2 Reasons Why Japanese People are Hesitant about Christianity

Did you know that Japan is the 2nd largest unreached nation in the world? Less than one percent of Japanese people are Christians (as I discussed in my post, “One Percent of True Happiness”.) But why? Japan isn’t a closed, communist country like North Korea or China. Christianity isn’t outlawed. Today I want to dive into a few reasons why Japan might be so unreached.

1. Culture and Tradition

Japan is a nation with one of the oldest cultures in the world. For about 250 years Japan didn’t allow any outsiders to come in. Christianity was outlawed claiming it was a foreign religion that would bring in a colonial takeover. As a result, Christians in Japan during the Edo Period (roughly 1600-1860 AD) were severely persecuted, forced to walk long distances barefoot, and nailed to crosses. Everyone was forced to step on pictures of Jesus and Mary (called Fumie) in order to find the hidden Christians.

Even when Christianity was finally legalized, the Japanese people still held tightly to their background, to the Japanese traditions, and tried to stay true to their ancestors and their long-kept traditions. Christianity to Japanese people is a western religion, not something that belongs in Japan. They do not realize that Christianity is about their Creator God’s amazing love for them that has no bounds!

Japanese hold to their ancient customs, like praying to idols, going to graves to pray for souls to go to heaven, and so on. It’s really hard for Japanese people to let go of their traditions and culture, because, really, becoming a Christian is in many ways receiving a new culture, a new identity. Being from a group culture, many people aren’t ready for that.

2. Don’t Want to Stand Out

Japanese people often worry about what other people think about them. Many Japanese are worried about what their friends and family would think if they converted to a foreign religion. Suddenly, their lives would change and they might be excluded or disowned. They would “have to” go to church on Sundays. They couldn’t pray at the temples and shrines, and they probably wouldn’t go to late-night bar parties. They think that they could no longer go to most traditional Japanese events. In other words, becoming a Christian in Japanese means taking up one’s cross and dying to many things.

Many people are afraid that people won’t love them, people would stop being their friends.


Now, these were only a couple reasons I came up with. I’m sure there are more,

But wait. This post wasn’t made so people would get discouraged. This wasn’t a post that blared, “Japanese Can’t Become Christians”.

Missionaries and Christians in Japan still need to stand up for people like this. They need to help them see a better way. They need to love them. No matter how hard. It’s worth it. These precious lives need to know the love of Jesus, the power of his forgiveness, and they need to find the sure hope of eternal life in heaven we have in Christ!

My parents, as missionaries in Japan, know these things that Japanese tend to hold onto, but that doesn’t stop them. They come alongside of their neighbors to share the light of God’s love for them.

They all need to know God’s great love!

Please continue to pray for missionaries in Japan, so that people here can know His great love and grace for them.

God bless!

3 thoughts on “2 Reasons Why Japanese People are Hesitant about Christianity

  1. Noah, I have also heard repeatedly here that “Christianity is dangerous”. I thought it was just a misunderstanding because I couldn’t think why it would be perceived as dangerous. Then, I read the book The Two Empires in Japan, which is a history of the church in Japan written by a man who was raised here as an mk: John M. L. Young. You and your dad may want to read it.

    Also, I have been told things like this by a very intelligent, Doshisha-educated, wonderful Japanese friend: Christianity is against work. What? Where did you hear that? That’s not true. Then, another time: Christianity is against marriage. What?! Another time I was at major art exhibit in Kyoto — put on by a costumer’s association of Kyoto. I was taken there by a very sweet Japanese friend who was part of the association and had done some of the exhibits, One of the exhibits said that the Bible said that clothes were not made until work came along. Huh? Right around the corner was another reference to the Bible that was completely wrong (sorry, I can’t remember what that was exactly). So, just as you say, Noah, it is a very complex subject here, and one of the layers is that people have been told things about the Bible that just aren’t true, and because they have not had any background in it, they just accept it as true. Of course, this is true in many cultures and countries — not excluding American!

    The Young book gives another dimension, though, that is a complex all of its own, and I think, actually, that all missionaries or just Christians living in Japan who want to help people hear the gospel should read.

    Ms. Sue (I can’t figure out why I still need to enter my email address, so the one below won’t be one you recognize.)

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  2. […] With less than 1% of Japanese population being Christian, you would think that Christians would be looked down upon; persecuted, even. But Japan is legally open to all religions, including Christianity. There is very little persecution outside of social and family pressure. I feel safe saying I’m a Christian in public. But why is only 1% of Japan Christian? I looked into that a little here: 2 Reasons Why Japanese People are Hesitant about Christianity. […]

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