I highly recommend this video message for anyone who has a heart for learning more about ministry and sharing the gospel in Japan. The speaker, Don Howell, is a Professor of New Testament Studies at Columbia International University Seminary and was a church planter and missionary in Japan for eight years.
Don shares a lot of his experience doing ministry in Japan and his cultural understandings about Japan are very insightful, especially his explanations of barriers to the gospel related to the words for god, sin, and grace.
“The only term for god in Japan. A kami can be a beautiful sunset, a beautiful rock formation, a lake, a feeling of harmony with nature… Whatever stimulates harmony with the natural world… It is visible and it is impersonal, there is no concept in Japanese culture of a personal invisible God who loves and made the world.”
“It means an act of breaking the norms or violating the expectation of your family, or of your company, or of your community, or of your society at large. There is no personal God to whom you are accountable and therefore sin is a horizontal breaking of a social relationship of some kind… it is not the rupture of a vertical connection with God.”
“Favors offered and received back and fourth. I do something good for you and now the obligation is on you to repay… and so you repay the obligation now its back on me and it goes back and fourth. There is no such thing in Japanese culture as undeserved bestowed of favor with no expectation of anything in return, simply doing it because you love that person and doing it unconditionally.”
Your understanding of God, sin, and grace are essential to understanding the gospel. In light of these three examples it is easy to see why the gospel is hard for a Japanese person to understand, and why contextualizing the eternal truth of the gospel for Japanese culture is so important. Don also speaks about focusing on Jesus parables to share the gospel, the importance for missionaries to Japan to learn the Japanese language and culture, explanations of the history of Christianity in Japan, thoughts on the Japanese church, and ends with a time of question and answer.