Hayama Missionary Seminar 1989
INTRODUCING: SHOWA, X DAY AND BEYOND by Paul P. Clark
Welcome to the 30th Anniversary of the Hayama Men’s Missionary Seminar. Our theme is timely and of concern to us each: “Showa, X Day and Beyond: Relating the Christian Mission to the Changing Times in Japan.” The committee’s only second thought about the theme was the real possibility of its being untimely.
The Emperor lives; an hour of crisis and opportunity is impending upon the church in Japan. While the greater responsibility for the gospel’s role in Japan has shifted from the surrogate leadership ministry of the missionary to the Christian Japanese, the missionary’s role as servant has not changed. Only the informed missionary can be of real help. We are here to become help. The Showa era began at Hayama, Kanagawa (6:40 a. m., Christmas Day 1926), and today we are near the beginning of a new era. (Note: The Emperor subsequently died at 6:33 a.m., Sat., Jan. 7, 1989, the last day of the seminar.)
The Showa era virtually bridges the 19th with the 21st century. The unusually long reign of Emperor Hirohito has given a stability to the nation of Japan through industrialization, world war, and a phoenix emergence as a superpower. Japan has achieved a unique place in world history; she has an influence today out of all proportion to her size and material resources. Yet this great people of the Rising Sun are in the greater need of the Christ, the Risen Son.
The missionary has labored through the Showa era with mixed success. Undoubtedly one of the most significant factors in Japan’s success and resistance to Christianity is her backbone of religious grounded nationalism, epitomized in the Emperor. However, with the end of Showa imminent, surely great change is on the horizon. What prince could sustain the past in light of the present? What role can/will the Christian, the church, the gospel play in this hour? Will it be a time of catastrophe or opportunity? What is the prospect for a modern Christian century? How can we be of most help to our Japanese brethren?
This time of changing eras occupies our attention these three days together. Have you ever longed to live out a chapter in past history America’s wild West, a favorite European chapter to you, or to be more serious, to have walked with Jesus? As a matter of fact, we are living out one of the pivotal moments of history; an imminent event is about to become the boundary of a paradigmatic shift in history. We who live in Japan on the so called “Pacific Rim,” what was formerly a “far flung corner” of the earth, live in no dark corner any longer. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it will never forget the history we are about to witness and play a part in—or at least have the opportunity to play a role in. Will we be transformationalists
or will we be conformists? May our time here help us to be agents of change as ambassadors of His reconciliation.
We are caught up in a land of changing times. For the young of today, change is a way of life. They are jaded—or are they? But for the older unto dying, it is a day of confusion. A Christian psychiatrist in our Kansai area recently shared how one of the questions he asked his patients suffering from dementia to discern their contact with reality was, “Are you aware of the Emperor’s illness?” All were aware though that is virtually all they were aware of, and the same patients expressed the fear that the Emperor’s death presented grave danger.
For many, the Emperor remains their spiritual touchstone. The Emperor, never a god in our Western sense, I would propose, is yet indeed perceived as a mediator (versus I Tim. 2:5) of the Holy for them, and necessary to Japan’s and their well being.
The TENNOU (emperor) system has made of Japan a unique people. After all, he isomething that no other people have. Frankly, in history there appears no comparative alternative to this people than God’s people Israel herself. With his prolonged illness, over against our waking to the unexpected headline, “Emperor Dies,” there has been time for changing opinion of what the changing of eras means for us. The prolonged prolonged illness has given time now for changing even these opinions. You will hear of these from the presenters and yourselves, us all; now I would like to get things moving along with some of my own considered opinions.
I think that every day the Emperor lingers is better for the cause of the gospel in Japan. The public soon tired of the media barrage and complained at the economic crunch it has caused—and the visits to the shrines are down by thousands. There is a widening gap between the older Japanese leadership and the younger Japan. Some kind of spiritual revival in times like these is inevitable; times of uncertainty promote the return to religion and in Japan this is always Shinto, not dismissing the new religions or our own opportunity—but will we make it one?
There are fewer kamidana (god shelves) and less ritual attending those in place. There is an increasing secularity about this culture that has always been secular in the “classical” sense. (Please see my Hayama 1987 papers: “The Gospel in the Context of the Japanese Worldview” and “Understanding the Resistance of Japan to Christianity.”) Also, we see individualism creeping into a culture that abhors selfishness. Ise Shrine will be renewed again in 1993. No doubt in this present interim we will see an orgy of nationalism, but the last throes of a mythologically grounded nationalism that will tail out after the ‘93 Ise rites. Revivalism, yes; but reversion, no; only temporary hyperbole. In time I would think we will see an easier opportunity for Japanese to become Christian, and indeed reason to do so.
There can never be another Emperor Hirohito. I have no problem with the transfusions. We would have done as much or more for JFK, Reagan, or Lincoln; ironically, we bled Washington to death in the name of science. Here, I am concerned that when all has been said, we will not have maligned a fellowman, one to whom respect is due, for the kind of man he has been as well as for being Emperor. (This is not to condone the wrongs done by the man.) The rescript on the nature of his being was self motivated and a welcomed surprise to the American Shogun (read Reminiscences, MacArthur, Douglas). General MacArthur was also overwhelmed at the Emperor’s taking personal responsibility for Japan’s actions against the world’s peoples. Remember that man was 44. His only condition for surrender had been that Japan be allowed to remain a nation.
When the Emperor’s voice was heard by the public for the first time, noon August 15, 1945, announcing that Japan in the best interest of herself and the world, was surrendering unconditionally, the root of Japanese religion was, albeit philosophically, cut. While the ramifications of such may take three to four generations, so to speak, to be realized in the populace, that is the hour to which we have come. With the death of the Emperor, few socio economic political changes are to be expected, but there will be an increasing spiritual vacuum. Mythology is insufficient to man’s spiritual needs in the twentieth century, going twenty-first. With our Japanese brethren, it will become our responsibility
seize this opportunity for the Kingdom.
(My footnote to the above is that I am of the firm opinion that, however wrong Japan was to attack, the complicity of FDR in the Pearl Harbor tragedy leaves a graver responsibility on him for being the leader of a so called Christian nation. I wonder if this is not why Japan
always expresses sorrow for the tragedy of the war but never acknowledges her wrongness. Also, having lived next to the grounds of a U.S. concentration camp for Japanese and early in life coming to love this country as a second homeland, I waited and waited for our Congress to finally act with reparations, yet terribly inadequate.)
I was quite disturbed recently while attending a dinner in my honor by the regional tax office where I teach English once a week. In this restaurant offering French cuisine were many Christmas decorations, but across from me was one devastating statement. It was three sheaths of rice, red ribboned with three pine cones and cinnamon sticks. The artist makes the best cultural statements! My mentor says, “Praise the Lord, Madalyn Murray 0’Hair, president of the atheist association, is ugly—otherwise she would be dangerous!” This beautiful wall decoration was a total synthesis of Christianity and Shinto, New Year’s and Christmas. This is the catastrophe we face: not persecution, but syncretism, the loss of a clear messianic call for lost man to be reconciled to his Creator through Christ.
In my opinion, the Paul of Acts 16 was headed for the Silk Road to see the gospel to the Eastern world—but the Macedonian call, the Holy Spirit, and even the Spirit of Christ were necessary to dissuade Paul. He was guided West, in my opinion, that the above syncretistic hiding of the gospel might not happen. Dr. David Hesselgrave relates that his pilgrimage into missiology began when a young doctor came to him at the end of one of his early meetings (early ‘50s) saying, “Hesselgrave Sensei, you will be happy to know I am Shinto, I am Buddhist, and now I am going to be Christian, too.” He was unprepared for that moment. Things have not changed a great deal.
We stand before catastrophe and opportunity. Catastrophe is not inevitable, as formidable an enemy as Japanese ecclecticism is, but neither is the opportunity for the gospel created by a spiritual vacuum a foregone conclusion. The crisis will only be passed successfully by seizing the opportunity in the calling and power of the Holy Spirit to make it such.
Once again in history there is a great door open for the gospel in Japan. However, in the end, seeing how “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” but against very real spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenlies, perhaps all that will be asked of us is to stand. Just let us be found standing firm behind our Japanese brethren in proclaiming the gospel boldly, as we ought to be found doing (Eph. 6:10 20; Luke 17:10)
Panel Presentation (1)
JAPANESE RELIGIOUS MENTALITY by Nathaniel S. Elkins
I may have brought a bombshell. From what I have read of the information, my opinions may be quite controversial. However, as I do not know what any particular individual here believes or practices, I can state my ideas without fear of offending any particular individual.
To tell the truth, I was very surprised when this theme was decided upon. I had never heard of the term “X day”; I did not know that there were Christians concerned with the matter; I had no idea how they might correspond Japanese religion with the Emperor. However, as I began to look into things, I began to understand why many Christians think the Emperor is a factor in Japanese religion, and why I do not.
Let me begin by explaining that I was raised in Japan, and went to Japanese public school. I have had no formal theological training, and I read very little religious material in the way of periodicals or books. I am not interested in what is going on in the religious world, but only interested in what is happening to these people I am preaching the Gospel to. My only source of information concerning the Japanese people is the people themselves—my friends and neighbors. I can confidently say that I understand the Japanese mind, both old and young. And this understanding and communication with the people is what gives me my conclusion concerning this matter. However, I realize that this is not very substantial evidence in a court, and those who believe otherwise will want more concrete evidence. Therefore, I took a month of my time and conducted a survey, the results of which you have in your hands. (See page 7ff.)
This survey was taken from the general public, and religious groups were not surveyed, in order to get as homogenous a result as possible. The most interesting thing though, was that I knew how it would come out. As I began the survey, I spoke to many Japanese, both Christian and non Christian. All of them were incredulous: “How could anyone think that the Emperor passing away would have any effect on the Japanese religious mind?” But more and more I saw that many Christians thought and acted in that way. In fact, I heard a Korean pastor (I realize the Koreans have a legal bone to pick with the Emperor) say that the only reason the Gospel is not accepted in Japan is because of the Emperor. I think this statement could be made only if one were not aware of the facts of the Japanese religious mentality. And here is my bottom line: the non acceptance of the Gospel is not epitomized in the Emperor, it is in the Japanese religious mentality itself. This is what I hope to show.
The Japanese Religious Mentality
First, let us examine Question 3. This shows that almost four out of five claim to be non religious. You may think, there sure are lots more Buddhists that turn me away when I go door to door. Point one: a believer in Buddhism and a person whose family religion is Buddhism are two different things. Of course, anybody will use any excuse to evict a religious salesman. You can read in the encyclopedia that Shinto is the religion of Japan and laugh. Many younger people nowadays have never even heard of Shinto. It is shut out of many schools, in fact. I had to inform several adults my age that Shinto is the religion of the jinja (shrine). Some do not even know the difference between jinja and tera (temple). But they go to hatsumode (visit the shrine at New Year’s time), they go through the rituals, and if you look at Questions
13 to 15, four out of five consider these rituals to be non religious. How in the world, you may ask, can a person bow his head and say a prayer and consider it not to be religious? You are meeting the Japanese religious mind.
We must consider, then, what is religion to the Japanese? One of the gentlemen surveyed wrote a note saying, “It can be said that the Japanese people do not have a religion”. Of course, this depends on what you define as religion, but if you define it as something you would have faith in, and trust to be true, then his statement is one of the most profound made by a Japanese.
In order to show what sort of religious mind Japanese have, I would like to begin with an incident that occurred last year here at the seminar. After a presentation, an individual remarked that many science students he knew were afraid of ghosts. Upon which, laughter erupted in the room. This made me (and probably others who have been in Japan for a long time) very sad, for it showed how little the Japanese mind is understood. Questions 9 and 10 show that many Japanese believe in the existence of spirits, but not that many think they are related to religion. They are simply a reality, scientific or not. So, if they are not a religious entity, appeasing them could not be a religious act. Indeed, when we were cutting down a tree in our yard, one of the neighbors ran and got some salt and sake to throw on the tree, so the spirit would not harm us. He claims to be non religious; he was only acting on what he considered to be factual reality. The same can be said for a popular concept of God or gods.
I have been talking about the “Japanese” religious mentality, but we must realize that not all Japanese think or believe in the same way, especially in these changing times. There are several types, although most have a good deal in common. The survey showed that these types are pretty well independent from age groups or sex. In fact, age was hardly a factor at all.
1. The religious formalist
This is the Japanese as such. They attend the Shinto and Buddhist rituals, but consider them to be non religious (Q14). They have both butsudan (Buddhist altar) and kamidana (Shinto god shelf) in their homes, and do not consider it to be contradictory, or have never even thought of it at all (Q16). They would rather have an Emperor, but he has no religious significance, and definitely no relationship to their own faith or rituals (Q20 24). They have a family religion, but its main significance is getting a grave plot. They consider all religions to be pretty well the same, and while they might not consider Christianity, have no objections about it. The idea that all religions worship a common deity, and that all religions are good, is widely accepted in this group. This group generally considers itself to be non religious, except for fending off an occasional religious door to door salesman.
2. The religious traditionalist
This group, like the first, gets its religion through the family. Unlike the first group, it holds a certain amount of religious faith in it. How dedicated each individual is varies greatly, so while some might only have a slightly above average interest, others may be totally dedicated. What separates this group from the next is the fact that the religion is family oriented, the main factor in keeping the faith.
3. The non traditional religionist
This is a small group. It is those who have forsaken the family religion for another. Whether they become Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, or whatever, they have chosen the religion themselves. Their dedication to this religion will depend on two things: one, the nature
of the group they have joined, and two, how much trouble they had in forsaking the family religion. Understandably, firstborn sons have far more trouble in forsaking the family religion, therefore once committed to another religion, they are more dedicated than others.
In some cases it is difficult to define cults, but generally we consider religions characterized by brainwashing and unnatural zeal to be cults; examples are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, “Moonies,” and Sokagakkai. What is most unique about this group is that they have a concept of an Absolute. The absence of this concept in Japanese history (with rare exception) is the reason for the undefinable religious concept that gives foreigners so much trouble. Insisting on an Absolute may in itself cause public dislike. So cults do not enjoy much general popularity.
5. Non religionists
Then there are those who refuse to accept any kind of religion, traditional or otherwise. Question 5 had the greatest unanswered rate, and many wrote in saying that they would not choose a religion, not even for “pretend.” This shows a significant group who have a great dislike for any religion in any form. This is supported by Question 6, the general “image of religion”: incomprehensible 34.1%, gloomy 24.6%, brainwashing 22%. In other words, the words “religion” and “cult” are synonymous in many minds. This is also supported by the notes given by the surveyees. This Group 5 with Group 1 comprises most of the Japanese population.
So when we talk about the Japanese religious mind, we must remember that each person may be different, and needs to be understood before receiving the Gospel. Generally, their religious mind will be full of contradictions, a world which reason cannot enter into, a world in which absolutes are non existent. We must not force western ideas upon them, but lead them to John 3:16 via Genesis 1:1.
1. Very few Japanese have clear cut religious ideas, so imposing or attacking clear cut ideas from the beginning will but serve to confuse them.
2. Very few Japanese actually have faith in any religion, so we must know the individual before discussing his religious ideas.
3. Most Japanese consider rituals to be non religious, therefore taking part in a ritual says nothing about his religious ideas.
4. Most consider the Emperor to be nothing more than the symbol of Japan, so attacking him as the head of Shintoism can serve little purpose. In fact, we might as well consider any effect by “X day” to be insignificant.
5. Many consider religion to be “dangerous,” “weird,” “cultish,” so personal connection must precede evangelizing in most cases.
6. Although most have little knowledge and much misinformation about Christianity, it has a fairly good image (Q7), so what becomes important is the angle of approach, mainly trying to understand the individual.
7. We have the responsibility to respect and obey the king, thereby giving our testimony as servants of the King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator, Judge and Saviour of all mankind (I Pet. 2:13 15).
Survey Results for Hayama Men’s Seminar 1989 – Nathaniel Elkins
These are results of a survey taken for this seminar. 179 were surveyed, 106 men and 73 women. All were high-school or above.
1. Sex: Male = 59.2% Female=40.8%
2. Age: Under 29= 44.7% twenties=25.1% thirties=15.1%
Forties=12.3% fifty & over=2.8%
3. Do you profess to have faith in a religion?
Yes= 20.7% No=0.5% Unanswered=0.5%
4. If “yes” to religious, which religion?
Buddhism “new religions”=10.8%
More than one=13.5%
5. Those who answered “no” give reason(s)
No need=44.7% Incomprehensible=23.4% no particular reason=18.4%
No opportunity=7.8% don’t like religion=7.8% other=6.4% unanswered=6.4%
6. What is your image of religion?
Incomprehensible=34.1% gloomy=24.6% brainwashing=22%
Operated for profit=15.1% group of weak people=12.3% reliable=8.9%
Happiness=8.4% unreliable=5.6% helps society=2.8% other=8.9%
7. If you were to choose a religion, which one would you choose?
Buddhism=34.1% Christianity=33% Shintoism=7.3% other=6.1%
More than one=0.6% unanswered=18.4%
8. Do you think that God or gods actually exist?
Yes=13.4% Probably yes=15.1% Probably no=11.7% No=12.3%
Might exist but don’t know=22.3% don’t know=9.5% unanswered=2.8%
9. Do you think that “spirits” exist?
Yes=63.1% no=12.3% don’t know=21.25 unanswered=3.4%
10. Do you think spirits and religion are related?
Greatly related=7.3% to a certain extent=34.6% not related=21.8%
Depends=19% don’t know=15.6% unanswered=1.7%
11. When you get married, what style of ceremony would you prefer? If you are already desired, which style is desirable?
Shinto=28.5% Buddhist-4.5% Christian=24.6% non-religious=27.9%
Other=15.6% more than one=1.1% unanswered=1.7%
How did you chose the answer you gave for question 11?
Religion=4.5% atmosphere=34.6% both religion and atmosphere=5%
Tradition=22.9% no particular reason=8.4% unanswered=11.2%
ABOUT JAPANESE RELIGION
13. Do you participate in Shinto rituals, such as hatsixode and omairi? yes 87.2% no 12.8%
14. Those who answered "Yes", do you think that these rituals are religious?
tradition, therefore religion is not a factor 43.6% only forms, no religion
whatsoever 28.2% related to religion, but unrelated to own faith 12.2%
*rituals are religious 2.5% don't know 10.3% unanswered 2.6%
15. Those who answered "no", do you think these rituals are religious? *yes 43.5% no 56.6%
*(those who answered "yes" to Q14 and Q15 were generally the same group which professed faith in one religion or another.)
-1 Those who answered "yes" for 15, give reason for not participating. different from own religion 40% don't like religion 30%
no particular reason 20% other 10%
-2 Those who answered "no" for 15, give reason for not participating.
seems bound by tradition 7.7% seems gloomy 7.7% don't like crowds 34.5%
no particular reason 30.8% unanswered 15.4%
16. Many Japanese homes have both butsudan and Aawidana, does this seem contradictory? very much
8.9% more or less 10.1% not very much 35.8% not at all 20.1%
never considered 20.1% don't know 10.1% unanswered 1.7%
17. Do you think that Japanese religion has become hollow (only forms), as often said? totally hollow
14.5% quite hollow 24.6% more or less 11.7% very little 4.5%
not at all 0% don't know 41.9% unanswered 5.6%
18. What do you think of inheriting one's family religion?
must inherit 7.3% better to inherit 14% individual should decide 44.7%
should not inherit, unless true believer 9.5% don't know 9.5% other l.l% unanswered 3.4%
19. Do you think the myths in "Kojiki" actually happened?
yes 28.5% no 53.6% unanswered or don't know 17.9% ∎ABOUT THE EMPEROR
20. The Emperor is called the "symbol of Japan", but do you think he represents more?
yes, very much 10.1% more or less 19.6% not very much 21.2% not at all 24.6% don't know 22.9% unanswered 1.7%
21. What do you think of abolishing the Imperial system?
must not abolish 14.5% better not to abolish 26.2% better to abolish 14%
should abolish 18.4% can't say 24.6% unanswered 2.2%
22. If the Imperial system were abolished, would your religious ideals change?
yes, greatly 2.2% more or less 4.5% very little 17.3% not at all 43%
don't know 15.1% Emperor and own faith are unrelated 14.5% unanswered 1.7%
23. If the Imperial system were abolished, would you stop participating in Shinto rituals?
Yes=0% no=93.9% unanswered=3.9%
24. In the event of “X-day”, would your religious ideals change?
Yes, greatly 0.6% some change=24.6% very little=60.9%
None at all=12.3% don’t know=1.7%
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men . . . Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
1 Peter 2:13-15, 17
Some notes given by the surveyees CONCERNING RELIGION
"I think religion is useless ... a group of crazy people." --high-school-age boy "
“.... peaceful image”; “something you trust when in trouble” high school age boy
"Too much faith in a religion is not good." --high-school-age girl
"It can be said that the Japanese have a religion;
it can also be said that they do not have a religion." --school teacher, twenties
"I cannot trust any religion that exists today." --man, twenties
"The word 'religion' carries a 'dangerous' meaning for Japanese ... like the Soka-gakkai or Risshokoseikai ... but don’t all religions worship the same 'God'?" woman, twenties
"The Japanese idea of religion and Shinto are totally different.” Man, thirties
“I believe in myself.” man, thirties
“I believe in both Shintoism and Buddhism: I did not choose them, I inherited them.” School teacher, twenties
CONCERNING THE EMPEROR
"There is no need for the Imperial system, since many do not even consider the Emperor to be the symbol of Japan." --high-school-age boy
"The Imperial system is better for the stability of the country." --high-school-age boy
“a waste of tax money" --many of all ages gave this opinion
"The Emperor has nothing to do with me." --high-school-age girl
"I think the present Emperor is the last, in the true meaning of'Emperor'." --high-school-age girl
"Why should the people have to suffer?" --high-school-age girl
"The Imperial system is unique to Japan; we should keep it as a tradition." --high-school-age girl
"The presence of the Emperor can only lead to martial rule ... deification of the Emperor and freedom of religion are two different things. --school teacher, twenties
"The Emperor is a central figure in the communication between our world and the world of the gods." --man, twenties
"The Emperor is the symbol of Japan, and has nothing to do with my personal life."--woman, thirties
"The relationship between the symbolic Emperor and Shintoism in the post war era is very vague; there is always the theoretical possibility of a reversion." --man, thirties
"A deified Emperor and human rights cannot coexist." --man, forties
PANEL PRESENTATION (2): ON BEING PROPHETIC
by Alf Idland
It is difficult to be a prophet, especially regarding the future! is at least a Norwegian statement, and it contains a certain amount of obvious wisdom.
Looking back to what I thought only a few months ago about the events in connection with the passing of the present Emperor and now realizing how different reality so far has turned out to be, I feel very hesitant in trying to predict how a post Showa era will turn out to be and the ways in which the Church may be affected. That the Emperor's illness would strike the country as a major crisis, as portrayed in the media particularly in the beginning, was far beyond my imagination.
However, I do think that it is possible to interpret some of the signs we are seeing today in order to foresee implications for a postShowa period. And I would like to point to a few developments which I consider very possible. Let me add, however, that I would be most happy if some of my "prophecies" will not be fulfilled.
The reactions regarding the Emperor's illness have, in my opinion, proved that his influence probably goes much deeper than many of us had suspected. The perception of the Emperor as if not a god but at least as a mythical symbol of the ultimate moral authority of the state of Japan, is still strong among those in positions of power and influence. Reports in Japan Times of one school having introduced the Imperial Rescript issued by Emperor Meiji in 1890, for daily chanting by the students, or reports of present educators looking to the Rescript for inspiration in their efforts towards educational reforms, are hardly accidental signs which can be just shrugged off.
The Church will probably again face challenges from a form of state Shinto which I am afraid gradually will succeed in paving its way into post Showa society. With a form of state Shinto, through probably in many ways differing from the extreme fascism of prewar years, the question will be to what extent there will be pressures among people in public position towards common attitudes so that everybody has to conform to what is supposed to be the right behavior. Will a Christian government official, for instance, be free to refrain from participation in official shrine visits? I suppose it will be just a question of time before Yasukuni Shrine is declared not a religious but a cultural monument and therefore open to official visits.
Against the background of the strong emphasis on self restraint, or in Japanese jishuku (a word which reminds many of the older generation the much used expression jisei during the prewar years), and of the unspoken pressures during these last couple of months towards a common attitude and behavior, it is difficult to be very optimistic concerning the prospects for individual freedom in a social context in a post Showa period. Personally I am afraid we will see problems arise as loyalties are being tested through the willingness to conform to an officially prescribed behavior and attitude.
Even if a revival of prewar Emperor worship practices is unlikely, the ways of testing loyalties through readiness to conform may prove equally difficult to handle also because a strong element of patriotism/ nationalism will be part of this. Rejection of participation will be interpreted as un Japanese and could be open for social sanctions.
If the ties between influential LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) leaders and right wing groups are as strong as people with inside knowledge claim, we will probably see forces gain momentum which promote nationalistic and patriotic values. The immediate goal will be a re
writing of the Constitution, among others dropping the so called "peace paragraph," in order to open up for a legitimatization and possible expansion of Japan's military strength.
Though the work of the Church may not be affected directly in such a situation, I suppose much depends to what extent the government will allow and tolerate opposition to its basic course. The Church could be tempted to "stay within the spiritual realm" in its work and preaching, thus avoiding all controversial issues. This would serve two purposes: 1) avoid alienating members and potential members and 2) avoid political pressures and criticism.
In a situation of financial strain the first consideration may play the greater role in deciding the attitude of the Church. Many congregations can hardly afford to alienate potential members, far less lose some of their present members. Then I am afraid that the Church will not fulfill its mission of being a prophetic voice in society. What the implications could be of acting and living as a prophetic Church are being sufficiently illustrated by the reactions to the courageous statement by the Mayor of Nagasaki regarding any responsibility of the Emperor for the war.
This will most likely also affect us as foreigners and missionaries living in Japan. So far we have enjoyed much freedom and tolerance also in publicly stating our opinions. Seeing the forces at work these days I am not so sure if we will be able to enjoy the same privileges in the future. And the question will be whether we are easily intimidated into silence about the ethical and moral consequences of our Christian faith. Will we end up preaching God's kingdom of love, peace and justice exclusively in the abstract manner which only serves to appease authorities without liberating people?
The likeliness of outspoken foreigners being denied a renewal of their visa or being expelled will probably increase. I am afraid that most of us live with mission boards which would rather see our presence in Japan secured than a prophetic mission being carried out.
Will pressures from mission boards move the missionary community in a direction where emphasis is on a "spiritualized" evangelical outreach so as not to jeopardize missionary work in Japan? Such a development could strongly affect the way the churches, or at least some churches, in Japan would tackle future challenges, though the painful experiences before and during the last war will probably keep some churches awake and committed to the task of being a prophetic voice in spite of risks.
A development along this line would certainly diminish the influence of the Church in the post Showa Japanese society, as the government and governmental institutions might even portray the "quiet" churches as "the true churches preaching the gospel and not involving themselves in politics" and in this way try to split the Christian community. Especially if the government tried, in subtle ways, to reward churches sticking to their "main objective of saving souls."
Even if the number of Christians as baptized members of a church is small, the influence of Christianity in society is still relatively strong. The government knows this and may therefore be more concerned with the churches than their numbers should indicate.
In conclusion of this opening statement I would like to summarize my position as follows: I think the Church will face its greatest challenge after the war in the post Showa period. This may not be so apparent in the beginning as the new reign probably will mean no abrupt changes, politically or socially. However, the forces at work which have become very clear during the last few months will, if they are
allowed to gain influence, gradually transform the social climate in the country and result in attitudes and behavior which will be in conflict with a Christian understanding.
One reason which makes this a likely development is the fact that Western Europe and the U. S. at the moment see a strengthening of rightist or right wing forces. As one example of this can be mentioned the issue of attitudes towards immigrants and refugees in many European countries today. In Norway where we still have a minority Labor Party government, the Church and political parties/groups of the right are clashing over these questions. It would surprise me if we would not see, in spite of the many differences between Japan and Europe, a similar development take place here.
PANEL PRESENTATION (3): POTENTIAL OF YOUTH
by John LaDue
Japan has probably one of the most interesting youth cultures in the world today. Interesting because of the extremes that seem to be represented from the Toudai (Tokyo University) student, considered to be the "top" or "cream of the crop" in Japan, to the punk in Harajuku yet their daily thought patterns do not run to the same extremes. Both basically believe that the core of the culture is unchangeable, yet live in or as close to the "veneer" as possible. In other words, the face of the society (tatemae in Japanese) seems to be very liberal and accepting, while the core of its presuppositions feel as unchanging as they were during the Edo period 130 years ago.
The core of its presuppositions was exposed when the Edo period "fell." The "we Japanese" thought pattern, as it is called today, stems from those Shinto beliefs that Japan is a chosen people, divinely endowed. One of the strongest "spirits" exposed out of that period was the "spirit of control"; the "we do it this way" answer so often received when asked why something is done in such a way.
This spirit is also seen throughout Japanese culture. For example, the kaisha (company) that demands total allegiance of its employees, the school system that also gives no place for personal opinion or creativity, or the family that in many cases is controlled by the wife or mother in law.
The passing away of the Showa period is causing one of the greatest challenges for today's Japan. In many areas we are seeing what looks like a challenging of this system such as the education "reforms" that were attempted by Prime Minister Nakasone, and the supposed loosening of Japanese trade restrictions. But one question seems to loom larger than all the supposed change and that is, are we really seeing change, or is it Japan taking one step back and, in time, two forward? The Japanese call their society a furoshiki (cloth wrapper) society, which means it is a very flexible one. You can put all different sizes of
objects into the furoshiki and it will accommodate them, but the size of the furoshiki is always the same. So the society appears to accommodate many changes, but its basic beliefs are always the same.
The youth of Japan have been experiencing or tasting these changes with the same tenacity that the older generation has used to "conquer the world" economically. This is causing the veneer of the society to be almost as thick as the core. The question is, who will win out when the core loses its central figure, Tennbheika (the Emperor)? Because the thought patterns of the youth are so similar, will they join together and just seemingly accommodate the strong right movement to control even more of the society, or will they be toppled and forced to flow along with the rest of the system?
One more very important area of observation is in I Samuel 15:13, "...stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." The idol worship in Japan has and is fueling the stubbornness of this controlling spirit giving it momentum to overcome anything in its path.
There was a similar youth movement back in America around the sixties. These young people also saw many problems in the culture and began to rebel against it. Most were looking for truth or freedom through whatever method they could find: drugs, sex, music, etc. Many went to California in their search, and at that time there was a pastor who began to feel the needs of these young people. He opened his church doors to them, offering concerts and other things to draw them in. When they began to come, his congregation was quite leery of them because they looked and smelled so different and many were taking drugs. One incident occurred over a new rug that had been purchased and placed on the floor in front of the podium where many of the young people sat during the church service in their bare feet. The church people said, "What are we going to do? These 'hippies' are ruining the new carpet." The pastor had a very good idea: "Throw the carpet out," he said.
During this season in Japan we need to "throw the carpet out." In other words, take the time to listen to what the youth have to say, especially those who are visibly making a statement. "There is nothing new under the sun" and quite possibly God is allowing the cycle to repeat itself here in Japan. Returning to the story of the pastor in California, that church is currently one of the largest churches in America with over 300 branch churches all over the world.
The next season for the church in Japan is probably the most crucial it has ever experienced. Those that will not observe the death of the Emperor with a "holy reverence" could be subjected to severe pressure to do so, causing a type of black listing for those people or groups. Of course, the church will not give the death of the Emperor this place and by not doing so could be high on such a list.
Is there anything that can be done to prevent this tide of greater control from coming? The Bible tells us, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12). We must battle against these evil forces by prayer, real intercessory prayer for our nation. "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds" (II Cor. 10:3,4).
If we will stand together as the body of Christ in faith, united in prayer against these forces of darkness, we have the opportunity to see one of the greatest moves of the Spirit here in Japan. I pray that God will open our eyes to see the signs of the times and the battle that is raging for men's souls here in Japan, so that God's purposes may be completely accomplished in our nation at this time.
PANEL PRESENTATION (4): UNCHANGING EMPEROR SYSTEM
by Robert Lee
Although daily we have been bombarded by T. V. messages announcing the gravity of the emperor's illness, implying the imminence of X day and the end of the Showa era, I need to report that the imperial institution is in excellent health and will gain in strength in the transition period from the old Showa (enlightened peace) to the new Heisei (achieving peace) era.' In this period of nearly two years of national mourning, culminating in the final enthronement ceremonies of the new emperor Z,
the nation will undergo ritually death and resurrection, eliciting renewed commitment to Japan and the emperor system in the new era beyond X day.
Nearly twenty years ago the sociologist Robert N. Bellah began his essay, "Continuity and Change in Japanese Society," with the rhetorical question:
“How does it happen that the nation with the highest average economic growth rate for the last 100 years is also the only complex society with a Bronze Age monarchy, where the emperor until recently was believed to be the lineal descendent of the Sun Goddess and himself in some sense divine?” 3
Writing about the same time, the historian John Hall in his essay, "A Monarch for Modern Japan," noted:
“Few Asian nations entered the modern world by strengthening a monarchical system rather than destroying it .... Reborn out of the ashes of military defeat and wartime disillusionment, the Showa emperor by virtue of retaining the same body under a new constitutional system, has again become the symbol of continuity despite drastic change.” 4
Twenty years later as we watch the close of one era and the beginning of another, there is every reason to expect that the imperial system, that is, the imperial lineage that has extended backwards to time "immemorial,"5 will also extend forward beyond X day in continuity with its past.
The reasoning is simple, although the analysis (which I must forego here) is complex.6 Since the time of Shotoku Taishi (574 622) or earlier (the Emperor Oujin of late fourth century), the imperial lineage or the Sun goddess line, has been the symbol of the Japanese people. In the beginning it exercised both sacerdotal duties and political power. Gradually, by the Kamakura period, it lost its power to rule politically. In the Tokugawa period the Sun lineage was reduced to the role of repository of the sovereignty of the nation, since the Tokugawa shogunate clearly held all political and military power. This role was reaffirmed in a new way in the Meiji Restoration .7 At the end of World War II the significance of the imperial system was further reduced, when the new constitution shifted the locus of sovereignty to the people. Thus, over a period of time the imperial system as the symbol of the nation became clearly differentiated from the social system of the national polity (earlier, called kokutai ).
Although deprived of its power of political rule, then of its role as the sole legitimacy of the state, the imperial system did not lose its significance. Instead, it became more powerful as a symbol system, a symbol of the unity of the Japanese people.8 Symbolically, the contem-
porary meaning of the term "emperor" has become synonymous with the modern idea of nationhood, as separated from the ideas of the state or government of Japan. Sociologically, the imperial system functions as a religious symbol system that integrates meaning and motivation. It is the symbol of the eternal moral order that provides ultimate meaning to the land, the people and society of Japan. It includes all the traditional idealism of the Japanese people, such notions that the spirit of human personality (ningensei) is pure and true, that human relationships are based upon a hierarchy of loyalty that the Japanese land, people and society are unique in human history.
Below the emperor and sharply differentiated from him are the "men of action" who function in the (dirty) realm of politics and administration. While the emperor remains pure, transcendent of society and eternal, the "men of action" are often less than pure, involved in the ambiguities of daily life, and therefore always expendable.l0 When caught in such activities as the current "Recruit scandal,"11 they are embarrassed before the eyes of the nation and the emperor because of their lack of purity; hence, they apologize to the nation and the emperor, and finally they are properly replaced.
In contrast, all that is eternally pure, true or beneficent is symbolized in the emperor. For the Japanese the honor of the nation, such as the past success of the Olympics, the current economic boom, or the intense national drive for international recognition, all redound to their self consciousness of being Japanese, being a branch family of the imperial household.l2 In other words, the Japanese self identity is symbolized by the emperor, not in a literal belief of a divine emperor, since the younger Japanese understand the symbolic value of myth, but in the sense that all that is pure and true of being Japanese is embodied in the emperor, whose being coincides with the history of Japan.
In summary, the emperor system has become the symbol of national pride of purity of intention and conscience, and of historical continuity that has maintained national stability in times of great social, political and economic change.