Japan: the Land of Mystery

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Japan is home to over 127 million people.  About one-quarter of the population is concentrated in the greater Tokyo area, the world’s largest metropolis. Another 25% is concentrated in three other major metropolitan areas. Japan has one of the highest population densities in the world with 536 people per square mile.

Culturally the Japanese are one of the most homogenous people groups in the world. Over 99% of the people are Japanese and more than half of the non-Japanese population is Korean. In 2002 Japan had the lowest birth rate since World War II.  Japan is an aging society. 18 1/2 percent of the population is over 65 years old. This is the only age bracket that is growing in Japan.Japan is also one of the least evangelized countries.

Many Japanese are indifferent and skeptical toward organized religion. Yet, about 84% of the Japanese claim to adhere to both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs. While 36% believe there is life after death, about 36% believe that death is the end completely.

Shinto is the native religion of Japan and the Emperor of Japan is thought to be the high priest.  Shinto is rooted in animism and its many millions of gods or spirits are known as kami. Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the Sixth Century and is influential because of its emphasis on ancestoral worship. Less than .5% of the Japanese are Christian, which means less than one of every 200 people is Christian.

There is dissatisfaction with the present and despair about the future, although outwardly they seem to have few needs and are often obsessed with pleasure, money, and peer group opinion. Bullying at school, entrance exams, and peer pressures lead to fear among children and youth. Family life is in a period of unprecedented crisis. Divorce and suicide rates are escalating at an alarming rate.  About a third of married women confess to having at least one abortion.

The prolonged recession which began in the early 1990s causes major fear in adult males. Approximately 800 Japanese men kill themselves each week. In the past decade, the suicide rate among men has increased by nearly 70%. Most of these are among 40s and 50s aged men. Japan has the highest suicide rate in the developed world.

Japan is in what missionologists call the 10/40 Window. Although most countries in this window are not free to evangelize, we have total freedom to share the Gospel in Japan. However, the Japanese have little concept of sin except as it relates to a man centered view of right and wrong. This is a major barrier when one shares the Gospel. You are needed to go or to send. Share your hope in Christ with some who have never heard the Word and watch their faces change before you.