As Japan continues to replace one Prime Minister after another, there is at least one constant – the increasing input of Shinto and nationalism into the schools. At the beginning of this year there was a meeting of all teachers in each district to be told that Shinto myths have now to be taught to all children.
Shinto festivals are already being emphasized as necessary “culture” – the cover word to disguise this religious input. This persistent trend is largely going unnoticed. Christian parents and teachers will need discernment to see it and courage to raise their voices against it.
Christianity has had a harsh history in Japan – facing much persecution over the centuries, but still the gospel is being shared. Nevertheless with 128 million people, of whom only 0.04 percent are evangelical Christians, the 20 plus WEC church planters in Japan are spread thin.
Jocelyn a Kiwi WEC church planter in Japan since 1984, has five ladies attending a monthly seekers’ Bible study. One has had a lot of contact with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past and is still inclined to believe their teaching, although she is gradually moving away from it. Others have been around for ten years, ever since the church started, but without taking the step of believing in the Lord. “I was asked recently if it was possible to be both a Christian and a Buddhist,”
Questions such as these typify the difficult context within which missionaries like Jocelyn minister.
Some recent surveys report that 65 percent of Japanese have no religion. However, 90 percent of Japanese people visit graves to pray and 80 percent go to a shrine at New Years. Shinto officially claims 109 million followers, Buddhism 96 million and Christianity 1.46 million. Interestingly, the sum of these figures is nearly twice Japan’s population, a syncretistic situation unparalleled in other countries.