Japn and Christains

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Japn and Christains

Postby Zeke365 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:45 am

I really do not know where to post this but I would like to how Christians are treated in Japan compared to the US and what rules you have to follow in order to be christian in Japan cause I would love to visit there someday?
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Re: Japn and Christains

Postby Midori » Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:09 am

The simple answer is that for the most part, your religion has little meaning in Japan. You will be treated the same as any other foreigner. Japan isn't the kind of place where different rules apply to different religions. The rules you generally have to be most aware of are firstly that politeness is valued very highly in Japan compared to other countries, and secondly that there is a role in that society for a foreigner that cannot speak Japanese, unlike in many other places. In America people are very intolerant and rude to people who can't speak English, but Japanese people are very polite to foreigners. However it may still help to memorize a few important phrases in case you have to interact with someone who doesn't know English.

If you want more details on the religion situation, I might be able to give you a little bit of information. In their beliefs, Japanese people are very secular; many believe in a God, but not in any particular religion. Culturally they are a mixture of Shinto (a Japanese variety of paganism), Buddhist, and Christian, and religious ceremonies do play a part in their lives. Specifically, marriages are usually Christian, they visit Shinto shrines from time to time, and funerals are usually Buddhist. They do not see any inconsistency in living this way.

While a couple relatives and I were visiting Tokyo last December, we went to look at a Shinto shrine called Meiji Jingu. While we were there some college students came up and told us "We're the English Speaking Club. Is it okay if we guide you around the shrine?" We said yes, and they showed us around. During the typical shrine visit in Japan, you wash your hands in water before entering the main area, and you go up to a place where there is a large donation box, where you throw a coin in and make a quick prayer to the local Shinto god, while clapping your hands twice. We did the ceremonial washing, because we figured it was just a matter of politeness and respect. But we would not make donations or do the prayer ceremony, or participate in any sort of fortune telling. We explained that it was because we were Christians, and our guides understood (specifically, we said "We can't do this" and they said "Are you Christians?", so it was clear they already had a grip on the situation). We also happened to see a Shinto wedding procession while we were there. It was pretty interesting.

I went to one Christian church service while I was in Japan. The church I visited was in western style, and the service was an English-speaking one. There were almost no traces of Japanese culture in the service; walking into the building felt like I was in a different country. This bothered me a little bit, because I feel like Christianity should be more integrated with the local culture, and I wondered if the non-Japanese might have been attending there to escape into their own culture they were comfortable with. I'm not sure though, I only went there once. At least the church was very multi-cultural among English-speaking people, and wasn't just full of white Americans.

If you want a historical perspective, you may want to talk to somebody who's more of a history buff. I do know that in the early days of Christianity in Japan, many of the working-class peasants were very excited about Christianity when missionaries came to teach it, but the government rejected it and very heavily persecuted Christians. In the end, Chrisitanity never really took root in Japan. There are many arguments about why this was the case, but I think it had something to do with the way that Christianity was tied together with western culture and, at least from the government's perspective, carried with it the threat of the western imperialism that ravaged many other cultures around the world.

So yeah, it's complicated. If you're planning on visiting just for the sake of visiting, you should be fine without any special training, but if you're visiting for the sake of religious activities, you may have a tough road ahead of you.
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Re: Japn and Christains

Postby Yuki-Anne » Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:26 am

As Midori said, people are very polite. A lot of people have heard of Christians or maybe interacted with them, but have no real idea what it's about. It depends where you go. For example, as the story Midori told indicated, there are churches and a general familiarity with Christianity in a city like Tokyo, but out in the country there are some towns and cities without a single church. And there are going to be a lot of people who have heard of Christians but never personally had a conversation with one. There's just a really nebulous concept of Christianity, and it's mixed up with generalities of western tradition. For example, Christmas is a popular dating holiday, and everybody knows about "Santa-san," but very few have any idea about the birth of Christ.

One of the challenges for churches in Japan is that people will adopt Christianity without actually abandoning their Buddhist and Shinto traditions. There's also the problem of family. Many Christians are the only ones in their entire extended family. So if, for example, a single woman who lives with her widowed mother is a Christian, there might still be a shrine to her deceased father in the house. It creates a lot of tension in families.

As for the shape of Christianity in Japan, yes, as Midori mentioned, most churches seem very Western, with very little traditional Japanese influence. Unlike the one he visited, there are quite a lot of churches with no westerners, that have their services in all Japanese. But overall the services are going to be very similar to what you'll find in the west, and most of the tunes, while sung in Japanese, are going to be familiar to the Western ear. There are some original Japanese hymns and worship songs, but a lot of them are translated over from Western songs.

Japanese churches are also very territorial, partially due to the fact that some churches are infamous for leeching away other churches' members, rather than reaching out and creating converts of their own. As a result, churches tend to be very suspicious of church-hoppers and very protective of their own members. That can have its advantages and disadvantages. for example, it creates a rigid environment where it's difficult to build up enough trust to, say, get the approval to go to seminary to become a pastor, but it also means that churches can more easily identify troublemakers who go from church to church and stir up dissatisfaction and gossip.

EDIT: Another thing, I don't know if part of your question was due to wondering about persecution, but I have never once experienced anything even close to it in Japan. Not even rudeness. I've experienced animosity due to my faith in America before, but it has NEVER happened to me in Japan.
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Re: Japn and Christains

Postby Yuki-Anne » Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:11 am

I just found an excellent blog entry that answers this question quite well. http://toddfong.wordpress.com/2013/10/1 ... out-japan/
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Re: Japn and Christains

Postby Rzerox21xx » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:56 am

Yuki-Anne wrote:I just found an excellent blog entry that answers this question quite well. http://toddfong.wordpress.com/2013/10/1 ... out-japan/


Thank you for sharing this, I hope it make everyone realize about how difficult spreading the word is there. I hope more people read this.
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Re: Japn and Christains

Postby RefractedAhav » Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:17 pm

I have heard and read that Christianity was originally allowed but than latter strictly banned on pain of death and that the Japanese church went into hiding for a few hundred years. I don't know when the ban was lifted but apparently there was quite some time between the lifting of the ban and the arrival of the English. The ban from what I heard had something to do with how some of the original missionaries where more interested in securing trade relations for the their respective countries rather than spreading the true Gospel. This led to corruption which the Japanese government tried to prevent from spreading into their culture. I have also heard that the ban actually resulted as problems that arose not in Japan but in the Philippians and that the Japanese government took pre-emptive precautions to keep similar conflicts from arising in their own land. I don't know which is true but one detail that both accounts have in common is that the English missionaries where surprised to find that that while they where rare and somewhat secretive there where already Christians in Japan when they arrived. I have also heard that for some time that house churches where more common as there was a lingering distrust of established churches.

I think that the strong identification of Christianity with western culture has to do with they way that missions from western churches where handled from medieval times to recent history. In the past instead of just bringing the Gospel and becoming all things to all people as Paul taught, people often evangelized their culture along with their understanding of Christianity. This is clearly seen in the history of the Americas. We have often treated Jesus as if He was European rather than Jewish and almost seemed to have laid exclusive claims to Him as a Westerner. But just as Paul got on the case of early believers that their is neither Jew nor Greek in respect to citizenship to the kingdom, no one culture has exclusive claims to our Savior. Instead of trying to force our culture on others we should try to present a pure version of the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit guide how the Gospel is expressed by the people we reach out to.

We can still help not only the Japanese but the whole world understand that Christianity is not just a western religion but is a template to religious expression of a universal truth. That truth is that all of us have fallen short of the Glory of God and that His Son Yeshua (Jesus) came and lived among us to show us how to be human and died in our place only to rise and defeat death for all that put their hope in Him. I would love to see a more Japanese expression of this. After all Elohim ( God) loves diversity and even states that in Heaven will be people of every tongue, tribe, and nation. So let's rejoice in the diversity of the Church and encourage others to worship as the Spirit leads even if when they do so it looks strange to us.
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Re: Japn and Christains

Postby randomuser2349 » Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:37 pm

I believe several of the presidents of Japan were Christians. There was one who was also Catholic.
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Re: Japn and Christains

Postby randomuser2349 » Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:39 pm

RefractedAhav wrote:We can still help not only the Japanese but the whole world understand that Christianity is not just a western religion but is a template to religious expression of a universal truth.


Funny thing is that Christianity isn't even a Western religion. It originated in the Middle East.
That would be like saying Islam is a far-Eastern religion because of Indonesia and Malaysia.
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Re: Japn and Christains

Postby Nate » Thu Jun 26, 2014 3:11 pm

Yes the origins of Christianity may have been in the Middle East but the statement that it's a western religion is completely sound. Most of the Middle East is Muslim in the modern world (Israel obviously excluded), and so while that may be where it originated it's really taken a foothold and blossomed in the United States and other European countries. There's also the fact that the figurehead of the largest Christian denomination, Catholicism, is in Rome (well technically the Vatican, but you know what I mean). Protestant Christianity however is definitely completely western as it was started by Martin Luther, who was German.

At any rate, whether it started in the Middle East, Germany, or the US, it makes little difference in Japan. Japan has a very strong cultural identity and the fact that Christianity didn't originate in Japan is going to be a mark against it in the minds of many Japanese people, whether subconscious or not.
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