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Finding Christianity in Japan, Where Believers Are a Small Minority

夕日に照らされる十字架。画像はFlickrユーザーのSharonより。

Sunset illuminates a crucifix. Image courtesy Flickr user Sharon.

In terms of number of followers, Christianity is often considered a major world religion. However, there are very few Christians in Japan, where less than 1% of the population observes the Christian faith.

In Japan, spirituality as it is understood and practiced in the West or in the Judeo-Christian tradition is not common. For the average Japanese person, Christianity is associated mainly with getting married in a faux chapel with a faux priest.

What an awesome chapel wedding (/_;)/

Using pseudonyms, some Japanese people are going online to profess their Christian faith. One blog post in particular has prompted dozens of comments about Christianity in Japan.

In the blog post, an anonymous blogger in Japan describes his relationship with Christianity:

「周囲の人はうまく出来てるのにどうして自分はできないのか」という劣等感があって、周囲の人に冷たくされる度に怒りと悔しさで泣きたくなって、なんで自分だけという気持ちだった。

よく言われるように、世界を変えるには自分が変わるしかない。

そこでひらめいてしまった。神様的なものが愛してくれると思えばもしかしていいんじゃないか?と。

こんな自分でも神様は愛してくれる、神様は認めてくれる。これが結構いい感じにはまって、気持ちは楽になるし心も落ち着いた。

正直なところ神様が居るとは思ってないし信じているとは言いがたい。

でもとりあえずそこに居るという事にして、神的なものに愛されていると思うようにしたら、それじゃあこんなに愛してくれる神的なもののために感謝しましょうと思うようになったんだけど、この感謝が非常に良い。

恥ずかしながら、今までどれだけ他人に感謝せずに生きてきたのかを思い知らされた

I have an inferiority complex: why is it that the people around me are so successful, yet I can accomplish nothing? So when others around me are cold to me, I feel like crying with sorrow and rage, and wonder why it is that I alone must suffer like this.

It's often said that if you want to change the world, then you must change yourself. And it came to me in a flash. Maybe all that I can do is accept that there's some sort of divine being who loves me.

Speaking truthfully, however, I don't believe that God exists, and so it is hard for me to say that I have faith.

But I tried assuming God exists and imagined myself loved by that kind of existence, which led me to thank him for his abundant love. I never experienced something better than this thankfulness. I am ashamed to say that made me realise how I had been unthankful to others.

The blogger here is conflicted; he wants to have Christian faith, but is unsure if God even exists.

However, it seems religious devotion brought the blogger bewilderment as well as joy.

ああでも待って、これって宗教にはまるコースまっしぐらじゃない?というかはまってない?

でも、一度感銘を受けたものを追い出すのは無理、もう手遅れだけど、今のところ教えは人間として生きるのに非常に真っ当な事しか言ってないので、もっと聞きたい、それに近づいて豊かな生活を送りたいという気持ちがあるんだけど、宗教だし、と思うと迷う。

親は嫌がるだろうなぁ。まああの人達は何をやっても反対するから、何をやろうとたいして変わらんか。

他人には言えないなぁ

Oh, but wait, isn’t this a typical pattern of involvement with a religion? Or am I already involved with it?

I cannot expel something that has made an impression on my heart. It is too late to think it over anyway. The doctrine teaches me to how to live life as a human and it all sounds very decent to me. I am inclined to listen to it, and live a spiritually rich life by coming closer, but I cannot make up my mind because it is a religion.

I guess my parents would not like me believing in religion. Oh well, since they contradict me no matter what I do, what I do makes little difference.

I must keep this feeling secret.

Many commenters responded negatively to the post. Commenter takass32 denied the existence of a god.

実際には存在しない「自分に寛容且つ立派な人」を脳内にシミュレートできる、つまり信じられる事が宗教の本質なのかと思いました。

I suppose the ability to imagine or believe in a non-existent person who is honorable and tolerant of yourself is the essence of religious devotion.

honeybe, another commenter on the blog post, had a more positive opinion about having faith, but also made it a point to highlight the negative aspects of religion.

別に宗教にハマることは悪いことではない。周りの人間に悪影響をおよぼすこと(しつこい勧誘、なにかを売りつける、宗教的観念を押し付ける等)が悪なので。

There is nothing wrong with getting involved with a religion unless you generate a negative effect on people around you, such evangelising persistently, trying to sell religious tracts, or imposing religious ideas.

Commenter ketudan considered the possibility that the blogger may be in danger of joining a cult.

残念ながらキリスト教もカルト・新興宗教だらけなので一度その教会や会派の名前でググるくらいはしておいたほうがいい。俺も昔宿題で近所の「確かな教会」に礼拝に行ったが和室でギター掻き鳴らす邪教の館だった。

Unfortunately, there are tons of cults and new religions that define themselves as “Christian”, so I advise you to Google the name of that church or the religion.

I had a homework assignment once to attend a service in the past so I visited “a decent church” in the neighborhood, but what I found there was a kooky cult in which someone pretending to be a minister played the guitar in a Japanese-style room.

gohankun felt sympathy for the sheer difficulty of having a religious faith in Japan.

日本で特定の宗教を持つというのはしんどいことだよね。クリスチャン家庭に生まれて自分もクリスチャンなので色々辛い思いもしてきたし今も時々するよ。欧米に生まれてたらどんなに楽かと何度も思ってきた。

It sure is tiring to have a particular religion in Japan. I have undergone hardships because I come from a Christian family and I am a Christian, too. I still suffer sometimes. There are times when I wish I had been born in the West. Life would be much easier then.

Commenter nows_s came to the conclusion that religion is just another way to get through life.

人生は、一人で立ち向かうには重過ぎるので、神仏に帰依したり、国家にすがったり、恋愛や2次元キャラやニコチンや酒に溺れたりする。それで何とか気楽に生きてけるなら、まあ、いいじゃん

Life is too much for one person to confront, so we submit to the gods, rely on a country, or become addicted to love affairs, two-dimensional characters, nicotine, or alcohol. If that somehow enables us to live an easy life, then, what's the problem?

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