In recent years, the frequency of natural disasters and human-made tragedies in Japan has noticeably increased. Abnormal weather phenomena such as the typhoon or the seven-magnitude earthquakes in Niigata, Hokkaido, and Sendai have caused great loss in human lives and countless damage in personal properties. Moreover, there have been social problems, such as innocent school children being kidnapped and killed and adolescents killing their parents or family members. There have even been a few cases of killing or hurting innocent bystanders without any motive.
The world has also been heavily hit by the financial tsunami—and each country has faced its own economic crises. After the economy collapsed in 1995, Japan learned its lessons. For the past decade many large companies have tried to keep their profit margins by laying off employees. Many young people have not been able to find suitable jobs, thus losing hope for the future. They have either lived in fear or dreamed of gaining wealth without hard work. The situation had been causing many social problems.
In spite of the unstable economy, the Japanese are people who care about the details, and they put great consideration into planning their work ahead of time. Many high-tech industries hold unique and superior technologies. Therefore, the common assumption is that Japan’s economy will gradually recover and people from other countries will again flow into Japan. This will also bring in more Chinese people from China, Taiwan, and other neighbor countries. It is our duty as the Chinese Church to be ready to share the gospel to this new group of Chinese.
Openness to Christianity
Today, the Japanese younger generation is more willing to accept Chinese culture and to learn Chinese than they have been in the past. This is because many companies have moved their manufacturing section to China. However, the changes in the economic situation have created many job opportunities for Chinese here as well. And because of their hard work and perseverance, they can be found in many work fields.
According to immigration statistics, in 2007 there were 606,889 Chinese living in Japan (including 42,124 people from Taiwan and 3,567 people from Hong Kong). Compare this with 2006 and we see an eight percent increase in numbers. In 2007, more than seventy-three percent of people lived in or near a large city; sixty-nine percent were between the ages of twenty and thirty-nine.
Recently, the number of churches has increased. There are now twenty-four Chinese churches in Japan—about 1,400 Christians total. Each church has an average of fifty people (the biggest has about four hundred people). Most are either in or near a big city, such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, or Kobe. There are also a small number of Chinese-speaking congregations in churches established by westerners, Koreans, or Japanese. But the number is unconfirmed.
The reason for the growing number of churches is that both existing churches actively involved in spreading the gospel and many foreign missionaries put their efforts into this mission field. Other people organize Bible studies in their homes or workplaces.
It has become clear to some churches that it is not easy to find suitable pastors. About four to five years ago some churches began to co-work with a local seminary which shared the same vision and beliefs. The extended seminary classes were created for people who were called to work in the mission field in Japan.
Challenges Lie Ahead
Due to high living costs, there are only a few overseas missionary organizations here in Japan, and their major target is the Japanese. Therefore, the responsibility to spread the gospel to the Chinese is placed upon our own shoulders.
Although gospel work is being done here in Japan, it lacks the involvement of the second-generation Chinese. Many even stop going to church. This is the area that requires our full concern and more effort. Work with students and international marriage groups can bring opportunities to spread the gospel to the Japanese.
Mission work for in-coming Chinese and second-generation Chinese here in Japan will require more time, energy, and financial efforts. Meanwhile, we expect to see growth and will be glad to receive valuable suggestions and support.