Rambling Notes from Japan
Here are some blog posts that we hope will make you feel a part of things, and help you understand how to pray better for us and Japan. Please see our external blog in Blogger, if this page does not display correctly.
The Feudal Christian "Rebel"
Something seems to have snapped in Matagoro that caused him to want to "get away from it all." He fled across country to the far southern city of Nagasaki. This cross-country journey of some 1200 miles was a remarkable feat in itself in his day. From Nagasaki he boarded a vessel that landed him in Ukujima Island of the Goto Islands chain (map). This was as far away as he could get from his homeland and still be in Japan. It reveals, perhaps, a bit of his despair and desperation.
Man vs. Mountain: The Fuji Climb
The weather was perfect for the climb. We started out at station 5 in early afternoon under clear blue skies and puffy white clouds, making it up to a mountain lodge at station 7 around 6pm or so in time for dinner. The view was breath-taking (and it wasn't just the thin atmosphere). Looking down through some scattered clouds, the entire Fuji five lakes area was visible, and far in the distance a glint of Pacific Ocean. During a curry rice dinner, lightning flashed down below us, though we ourselves were well above whatever was brewing below. Looking at a storm from above is a fascinating angle.
Superstition & Mission (Part 2)
For Japanese, however, such superstitions have permeated (and control) daily life. Japanese readily admit their Shinto polytheistic belief in "millions of gods" (yaoyorozu no kami) present in creation. Buddhist and Taoist gods were even brought over and absorbed into their belief structure. These gods are given to whimsy and must be sought out for blessing and good luck. Punishment and bad luck are just as likely. A whole ecosystem of superstitions are formed to guide one in how to receive or avoid such.
Superstition & Mission (Part 1)
Japan is filled with such superstitions. While some are modern urban legends, many come from the animistic roots of Japan's religious beliefs. The many (millions of) gods and evil spirits in nature are capricious and mischievous. They must be appeased or driven away lest they bring death or misfortune to oneself.
Many superstitions surround the fear of death and suffering. The numbers four and nine are unlucky because they are pronounced in the same way as death (shi) and suffering (ku). Hospitals avoid the use of these numbers for rooms and floors. You'll also never find a set of four dishes in Japan. Plateware comes in sets of three or five.
Signs of the Times?
The signs are lettered in white and yellow calligraphy against a black background. Once they are up, they can remain for decades on end until the structure they are attached to literally begins to crumble. These signs, called "Kirisuto Kanban" (Christ signs), are the work of Christian group called the Bible Distribution Society, founded by a missionary in the 50's and now active only as a loose network of a few people.
All the Way
I last saw grandma in February 2012 when we returned to the States briefly for the extension of Kaori's permanent residence. We were invited to share concerning our work in Japan in the chapel service of her retirement home.
I will not forget the expression of pride and joy on her face as I entered the chapel. She had seated herself in the front row, center, surrounded by her friends to whom she announced proudly, "That's Kevin. That's my grandson!" Though confined to a wheelchair, she seemed to sit on the edge of her seat and crane her neck forward as I shared. Every so often she'd announce again (though there was no reason for anyone to forget), "That's my grandson!"
I felt the love of Father God expressed to me in her loving pride. The same Father God who declared to the world concerning Jesus, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt. 3:17) was now also speaking through my grandmother similar words of affirmation and joy. I will miss you, grandma! (Her poem is below. Keep reading!)
No Higher Calling?
In one sense, though, there is NO "HIGHER" CALLING than one in Tokyo this May 2012. The man placing the last girder at the top of the open-air Sky Tree...now THAT is a HIGH CALLING! I really have to look up to (everyone HAS to look up to) the workers finishing the tower. At 2080ft. tall, it is the tallest tower in the world. Between the Sky Tree and the new Shinjuku tunnel, I have a great respect for the HEIGHTS and DEPTHS of Japanese engineering. It's not just about tiny electronics anymore. Japanese are really good with massive structures.