The following are excerpts from sources regarding the non-Christian history of Japan’s religious culture. Toward the end of this article is my own commentary on both Christian and non-Christian perspectives in Japan. Since moving here, we have learned much and we are continually amazed by what God is doing in this wonderful nation. Japan is not forgotten by God!
According to the ancient Chronicles of Japan, the god Susano exchanged swords and jewels with his elder sister, the goddess Amaterasu, and swore an oath that he had no evil designs on her. Amaterasu took his sword, named Totsuka, and washed it in the sacred water. She then broke it to bits with her teeth, and breathed it out as mist. Three goddesses are said to have been born from this mist.
Munakata Taisha Shrine
The Gold of Transportation
The root definitions of Munakata’s kanji point to a deeply religious heritage. The Chronicles of Japan states that the three goddesses born from Amaterasu, the sun goddess, are known as the goddesses of the route from northern Kyushu to the Korean Peninsula, known as the Kaihokudo.
If the approach to Munakata Taisha Shrine is extended in a straight line through Okinoshima, it passes through the northern part of Tsushima Island and on to Pusan, Korea. Okinoshima was worshipped in ancient times as the guardian god of this passage.
Christian History in Japan
Japanese culture is indeed steeped in idol and nature worship (Shinto) and worship of the spirits of the dead (Buddhist). However ancient these beliefs and practices, Christianity holds a firm place in the history and heritage of Japan. Many believe in a Christian history that long pre-dates the famous exploits of Francis Xavier’s 1549 evangelistic mission. There are signs of cross, the star of David and traits brought into typically non-Christian activities that are clearly birthed from scripture.
We have been told that Munakata holds significant importance to the religious strongholds in Japan, because of its historical links to Japan’s emperorship. The historical facts above also indicate that Munakata was a gateway for great principalities, and in fact, are celebrated in grand scale annually.
A Brief Commentary
As time marches on, younger generations have become less interested in religion, or they have a view of God which is inaccurate. This is not only an American trend, but found in Japan as well. Younger people are less interested in religion overall than their parents, and certainly much less than their grandparents. Of those we have personally spoken with and befriended here, most are obligated annually to carry on their families’ traditions but do not adhere to the rules and lifestyle of a devout follower on any level. Buddhist and Shinto religions in Japan are also centered around the “pay to pray” principal, with coffers being found at every shrine and temple to offer prayers. Essentially, you must work (pay) for your answer.
Jesus Christ came to bring liberty and life; He came to bring freedom and to reveal Himself and the One, true God. What Jesus brings is eternal life with no strings attached. His ministry was simple; to seek and save those who were lost, expanding the kingdom of heaven. That mission of ministry has never changed and never will.
The centuries of history, stories, myths and legends breed complex views of life and death. Buddhists believe there is no afterlife, so we should do all that we can for good in this life. This is not the message of the gospel, which is the free gift to all who would receive Jesus and believe on His name. The message of Jesus should not be difficult or complex; I believe this is a useful point in sharing the gospel with others in Japan.
Religion does not save, does not help, does not equip or inspire. Exposing the strongholds of religion will help to bring clarity and freedom in the only thing Japan truly needs and truly desires – a heart changed by the love of God through the Holy Spirit.