Preaching at J-House in Osaka for the first Sunday of 2014. Hunger Games 2 – Catching Fire posters are in the theaters in Japan now so I used the graphic from that…
Pastor Ray Mercer
Where are the young men in Yokosuka, Japan at 8:30am on a Sunday morning? Lined up waiting to spend their money on pachinko… But a couple of blocks away we had a great worship service at Yokosuka Grace Bible Church. This afternoon about 10 new members were added to the church. It is more rewarding than a big pachinko payout or winning the lottery to see lives changed and people following Jesus. These are the true riches!
I am most privileged to be married to a girl from the Aichi prefecture of Japan. Her great uncle started a well-known tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurant in Nagoya. He was one of the first to serve this type of food in a Japanese style. He sliced the cutlets and served them up to be eaten with chopsticks. His restaurant specialized in making a great bacon salad with the leftover parts of the pork. And they also used Nagoya’s famous miso to make a sauce for the tonkatsu and served miso tonkatsu or miso-katsu, as it is known now. The restaurant became so successful that several of the employees moved on and started their own shops based on the same menu and style of food. Of course, each branch had their differences and reflected the personality of the individual owners, but they all had the same basic menu and most of them even used the same name.
In Japan, when a new restaurant starts with he cooperation of the existing establishment it is called norenwake - literally a “dividing of the noren”. The noren is the traditional Japanese fabric curtain which is hung in front of the entrance way of the restaurant. It usually has the name and logo of the establishment printed on it. When sending a former employee out to start his own shop, the owner will often make him a new noren to hang in front that shows the same name as the old place so he can build on the brand loyalty for the shop. He will also give him a portion of the restaurant’s sauce to use as starter for a new batch. My wife’s uncle repeated this process several times and through his leadership and guidance many new shops sprung up around the city of Nagoya. When I lived in Nagoya about 20 years ago, I got a chance to eat at one of these norenwake restaurants. The original restaurant that my wife’s uncle had built was long out of business by this time. But I still remember how good my first plate of Nagoya misokatsu was.
Our church in Yokosuka was planted this way and I believe that in the future we will also have the privilege of sending our own “chefs” out to start their own norenwake churches. We are a part of a spiritual family in Japan that has a shared mission and calling. We have the same name, the same basic “recipe” and the same “sauce” for what we serve to the people in our community who need to be fed. In fact the Holy Spirit has been sending out church planters since the first century with the same name and the same mission. Each nation and church has their own cultural distinctive and flavors. But our job is to offer that same “menu” to new believers in Japan so that, even though the churches listed in the New Testament have long since closed their doors, anyone who seeks for truth in Japan can come and “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8; 1 Peter 2:2-3) at our norenwake church.
When the earthquake started I was in the church building with James and Alishea. When the building started to shake my first concern was for the new speakers and lights we had just installed over the platform. But as the tremors continued and intensified I began to realize that this wasn’t the typical earthquake that one becomes accustomed to in Japan. I began to think about getting my kids out of the building and also about helping the grade-school kids in the floor below us.
After the first quake, we all came down the staircase and into the street. Immediately the ground started quaking again. The first thing I noticed was that the traffic signals were out. Then we watched in amazement as the street seemed to roll like the ocean and the large traffic signs above the highway moved up and down on the waves. After a few minutes it was all over and the retired men who volunteer for crossing guard duty on the corner every afternoon amazingly moved out into the intersection and began directing traffic like they had been planning for this type of thing their whole lives. I was glad that we were in Japan.
Over the next several weeks and months, God used our church to help people in the same way he used those volunteers. We didn’t know the extent of the earthquake, the tsunami, or the nuclear meltdown for a long time. But we didn’t have time to think about that. We just kept moving forward and allowing God to use us to help others. Many others did the same and even though there were times when we were even more afraid than when we ran out of the building after that first jolt, we knew that God was working because so many doors of opportunity miraculously opened up before us.
Sometime between one and two months after the earthquake I was in the shower and I finally felt the weight of it. 16,000 souls just north of us were gone and hundreds of thousand of homeless people had lost their homes, loved ones and even their future because of the radiation. That was the first time I cried after the earthquake. It would not be the last.
Change is now coming to Japan. It needs to come. But change is not without a price. Please keep praying for this nation. We need Jesus no matter what the cost.
In times like this I’m reminded
That my life belongs to you
In times like this I will not fear
Everything is in your hands
When the Earth shakes
I’ll be ready for Your call
For I know You will guide me through
When the Earth shakes
I will serve You all the more
For I know in You I stand secure
When I’m alone I’m not alone
You are always there for me
When I’m confused You give me peace
You give me strength so I can lead
Give to Japanese local churches through Every Nation U.S.A.
(These are local churches in Japan that I am directly connected with and who are working now to establish relief efforts)
Person Finder (multilingual)
Red Cross Family Links page for Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (multilingual)
Google has set up a great information page for the earthquake here. Also you can donate to the Japanese Red Cross at this page. The Red Cross in Japan is still assessing the situation but if you feel you need to give money now, that is one place to do it. It should eventually be put to good use.
This page has many useful links such as:
The Japanese version of the above page is here.
hover mouse over each picture to see the change:
With a population of almost 128 million, Japan is only the tenth most populated country in the world. When most mission strategists talk about Asia they naturally think of nations like China and India because of their growing economic influence and huge populations. However Japan has been uniquely positioned by God to be a major influence throughout Asia in the twenty-first century. Japan is a leading force in business and economics, with major international banks and world-dominating companies in the electronics, technology and automotive industries. This year, China passed Japan to become the second largest economy in the world for the first time. However, while Japan is still a very close third economically, I would assert that Japan has an even greater power in its culture. Japanese culture is unique and fascinating. You can see the impact of this “culture export” all over the world but most especially in Asian countries. This cultural influence causes change in the youth and over time it becomes a powerful force to change the thinking and behavior in entire countries.
Even as I write this, Japanese creative minds are undeniably influencing the arts and media of many countries across the waters from her shores. Japan produces 80% of the world’s video animations, called anime. Other media include manga ”comic books” and Japanese television. J-Pop music culture has penetrated throughout the world and Tokyo fashion is visible from Korea to Paris and everywhere in between. Styles from the streets of Harajuku, the famous fashion mecca in the heart of Tokyo, are said to strongly influence some of big-name fashion designers in Europe. Even Japanese food culture is influencing the world. The Japanese television cooking show “Iron Chef” has been popular for many years and this year, the venereable Michelin Guide, which annually rates the world’s best restaurants, proclaimed Tokyo “the world leader in gourmet dining” and awarded more than twice as many stars to gourmet establishments in Tokyo than to those in Paris, the former gourmet leader.The last century’s financial boom in Japan created one of the world’s highest standards of living. Because of the fat billfolds of the typical Japanese tourist, most Asian countries welcome a Japanese passport. Communist nations are open to Japanese tourism and business. Recently, even some pragmatic Islamic nations, looking to bolster their economic conditions, invite Japanese business and tourism. Japanese passports can easily go places that others cannot. In short, Japan has been positioned to reach into every Asian nation through exports, media, culture and also through individual Japanese citizens.
The GDP of Tokyo alone is greater than the GDP of Canada. Over 25% of the entire population of Japan lives in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. This makes the Tokyo “mega-city” agglomeration 34,000,000 people and the largest agglomeration in the world. Tokyo is not only one of the largest cities in the world, but it is also one of the single largest unevangelized masses of humanity anywhere at any time in history (according to the Joshua Project, only the Islamic Shaiks of Bangladesh are a larger unreached people group). Over 3 million people per day travel through Shinjuku station in the center of Tokyo. If the Bible is true, 99% are headed for an eternal separation from God. This is unacceptable. We must redouble our efforts to understand and reach the largest city in the world.
The longer we wait, the more souls will be lost. On the other hand, if we can reach Tokyo the rewards are great. As I see it Tokyo is truly a “pearl of great price” which is worth the enormous cost to possess. If Tokyo experiences revival in the early 21st century, it will not only change Japan, it will change Asia and the uttermost parts of the earth.
Exponential change is needed to penetrate and change the entire city. No existing single mega-church in the world is big enough to have the kind of influence that would truly change a city the size of Tokyo. Instead there must be multiplication of disciples, training of leaders, planting of churches which multiply like seeds growing and reproducing. This year marked 150 years of Protestant Mission to Japan. Because Japan is still more than 99% unreached, it might seem at a glance that nothing is happening. But Christianity has had a disproportionate affect on this nation since World War II. Many Christian educational institutions and hospitals stand as a testament its influence. Christianity is well-respected and is, in fact, regarded as one of the most true and virtuous religions. But as a wise Japanese pastor said publically at a recent Tokyo world mission symposium, “Japanese people put relationships above the truth.” We must find a way to show this people that the best thing they can do for their relationships is to embrace God’s Truth. Because Japan is culturally homogeneous and because of the deep relationship-base of the population it is possible to see a total shift towards Christianity in our generation. If true Japanese disciples with a heart to reach the lost can be made then it is possible that Japan could become a Christian nation very quickly. Jesus invested three years in His disciples and they multiplied and “turned the world upside down.” If a movement of young people in Tokyo can influence the worldwide fashion industry out of one train station at Harajuku then they can also influence their city to embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Tokyo is influenced by the Gospel then Japan as a nation will surely be influenced too. The only thing necessary for turning Japan upside down is some true disciples. The only thing necessary for making true disciples is one minister who is willing to be used by God. Lord, please use me.
I wrote this paper for my Theology class at Every Nation Leadership Intitute during my studies there. I have had several different people tell me that it was helpful in understanding Japanese Shinto. It is a very simple overview of Shinto and includes some points that I thought were interesting.
Please download and read this paper if you are interested in learning more about the history and context of Shinto in order to reach Japanese people. Although I have found that the average Japanese person does not know a great deal about Shinto, the culture, traditions and daily life of many Japanese are influenced a great deal by it. And it is believed by many, right or wrong, that in order to be Japanese one must also “be” Shinto.
I welcome your additions, corrections and even criticism. I am certainly no expert on this topic, just an interested learner who wants to share. See the links below to share this article or leave a comment.
|PEOPLE GROUP NAME||COUNTRY||POPULATION||PERCENT EVANGELICAL||PRIMARY RELIGION|
|Han Chinese, Xiang||China||35,793,000||0.3%||Non-Religious|
|Jat, Muslim||Pakistan||32,330,000||< 0.1%||Islam|
|Pashtun, Northern||Pakistan||24,041,000||< 0.1%||Islam|
|Uzbek, Northern||Uzbekistan||21,626,000||< 0.1%||Islam|
|Jawa Pesisir Lor||Indonesia||20,020,000||< 0.1%||Islam|
|Thai, Northeastern, Lao Isan||Thailand||17,958,000||unknown||Buddhism|
|Rajput, Muslim||Pakistan||16,561,000||< 0.1%||Islam|
|Joshua Project welcomes corrections / updates to this data. Please send feedback to:|
|Joshua Project||Office: 719.886.4000|
|PO Box 62614||Fax: 719.266.9250|
|Colorado Springs, CO 80962||Email: email@example.com|
|United States||Web: www.joshuaproject.net|
School life is full of pressures in Japan. From an early age children learn that the university they get into will determine their success in life. Many universities have feeder high schools, which also have feeder jr. high schools, etc down to the preschool level. Parents who are forward thinkers concerning their children’s education work hard to get their children into the proper kindergarten (often starting at age 3 or 4) so their child will have the best chance to get into the “right” university. Because of this system, children may have already been labeled failures by the time they reach puberty.
Bullying or ijime is a common problem, making some students fear attending school. Often this behavior is overt and sometimes the teacher is involved as well. The scapegoat student, picked as different for whatever reason, has no recourse and no way of escaping daily verbal, mental, emotional, and sometimes even physical abuse. Exam Hell or juken in Jr. High and High School is well-known even outside of Japan because of television and investigative journalism.
The pressures caused by the educational system in Japan have not only led to a high suicide rate among Japan’s youth it has also led more and more young people to rebel against traditional society. Some forms of disobedience have been well-known for years, such as the bosozuku motorcycle gangs that roam city and country streets after midnight. But in recent years there have been at least four new trends among the youth here that might be even more troubling than the open defiance of the bosozoku.
A new class of young adult called “parasite single” has emerged in Japan, especially in the major cities, most notably Tokyo where 25% of the nation’s 127 million population resides. These teens and young adults have grown up in an affluent society and have not lacked training or opportunity. Yet more and more are electing to drop out of society altogether. They typically live with their parents and grandparents and do not go to school or pursue any kind of career. Some of these may be simply rebelling against the structured and high-pressure lifestyle of their fathers. But others seem to have deeper problems, difficult to fathom and rooted in a kind of spiritual bondage.
In the 1980’s a new word was coined in Japan; the furita, which means essentially “free part-time worker.” Many youth, especially those who do not pass the rigorous college entrance exams required by popular universities, decide that they do not care about advancing in their career. They find that they prefer to work low paying part-time jobs and have free time to do what they want. This type of attitude is revolutionary in a society where image and social status are obtained largely by what school you graduate from and from which company hires you. According to Imidas, an annual Japanese-language publication that chronicles current trends and statistics in Japan, the number of furita in Japan ages 15 to 34 more than doubled from 1991 to 2001. In 1991, 10.1% of the Japanese work force fit into the category of furita. By 2001 this figure had risen to 21.2%.
There is another type of parasite single which is even more troubling than the furita. There is a growing trend among young people today to simply lock themselves in their bedrooms and refuse to talk to anyone or go anywhere. Significant numbers of youth are refusing to go to school or to their job and are not only dropping out of society but of any contact with reality. This behavior has also prompted a new Japanese term; hikikomori. Tim Larimer of TIME magazine did an article on this phenomenon in the August, 2001 edition titled “Staying In And Tuning Out.” An excerpt from this article shows the seriousness of the problem:They are called hikikomori, or people who withdraw, like a turtle into its shell, and one psychologist estimates there are as many as 1 million in Japan. Like other behavioral disorders, their condition has not been discussed openly. They don’t want anyone to know either, and if the parents do try to get help, the kids threaten to assault them or even commit suicide. So the parents keep quiet… Some hikikomori live in isolation for years. Sadatsuga Kudo, director of a nonprofit center for hikikomori in the Tokyo suburb of Fussa, treated a young man who shut himself away for 19 years before he got help. Teenagers across the world go through angst, depression and withdrawl, to be sure. But in no other country does that condition appear so widespread – or so enduring. “You can’t pinpoint the reasons,” says Kudo. “But you can pinpoint the context: it’s Japan. Here, you have to be like other people, and if you aren’t, you have a sense of loss, of shame. So you withdraw.”
Many youth in the world of the hikikomori spend all of their waking hours lost in a fantasy world of video games, animated movies called anime, or on the internet, interacting with others only through virtual personas. Even the older generation in Japan, especially in larger cities, has an obvious addiction to fantasy and escapism. A favorite pastime of the Japanese salaryman (company employee), for example, is reading manga. These thick comic books are almost an art-form in Japan but unfortunately many are filled with violence, sensuality and perversion. There are different types of manga written to target every age group in Japan. It is a common site to see people on crowded trains intensely reading and lost in the plot of their favorite manga, while the reality of being crushed into crowded commuter trains daily for hours at a time is blissfully ignored.
Another form of escape from a pressure filled existence is the Role Playing Game or RPG where players can assume the character of any type of creature he prefers, real or imaginary and get away with behavior which would never be tolerated in the strict Japanese society. RPGs are very popular in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan. Most youth have a game console or a personal computer with a broadband internet connection and if the pressures of everyday life get too great, the temptation is to lock oneself away in one’s room and become hikikomori.
One of the most frightening trends among Japanese youth today is their fascination with violence and death. The suicide rate in Japan is epidemic. It is one of the highest suicide rates of any modern industrialized nation and is double that of the United States. In 2003 there was a suicide about every 15 minutes in Japan and there is no sign that the rising trend has slowed since that point. Statistically, in Tokyo one is five times more likely to die by his own hand than by a traffic accident. There are new types of suicide reported in the news media every year. Websites have been set up on the internet where those who are considering suicide can meet online and get information on various methods for ending one’s life. Recently a string of internet suicide pact deaths shocked Japan.
The highest rate of suicide is among the older generation and health and economic worries are widely believed to be the main causes. But the number of suicides among the youth is growing at an alarming rate. According to a an Asia Times article titled “Suicide also rises in the land of rising sun” the suicide rate for elementary and middle-school children in Japan rose 57.6% from 2001 to 2002. The high suicide rate is an indication of the growing sense of helplessness and lack of purpose in the youth of Japan. Another grim trend is violence among the very young.
Through the last half of the 20th century, Japan was noted for its lack of violent crime, even in the cities. In 1997 however, a 14-year old boy shocked the nation by cutting off the head of an 11-year old student and leaving it at the entrance gate to his school. Since that time violent incidents among young students and even hikikomori youth have occurred with startling regularity. An article in the Washington Post in August, 2004 states:Incidents of violence on school grounds have increased fivefold in Japan over the past decade to 29,300 in 2002, leading the national Mainichi newspaper to warn of Japanese schoolyards descending “into battlefields.” Violence by younger children in particular has risen rapidly, with the number of minors under 14 processed for violent crime increasing 47 percent in 2003 from a year earlier. One study by a children’s research institute found that as many as 30 percent of high school and middle school students had experienced sudden acts of rage at least once a month. In response to rising youth crime, Japan lowered the age for criminal prosecution in 2001 from 16 to 14 and might lower it further.
Along with the increasing violence and escapism in the youth, there is a rapidly growing immorality problem. For years, Japan has been the largest sex industry market for Asian women. Japanese men constitute the largest number of sex tourists in Asia. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island website report this about Tokyo:One ‘sex zone’ in Tokyo, only 0.34 sq. km., has 3,500 sex facilities: strip theaters, peep shows, ‘soaplands,’ ‘lover’s banks,’ porno shops, telephone clubs, karaoke bars, clubs, etc.
The following is from a collection of facts on Japan at a website at http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/japan.htm called “Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation” under the heading Japan.
Enjokosai, or enko for short, which means “teenage girls’ compensated dating” is a new word coined to describe the large number of teenage girls who are working for dating services, phone clubs or simply on their own, to offer prostitution services to older men. Researcher Fukutomi Mamoru has done detailed research among Jr. High and High School girls and found that reasons for engaging in this form of prostitution include being “too lazy to work”, the “trend to have brand-named goods”, and even that there “may be a certain glamour in being involved in enjokosai… Enjokosai has become fashionable.”
This is a key generation in Japan. The previous four trends clearly indicate that there is a generation in Japan right now that has lost its purpose. The secular authorities and experts have no solutions for the gross darkness which has overtaken the youth of Japan. The promise of a rigorously structured life of service to the company and duty to society holds little attraction to the youth of Japan today because they have seen the spiritual emptiness of the previous generations. This has led to an unprecedented “dropping out” of an entire generation into a life of parasite singles, escapism, immorality, violence and even suicide.
The Bible promises that the Church will have answers for the problems in Japanese society today, and that the “nations will come to her light” (Isaiah 60). This is the opportune time for Japan, the moment when there are felt needs that can be met by the Church. In this new generation of crisis, the church must redouble her efforts to reach the youth of Japan.