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Grocery shopping, and other surprises in Japan

Since coming to Japan we’ve experienced many things that have been different to what we were used to back home—some of them have come as quite a surprise!

For example, the first time we went to the shop to buy a few groceries, we stood in line, paid for our groceries, and were handed a basket with our groceries neatly repacked. Back home the tellers or a helper would pack the groceries in a bag as they rung up the items. Why had they just packed them back in the basket?

As we looked around, we noticed that people picking up their baskets and moving to tables at the back of the store where they packed their groceries into their own bags. We don’t have any bags! Wondering if we would end up carrying the multiple items we bought back home in our arms, I went around again to see if there bags for sale. Sure enough, I was able to find material bags and stood in the line once again to buy the bags for our groceries, now having learnt that in many stores in Japan, you have to either tell the teller you want a bag or bring one from home. This was the first example of many moments when we were surprised by things being different in Japan.

There are the everyday differences like taking your shoes off when entering a house and showering in the bathroom, but while standing outside the bathtub.

But there are also some more unique differences. Like when getting baptised, you confess faith in Jesus as your Saviour, but in some churches you also promise to forsake idol worship—something I don’t imagine many Western Christians have vowed! In addition, when becoming church members, in many churches you promise to fulfil your duties as a church member (like attend meetings, be faithful in prayer and worship, but also to clean the church when it’s your turn).

Japan has its own way of doing things and while the difference can be surprising, it doesn’t make it wrong, just different.

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Pray for new missionaries as they adjust to the different ways that things are done in Japan.
  • Pray for new Christians in Japan, as they adjust to the different ways that things are done in church.
  • Pray for wisdom for Christians to know what is just different but not wrong, and when they need to instead choose a different path in order to follow God.

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