Whenever I’m talking to someone for the first time, whether they be American, Japanese, or otherwise, and the topic of life in Japan comes up, the question of “Why Japan” inevitably comes up. For the Japanese, they’re curious why a foreigner would take interest in their country that’s so different from, say, Europe or America. They’re often happy to see a foreigner who enjoys and takes interest in their country and especially when that foreigner enjoys some of the “odder” parts of Japan. For Americans, they’re usually interested in asking about those “odder” aspects of Japanese life and culture such as the timely trains, cheap but good sushi, or even anime. Indeed, Japan is a completely different world than what we’re used to in the west and its differences are fascinating to study and especially experience in person. Many books have been written on the philosophical differences of Japanese and western cultures as well, detailing things like collectivism vs individualism, high-risk vs low-risk tolerance, warm vs cold cultures, Buddhism vs Christianity, and much more. One could spend their whole life studying the Japanese culture, the outward and the inward expressions of it, and still only touch the surface of what there is to learn and experience. However interesting and fun those things are, they aren’t the reasons I initially became interested in Japan (though those things certainly did help).

For me, my curiosity about Japan began almost 10 years ago while helping as a counselor at a kids camp in central Ohio. During the camp, once per day, kids would attend a Missions lesson where they would hear from a teacher, who was usually a missionary themselves, about missions throughout the world. During one such lesson, the missionary was talking about missions in the world and how many Christians there were in many various countries. They mentioned a few different countries and what percentage of the population was Christian. It was a rather “normal” missions talk from what I can remember and I can’t really recall any of the countries the missionary mentioned, save one. After the missionary had rattled off a few stats about some different countries, I distinctly remember the missionary getting to Japan and then talking about how less than 2% of the country was Christian. While I cannot recall anything else about what was said, that Japan and two percent was etched into my mind. At the time, I didn’t think much of it except that the number was shockingly low compared to the other countries they mentioned and that maybe it would be cool to go to Japan someday. So, I wrote in my notebook (which I believe I still have somewhere) “Maybe go to Japan someday.” Little did I know God would not let me forget those words.

 

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