christian ones.  The fatal flaw here is the presumption that God could not work directly in non-Christian countries without the mediation of Christian ones, (21)  Japan being no exception. From the sixteenth century onward, missionaries from various Western Church traditions and denominations were active in Japan. And, their approach to the culture was blatantly ethnocentric and systematically destructive.

I here classify four major errors committed by Western missionaries in Japan throughout history: (1) Eurocentric approach,  (2) lack of consideration for cultural context, (3) competitiveness and (4) direct or indirect involvement with western political agendas. 

 

Societal Factors 

In modern Japanese society there are several factors which have caused organized Christianity not to succeed.  I here discuss three major ones: Japanese family life, and work life, and education. 

 

Family 

To understand the Japanese family and even Japanese society it is essential to know about the traditional family system, which is called Ie, the indigenous term for family; however, it does not convey the exact meaning of the word ‘family’ as we use it in the West.  Ie can be translated as ‘house’ or ‘building,’ but it is also used in a broader sense as ‘family’ or ‘kin.’ It includes an entire structure —the main family and various subfamilies. According to Reischauer and Graig, the pre-modern Japanese family or ie might include a subordinate branch, a family which was under the authority of the main one and other members who were distant relatives or not related at all. The father or family council had absolute authority over individual members. This kind of family structure was particularly prevalent among prominent members of the feudal warrior class, rich merchants, and certain peasant groups. In her book, Understanding Japanese Society, Joy Hendry writes that continuity is a very important feature of the ie. The individual members of a particular house, who need not always be resident there, represent the living members of that particular ie. The total membership includes those of all generations: ancestors who had been forgotten as individuals, those who are recently deceased and still remembered, and descendants yet to be born (22). Traditional Japanese houses contain a Buddhist altar known as a butsudan at which family members venerate their ancestors deceased individuals of the ie. Thus Ie was a hierarchical family system based on the Confucian principles of honor and loyalty. These applied to all relationships within the ie. Old–young relationships were based on loyalty and indebtedness and were defined in terms of duty. Performance of one’s duties to members of the ie system was considered of paramount importance.  This system affected the relationship between men and women: men had a much higher status. 

After the surrender of Japan and the victory of the Allied forces in 1945, the new government abolished the ie family system. Since 1945, the educational system has dropped the absolute emperor/family-state (ie-state) ideology. In the new constitution, the family was defined as a nuclear unit rather than a collection of various family units and women were treated equally so that they enjoyed the same rights as men. I personally believe one of the reasons why the ie system was abolished was to discourage veneration of ancestors.  However the ideas behind ie system are still put into practice especially in rural areas. An ideal ie is a harmonious relationship between the visible and invisible members of the family, both living and dead. 

 

The contemporary Japanese family resembles the traditional Western family with father, mother, and children living in small apartments in urban areas. Japanese people have a very unique concept of home (uchi). It literary means ‘home’ but also, ‘inside.’ Everything outside the home is referred to as soto, which literary means ‘outside.’ However, uchi–soto does not just refer to the literal home or to inside and outside; rather, it is a form of the ie family system. In this case, uchi means home and everything internal to it. It may also be related to cleanliness, beauty and everything associated with goodness. Uchi may also be related to the ie to which someone belongs. Practicing a religion from outside (soto) may effect the harmony of the inside (uchi). 

 

Nuclear families living in large cities also engage in various activities, such as school activities for children, neighborhood activities which are crucial to ensure that group harmony is effected and that the family is not brought to shame and disgrace. For this reason, the average Japanese family may not have enough time left to participate in additional Christian activities such as church services, mid-week prayer meetings or other events.  The requirement of attending church on a weekly basis may be quite burdensome for the average modern Japanese family. This itself  already suffices  to discourage people from accepting and practicing Christianity. 

 

Occupational Factors 

 

The Japanese are known as an industrious people. They work long hours and are almost never absent from their jobs.  This is the image many have of their workforce.  A Japanese employee is generally referred to as salaryman, an English loan word.

Again, it is important to recall that Japan is a group-oriented society. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the group membership and participation.  As mentioned above, the Japanese refer to such groups as uchi, which means both ‘house’ and ‘inside’ and generally refers to the family. However, uchi does not refer only to the family; it can have various other connotations depending on context. The company or the place where people work becomes uchi and the colleagues become family members. This is why group activities, group performance of various services, and company benefits are so important in Japan. Working in Japan requires not only doing your job skillfully, but also fitting in with the company culture. In other words, the Japanese feel it is important to love their company.

In Japan, it is believed that the morals and mental attitudes of the individual have an important bearing on productivity. Loyalty to the company has long been highly regarded. A man may be an excellent technician, but if his way of thinking and his morals differ from those of the company, it will not hesitate to dismiss him. Men who enter a company after working for another one at a comparatively advanced stage in their working lives tend to be difficult to mold and their loyalties are suspect (23)  Since this lifetime employment system is a family-like group, it also pervades the private lives of the employees. This is crucial to a sense of group unity because the individual’s total emotional participation in a group helps form a closed world; lack of such a commitment can result in either independence from the group or isolation from it (24).  

Most major corporations also conduct religious rituals. For example, one very famous electronic company has a special sanctuary for worshiping gods and ancestors who became gods. There are also statutes of famous Japanese and international scientists such as Thomas Edison (who is honored as the god of electricity) for employees to venerate. These kinds of rituals are rooted in Japanese culture and are still practiced in many major companies. Some Japanese companies have created their own company religion with rites and ceremonies designed to bolster the work atmosphere and ensure a sense of unity. Most Japanese companies do not want to employ people who are members of religious organizations because they feel that their loyalties will be divided. Thomas P. Rohlen conducted a case study of a Japanese bank and reviewed its management and culture. In his book, For Harmony and Strength, he describes the ceremonies that were conducted at the company. He discusses the various catechisms recited during the entrance ceremony when individuals joined the company. Employees sing the company anthem together. He found out that the bank does not want to employ members of ‘new religions’ that demand considerable time and effort from their members, but not because it considers these religions inherently bad; on the contrary, it views many of them as being positive moral forces. But the bank does not want its employees to have divided loyalties. Furthermore, the religious behavior of the parents of a potential employee is important: the bank is not interested in employing the children of religious zealots (25). Japanese companies have created their own religion and what they practice is no less a religion than that practiced by religious organizations. The habit of not employing people who are members of a religious organization is an indication of the competition that exists between the ‘company religion’ and conventional religions. 

To re-iterate, becoming a Christian and practicing Christianity, may not be an easy option for a Japanese to choose, especially for someone from the working class. It is time consuming and may distract that person from his/her duties towards the company and thus effect the harmony of the company as a group. 

 

 

Education 

 

The Japanese educational system has generated a great deal of debate among scholars and educators. Some praise it and some others criticize it. Some believe that the strong emphasis it places on the group and on unity results in each child’s individuality being ignored. Others suggest that such a highly authoritarian educational system can frustrate their development, or even lead to suicide. The Japanese educational system is group oriented and the cohesion of the group is more important than individual competition in classes. Students are discouraged from asking their teachers many questions because they may be perceived as disrupting the group for the sake of their own personal interests. In sports, the group is also emphasized over the individual. 

Once students have been accepted into a school, the Japanese very skillfully avoid overt competition among them and downplay differences in ability. In fact, almost no one fails. However, the ruthless entrance examinations represent competition at its worst and they cast a shadow on student’s lives far in advance of their adult years. They subject them to severe pressure throughout most of their schooling and distort the content of their education. Much of the training that is done in senior high schools is devoted not to learning as such, but to preparing students to pass university entrance examinations.

On the other hand, the Japanese education system provides children with practical knowledge of the importance of unity, harmony, and discipline; this is called moral education. In Japan, going to school is not just about acquiring knowledge; Japanese education emphasizes moral education such as diligence, endurance, deciding to do hard things, wholehearted dedication to a task, and co-operation. For example, children are organized into cleaning groups and expected to cooperate to keep their school clean. Physical education is also very important. Exercise is required every morning.

A choice for Christianity and weekly participation in Sunday services may be time consuming both for the students and their parents, especially for the mothers of children attending schools or high schools. 

 

Political Factors 

 

Throughout history, most Japanese have viewed Christianity as the religion of the West. Since World War II, Christianity has been associated with America in particular—the nation that utilized two nuclear bombs on civilians to end the war. Thus it is viewed as the religion of the occupying “messiah”, a nation that has deliberately forgotten its dark past, (the eradication of the native peoples in the Americas, slavery, racism and segregation), and yet accuses Japan of genocide, war crimes and acts of cruelty in the course of human history. Even though the Japanese do not directly express their feelings concerning America and organized Christianity, one can read between lines and, using common sense, come to several conclusions that may make it clear why Christianity has not succeeded there to a significant extent.  Japanese are in certain way disappointed and confused when it comes to the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Historically, Nagasaki is a well-known center of Japanese Christianity. It was not only the location of the largest Christian Cathedral in the Asia (St. Mary’s) but also had the largest concentration of baptized Christians in all of Japan. These facts make it even more difficult for the Japanese to understand why a Christian nation such as America would to drop a nuclear bomb on a Christian city– immediately after Japan’s surrender when thousands of American missionaries were sent to Japan to Christianize the nation. The nuclear bombings of Japan and its surrender are also viewed as a cause of humiliation. Since it is a shame and guilt oriented society, humiliation plays an important role in everyday life both on individual and the collective level. Collective humiliation has therefore also played a role Christianity’s lack of success there. Two factors are at work in this: The emperor’s being forced to disavow his divinity, and the guilt messages  propagated by the Americans. 

 

After Japan’s surrendered at the end of World War II, the nation had to start over again. Under pressure from the Americans, it had to implement Western style democracy. Among the very important implications of this were, that the emperor denied his divinity and  Shinto, the state religion, was abolished. Under the occupation, his divine power was dissolved which is an enormous humiliation to a culture. 

I am very well aware of the faults and war crimes that Japan as nation has committed throughout its history. Still, this does not mean that one has to eliminate its belief system and tradition, even if such believe system or tradition has been used to justify evildoing. Even the Christian God has been unjustly used to destroy and harm other nations for purposes of political and economic gain.  I am also not suggesting that worshipping a deified emperor is correct. I am only looking at the unethical way in which the culture of a nation was undermined through systematic humiliation. From this perspective, Christianity cannot be viewed as a positive religion. 

 

On the other hand, according to some Japanese scholars I have interviewed (26) , the shame-guilt concept discussed earlier was programmed to bring humiliation upon Japan by the occupying force.  The American government used the War Guilt Information Program, immediately after the country’s capitulation.  One of the people I interviewed said the following:  The  "War Guilt Information Program" aimed to persuade all the Japanese, "Japan was a bad country. The Japanese must feel guilty. Especially the leaders were bad. The general public was victims." Their logic was that the United States was 100 percent good, and Japan was 100 percent bad. The missionaries also had such a mind. They were kind, loving and good Christians, but had a mind such as, "If you believe in Christianity, you will become better people." Those who did not know the real modern history obeyed the missionaries, but those who knew it could not trust them, feeling their arrogance and misunderstandings of the history (27).

 

Yukio Tanaka remembers the tragic event of September 11, 2001 and expresses his sorrow about this tragedy, but he also asks  “Why?” He responds by suggesting that the American national psyche cannot but repeat the same pattern of aggressive invasion in dealing with the “other.” Doing this will, however, not cease so long as rationalization (i.e. justifying military action) and illusion (a self-image that America is the “just” nation) continue to dominate the public consciousness (28)  In Japan, Christianity and the West are conflated, taken to be inseparable. For the majority of the Japanese people, Christianity remains a Western religion that is used by Western political powers to expand their influence and gain control of other nations. 

In conclusion, I would argue that there is no single, clear answers to the question of why Christianity has not yet succeed in Post World War II Japan. Instead, there are multiple answers and they are to be found in the combination of conditions and the interaction of the factors discussed above. 

 

Endnotes

1. Jason Mandryk, Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every nation, 7th edition (Colorado Springs: Biblica Publishing, 2010), 489. 

2. Noriyuki Miyake, Belong, Experience, Believe: Pentecostal Mission Strategies for Japan (Gloucester: Wide Margin, 2005), 12.

3. Samuel Lee, Understanding Japan Through the Eyes of Christian Faith, Fourth and Revised Version (Amsterdam: Foundation University Press, 2011), 89. 

4. Michelle A. VU, “Mission Leader: Why So Few Christians in Japan?” Christian Post Reporter, May 18, 2010. http://www.christianpost.com/news/mission-leaderwhy-so-few-christians-in-japan-45217/ 

5. Mitsuo Fukuda, Developing A Contextualized Church As A Bridge to Christianity in Japan (Gloucester: Wide Margin, 2012), 52. 

6. Ibid.

7. Fukuda, 45. 

8. Fukuda, 44. 

9. H.B. Earhart, Religions of Japan: Many Traditions Within One Sacred Way (New York: Harper and Row, 1984).

10. Miyake, 9. 

11. Earhart, 22.  

12. Fukuda, 45. 

13. Fukuda, 79

14. Ibid. 

15. Fukuda, 87. 

16. Ian Reader, Religion In Contemporary Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991), 27. 

17. Robert Lee, The Clash of Civilizations: An Intrusive Gospel in Japanese Civilization (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1999), 102. 

18. Martien E. Brinkman, The Non-Western Jesus: Jesus as Bodhisattva, Avatara, Guru, 19. Prophet, Ancestor or Healer? (Sheffield: Equinox Publishing, 2009), 4.

20. John Parratt (ed), An Introduction To Third World Theologies, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 5.

21. Gerald H. Anderson (ed.) Asian Voices in Christian Theology, (New York: Orbis Books, 1976), 204. 

22. Ibid.

23. Joy Hendry, Understanding Japanese Society (London: Routledge Curzon, 2004), 24. 

 

24. Chie Nakane. Japanese society (California: University of California Press, 1973), 16.

25. Nakane, 90. 

26. Thomas P. Rohlen, For harmony and strength: Japanese white-color organization in anthropological perspective (Berkley: University of California Press, 1974), 72.

 

27. Out of privacy reasons I withhold mentioning names.

Interview by means of email, on 15 July 2012. 

28.  Shu Kishida, A Place for Apology: War, Guilt and US-Japan Relations (Lanham: Hamilton Books, 2004), xii. 

 

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Conference on "Religious Freedom and the New Millenium”, Tokyo, Louisiana, May 23–25, 1998).

Nakane, Chie. Japanese Society. California: University of California Press, 1973.

Napier, Susan J. The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature: The Subversion of Modernity. London: Routledge, 1996.

Reader, Ian. Religion In Contemporary Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991.

Rohlen, Thomas P. For harmony and strength: Japanese white-color organization in anthropological perspective. Berkley: University of California Press, 1974.

Vu, Michelle A. “Mission Leader: Why So Few Christians in Japan?” Christian Post Reporter, May 18, 2010. http://www.christianpost.com/news/mission-leaderwhy-so-few-christians-in-japan-45217/

 

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My Book

A New Kind of Pentecostalism

January 13, 2018

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© 2010-2019 by Samuel C. Lee

 

Samuel Lee (Ph.D.) is university lecturer, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - Faculty of Religion and Theology (FRT-VU), and director for Center for Theology of Migration, the educational program of Samen Kerk in Nederland at the FRT-VU. 

He is the founder of Foundation Academy of Amsterdam, offering higher education in liberal arts and humanities for migrants, refugees and persecuted minorities.

 

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