In our e-newsletter updates (which you can sign up to receive here: Brock’s Newsletter Sign Up), we’ve been featuring interview Q&As from our friends in Japan to help share why Japan needs missionaries. Often when people think of a place that needs missionaries, it is common to picture a third world country, a place where the people need food, clothing and shelter. Japan isn’t a place that needs basic, necessary stuff, but they absolutely need the hope that is found in Christ.
We interviewed a missionary couple in Japan (names and location are in our newsletter update), and they gave us some great insight into why Japan needs missionaries.
Let’s get started!
1. What is the spiritual state in Japan from your perspective from interacting with your neighbors, friends, etc.?
Generally, the Japanese don’t discuss their spiritual beliefs with one another. They prefer to discuss their day-to-day needs. They avoid family affairs and private matters such as spiritual beliefs because of their close proximity to one another and a desire to maintain ‘wa’ or a peaceful oneness with one another.
They don’t take interest in a specific religion but believe in the existence of an Almighty God who created the world. Yet, they prefer not to connect this belief with any established religion. In fact, most Japanese offer limited comments about any god. Most families no longer practice any religion.
Most churches are generally a few elderly people trying to keep their church active. There are a few fabulous healthy churches filled with young people and even families.
2. Is Japan ripe for the Gospel?
The Japanese are ready to hear about Jesus because of the numerous natural disasters that have been occurring in Japan, and the anticipated major earthquakes. Therefore, many are feeling insecure about life, and taking interest in the hope of eternal life in Christ.
Since the economy has been performing poorly for a long time, many people can only find part-time contracts, which results in unstable employment with no anticipation of any improvement in the future. Moreover, salaries have remained constant or are being reduced in spite of increasing costs of living. Therefore, people are working longer hours and becoming stressed out. These unstable conditions result in a willingness to hear spiritual solutions.
Japanese people still appreciate the Christian volunteer activity in the 2011 tsunami hit region. As the Tohoku people continue to interact with these Christians, more Tohoku persons are gradually expressing an interest in the spiritual truths found in Christ, even becoming baptized.
3. What are Japanese Christians like?
The Japanese Christians are frequently divided into the elderly and younger groups with almost no interaction between church groups. Therefore, the Japanese Christian often feels isolated in society.
Many Christians, especially the ones who are the only believer in their family, are not actively involved in the church for various reasons, i.e. overly busy with work or family responsibilities.
Most Japanese Christians are hesitant to share their faith with their friends, family and peers due to a sense of commitment to living at peace with society. In fact, many Japanese Christians do not know what the Bible says about their faith.
4. Any cultural “fun facts” or observations that you’d like to share?
Japanese love to eat!!! They are always trying new foods. One never visits some new place without bringing a famous food from that area for your friends to try.
You can never give a gift without getting one back.
5. What is the Japanese family like?
City families are extremely busy because both spouses are employed outside the home, generally working long hours and often 6 days a week.
Children are generally left to the care of nurseries, kindergartens and schools since the parents leave home early and return late. Therefore families can’t always share meals together, except possibly on Sundays. A social concern is the child who eats breakfast or dinner alone in an empty home.
Japanese families are fairly private, choosing to interact more outside the home than to invite people in. Even relatives don’t visit one another frequently. Some of this is due to the lack of space and time. Another common hesitation is the obligation of returning the favor of being invited into a home.
Japanese prefer the ‘wa’ or ‘keeping the peace’ of including everyone in an invitation, therefore, it’s easier to socialize at a school or work event than in their small homes. Therefore, they only invite close friends to their homes.
Women desire to change the tradition of mothers doing all the work for the family, but many mothers still find themselves doing most of the shopping, cleaning, laundry, cooking and childcare. Some young women are thus reluctant to marry. Instead they’ll have intimate relationships with boyfriends which have resulted in ready-made maternity bridal gowns. Single parent families are still discouraged by Japanese society due to a lack of financial and emotional support.
Abortion is an acceptable birth control although not available in government supported institutions without a legitimate reason. Thus most are performed in private clinics with fabricated reasons.
Families with disabled children receive minimal support from the government. Some families may be reluctant to expose their child to society due to feelings of shame, but others are quite proactive in providing a normal life for their child.
Fewer young couples live with their parents, which leaves many elderly persons alone. In a few years, statistics claims that one out of 5 persons will be elderly and thus create a stress on the economic system to provide support. Currently everyone is covered by national health insurance.
6. What do you wish people knew about what it’s like to be a missionary there?
It’s a life-time commitment of getting to know the language and the culture so that one earns the respect of being heard. Japanese remain quite an insular society, and it takes years to develop the relationships necessary to share the gospel. Missionaries, therefore, must put in years of effort before seeing one or two accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
7. Any advice for a new missionary?
Allow yourself 7 years to become fluent enough in the culture and language to truly be effective. Japanese language is considered quite difficult for westerners and the high-context culture is quite incomprehensible for an outsider.
We hope that you were able to learn more about why Japan needs missionaries! Please pray that more people would be willing to go to Japan, and that others would be willing to send them.