I am grateful to the guys at LetsLoveJapan.org for the following.
“What Japan Thinks” (LetsLoveJapan.org) — In 1921 K. K. Kawakami put together an English-language book called “What Japan Thinks”. This book, a collection of articles written by Japanese authors of the time, has amazing insight into the cultural experience of Japanese people. Interestingly, the final article was an answer to the question, “Can Japan Be Christianized?” Can Japan be Christianized?
Maybe I will get around to reading the entire book one day, but for now I focused on the the chapter mentioned above. The Author, Kawakami, was not a Christian (as far as I can tell) but his thoughts towards Christianity in Japan were fair and objective. He refers to Mr. Uchimura Kanzō (内村鑑三), a Christian evangelist and leader of the Nonchurch movement (無教会, Mukyōkai) in Japan… I am just now learning about Uchimura and how the Lord powerfully used him and look forward to bringing you more about his life.
For now however, I wanted to leave you with some quotes from the “Can Japan be Christianized?” chapter that really stood out to me and I think apply to modern day Christianity in Japan.
This question is naturally differently according to the different attitude which each person maintains towards Christianity, the Christians generally say “yes,” and non-Christian “no.” It is, however, rather remarkable that even among the former there is a conspicuous absence of anything like confidence in the future prospect of Christianity in Japan.
When Japan opens her heart, as he [Uchimura] thinks she is bound to open sooner of later, to the Christianity that is being evolved in terms of Japanese thought and feelings, then Mr. Uchimura is confident that Japan will become the foremost Christian nation on the earth.
… the Christianity that can possibly conquer Japan is one interpreted in terms of Japanese thought.
He [Uchimura] mentions the fact that those who flock to listen to his weekly “Churchless” sermons are deeply interested in the direct teachings of Christ, but evince little desire to be taught in the philosophical or theological ideas, which have accumulated about Christianity in course of its historical developments in the West, but which are not necessary for the understanding of the religion bequeathed by Jesus.
Christianity has already spread its roots deep in Japanese soil; is has become a Japanese religion, in the same sense the Buddhism became a Japanese religion centuries ago… That a faith so little esteemed by Japanese themselves should have planted its root so firmly in Japan is an honor to Japan and demonstrates the power of Christianity.
The prevailing popular conceptions of mankind, humanity, labor, etc., to say nothing of love and liberty, are all traceable, directly or indirectly, to Christianity. It is at least obvious that they have come neither from Confucianism nor from Buddhism. There is no refuting the fact that Japan is learning and adopting Christian ideas and ideals, not only through loyal Christians, but also through those who where once Christians, for “backsliders,” as the latter may be, they never completely shake off the spiritual and intellectual influences to which they once yielded.
It is absolutely from Christians that modern Japan has learned organized philanthropy and social welfare work. The Buddhists are trying to emulate, but they can only imitate.