Japan is a country in East Asia. Nearly all known traditional denominations of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity are represented in Japan today. There are no restrictions on evangelism in Japan. However, Japan remains one of the most secular nations in the world according to the World Values Survey. 70% of Japanese churches have an average attendance of less than 30, though membership is double this figure. Christians in Japan are a religious minority, making up about 1 million to 3 million persons.
The root of the Japanese word for Christianity, Kirisuto-kyō (キリスト教) comes from the Japanese katakana transcription of the word Christ (キリスト) and 教 (kyō, suffix for "doctrine"). See Kodansha's furigana Japanese Dictionary, publisher Kodansha Inc., Japan, 1999.
Roman Catholic Church in JapanEdit
- Main article: Roman Catholicism in Japan
While individual Christians may have visited Japan earlier, organized Christianity first reached Japan in 1549 with the arrival of the Portuguese. The local Japanese people initially assumed that the Portuguese were from India and that Christianity was a new "Indian faith". These mistaken assumptions were due to the Indian city of Goa being a central base for the Portuguese East India Company and also due to a significant portion of the crew on Portuguese ships being Indian Christians. Later on, the Roman Catholic missionary activities were exclusively performed by Portuguese-sponsored Jesuits and Spanish-sponsored mendicant orders, such as the Franciscans and Dominicans. Francisco Xavier (a Catholic Saint), Cosme de Torres (a Jesuit priest), and John Fernandez were the first who arrived in Kagoshima with hopes to bring Christianity and Catholicism to Japan. Catholicism was subsequently repressed in several parts of the country, and Christianity was legally banned throughout Japan during the Edo period. It continued to be practised In secret by some aristocrats, known as Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians), who would often conceal Christian iconography within closed shrines, lanterns or inconspicuous parts of buildings. For example, Wikipedia:Himeji Castle has a Christian cross on one of its 17th-century roof tiles, in place of a mon, indicating that one of its occupants was a secret Christian.
Drawn from the oral histories of Japanese Catholic communities, Shusaku Endo's acclaimed historical novel "Silence" provides detailed fictionalised accounts of the persecution of Christian communities and the suppression of the Church.
After Japan was reopened to foreign interaction in 1853, many Christian clergymen were sent from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches, though proselytism was still banned.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1871, freedom of religion was introduced, giving all Christian communities the right to legal existence and preaching. Since World War II the number of Japanese Christians has been slowly increasing.
In 1981, Pope John Paul II paid a visit to Japan, during which he met with Japanese people, the clergy, and Catholic lay people, held Holy Mass in the Korakuen Stadium (Tokyo), and visited the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, the Hill of Martyrs in Nagasaki, town of the Immaculate founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe in Nagasaki, and other places.
Protestants in JapanEdit
- Main article: Protestants in Japan
Presbyterian minister Divie Bethune McCartee was the first Protestant Christian missionary to visit Japan, in 1861–1862. His gospel tract translated into Japanese was the first Protestant literature in Japan. In 1865 McCartee moved back to Ningbo, China, but others have followed in his footsteps.
There was a burst of growth of Christianity in the late 1800s when Japan re-opened its doors to the West. However, this was followed by renewed suspicion and rejection of Christian teaching. Protestant church growth slowed dramatically in the early 20th century under the influence of the military government during the Shōwa period.
The Japanese Bible Society was established in 1937 with the help of National Bible Society of Scotland (NBSS, now called the Scottish Bible Society), the American Bible Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society.
By some estimates, there are 3,000 Protestant churches in Tokyo and 7,700 Protestant churches in Japan.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity in JapanEdit
- Main article: Japanese Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodoxy was brought to Japan in the 19th century by St. Nicholas of Japan (baptized as Ivan Dmitrievich Kasatkin), who was sent in 1861 by the Russian Orthodox Church to Hakodate, Hokkaidō as priest to a chapel of the Russian Consulate. St. Nicholas of Japan made his own translation of the New Testament and some other religious books (Lent Triodion, Pentecostarion, Feast Services, Book of Psalms, Irmologion) into Japanese.
In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Bishop Andronic Nikolsky as a Saint and Martyr; he was appointed the first Bishop of Kyoto and later martyred as the archbishop of Perm during the Russian Revolution.
As of 2007, the leader of the Japanese Orthodox Church is Daniel (Nushiro), Metropolitan of all Japan and Archbishop of Tokyo, elevated to his seat in 2000. It is estimated that the Church has some 9,000 adherents today.
Christian theologians in JapanEdit
- Main article: Martyrs of Japan
- Catholic Encyclopedia Article on Japan
- Christianity is popular in Japan today, Orthodox Portal
- Japanese Living Bible
- Japanese Bible Society
- Christian Churches in Japan
- 2008 Beatification of Japanese Martyrs.
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