In all my time learning about Japan and interacting with Japanese, whenever the subject of Jesus comes up, I always seem to come up against a wall. “You believe in one God, but we believe in eight million gods.” “All Americans are Christian, right?” These are just a couple of many different phrases that I have heard that all seem to indirectly, collectively point to this notion that Christianity is an inherently foreign or western religion that is fundamentally incompatible with the Japanese people.
One could even say that this is a notion that has a long history in Japan, stretching as far back as the beginning of the Edo period when Christianity was banned. I could talk about fumie, the Meiji modernization, and a number of other things in Japanese history leading up to now. But that’s not the point I want to make.
Rather, I think that, in spite of all of the past conflicts and present misunderstandings between the Japanese and Christians, I actually think that there is so much potential for the Japanese and the way of Jesus to mesh together beautifully. Francis Xavier said of the Japanese that they would make some of the best Christians, and I think he is right! I think that if we can look beyond the surface, if we can take down the walls of misunderstanding and defensiveness, we will find that there are many aspects of the Christian faith that actually fit well with Japanese culture and identity.
On an even deeper level than this, as a passionate follower of Jesus, I really believe that if the God of the Bible really is the God of the whole world, if he really did make all peoples, then all peoples should be able to follow Him. If Jesus really is who he said he is, then following Jesus should not be at odds with Japanese identity; it should complete Japanese identity. I think Jesus is the missing puzzle piece to the Japanese heart, just as he is the missing puzzle piece to every human heart. I believe that Jesus loves the Japanese people deeply, and if I can help make that great love even a little bit more accessible to the Japanese, then this blog will not have been in vain.