Kon'nichiwa! I just got back from a trip to Japan (hence the greeting) and had an amazing time experiencing the culture and God’s heart for the nation.
I went with a team from my church to encourage a small-but-growing local church over there and to join with them in evangelising and connecting with the locals.
Before we left, I heard a plethora of different phrases from people; many encouraging and excited messages but also many expressions like, “Japan is a very hard nation to crack…” or, “the Japanese people are very against Christianity.” The overt generalisation of these statements was eye-roll worthy enough, let alone the inaccuracy and hopelessness they contain.
Statistically speaking, less than 1% of Japan’s population is “Christian,” with the term “Christian” including all sorts of denominations, such as Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism etc.
Alongside the controversial history of Japan and Christianity, it’s easy to see why a common view of Japanese culture is the stereotype of closed-off, controlling and “hard to reach.” If less than 1% of the population is Christian, it must be because they are against Christianity…
Or maybe they aren’t.
Character hidden within culture
In the short time I spent there, I was welcomed into a society full of honour and selflessness. These are characteristics and values which are written all over the Bible’s pages.
The culture is always for one-another; making choices in favour of what is right for one-another and the future generations, rather than leaning towards the common Western view of “I do what pleases me.”
This humility and unity is so treasured in the Word of God:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”
(Philippians 2, verse 3)
If all that is good comes from God (James chapter 1, verse 17), then the goodness of God is knitted throughout the nation.
God’s presence, life and plan is dancing through the streets of Japan and flooding the hearts of the people, whether they realise it or not.
Unity and diversity
The Japanese culture is very, very different from our Westernised one. In my short visit there I noticed thousands of things – minute and monumental – that were different to the Australian “norms”.
At first it was uncomfortable. I felt like I was fumbling a lot and I’m sure I accidentally did things that were not culturally appropriate or polite (the Japanese really value quiet and calm, and if you’ve ever heard my laughter, you can say it’s neither of these two things).
But, in the midst of all the social and cultural differences, the Spirit of God remains the same.
The presence of God in Japan is the same presence of God within rural Australia. It’s the presence that resides within our hearts and the same presence that sets entire nations alight with passion.
God’s Spirit touches hearts and heals minds all over the world. People gather together and worship the Lord in their own language but are crying out the same song.
We are all different to one another but we’re all family; beloved children of God called to live in harmony with one another on this shared Earth.
No matter our differences, we can still be united in joy and faith and love by the Spirit of God. All of our differences and disagreements fade away in the presence of God.
It’s not about us
Even though the Christian population in Japan is very low, God is still sovereign, and His spirit is still alive within the nation.
That’s because God’s goodness is not dependant on how many people know about Him, or how many people sing His praises. God’s goodness is unnegotiable and doesn’t rely on human belief.
And praise the Lord for that.
If the amount of God’s Spirit in a nation relied on the number of believers, the world would be a dark, ugly place.
Hope for the “hard to reach”
So, with all that you’ve read in this article in mind, let’s re-examine the initial statements I referenced.
“Japan is a very hard nation to crack…” and “the Japanese people are very against Christianity.”
Some of God’s most treasured values are planted within the foundation of the Japanese culture. Although religions like Buddhism and Shintoism have holds on a majority of the population, not one person is out of the reach of our loving, gracious God.
After being amazingly welcomed and honoured in Japan and experiencing a taste of the life that’s bubbling up in the nation, my heart is overwhelmed with joy and hope for the future of the nation.
God’s Spirit is moving in hope through Japan. I can’t wait to go back.
Laura Miles is an excitable and fast-paced Brit, living in Australia. After committing to studying, she is expectant and excited to see all the crazy things that the Lord is going to do in her life.