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Can’t wear the wrong suit

Both my sons wear uniforms to and from nursery school each day. They have two sets, one for colder months and one for warmer months. One morning as we were walking to the bus stop I realized that I had forgotten to change my son’s winter set to summer set. I didn’t have time to go back and change it, so I thought ‘Oh well it will have to wait until tomorrow’.

But when my son saw the other kids in their summer sets, he looked at me and said ‘MUM they are all in the blue one!’ The bus stopped and left without my son going on it. He simply refused to go in the wrong uniform.

This is not an isolated incident, as my boys have pointed out a number of times that we are doing things ‘the wrong way’. Of course this is not unique to Japan, but the level of conformity is striking compared to most western countries. You dare not stray away from the standard issue cutlery sets, lunch boxes, or school bags. Already at the age of five my son is so aware of what everyone else does and feels the pressure to conform.

Most people know that group harmony is important in Japan. From a young age you are instructed in what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, how to fit in, and how to live the Japanese way.

To most in Japan, Christianity is a foreign religion. Joining something like a church is not considered ‘the Japanese way,’ and for some following Christ would mean losing some of their Japanese identity. It might also ostracize them from family, friends, or society.

This was an issue for one young girl we knew. She had been doing Bible study and coming to church for a while. She never really struggled with believing that the Christian God was real, but to be baptised and call herself a Christian would force her to interrupt the harmony in her family. She worried about how it might affect her relationship with her Grandmother especially. She also worried about being perceived as odd by friends and standing out too much. Praise God she eventually was able to put her faith in God first and get baptised.

By Birita, an OMF Missionary

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