I am very excited to host a guest for today’s post! Lene from Song of Virginity, who also lives in Tokyo, is sharing her thoughts on Christianity and Japan. Annndd, after you read this, you should definitely head over to her blog and read her other posts! Because she’s kinda awesome! God bless!!
According to Wikipedia, there are less than 2% Japanese Christians in Japan.
Why is it so difficult for Japanese people to believe in Jesus?
It’s a tough question and there may be more answers than I can think of.
The first encounter with Christianity the Japanese had were the Portuguese Catholic missionaries who arrived in Japan in 1549.
They baptized many, gave the converts “Christian names” and encouraged them to adopt western culture… the latter might have hit an emperor between his eyes as Christians faced fierce persecution in Japan from 1587 to 1632 (wikipedia).
The second encounter came in 1853 when Americans arrived.
Religious freedom was given in 1871 and since WWII Christianity has been increasing… And yet, still only about 2% of Japanese are Christians.
… It is a bit ironic that I accepted Jesus through a Japanese person in Japan!
Most Japanese claim they are Buddhists though some are Shinto. But in general Japanese go through life using 3 different religions:
· A Shinto ceremony for their babies.
· A Christian style wedding is widely popular and fashionable. Some do the Shinto ceremony.
· A funeral here is generally Buddhist with some Shinto hints – or Shinto.
A little bit of everything and everyone should be happy.
Japanese are experts in imitating the good stuff they find abroad, adopt what they like, adapt what they don’t like and throw away the rest. That’s what they did with the Christian wedding ceremony… and curry!
This ambivalent approach to traditions of any given religion clearly shows that Japanese has very little interest in actual faith and believing in a higher being. It’s all traditions or – for a wedding ceremony – for the most part just for show.
I believe the average Japanese persons’ religion is tradition. A rule abiding, duty bound society keeping in with traditions, can easily turn tradition itself into a religion.
How can a person break with traditions that are imprinted from birth?
In Buddhism everyone goes to heaven…
To accept Jesus into the heart is a difficult gigantic leap of faith for a Buddhist (and of course other religions, but the focus here is Japan).
Grasping the concept of “hell” and “sin”, take a step back from the traditions a family has been teaching through generations, and then likely having to deal with a family not understanding why a Christian would not mix faith with traditions founded in other religions.
Trust me – that’s not an easy thing to ask a Buddhist Japanese family to accept. After 7 years of loving Jesus, my extended Japanese family has accepted that I do not pour water on- clap and bow and thank my husband’s ancestors before the family tomb stone and I do not burn incense or bow before the family alter either. They accept it because I’m foreign.
My husband has no objections to my faith or way of life or how I raise our daughter in the Christian faith. Even despite my reluctance of participating in the family Buddhist traditions. He has read the New Testament and several books about Jesus and Christianity. And yet… he remains an unbeliever. Why?
If I only knew… When I tell him that nothing would make my heart beat faster than if he would believe in Jesus, he says, “maybe I can believe” and shrug his shoulders. But he is bound by duty to his family as he is the only son and the Buddhist family alter will pass on to him after the passing of his dad…
If you want to know more about Christianity’s history in Japan, I recommend this YouTube video;https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KwcyRfVfuc
There’s a part 1 and 2 each lasting about half hour.
During and after the persecution period many Christians went into hiding and were often hidden in Buddhist temples! 15 minutes into part 1 it gets really interesting in terms of the “hidden Christians”. These secret believers would conceal Christian iconography in pottery and on buildings.
I’m so blessed to be the owner of a “crypto-Christian” plate made during the persecution period. It was a present from my father-in-law who collects antiques. If you look – you can find the cross