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God uses novice actress to reach Japanese

If you’d told me before I came to Japan as a missionary that I’d perform in a play in my first couple of years, I would have been shocked—I had no theatrical experience. Yet that is what happened.

I am a returnee—I grew up in Japan, moved to Canada as a young adult, and became a believer there. I enjoyed life in Canada so much that I’d never imagined living in Tokyo again. But after I made several mission trips to Japan, God showed me the urgent need for spreading the gospel among Japanese people. That became my burden. I had never met a single Christian before I left for Canada. Similarly, most Japanese people live their entire lives without hearing the gospel. So, two years ago, I came to Tokyo as a missionary.

The play

Christian entertainment is rare in Japan—Christians make up less than 1% of the population and there are few Christian artists. There are secular TV dramas and documentaries about Japanese Christians, but Christianity is often removed from the content.

However, one Christian author has many non-Christian fans and her works are made into movies and plays: Ayako Miura (1922-1999). She faithfully shared the gospel through all of her books.

Soon after my return to Japan, I volunteered with a fellow missionary at a local orphanage and she introduced me to a fellow volunteer, Chizuko. We became friends. Last January Chizuko, a theatre group leader, asked me to join her secular group as an actress for the next classical play she was organizing—The Pillow Book, a story set in the Heian Era (794-1185). She was looking for performers who were accustomed to wearing traditional kimono (Japanese clothing) and had found out that I practiced Japanese traditional dance for over 20 years. But I had no experience in acting so I was surprised. My lack of confidence made me hesitate, however, I accepted after I heard that the next play she was planning was Ayako Miura’s The Wind Is Howling, an autobiographical novel. I ended up playing Ayako’s mother in the play.

The Wind Is Howling is the story of Ayako Miura’s journey from desperation to faith after the Second World War. It made a huge impact on me when I read it as a seeker. This play was a rare opportunity. Many people prayed that it would be used for God’s glory. Praise the Lord, he answered our prayers in wonderful ways:

  • all of the theatre group members heard the gospel and saw how Christians live;
  • six Christian performers, including a pastor, and three back-of-house volunteers were involved in this play;
  • during the rehearsals many questions from the non-Christian performers and staff were answered by believers;
  • many believers prayed for this presentation both before and during the performances;
  • 500+ people came to see the play;
  • through a church service scene in the play, the performers and audience heard the pastor’s message from the Bible;
  • all performers and staff received a Bible after the last presentation; and
  • the child performers started reading their Bibles right away while in the dressing room.

I really desire that this kind of thing will become common in Japan. I pray that the gospel will become accessible through mainstream entertainment.

Nevertheless, what a surprise that an ordinary Christian like me would be on stage as a performer! God’s ways are much higher than our expectations. I’d like to be freely used by God and to be open to new forms of ministry.

By Maki, an OMF missionary

Will you pray for Japan?

  • For opportunities for Christians to be involved in mainstream entertainment
  • That Christians would be open to being used by God in new forms of ministry
  • That all who participated in the play would seek the God of Ayako Miura

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