Friday, March 05, 2010

Culture Studies

The children and I had a conversation a while ago that has stayed with me. This was a 2 1/2 hour conversation, with much give and take, between the children, myself and a Japanese young lady (30's).

We gained a LOT of insight into the Japanese culture. We laughed. She shared that "oatmeal" is oishiku ney (yuck). I was shocked! I shared that eel is oishiku ney (yuck). She was shocked! We talked about social issues, political issues, religious issues, family structure, dating practices, women's role, typical diet, educational goals..... I realize it's Asian to say what you think the other wants to hear (is that Japanese?) but I think we shared fairly honestly.

I consider the hope I have in Christ to be foundational to my daily life. It is the greatest gift I could share with a friend. I pray diligently for opportunity to share my love relationship and hope in Christ with the Japanese people we meet. I feel like much of our discussion today will help me in that endeavor. I will keep in mind that these were the opinions of one young lady.

We were able to ask and share about Shintoism, Buddhism and Christianity in the context of educating the boys. I learned a lot. For instance the younger generation in Japan doesn't really believe the tenants of these religions. They are Japanese; thus they must be Buddhist. It's culture - family. She said the older generations believe, but the younger, "not so much". My heart leapt.

When I asked about the role Shintoism or Buddhism play in daily life, she was puzzled. I explained the impact that my faith has on my daily life. HOW COOL IS IT THAT OPPORTUNITY? She said, for Japanese, their belief in God has no daily impact. They have nothing. That's what SHE said. I question that. What we believe DOES affect how we'll act and live and so I'm guessing there is impact..but as far as daily practice, feeling daily strength, help to walk holy....she said there is nothing.

Did you catch where this is going? The younger generation is questioning and realizing that they don't believe in the gods the way they've been taught, it's culture...but who is going to share with them something different? Share in a respectful way. Share in a way that allows them to continue to honor their culture and family and yet embrace a life changing love relationship with their Creator.

As we talked it became apparent that the country of Japan is in a state of flux. The younger generation is changing. I offer these insights to support my statement. The older generations often had 4 - 6 children. When parents aged, they lived with children. This generation and the one before has averaged 1 or 2 children. Nursing homes are springing up. People have to work and their parents need care. In the past older siblings had retired and cared for parents, passing down the responsibility as each sibling retired.

The older generation used to favor rice and fish and most lived long and were healthy. Our friend's grandfather is 100 years old and her grandmother is 94 (?). She says they are in better health than her parents. Life expectancy is going down, while the expertise of the medical profession increases. Her parents generation, and now hers, are eating more beef, pork, chicken, and "American Food".

The religious shift from belief to culture, I shared above.

Crime rate is starting to rise.

Young people in Japan did not use to date. They waited until their late 20's or early 30's to marry. I'd been told that is the way it still is. According to our talk, the fad now is for young women to marry at 18 - 20. The younger generation is starting to date vs. court. The fashion industry has found a boom market creating "young ladies fashions with matching baby dresses". Young marriage and young motherhood is a rising fad. The divorce rate used to be nil and is now 20 - 30%.

We had fun discussing what will happen when our current Prince becomes Emperor. He has no sons. Will Japan change their rules and allow a female to be an Empress? She says that's a fight for the next generation. Women in Japan are "almost equal". She stated if this was not the case, she would not be allowed to be in our home, alone, visiting with gajin (foreigners).

As I listened to our friend discuss the way the older generation used to feel about their religion and the way her generation feels, I realized that 50 - 60 years ago much of America was "Christian" in the way that she describes being "Shinto/Buddhist". It's cultural. It has no daily impact. I look where America is now. I don't think you could say that our political system, social stats etc reflect Christ. It's no longer assumed that to be American is to be Christian; and it happened in one generation. America is considered Post Christian.

Could it be that a generation of questioning, young, Japanese adults will bring about such change in their culture? If so, what is our part in ensuring this generation receives better answers to life's dilemmas than the 60's generation in America did? For that matter, what is our part in making sure America's young generation finds authentic answers to THEIR questions?

I've been considering unforgiveness has the ability to spiritually bind things. I've noted there has been unforgiveness towards the Japanese from the WW2 generation. I believe some older Japanese feel the same. Has the unforgiveness of Japan's war atrocities by the WW2 generation hindered the work of God in Japan? WHY didn't America answer Gen.. plea? He said, "Send me.....missionaries and Japan will be Christian." We refused to respond. It was too close to the war. We hadn't forgiven. We didn't really WANT Japan to enjoy the benefits of Christianity. This is changing. Younger generations don't have the same unforgiveness. In fact, I've been amazed since the word was out that we were moving to Japan at the number of young Americans who are intensely interested in Japan. Could God be preparing some who will live and work and love and provide answers to the questions of their generation in Japan? I pray it is so.

Choosing Joy!
©2010 D.R.G.

~Coram Deo~
Living all of life before the face of God...


Anonymous said...


God bless you for you insight and love. -love/prayers -- Mom T.

Janette said...

I agree with some of your last comments. the US as a nation, is not Christian in binding. We fight about who has the responsiblity to care for those who cannot care for themselves. We choose to follow the dollar instead of a healthy way of getting enough and moving on. We do not cling to our partners. I do not see a difference between the current generation of children and what you describe of the younger generation of Japanese (you could insert here almost any first or second world nation name).
The question comes- should someone be sending the US missionaries? We say that people have a choice here- but if they have never truly experienced theWord- how can they live it?

Herding Grasshoppers said...


Your post has been spinning around in my head. What an opportunity you have! And you may be right, that this younger generation may very well be more open to Jesus than previous generations.

I've also been thinking about your friend's comment that for most Japanese, their religion has no impact on their daily life.

Oh... but it does...

You've lived in many cultures. I'm sure you've seen it. Though America can't be called a "Christian nation" in the sense that most people are practicing Christians, still, Christianity has shaped our nation and our values.

It's the same with Buddhism in Japan. It's just that we're all "fish" in our own cultures, and we don't realize we're "wet".

For instance... one of my sons is mostly deaf, and I'm very watchful of how he is received and treated by others. For the most part, wonderfully.

My Japanese friend Keiko (about my age - so probably born in the late 60's or early 70's) has a different story. She is a hearing person born to deaf parents in Japan. All her life she and her parents have been discriminated against and looked down upon. Buddhist belief in karma and reincarnation (and I know I'm oversimplifying here) shaped the mindset that, "these people obviously deserve to be deaf. They're being punished for their bad karma from a previous life."

All that changed when she was in 7th grade, and her parents became Christians. The church accepted them and loved them.

I'm not saying that "all Japanese discriminate against the disabled." Indeed, that attitude may very well have changed in the last 30 years - and I hope so!

I'm just saying that our and their religious beliefs undoubtedly affect our daily lives much more than your young lady realizes.

All the more reason to pray for this generation to find their answers in God's Word :0)


Lois said...

Love your insight! I'm so glad the Lord is giving you the opportunity to share your faith as "fact" with the motive of befriending and not alienating. We knew a Chinese family whose daughter was 12 at the time. She was so open to American ways and culture. Her parents were completely disinterested in spiritual things, only in our "culture and traditions". I don't think they believed a person could ever know God, if there even was one. If you could know Him, it didn't make any difference to them. They were probably in their late 30's.

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

YES - we do need missionaries sent to America, I think. AND....I know of several from other countries who believe they ARE missionaries to America. LOL I agree Janette.

Still thinking and praying....

DeEtta @ Courageous Joy said...

Julie and Lois, thanks for sharing. I think you are right that your religion DOES affect your daily life - even if you think it doesn't.

Kim, my friend whose lived in Japan forever, shared with me last night that they've found evangelism totally different in Japan. I'll have to wait until I can think a bit clearer - just got home a bit ago - and share. I found it very insightful.