In Japan, there’s a curious thing called the Love Hotel. Essentially, it’s a place to go and commit adultery. Now, it’s not unheard of for married couples to spend the night, but if you’re going to make love at a love hotel, it’s probably not with your spouse. For this reason, love hotels tend to have certain accommodations other hotels don’t, like (sometimes) a person who goes around the parking lot and puts covers over the license plates of customer’s cars so that no one can tell if you’ve been there. They often are located in remote areas (sometimes you’ll see a billboard advertising a love hotel a few towns away), and they tend to have high walls and tinted windows. It’s possible (and desirable) that at a love hotel, you will not see another human being from entering to exiting. Even the person who takes your money may just be a pair of hands through a hole in a wall. After all, you’re going there to have illicit sex.
In Japan, I think a lot of people want churches to be like love hotels. No, not places to have sex, but in that they want total anonymity. At the church I work at in a rural part of Japan, most of our contacts are from distant parts of our city or from other cities entirely. I don’t think anyone is from nearby, and I know no one is from our immediate neighborhood. It’s as though there is an invisible boundary, and if you’re too close, you’re not going to the church. Maybe if we started rushing people into the church in the depths of night and putting sheets over their cars, we’d boost church attendance. Or if we dug an underground entrance from a telephone booth across the street. Didn’t they do that type of thing in Rome?
The reason for this (and it’s not universal to every Japanese) is that in Japan, you’re not supposed to be interested in Christianity. Some people are, but they won’t show it and will never come to an event at a church. Many Japanese are afraid to walk into a church building, even for an English class. What, after all, will the neighbors think? What if someone found out? In Japan, near as I can tell for being a missionary with three months’ experience, the social pressure to conform is intense in a way that Americans cannot even imagine. Especially in rural Japan, people watch out for what their neighbors will think of their actions. Coming to church is not something they want to be caught doing. In some ways, adultery is more socially acceptable.
Overcoming this is not easy, and there are no easy solutions. It is but one of many barriers to the spread of the gospel in Japan. Personally, I think the tunnel idea sounds the best.
If you’re curious about love hotels, check out this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_hotel