Heart for Japan

Some thoughts from last week in Tokyo.

Today, I met with an old friend named Bun who got saved during my summer project in Tokyo in 2006. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and whenever I visit Tokyo, we meet up and usually laugh a lot.

Today, we met up in Shinjuku, which houses the busiest train station in all of Asia. Something like a million people pass through Shinjuku station every day. At one point out on the street, Bun told me, “We’re walking to the white sign.” Well, with eight story buildings lining both sides of the street, I spotted about 10 signs that matched that description. “This is Shinjuku!” I said. It became our joke of the day whether seeing strange people walking around, massive crowds in the station, or a 3 story anime/manga shop: “This is Shinjuku.”

Bun and I talked a lot about something I posted a few days ago describing how the Japanese society turns the Japanese people into robots. He completely agreed with me. But Bun will never turn into a robot. God has created him uniquely, and stands in that identity, whatever the society says.

During my year and a half in southern Japan working as a missionary, I experienced a lot of brokenness. It was a hard, lonely time, and once you’ve experienced that kind of difficulty in a place, it’s easy to grow bitter towards a culture.

“Why do they have to do it this way in Japan?”

“Japanese people are all robots.”

“Japanese people may be nice on the outside, but inside, they don’t care about you at all. It’s just to save face that they’re so nice.”

This trip, perhaps my biggest prayer was that God would restore my heart and love for the Japanese people. And He has allowed me to see the difference between the Japanese people and society. The people really are some of the kindest people you will ever meet. Full of more problems and inner turmoil than you could ever imagine, but selfless. If anything, the problem with Japan is that people are too selfless, which causes them to lose their identity in the group, which leads to bitterness and depression. And this is the society: it puts you into a box and removes your individuality. More and more, I see these amazing people as caught in a whirlpool they can’t escape, the whirlpool called Japan.

Really, we’re talking about spiritual principalities enslaving this incredible nation. We’re talking about a whole demonic chain of command which the Prince of Darkness has assigned to prevent the Japanese from experiencing the Father’s love and stepping into who He intends them to be. In a place with so many deep problems, it’s easy to look at the people and grow bitter. Eventually, despite working here as a missionary, you really don’t like your neighbor very much, even if you in some abstract way “love” him.

However, the Bible says that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities. All your frustration ought to be aimed toward the demons which exercise power over Japan, not towards the people they are enslaving. Of course, we can never fully excuse people for the choices they make, but they are not the objects of our anger. Ultimately, it’s not even Japanese society that we aim our grumpiness at, it’s the strongholds behind it.

Gaining this perspective has freed me to love, again. To laugh at the silliness of Japan. To see the little smiles here and there, even on my robotic server at Otoya, one of my favorite chain restaurants. I saw the edge of a genuine smile on her face when she gave me change. The powers couldn’t suppress it completely.

After I said goodbye to Bun, praying over him that he would never lose his individuality, I walked into Shinjuku station, the carotid artery of Tokyo. I laughed a little in the joy of the Lord to find myself again in the largest city in the world. I found myself walking down a barren hallway lined with staircases to various trains against a crowd of hundreds. Kids in their middle school uniforms, adults in suits and ties, couples holding hands, rebels with light brown hair, and the occasional foreigner. You could stop in that scene, but it would continue all around you like autumn leaves blowing in the wind.

As I walked opposite the crowd, I saw their emotionless faces. I actually saw them. And for a moment, I felt something of God’s heart for them, His deep, deep love for the droves of people gliding through this tunnel at a breakneck pace, never imagining where they’re heading. It was nearly more than I could bear without crying. His love overwhelmed me as I felt it over them. I wish I could accurately find words to describe the power and intensity and compassion of that love.

Will you remember Japan in your prayers? The millions in this nation who understand nothing of Him? Will you pray the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the harvest field?


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