It′s about the people

It's about the people, eternity, and God's kingdom here in Japan. It about the over 99.5% of these people without Christ, and without a Christian friend who would help them know that this life can be so much more, hope can be had for the future, and heaven can be anticipated. It's not about a faceless, nameless country of Asian humanity, it's about friends we care about. And Jesus cares about so much more. What is Japan to you?

Lots of things in a small, volatile package

Japan consists of four main islands and 6,800 smaller islands covering a total land area less than the state of California. From the tip of northern Hokkaido to the southernmost island of Okinawa, it is roughly the same distance as from Maine to Florida.
Northern Hokkaido has long, harsh winters, while southern Kyushu to Okinawa have a tropical climate year round. Our area of Kawasaki, which falls in the middle of Japan, tends to be very balmy in the winter, and uncomfortably humid in the summer.
Mountains make up nearly 80% of Japan's land space. The Great Kanto Plain, where we live, is the largest flat area in Japan, nearly 75 miles east to west and 150 miles north to south.

Japan sits right along the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of active tectonic plate movement that triggers frequent destructive earthquakes and tsunamis. Japan has over 100 active volcanoes. "Rock and Roll" takes on a very different meaning in this quake prone country.

"Packed like sushi" is not just an expression

Because 80% of Japan is mountainous, the livable area is very limited. Nearly half the population lives on 2% of the land. Over 75% of the 127 million people live in massive city centers. Tokyo alone has 45 million people when all the sprawling suburban areas are included.
The result is tight, vertical living. Even below ground, subways, tunnels and other infrastructure crisscross in layers over each other. In Tokyo we park on top of the store, not in front. We make heavy use of our our eco-friendly vehicle: the bicycle.
Japanese do not have the same attitude about "personal space" that Western people do. What might seem to be extremely tight living or an invasion of privacy to foreigners, is quite normal for Japanese. Houses are built right next to each other. Grass is often only seen in public parks. Being nose to nose with a stranger aboard a train is just part of the regular commute.

Something old, something new...

In Japan, the old and new ways stand side by side. You'll see a Buddhist temple in the shadow of modern skyscrapers. You'll spot a kimono-clad woman walking alongside of those in contemporary dress. You'll even notice many modern homes with traditional Japanese-style rooms that include tatami, or straw matting.
It has been said that Japan has not changed for hundreds of years, but merely adapted to modern ways and lifestyles. It is probably more accurate to say that Japan has learned to effectively transform modern ways and ideas into their own unique cultural expressions.
For example, Japan celebrates Valentines Day as a day when girls give chocolates, but has also added a "White Day" when boys reciprocate. Christmas trees are popular, but not as essential as the Christmas cake. McDonald's sells hamburgers alongside of teriyaki burgers.

Japan loves its tradition, but it enjoys the traditions of other countries, too. Many things from around the world and picked out and blended into an eclectic cultural mix that is simply being Japanese.

The task is so much larger than us

Japan has been called "the missionary graveyard." Once Africa was also a graveyard for missionaries. Many died from infectious disease. "Death" in Japan for missionaries comes in the form of discouragement, loneliness and burnout. The director of a major mission here said, "There is no country in the world where the church has sown the gospel so generously, yet reaped so sparingly."
How do we reach a people that value "being busy" over free time? How do we encourage them to live as a 0.5% minority in a overwhelming non-Christian majority? How do we help them face cultural pressures that demand them to compromise their faith?
Japan has a long history of fearing religion. They care too much about what others think. They don't witness. They value conformity. They are syncretistic about their beliefs. The church lacks male leadership, sufficient pastors, young people, and an atmosphere of joy and grace. The list of complaints pile up for why Japan is so challenging.

The task is too much for us. We turn our eyes to God who says,
"I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" (Jer 32:27). He's our hope. He's at work here even now. We wait on Him!

Japan's Three Waves of Christianity

Missions in Japan can be broken down into three eras that align with great changes in Japan’s political and social landscape. At each of these junctures, Japan was invaded by Western ideology. For a time, Christianity was able to find an inroad to the closed nation, but was eventually met with nationalistic resistance.

Japan nearly became a "Kirishitan" nation

At one time, nearly a third of the country became part of a Christian (Kirishitan) movement. The Kirishtan are indigenous Japanese Christians. They are the descendants of an earlier group of Christians who had come to Japan through China and Korea, from the Middle East.

The Kirishtan were discovered in 1549 A.D. when Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary, arrived in the island nation. He had apparently heard of these early Christians in Japan. He suspected that they had probably lost the fundamentals of faith, having been separated from the remainder of the Church for hundreds of years.

One of Xavier's first acts was to preach the Gospel to these descendants. Many eagerly returned to the faith of their ancestors. Within a year, nearly 10,000 had experienced a revival so dramatic that, by 1600 A.D., the Christian Kirishtan comprised the largest religious group in Japan.

The influence of the revival of the Kiristan was profound. They built hospitals and leprosariums. Many social service agencies were founded by the Kirishtan. Three out of every four Daimyo, or area military rulers, converted. Three million Japanese, out of a population of 10 million were estimated to have become a part of the Kirishtan movement. In Japan, the time was dubbed "The Christian Century." Source:
…but my Savior, Jesus Christ's favor is far more immense than my lord's.

— Juan Goto, feudal Christian "rebel"

Stacks Image 1988
Juan Goto's intransigent "Nuts!" type of response to his feudal lord caused him no small bit of grief. [Read his story here]
Were it not for the persecutions under the brutal Tokugawa regime of feudal Japan (see above timeline), the nation might be Christian today. Yet, God is sovereign in Japan's history.

Why not learn more about Japan?

Why not adopt Japan as your own foreign culture to learn about and explore? God could very well teach and challenge you into new and exciting things, and use your new knowledge for reaching Japanese for Christ. Go ahead! Here are some of the best ways we know:
  • Befriend a Japanese international student or expat family. [How?]
  • Get involved in ministries reaching out to Japanese people. [Like what?]
  • Eat out at a Japanese restaurant (if the above fails). [Where?]
  • Learn some simple Japanese. Start with the a-i-u-e-o's! [Who? Me?]
126 million, 98.4% pure Japanese

Japanese, of course! English is taught from middle school.

Shintoism (national religion) and Buddhism. Also some Confucian and Taoist beliefs. A secular worldview prevails.

In 1947. WorldVenture (then called CBFMS responded to the call for 10,000 missionaries for a devastated postwar Japan)

18 career WorldVenture workers, 2 mid and short-term workers

Focused now on greater Tokyo (the great Kanto plain). 40+ churches, a seminary and campground in northern Japan.
Stacks Image 140

Holidays in Japan

Japan has a lot of national holidays that are connected religious beliefs, historical events, or western influence. Click above to see.

Tradition! Tradition!

The "real" Japan as envisioned by most foreigners. Tradition, culture and religion blend together and still remain a part of modern Japan.

Links on Japan

Learn more about the country we serve. These will get you started.
Kids Web Japan
A kid-friendly approach to Japan.

News on Japan
What's making headlines now.

Japan (Wikipedia)
Overview of Japan on Wikipedia.

Japan National Tourist Agency
Information to help plan a trip.

Japan Reference
Travel and language resources.

The World Factbook
The CIA's factbook on Japan.

Japan Links
Lot of links on every subject.

About Kakure Christians
Hidden Christians during 1600's.

History of Religion in Japan
A very readable overview.
Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any tie, but the ties that bind me to your service and to your heart.

— David Livingstone, missionary to Africa

Stacks Image 2018

Stay in Touch

We'd like to stay in touch with you! Sign up here to receive our paper newsletter and/or monthly email prayer update.

Give to the Vision

Monthly support still needed:
$98 as of
Give securely online through WorldVenture. Gifts receipted.

Our Japan Address

7-30 Imaikami-cho, Nakahara; Kawasaki,
Kanagawa JAPAN 211-0067
Tel 044-819-8791
  Email us

Our Connections

We serve with WorldVenture, an evangelical faith mission. Our sending/home church is Cornerstone Church of Lansing, Illinois.
Demo Version