Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - Christianity in Japan

Christianity in Japan

Post questions and answers about living or visiting Japan or the culture

Christianity in Japan

Postby Kashin » Sat 06.02.2007 5:38 pm

Hi friends I did a thorough search of the forums for this subject and found little specifically dealing with the topic.

I intend this to be a cultural discussion rather than religious (I wouldn't want to break forum rules)

My question has to do with the state of the Christian faith in Japan. It's hard to find reliable information on the internet about it. I know Christianity has a rich history in Japan, dating from the arrival of Francis Xavier and the first Jesuit Missionaries, but it's really dwindled down to a small flame in modern times. At least from what I've read about it.

So could anybody recommend a solid book or article on the topic, or if you live there, share a firsthand experience? I know Clay has a section on Christianity in Japan, but the links are broken.

I just really would like to know more about it. Is the Church very active, or is it just a dull, unimportant minority?

Are the Seminaries and Theological schools teaching a strong Biblical Christianity or is it merely a Western history lesson?

What of Evangelism, reaching out to people, or charities and missions?

How do the Youth in Japan respond to it?

Is it more so based in more western influenced regions (Nagasaki, Okinawa, etc.) or is there a presence throughout the country?

I know this can be a very fragile topic, I would ask to keep religious debate or argument and any kind of flaming out of the discussion. Just facts and insights. I believe this is important and I wouldn't want the thread to be locked or deleted because of harsh words spoken from either side of the aisle.
User avatar
Kashin
 
Posts: 90
Joined: Fri 05.25.2007 3:19 am

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby lalaith » Sat 06.02.2007 6:31 pm

There is (or was) still a missionary presence. My aunt converted to Christianity about 15 years ago and took her three children with her. It ruined her marriage. She admits that herself -- her husband did not like the person she became after she converted.

She and my uncle divorced and, after that, she kept the kids away from their father. (Despite the impression some Westerns have of the geish-like, submissive wife, Japanese women have a lot of power inside the home. Mike Cash once posted a pointed saying about the husband's position in the family.) So it not only ruined her marriage, it also ruined the relationship between a father and his children because she had the power to come between them.

My aunt and her kids are the only Christians I met in Japan. Certainly they are the only Christians in my family there. Not that my family is particularly religious -- they perform their ceremonies and rituals but it's not like here in the Bible Belt where at any given moment I can overhear a conversation about the significance of Jesus Christ in someone's life. My impression is that they're pretty non-religious overall. Which why is my aunt converting to Christianity stood out so much. New converts, by definition, are not non-religious.

My family, FYI, is from Kokobunji outside of Tokyo.

(And, mods, if you feel this entire topic is not appropriate, let me know and I'll delete this post.)

EDIT: In thinking about it, I'd have to describe my family's attitudes toward Shintoism and Buddhism as more cultural than religious. You know, the same way here in the US many non-Christians celebrate Christmas or Easter. Do the rituals but any deep, underlying meaning isn't there.
Last edited by lalaith on Sat 06.02.2007 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
(\__/) This is Bunny. Copy and paste
(='.'=) bunny into your signature to help
(")_(") him gain world domination.
User avatar
lalaith
 
Posts: 437
Joined: Tue 04.03.2007 5:54 pm

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 06.02.2007 7:01 pm

There are not very many Christians in Japan. One thing that I've heard from people who have done mission work there is we really take for granted (or at least the neutral version of that) growing up in a religious country. What they've told me is that many people in Japan have trouble really understanding what it means to really believe in and follow a religion, because they live in basically an atheist society. They connect religion primarily with tradition and history, and have very little interaction with true believers of any type. It's just not that relevant to their lives.
-Chris Kern
User avatar
Yudan Taiteki
 
Posts: 5609
Joined: Wed 11.01.2006 11:32 pm
Native language: English

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby flammable hippo » Sat 06.02.2007 8:14 pm

Less then 1% of the Japanese population considers themselves to be Christian. And considering that around 1% or less of the Japanese population are westerners, (westerners that would be more likely to be Christian), that even lowers the percentage of actual Japanese people who follow Christianity.

Also, in history, Christianity hasn't really been well accepted by the Japanese. Even though at one point a relatively large amount of people converted, eventually Christianity became illegal and Christians were persecuted, especially unter Tokugawa Ieyasu. Obviously however, it's not illegal anymore :)

As Chris said above, Japan is more or less an atheist-like society. This is one of the main differences between Japan and the US. What I like about this aspect of their society is that in Japan you probably wouldn't find any religion-nazi's out there shoving their beliefs down your throat like you do here, but that's another discussion entirely. ;)
Two muffins were baking in an oven. One turns to the other and says "sure is hot in here." The other replies "AH TALKING MUFFIN!"

二つのマフィンがオーブンで焼かれていた。片方のマフィンがもう一方のマフィンに向かって、"暑いね”と言った。すると、話しかけられたほうのマフィンは"アッ!喋るマフィンだ!”と驚いた。 :)
User avatar
flammable hippo
 
Posts: 885
Joined: Sun 03.19.2006 4:29 pm
Native language: English
Gender: Male

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby clay » Sat 06.02.2007 9:54 pm

I'm not sure if Japan is an atheist-like society. Being an affluent country, I'd say it is more of a "I don't need God and I don't think about it" society. At least this is my impression from talking with people.
TheJapanShop.com- Japanese language learning materials
Checkout our iPhone apps: TheJapanesePage.com/iPhone
User avatar
clay
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2809
Joined: Fri 01.21.2005 9:39 am
Location: Florida

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 06.02.2007 9:59 pm

Well yeah, I guess "atheist" isn't the right term -- "non religious" is better.
-Chris Kern
User avatar
Yudan Taiteki
 
Posts: 5609
Joined: Wed 11.01.2006 11:32 pm
Native language: English

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby debu » Sat 06.02.2007 11:30 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Well yeah, I guess "atheist" isn't the right term -- "non religious" is better.


Agnostic perhaps? In my uninformed experience, there is spirituality in Japan, but it's not really a belief system, it's more about tradition, rituals, ceremonies and what not. For example, it's pretty common for Japanese people to go to Shinto temples (especially around new years day) and even "pray" there, but it's definately not like a religion. There's no rigid belief system, and I don't think Japanese people see it as a regligious act. From a few Japanese friends, the reactions i've seen to strong religion in the US generally range from curiousity/amusement to fear (I think from watching a few scenes from Borat :) )
Try Train Your Brain flashcard software, free for TJP members. http://www.digitaldominion.com pm or email me for registration key
debu
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed 10.25.2006 4:47 pm

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby Infidel » Sun 06.03.2007 12:01 am

debu wrote:
For example, it's pretty common for Japanese people to go to Shinto temples (especially around new years day) and even "pray" there, but it's definately not like a religion. There's no rigid belief system, and I don't think Japanese people see it as a regligious act. )


It may not be an organized religion but it is religion.
なるほど。
さっぱりわからん。
User avatar
Infidel
 
Posts: 3093
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 1:12 am
Native language: 英語

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby debu » Sun 06.03.2007 12:28 am

It may not be an organized religion but it is religion.


I guess what I should say is that it is unlike other religions, and that although most Japanese people probably participate in Shinto rituals, most Japanese people would also probably say they are not religious.

I guess it's similar to how many people celebrate christmas without being even slightly christian, but it also seems different in a way i'm not sure I can describe well... For example, when my family celebrates christmas, it is devoid of all spiritual and religious meaning. We are in it just for the presents, food, and company. I don't think the way Japanese people practice Shinto is quite that vacant.
Try Train Your Brain flashcard software, free for TJP members. http://www.digitaldominion.com pm or email me for registration key
debu
 
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed 10.25.2006 4:47 pm

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby Infidel » Sun 06.03.2007 12:49 am

I guess it's similar to how many people celebrate christmas without being even slightly christian, but it also seems different in a way i'm not sure I can describe well...


There are plenty of Christians that will say they are not religious. When someone says they are not religious, this is usually a relative term. It's like Christians that believe in god, but only go to church when their family or some social obligation forces them to. Or a Christian that goes to church every sunday, but doesn't proselytize.

I'd say that most non-religious people I've met of any faith are still believers, they just aren't into impressing other people with how "religious" they are. They aren't into the pageantry of religion.
Last edited by Infidel on Sun 06.03.2007 12:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
なるほど。
さっぱりわからん。
User avatar
Infidel
 
Posts: 3093
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 1:12 am
Native language: 英語

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby lalaith » Sun 06.03.2007 12:54 am

debu wrote:

I guess what I should say is that it is unlike other religions, and that although most Japanese people probably participate in Shinto rituals, most Japanese people would also probably say they are not religious.

I guess it's similar to how many people celebrate christmas without being even slightly christian, but it also seems different in a way i'm not sure I can describe well... For example, when my family celebrates christmas, it is devoid of all spiritual and religious meaning. We are in it just for the presents, food, and company. I don't think the way Japanese people practice Shinto is quite that vacant.


I think it's possible to feel deeply spiritual about something without it being the least bit religious.

From Webster's New World Dictionary:
spiritual
1 of the spirit or soul
2 of or consisting of spirit, not corporeal
3 refined in thought or feeling
4 religious, sacred

Christmas is a spiritual time for me and I'm not remotely Christian -- there's nothing vacant about it. I was no Shintoist when I offered flowers, incense and food at my grandmother's shrine and gravesite, but it was still a spiritual moment for me.

That's what I see in my family -- at least those who still practice the rituals. The rituals and ceremonies have a spiritual meaning to them that relates to their history & culture, but I don't believe they see it as a religious one.
(\__/) This is Bunny. Copy and paste
(='.'=) bunny into your signature to help
(")_(") him gain world domination.
User avatar
lalaith
 
Posts: 437
Joined: Tue 04.03.2007 5:54 pm

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby zengargoyle » Sun 06.03.2007 1:10 am

debu wrote:
It may not be an organized religion but it is religion.


I guess what I should say is that it is unlike other religions, and that although most Japanese people probably participate in Shinto rituals, most Japanese people would also probably say they are not religious.

I guess it's similar to how many people celebrate christmas without being even slightly christian, but it also seems different in a way i'm not sure I can describe well... For example, when my family celebrates christmas, it is devoid of all spiritual and religious meaning. We are in it just for the presents, food, and company. I don't think the way Japanese people practice Shinto is quite that vacant.


warning, amateur philosophical nonsense follows....

Shinto is less religion and more spiritualism. Spirit in this case being the idea that things that we (westerners) think of being inanimate are in fact animate. The mountain is alive, the stream that gives us water is alive, the ground that we walk upon is alive. these things need to be treated with the same sort of respect that we give to other more obvious living things. on the other hand, Religion is a pact between a(some) supernatural creator(s) and its(their) creations.

religion is concerned with the relationship between creator and created, spirituality is concerned with the relationship between things that exist (regardless of how they were created).

prayers and offerings at a shrine are just like (forgetting about any religious aspects) being nice to your neighbor. so there is a little bit more than secular observance of christmas, but not enough to be equal to attending christmas mass. i think this is the difference between 'vacant' and 'not vacant'.

i could go on for hours and hours, but this is about the limit of the 'no religious junk' rule...
User avatar
zengargoyle
 
Posts: 1200
Joined: Sun 05.29.2005 10:16 pm

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby HeyItsMatt » Sun 06.03.2007 1:27 am

zengargoyle wrote:

warning, amateur philosophical nonsense follows....

Shinto is less religion and more spiritualism. Spirit in this case being the idea that things that we (westerners) think of being inanimate are in fact animate. The mountain is alive, the stream that gives us water is alive, the ground that we walk upon is alive. these things need to be treated with the same sort of respect that we give to other more obvious living things. on the other hand, Religion is a pact between a(some) supernatural creator(s) and its(their) creations.

religion is concerned with the relationship between creator and created, spirituality is concerned with the relationship between things that exist (regardless of how they were created).

prayers and offerings at a shrine are just like (forgetting about any religious aspects) being nice to your neighbor. so there is a little bit more than secular observance of christmas, but not enough to be equal to attending christmas mass. i think this is the difference between 'vacant' and 'not vacant'.

i could go on for hours and hours, but this is about the limit of the 'no religious junk' rule...


I was just about to say something similar. And will do so now :-p

I suppose people define religion in different ways (I've even heard people tell me they think atheism is a religion, although I think there's a point where a word loses all meaning if it's used too broadly). I could see people saying that most Japanese are "non-religious" in the sense that perhaps they don't pay much attention to many of the concepts of the "big three" monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism).

Just to take Christianity, since that's what I've mainly been exposed to in the U.S., there are concepts like heaven and hell, an all-powerful single supreme being, sin, and faith. Depending on how religious someone is, these things could be a central part of their lives, whereas a Japanese person might see those concepts as fairly alien. I don't know much about Shintoism (or Buddhism, for that matter) but as far as I know none of those concepts are really present, correct? Shintoism is more of an animistic kind of thing, and Buddhism is more focused on the self?

I would definitely love to hear some Japanese points of view on Christianity (or Islam, etc) and how they view it, and perhaps what their own religious beliefs are like, if any. And hopefully the thread will stay nice and friendly :)

Sorry, I was a philosophy major, so I'm dorking out here.
-Matt
User avatar
HeyItsMatt
 
Posts: 143
Joined: Sun 10.15.2006 12:12 am

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby Mike Cash » Sun 06.03.2007 1:44 am

I think "apatheist" may be the correct term. (Doesn't care if there is a god or not).
Never underestimate my capacity for pettiness.
User avatar
Mike Cash
 
Posts: 2737
Joined: Sun 08.20.2006 3:38 am
Native language: English

RE: Christianity in Japan

Postby keatonatron » Sun 06.03.2007 2:06 am

It isn't actually about Christianity, but you might be interested in a paper I wrote on religion in Japan a few years ago:

http://www.jmacwhyte.com/public/modernculture.pdf

It will at least give you an idea of the religious mindset in Japan.

Also, remember that after Christianity flourished in the 16th century, the Emperor's advisers saw it as a threat to his power, because the common belief is/was that the Emperor is a descendant of the gods. If Christianity states there is only one God and his only son was Jesus, how can the Emperor really be the Emperor?

So, they outlawed Christianity, forcing many to denounce their faith, and closed the country to all outsiders which started the "500 year isolation" that you often hear about.
User avatar
keatonatron
 
Posts: 4838
Joined: Sat 02.04.2006 3:31 am
Location: Tokyo (Via Seattle)
Native language: English
Gender: Male

Next

Return to Culture and Info about living in Japan

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 2 guests

cron