Ep. 23 | Discover: Japan – so much more than anime

Discover Japan. In the first of our Discover series, we head to Japan. Home to over 127 million people. Famous for its futuristic technology, high-pace lifestyle, video games and anime. But what about the church? What’s it like being a Christian in Japan and how about sharing the gospel with Japanese people?

One fantastic way to join in with what God is doing in the world is to learn more about the world. That is exactly what the Discover series is all about, so come and join us as we learn more about Japan.

If you’ve got any comments and questions do get in touch we’d love to hear from you

This episode transcription has been lightly edited to improve readability.

 

Freddie Barker 

Hello, and welcome back to the Serve Asia Podcast, where you’ll find stories, interviews and discussions about how Jesus is being made known amongst East Asians. And welcome especially to the new discover series of the Serve Asia podcast, where we’re giving you the opportunity to learn more about the history, culture and current Christian context of countries throughout East Asia. Today, we’re doing a deep dive on a country with 6852 Islands, over 127 million people, it sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire, and is home to ancient warriors known as samurai. It is, of course, Japan! And to learn about Japan, we are joined by Sam, it’s great to have you with us, Sam. Perhaps you could tell us who you are and what you do.

 

Sam Haig 

Hey, everyone, I’m Sam. I’m originally from Yorkshire. I used to be a software developer up there, but I now find myself down here in the south doing the OMF media internship position. My interest in Japan I guess comes from planning to go on the Serve Asia position. I was looking to do that earlier this year, but now with this little thing called Coronavirus has stopped me from being able to go out there. So I applied to do the media internship with OMF and I’m looking forward to learning a lot with it.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, it’s great to have you with us thank you so much for joining. Just to get to know you a little bit better, so the audience feels like they can relate to you. I’m gonna ask you a few quick fire questions. Okay. So tea or coffee?

 

Sam Haig 

I’m a tea person, especially herbal teas like peppermint.

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay. Cats or dogs?

 

Sam Haig 

Definitely dogs.

 

Freddie Barker 

Definitely dogs. Yeah, that’s right. Snow or summer.

 

Sam Haig 

I used to be a snow person, but it’s definitely summer these days.

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay, interesting.

 

Sam Haig 

I must have gotten soft in my older age.

 

Freddie Barker 

And books or video games.

 

Sam Haig 

I think books these days. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

It’s a sign of maturity is it?

 

Sam Haig 

I don’t know about maturity. But I just love a good story.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, who doesn’t? Great. So Sam, I wonder what do you know about Japan already?

 

Sam Haig 

So yeah, I know a little bit from a previous trip that I’ve taken out there, but not that much I guess in terms of the culture and the people. I know it’s got a mountainous landscape with lots of trees, so it’s fairly uninhabited in the inside. People tend to live on cities towards the coastline. They’ve got excellent technology there. Especially compared to Yorkshire where we have things like northern rail, they have excellent bullet train system there. One of my favourite things I love is a story about a dog called Hachiko, who is a sign of loyalty over in Japan. He was a dog who would always go to the station to wait for his owner to come back from work. And one day tragically, his owner had an accident at work or became ill I can’t quite remember. But yeah, he didn’t come back that evening. And the dog kept on going back to the station to wait for his master. But unfortunately, he passed away so the dog would always have no one there when he got there. Yeah, so it’s a tragic story really I guess, but one of real loyalty and they erected a statue in honour of Hachiko, because it’s such a lovely story.

 

Freddie Barker 

That’s quite interesting. A little niche insight into Japanese culture there great. So why are you interested in learning more about Japan then?

 

Sam Haig 

Yeah, so like I said, I visited a while ago and the people there were very friendly, very respectable, and I just really got along with them well I think so yeah, I definitely got love for the people during that time. And then in later research found out that only 0.8% of the population there are followers of Jesus so it has a real need for, I guess, workers to go out there. And like I mentioned, I’d like to go out and work with a Serve Asia team to to get involved in helping out with the gospel sharing in Japan yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. That’s wonderful. Yeah. And learning is such a great way to develop that love that passion for the people.

 

Sam Haig 

Oh, definitely. Yeah. And these skills should hopefully really equip me to be able to interact with them the best way I can, and really respect their culture.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, yeah, that’s great. So hopefully, we can learn a lot as we head over to our Japanese teacher. So today, we’re joined by Yuya, who is going to teach us more about Japan. I’m super excited to be joined by you Yuya! First, I think it might be helpful for the audience to get to know you a little bit. So why don’t you tell us about where you’re based and what you do.

 

Yuya Shimada 

I’m Yuya in Japan, living in Saitama, that’s the north part of Tokyo. And now I work with KGK Kirisutosha Gakusei Kai it means Christian student fellowship, that’s student ministry in Japan.

 

Freddie Barker 

So for those of you who don’t know, KGK is the Japanese branch of IFES, the International fellowship for evangelical students. And what’s your role for KGK, Yuya?

 

Yuya Shimada 

I’m responsible for the students in the part called Ochanomizu, that’s the central part in Japan, and responsible for several universities there. And also I’m responsible for international students in Tokyo and beyond.

 

Freddie Barker 

So you’ve got kind of global missions on your horizon on a daily basis.

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yes, I’m very passionate to mobilise people for the global mission. Yeah, that’s my personal agenda in KGK.

 

Freddie Barker 

Well, it’s wonderful to have you with us today, and I’m excited to hear what you have to say about Japan. Japan is a much loved country, it’s an increasingly popular tourist destination, it will host the Olympic Games next year. And there’s something that fascinates us, particularly in the West about Japanese culture. So I wonder Yuya if you could start by telling us what are some of the distinctive values of Japanese people and Japan as a country?

 

Yuya Shimada 

So when people from overseas come to Japan, like they feel so excited, like, you know, there’s a lot of cool stuff here in Japan, like anime, and manga, and a lot of technological stuff. And also people, people feel excited that like, people are so polite, like, with a smile, and, like, treat customers as very politely. And by that behind the surface behind that there is a culture called, we say, honne and tatemae, that’s in Japanese honne means true feeling. And tatemae means a facade, the front of the building. And that, that shows that, you know, at the front of the building, like when you meet someone else, like you put a facade, tatemae, so you say things very polite, and but in your true feelings in your heart, you could think and feel anything, in a kind of, it’s not a bad thing to say things you don’t think or feel. It’s just politeness, it’s considered as politeness in Japan, and that that’s, I think, the distinctive cultures in Japan.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, I think particularly in the UK, people sound a lot more straightforward and are willing perhaps to share what’s on their mind. Whereas I guess that wouldn’t be the same of a Japanese person. Am I right in saying that?

 

Yuya Shimada 

I think so. That reason why like that politeness that honne and tatemae culture is there in Japan is that we prioritise harmony in the group, harmony in the social group we belong to. So harmony is the highest priority in Japan. So if you say things that are provocative, if you say things that are very different and unique then from others, that could cause disharmony, that could cause tension in the group, and that’s how we feel in, in Japan.

 

Freddie Barker 

So that’s really interesting. And is that the same across the whole of Japan? Or is there a bit of diversity, a bit of distinction?

 

Yuya Shimada 

I think that what I said is particularly true in Tokyo and the Kanto area, that’s around Tokyo. And in different parts of Japan, some people are more straight, like some diversity in culture, and there’s some spectrum like in that directedness and indirectness.

 

Freddie Barker 

So practically, can you just dig into a bit more of what that might mean?

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yeah, I hear a lot of stories from missionaries, like in Japan, and they’ll say, when they invite their friends, Japanese friends to evangelistic events, like Japanese people say, with a smile. “Yes, I’d love to do that. That sounds attractive, wonderful.” And on the day, it turns out no one came, and so dissapointed and depressed, but they they told lies, like, you know, they’re so upset often, but it’s just politeness, you know? Like you could you could never say to nice people like “No, I don’t want to go.” Or, “I don’t want to go to religious events.” But like they just with a smile, say, “Yes, I’d love to go.” And then just don’t.

 

Freddie Barker 

Ah okay, so how can you how can you tell if someone’s being truthful?

 

Yuya Shimada 

It’s really difficult question, but sometimes it’s for Japanese people, it’s difficult to tell. But mostly, you could feel like from their facial expressions or like hesitance when they say I’d love to go. But mostly yeah, it’s difficult to tell, especially in the public setting,

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay. So they might act differently to within their homes, or within a within a trusted community of people perhaps? Yes. Okay. Interesting. Are there any other distinctive values of Japanese people that stand out to you?

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yeah, a friend of mine posted about a word Sensei. That’s in English teacher. And we call mostly everybody teacher, like Sensei Sensei, like if they are a politician, we call them Sensei, if they are a pastor we call them Sensei, doctors, they’re Sensei. And I think with speciality and authority we call Sensei with respect. And it’s very difficult for Japanese people to say against Sensei, for instance, when I grew up in Japan, schools, I’m a bit like, in the class room. Everybody’s shy, and nobody raises hands. And but I am the one who raised his hand and hi, hi, hi. Like, I want to say something or questions and I was a bit different from others. And I feel ashamed, like later, you know, like I behaved differently. I was shamed in the community because I was standing out. But anyway, it’s really difficult to ask questions, even questions, you know, like to or doubt, decisions of the leaders, like you got to follow you got to listen to what authorities say what the government says, what the teacher Sensei, says. Yeah, that’s another thing.

 

Freddie Barker 

So it seems like honour and shame, are quite key principles integrated into Japanese culture. Both in the politeness factor and with the respect that people give each other in society. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about the religious context in Japan and how some of those principles might be influenced by religion.

 

Yuya Shimada 

So in Japan, the major religions are shintoism, that Japanese traditional religion and Buddhism, both are often mixed up in Japan, like people, I don’t think many people can tell the clear difference between shintoism Buddhism is often mixed up. And the other influential religious factor is Confucianism that comes from China. But like, you know, many people argue if it’s religion or not, like some people call it a philosophy. Some people call it religion. But anyway, Confucianism, I think, are so deeply rooted in Japanese culture,

 

Freddie Barker 

Would you say that most of society is religious rather than secular? And what kind of impact does religion have on daily life?

 

Yuya Shimada 

People go to shrines in the beginning of the year, they wish the best wishes for the year. And also they celebrate for the growth of their children at shrines. And there are different kinds of festival and local festivals. And that religious ones, and people often join that in August in summer, one of the biggest, like festival that come from Buddhism, and that relate to ancestor worship, say they welcome the ancestors, and they have a communital party for family and relatives. And that’s a big thing in Japan. I think, for younger generation, less and less religious.

 

Freddie Barker 

So there is some expectation that people should be following these practices, but it seems in younger generations, that they’re more they’re perhaps more reserved.

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yeah. And here, here again, that honne and tatemae, like true feeling and facade culture comes in. At the public sphere, or family, in the communities, you’ve got to do practice anyway, like, the religious things to respect, like elders, or respect social rules. And it’s considered cultural, like not, not as religious, like, it’s just cultural thing people say, and do stuff in battling their heart, often, “I don’t know what, what I’m believing in.” Or, “I don’t care if I believe it or not, but just gotta follow these things.” Because that, if not like, that could lead to shame in the community.

 

Freddie Barker 

That’s really interesting. So it seems like Japan has quite a unique culture and also quite a pervasive inbuilt culture. And I wonder how these values and kind of religious beliefs have been shaped by events in Japanese history.

 

Yuya Shimada 

I think they’re so many things I could tell. But I think I want to focus on, you know, as, as a Christian like, I want to focus on the church history, like mission history in Japan. Like Christianity came to Japan 1500s through the Catholic missionary, and like 500 years have passed. And still, we a very small minority, like, depending on statistic we less than, 1% Christians in Japan. And when first a Catholic missionary came to Japan that 16th century is called, like, even in secular academics, it’s called century of Christianity, because there are zero Christians before that. And in that one century, it reached to 200,000 or 300,000 Christians. And depending on statistics, some people say half a million or 1 million, anyway, they’re a large amount of people converted to Christianity. Partially because that high, like the respectful culture, worked in that mission, like the local rulers at that time, when they converted to Christianity, all his people converted to Christianity. So that’s, like, how it increased rapidly. But in the end of the century, the government started persecuting Christians by fearing rebellious attitude toward the government. And within a century, the same century, it became again zero in Japan, while this theorist persecutions in that world mission history, like some people say.

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay, so they haven’t had outside influence for a long time. Is that right?

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yeah, more than 200 years, the government closed its country in order to stop Christianity from coming in. So definitely that affecting, like Japan, unconsciously, maybe consciously or unconsciously. And even, like, it opened a country like 250 years ish. Later, in the mid 1800s, like, a lot of Protestant missionaries came to Japan, and again, increased rapidly in with the support of their atmosphere of the age, like people thought, anything coming from Western is good. So Christianity spread, rapidly. Again, there was severe persecution. This time, the government wanted everyone to worship the Emperor as a symbol of Japan and to unite the nation. And a lot of churches before World War II gave in to the Emperor worship and logic of the government at that time, is related to what we talked about honne and tatemae culture, in the public, in the community, in the nation, you must practice the Emperor worship, but in the church, in your heart, you could practice Jesus worship, that was the logic of the government. So you could believe in God, your God, you could believe in Jesus, but this Japan is country of shintoism, and Emperor worship, so you must worship the Emperor in the public sphere. That was that logic, and a lot of churches listen to it.

 

Freddie Barker 

So on the one hand, they were willing to kind of accept outsider influence and Christianity. But on the other hand, they were very set very clear guidelines. “This is how we want Japanese people to be.” So it was hard for people to become Christians, aside from religion, any perhaps more recent events in the 20th century that have shaped Japanese culture?

 

Yuya Shimada 

So after World War II, a lot of missionaries came from the US with the US government, and again, the number of the Christians increased rapidly. In Japan, there were some waves, you know, increasing number of Christians, and that also correlated with that high rapid, rapid growth of economics in Japan. But when their economics stopped, also the number of the church growth stopped. And since then, it’s been difficult for Japanese to thrive. And there are some significant event after World War II. One is the terrorism of a cult called Aum Shinrikyo, like that’s a sect and they did a terrorist attack in Tokyo. I think that’s the only one we experienced in Japan, and after that the fear of religion, like overwhelmed all the Japanese people. So suddenly, like people started thinking that, like religion is a dangerous thing. And again after that, like 9/11, and all these terrorism arising out people, more and more think that religion is a dangerous thing. On the other hand, in 2011, we experienced the big earthquake, I think, one of the largest earthquakes in Japan. So, even before the earthquake, people started thinking, there is limitation of economical growth. So, less and less children, and more and more elderly people, and they, that hope of society getting better, is being lost.

 

Freddie Barker 

Unsettled?

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yeah. And then young people, and then the earthquake hit, and many people started thinking about the meaning of life. So started seeking different things before, like before, like, you know, prosperity and economical success is the only thing we sought for. But after we experienced the earthquake, and in several severe natural disasters, and people started seeking the meaning of life, or wondered why we live here, or why we could, how we could help each other.

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay, so you’ve got fear on the one hand, and an inquisitiveness, on the other hand, and the church has experienced waves of growth and decline throughout Japanese history since the 16th century. So what what stage are we at today? What’s it like to be a Christian in Japan today?

 

Yuya Shimada 

So I give you, the typical Japanese church figure that there are a lot of elderly people in the church, and pastor, is in his 50s, 60s, and 70s. And there are only few young people. There’s some young families and children, I think that’s the typical, like, depending on, in Tokyo, there are other churches that have a lot of young people, but most of the regional areas, that’s the typical figure of the church. So it’s kind of we’re desperate to seek their next generation. The other things are that what we talked about in the history and also their distinctive culture, honne and tatemae in public and private, all the things still affecting us. Like, for everyone in Japanese culture, whether they work in place, or in school, or wherever they are, they feel pressures to be the same as others. And they feel group pressure, family pressure, social pressure, not to express their faith openly and professing Christian faith in public sphere, like you could believe in again, you know, people say you could belive in your heart, and but you can’t express it in community because that could cause disharmony.

 

Freddie Barker 

So it’s a small church. It’s a church with a growing age. And there’s cultural pressures as well, which make it hard for Christians to stand out in their families and communities. I wonder, from your own experience, can you relate to that, to those those cultural pressures, perhaps tell us a story of your experience of those cultural pressures?

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yeah, I was born in a Christian family. My parents are Christian. And my also father’s parents are Christian. So we all go to the same church, this very small church, in rural area. And there used to be a lot of children with me. But after they entered high school, they stopped coming to church, mostly because of the club activities, like club activities in high school, are a very significant part of like high school students in Japan, like they have activities on Sunday. So they stopped coming to church. And I, I felt lonely, you know, I felt like I’m the only one who go to the church in school. And actually, I think I would be the only one. I had, I would have been the only one who believes in God in high school. And you know, everything I hear, I heard in history class, or science class or whatever. They say, you know, there is no God, you know, and we do stuff, religious stuff, culturally. But there’s no God. And there’s not a God, that was the message I received. So it was really hard for me to keep on believing God in high school. But I think through the difficulties of high school time, I started reading the Bible by myself, and started praying by myself, and I grew in my personal faith in Jesus through that difficult times.

 

Freddie Barker 

That’s really interesting to hear just how how different that is from from the UK, although it feels like, in many ways, we’re heading in the same direction, unfortunately… Great, and I think that’s why people like you who work for KGK, and want to inspire the next generation of Christians in Japan, are so important. You’re the people who are encouraging that next generation who are supporting Christians who are new believers who are unsure about how to communicate it with their family and friends. And you’re encouraging them to fix their eyes on Jesus, and to live for Christ on a daily basis. So what are some of the greatest needs of the church? And how can someone like me who’s on the other side of the world get involved and help Japanese Christians and the Japanese church?

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yeah. So as you said, you know, the community like, like, KGK, community is important when I first entered uni, and join KGK, I was very surprised that you know, “Huh, so I’m not the only one who believe in God?”. You know, who believe in Jesus as a young person. And it was so encouraging and I was so encouraged by my fellow my friends, in KGK. And that’s not only my experience, but most of the students experiences. Also, there are many who believe in Jesus, and that experience is especially important for us in the shame culture, you know, that a lot, we experienced a lot of pressures. So with a group pressures we need to fight against as a group of believers. And also, I think, but as there is shame oriented culture, that pressure could be even dominant in the churches. It really started as a group of grace, of course, as we believe in the grace of Jesus Christ, but easy, we slip into the performance based culture, as our cultures around us is always functions in that way. And that strong shame, it prevents us from sharing our weaknesses and struggles. These are essential like to grow as Christians, I mean, sharing these weaknesses struggles, is essential for us to grow as Christians. But often, when shame appears in the church, we kind of put a mask on our face, and that prevent us from creating authentic community, to grow in the grace and to think, to engrave our identity in Christ in us enough to fight against a group pressure enough to fight against a family pressure to stand up and stand firm and speak up and boldly proclaim the gospel in, in Japan, so, I think, for those who are from other countries, will be able to more clearly see that weaknesses and that kind of disadvantage of the Japanese church. So you could help as a one who can look at the culture from our side, like to help create the authentic community and help Japanese Christian to be deeply rooted in identity in Christ. And to cast out fear and shame of rejection or this causing disharmony in the community and that would be helpful for Japanese believers.

 

Freddie Barker 

So someone coming from the UK to Japan could have a big impact?

 

Yuya Shimada 

Yeah, so when I was in KGK I met an OMF missionary, Rosanne Jones, and I was very helped by her like there are a lot of missionaries actually I was helped by that have different perspectives and different experiences, like as of labour in other countries and, and sharing these stories and ah okay. Like, I don’t have to think in this way, you know, like, I don’t have to be afraid of rejection from my friend that much, or I am that kind of different perspective different stories, helped me a lot to still I feel a lot of pressures but hearing from these stories really helped me to grow in the boldness of living as a Christian.

 

Freddie Barker 

It’s almost like coming together as a, as a Christian family to support those areas of the world like Japan, where the churches are smaller and perhaps, a minority. How can I pray for Japan? Perhaps? Do you have any resources that might be useful? How would you like prayer individually?

 

Yuya Shimada 

I have very exciting news here. So OMF Japan is publishing the prayer booklet called beneath the surface 30 ways to pray for Japan, I think in the UK next year, and it’s going to be published in English, but it’s way we publish in different languages. And, and this is, I read through this prayer booklet, and it’s really comprehensive reading through this book, itself is very encouraging. And also, you can ask you to pray for Japan.

 

Freddie Barker 

Great. Beneath the surface, I’ll look out for it when it comes out next year. Yeah, thank you so much for joining us today. And for teaching us about Japanese culture and history. And the current state of Christianity in the church it’s been really eye opening. I feel like I’ve learned a lot. And I know it’s late there, so thank you for staying, staying awake, and for talking so eloquently. For us. We’ll head back now to our student to see what they’ve found out. Yes, so now we’re back with our student, Sam, and we’re going to spend some time reflecting on what Yuya has kindly shared with us, what we’ve learnt about Japan. So Sam, we’re going to see how closely you were paying attention to Yuya. I wonder if you could give us your initial reaction to what he said, and perhaps some things that stood out to you most?

 

Sam Haig 

Yeah, so some really good stuff to unpack there, definitely got a lot to learn in terms of the culture. What stood out to me the most was this idea of true feeling and facade, it really kind of scares me in a way, because I’m not sure how to read that. Having gone over there in the past, like I mentioned, and people were very polite to me, and very respectful. I’m kind of wondering now how much of that was just a facade or if it was true. So yeah, I guess learning into how to interact with people based on this, this aspect is quite something. And I think it’s quite interesting, really, due to the fact that when he talked about how people might say, Yes, I’d really like to do that. And over here in the UK, you’d be like, Okay, that’s good. They want to come along. And then if someone didn’t turn up, you’d consider quite rude. But that’s okay over in Japan. So that’s quite interesting,

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, it is really quite a distinctive feature of Japanese culture, particularly as a Westerner something you really have to pay attention to, I feel. And it’s striking to me how central that is to Japanese identity as Yuya suggested

 

Sam Haig 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

That politeness and harmony are really important factors in particularly in public communities. And disharmony is something that needs to be avoided at all costs. Well, that was really interesting.

 

Sam Haig 

Yeah

 

Freddie Barker 

Anything else that stood out to you Sam?

 

Sam Haig 

So I think in terms of the community aspect, that was quite interesting to break down as well, we’re a lot more of an individualistic society here in the UK. So hearing how you can be shamed, I guess, in your culture, and be, I guess, almost alienated in a community is quite interesting to hear about. And it can happen over here. But it’s a lot less likely that offending someone by being impolite will alienate you from a community entirely. So that was interesting to hear about. And I guess this branches into how it can be difficult to become a Christian in the Japanese culture, just due to the fact that leaving your family is essentially like leaving your community. So if you convert to Christianity, you’ll be disobeying their shintoism rules and leaving behind ancestor worship, which is quite important to the family. So I can see why it’s really hard for young people to become a member of a church. And it really speaks to why it’s mainly only older people that you hear about in the Japanese churches, especially among the leadership and yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah.

 

Sam Haig 

It’s just heartbreaking to hear about really how you can just be so alienated and it makes it so difficult to become a Christian.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, Yuya really picked up on that in his own personal experience of the social pressures with most of the country being Shinto, and those Confucian ideas running running so deeply, and the kind of expectation that if you’re Japanese, you’ll attend all these religious festivals, you’ll visit shrines, even even in high school, the fact that he was the only student who believed in God was was quite striking. So there is there must be a big social pressure for people to come to faith in Jesus.

 

Sam Haig 

Definitely. And I think that really speaks to why it’s great that the KGK is doing what it can, because as you mentioned, it was a great blessing to him to be able to be among other Christians and have that sense of community. So I think that shows how important it really was to to have things like the KGK available.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, the organisations like KGK are kind of putting in that community aspects of Japanese culture, which are so important within a Christian sphere, saying it’s harmonious to be part of a Christian community. It doesn’t have disharmony. It’s respectful. Christian community is loving and, and polite and will accept you in which must be so important, especially for young Christians growing up in the country.

 

Sam Haig 

Yeah, definitely. It really speaks that sense of Japanese community.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. And another thing that I was struck by was kind of these waves of church growth throughout Japanese history, particularly this idea of the Christian century, is quite striking in how Christian converts rose so rapidly, and then declined so rapidly as well. What do you think of that?

 

Sam Haig 

The wave was very interesting to me. I’ve not actually heard about that before. Especially the century of Christianity. That’s quite a name. And yeah, definitely something I’d love to see come back again someday. But yeah, this, this kind of scale of mass conversion that actually terrified the government is quite something. Yeah, the fact that they had to close the borders due to fear of their people converting to Christianity. That’s quite a powerful movement. And it’d be great to see the Japanese people really take up that love for Jesus again. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. I think I was struck as well by, although the church is small at the moment, there is great potential there, because we’ve seen in the past that the church has has the ability to grow rapidly, and particularly after he was talking about the recent earthquakes and natural disasters, people are no longer just focused on their economic success or prosperity, but are asking deeper questions and looking into the meaning of life. And as Christians, that’s something that we can we can speak into.

 

Sam Haig 

Oh, yeah, definitely, the the church can answer so many of these questions for people. And it’s great that they’re looking, I guess, into a more spiritual aspect of life now, rather than just focusing on prosperity. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. So great. There’s there’s a lot of things that Yuya brought up. And it was a real really rich offering from him. I think feel like, I’ve learned a lot. And it seems that you’ve picked up on a number of key things.

 

Sam Haig 

Oh, definitely, so much to try and apply it to my own life.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. So there’s so much to go into here. Yuya shared a lot with us. And there’s a lot of key aspects of Japanese culture, which are really important in how we might be sharing God’s love with Japanese people. So Sam, I wonder how learning in this way about Japan and Japanese culture might change the way or shape the way that you share the good news of Jesus with Japanese people?

 

Sam Haig 

So yeah, there’s a lot of important stuff in terms of what Yuya mentioned, in the shame and honour context of life there. I’ve been reading a book recently, that was suggested to me called the 3D gospel. And that was a very interesting insight into how to represent the gospel in shame and honour cultures about maybe things that we don’t realise in our culture that will stand out quite a lot in other cultures, like in Genesis with Adam and Eve, they had their shame revealed, and that was very important to them, I guess, in terms of exposing how sin works in a shame honour sort of system. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Hmm. Yeah, definitely being I think being conscientious of a shame honour culture, can really shape the way that we go about sharing the good news of Jesus, with with people from from a society like that. Yeah, that’s a really important aspect of what Yuya was talking about, I think. And also, you must be encouraged, because Yuya was saying that there’s definitely room for outsiders, for people from the west, to come in and to help particularly young Christians in universities to be confident in their faith and to show them that their faith can be deeply rooted and it is part of their identity, that they don’t need to feel shame as as being a Christian.

 

Sam Haig 

Definitely yeah. So his, his comment about how Western influence is quite important in the Japanese world is quite encouraging that, I guess I can go over there and have a real impact for God. Yeah, so it’s very important. And it’s encouraging to hear.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, great. So we’ve, it feels like we’ve just dipped our toes into the vast pool of what Japanese culture is like, and

 

Sam Haig 

Yeah there’s so much beneath the surface.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, about learning about Japan. And I certainly want to continue learning and there are a number of great resources that we have to point you towards, so you can continue learning about Japan as well. So the first thing to mention is the infographics on the OMF website, which have recently been created which are full of information about Japan and the church context in Japan, a real wonderful pictorial source. For all you visual learners out there to continue learning. There are also a couple of really wonderful books about individual stories of sharing God’s love with Japanese people. Ultimate Grace by Levi Booth, which is all about how he’s used Ultimate Frisbee and the skill that he loves to share the good news of Jesus with Japanese people in Tokyo. Another one is Not So Secret by Graham Orr which gets really into the intricacies of Japanese culture. Both of those will be linked in the footnotes for this episode. Alternatively, you could visit the OMF Japan Facebook page, or Instagram feed, which are regularly updated with prayer requests for Japan and the Japanese church. And by praying for Japan, we can continue to learn more as well. So a huge thank you to Sam and for Yuya, for joining us on this podcast as we’ve learnt more about Japan. And thank you at home for listening. You can find out more about the Discover series on the website at omf.org/uk/resources/podcast or you can search for the Serve Asia podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, do please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. You can either email the UK podcast email at uk.podcast@omfmail.com. And you can follow us on Instagram @ServeAsiaPodcast. Thank you, Sam for being with us. It’s been a pleasure.

 

Sam Haig 

Yeah, thanks. I’ve learned a lot and I can’t wait to apply it.

 

Freddie Barker 

Great. Goodbye and see you next time.

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