There is a phenomena happening in Japan that happens in other places too, but was ever so blatant to me when I was in Japan. In other religions like Christianity and Islam this kind of phenomena is unthinkable, but in Japan, it is just a normal course of life. I have probably already told you in one of my blogs about Japanese being both Buddhist and Shinto at the same time because they are Japanese religions, and the Japanese believe in anything that is Japanese. They may get dressed up and go to the Buddhist temple every New Year’s Day, but they may be praying at the Shinto shrine on other days. They may get married at the Shinto shrine, but be buried at the Buddhist temple. However, the mixing goes further than just between these two religions.
When I was a student in Japan, my university had chapel services everyday at 10:00, and I attended. It was a voluntary chapel. Here in Korea, at Korea Christian University, there are chapel services, but everyone is required to go once a week. In Oklahoma, at Oklahoma Christian University, we had chapel everyday at 10:00, and everyone was expected to attend. However, the chapel at Ibaraki Christian University in Japan was optional. You only went if you were serious about Christianity. It wasn’t a forced thing mandated by the school.
I used to sit by a Japanese girl that I met there. Once day, she invited me to go home with her after school, and I went. I got a big surprise! She pulled a koto, a Japanese musical instrument out for me to play, and I was enjoying playing tunes like “Sakura,” the tune of which still rings in my head. “Sakura” means “Cherry Blossom.” While I was playing, she went to the other room. After a bit, I went to find her. When I opened the door, she was praying before a family shrine, but I thought she was a Christian, so I asked her about it.
She said to me that her dad had been a Christian, and when her dad died, she decided to become a Christian in order to honor her father. When I asked her more, I figured out that her dad had been Mormon, but that she was attending church at the church of Christ. She really had no idea what she was doing as far as Christianity because the church of Christ and the Mormon church are two completely different entities who believe completely different things. She was practicing Ancestor Worship that caused her to think she was a Christian.
At these family shrines, they have a picture of the person who died. Everyday, they bring small quantities of tea and rice for the dead person, then they pray to the dead person. They are convinced if they don’t take care of Grandma or whoever died, then Grandma or who ever died in their family will send them bad fortune. However, if they take care of them, they will send them good fortune. If they are Shinto, they don’t clap before the shrine, but if they are Buddhist, they clap loudly 3 times when they pray.
This Ancestor worship that she was performing is an outgrowth of Confucianism. Confucianism is not a religion, but a philosophy, but many in the Orient have taken it further than Confucius meant for it to go. Confucius set up a model for society that works well. The Confucius philosophy has caused both Korea and Japan to have extremely low crime rates because the old people are in control, not rebellious, young, stand on your own two feet and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps type young people we find in America. These young people actually listen to their elders. My Korean son in law is almost 30 years old, but when his dad talks, he has such an adoration for his dad that he hangs on every word and truly considers what he is saying. His dad is a Korean preacher who also teaches at a university and has has had published books. He is a very good man, and worth listening to. I have another friend who is close to 40, is married, and has three kids. He also listens intently when his father speaks. His father is also a Korean preacher and a very good man. My friend knows when his dad speaks, he speaks with the wisdom of age and does not hesitate to take his advice. It is good to listen to people who are older and understand the world better than we do, but there are those who take it even further to the point of religion, like this Japanese girl who was praying to her father.
This Japanese girl was completely serious about being a Christian, and she was also completely serious about doing it to honor her father. I have talked to some who follow more than one religion, and they said to me, “If one god is going to help you, don’t you think it is smart to also follow another god too. You can be helped by two gods.” The only problem with this if you are a Christian or even a Muslim is that both of these religions have only one God. In fact, in Christianity, the Bible is clear when it says there is only one God and one way to God, his son Jesus. In the 10 Commandments of Christianity, it is very clear that there is only one God, and that we should not have other gods. Maybe one day, this Japanese girl will encounter those scriptures as she is attending Christian worship services. At which point, if she understands, she will have to make a decision whether she needs to follow Christianity or follow her father. However, until that time, she goes on mixing Ancestor worship with Christianity.