The warmest Christmas and holiday wishes from all of us at J-List. We hope you have a great day surrounded by family and friends!
When I came here back in 1991, I didn’t know what to expect on my first Christmas, since Japan is a country with very few actual Christians. Imagine my surprise when I was invited by a local Baptist congregation to attend Christmas services with them, where I was treated with much kindness and warmth, and (of course) asked to dress up as “Santa-san” for the kids at the preschool they operate. While only 1% of Japan’s population is Christian, they’re an important part of the fabric of Japanese society.
Christianity got its start in Japan in 1542, entering Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu along with gunpowder. When the religion began to threaten the political balance of the country, it was banned, and people had to practice as Kakure Kirishitan (“hidden Christians”) if they wanted to keep their faith. Freedom of religion was granted as Japan modernized with the 1868 Meiji Restoration, and early missionaries entered, founding schools, some of which have grown into major national institutions. Missionaries got a boon from the U.S. occupation when they were encouraged by Douglas MacArthur to try to Christianize Japan in order to fill a “spiritual void” that might cause the Japanese to embrace Communism.
There have been many Japanese Christians who have made contributions. One of the most famous is Chiune Sugihara, the vice consul for the Japanese government in Lithuania during WWII, known as the “Japanese Schindler” for helping 6000 Jews escape Europe. Several of Japan’s prime ministers have been Catholic or Protestant, as well, as well as the current Empress.
Today Christmas (Christmas Eve, actually) is a special day for Christians, who attend mass, and for families, who will have a nice dinner together (perhaps including KFC), and of course couples, who will plan a special romantic date. It’s also a time to do random fun things, like running a marathon wearing a Santa costume.
If you want more insight into the history of Christianity in Japan, there’s an interesting movie called Silence by director Martin Scorsese, about the journey of two Jesuit priests to Japan to find their (Jedi) master, played by Liam Neeson.
It’s the last two days of our EMS shipping sale, a great excuse for you to browse the site for cool products and make that purchase for yourself or someone else. If you’re the kind of person who appreciates gorgeous anime figures, we’ve got lots of new ones for you, browse them all here!