Gaijin Stories

These short stories are a collection of my experiences while living in Tokyo. I hope people wishing to learn more about Japan and gaijin in japan wishing to compare experiences will find them interesting. I also hope some Japanese people will find a gaijin's perspective interesting reading as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Religion in Japan ( 9 )

I had quite a Christian upbringing. Not strict, but I learnt the Catholic ways. As a young boy I noticed that most adults liked to drink alcohol, most men liked women with low tops and big boobs, and most adults laughed at swear words. At church, I learnt that alcohol, sex and swear words (the fun things) were bad in the eyes of the church. I thought it was very noble that religious people chose to live their lives according to the values they believed would make a good society, but I wondered how they really fealt about `the fun things`.
I had the occasional classmate and friend (good but not close friends) who had been brought up in a strict Christian family. They blended in fine, but I noticed the differences when the conversation went to a deeper level. Teenage boys often talk about girls and sex but when I talked to a Christian about these subjects, I noticed they didn't have curiosity and didn't express what they liked. I came to the conclusion that their values prohibited them from being open to, and from developing their own ideas about these subjects. I value talking openly, trying to understand other people's perspectives and trying to see things as they really are. So, I felt like I wasn't talking to someone who could express their real opinions, but to someone who had been brainwashed.

I've met quit a few Japanese people who say that they are Christians. Also, wearing a Christian cross pendant is quit popular in Japan (for fashion, not for a religious statement). At first, I felt caution when I was with somebody from either of these two groups of Japanese people, but I soon realized that there was little or nothing for me to fear.
Japanese beliefs and values are instilled into Japanese children gently from birth. Japanese people consider them to be `Japanese ways`. They believe they have Japanese values because of their race, not from choosing a religion. Since they believe their values are natural and not a choice, they also believe they are not easy to change. If you hear a Japanese person use the phrases `she is a traditional Japanese` or hear me say`she is very Japanese` it means she lives according to typical Japanese values like a religion. All of the thouasands of Japanese people I've met have Japanese beliefs, superstitions and values. Some stronger than others but I'd say all are `very Japanese`. All of the dozen or so people who say they are Christian or wear a Christian cross around their neck who I've talked to have little or no strong Christian values at all. Their Japanese values are (and will always be) way too powerful to accept the true Christian beliefs.

Generally, there's a lot of pachinko, drinking and alot of casual sex in Japan, which is often worrying but indicates Japanese people are spiritually free to explore the fun things in life. On the other hand, Japanese people have their own values which foreigners struggle to understand. (I'll attempt to write about them sometime in the future.)
So to make my point clear, I think Japanese people can speak honestly about the `fun things in life` and listen to other opinions which is something I value. Even if they say they are Christian or have a Christian cross around their neck, they won't try to push Christian values at all, which I also appreciate.

PS-After dating a Japanese girl for a few months, I was shocked to hear from her that she was a Christian. This was when I started to realize that Japanese Christians were quite different to western Christians. Like most Japanese people, she thinks Japanese people don't have strong religious beliefs so Christianity had a lot of new and fresh ideas for her. Japanese values promote harmony, especially amongst religions.
(I might point out that this is the thing which I like the most about Japan)
Basically, Japanese people are open to, and often willing to adopt the ways of other religions, but adapt them so that they can also keep their traditional Japanese beliefs as well. If you're a Christian from South Carolina, a Buddhist from Tibet or a Muslim from Bhagdad, I'm sure you'll find your new Japanese friends interested in your religion and lifestyle.


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