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Two Empires in Japan
Two Empires In Japan by John M.L. Young and The Christian Confrontation with Shinto Nationalism by Kun Sam Lee were the two books I used for this topic. The former, an intimate 100 year chronicle of the persecution by the Asian government with their demands that all people bow in Kyujo-yohai, ( worshipping the Imperial House from afar); and the struggle of the Japanese Christians in times of compromise and triumph under such totalitarian pressure. The latter a more detailed historical account of old Shinto and the earliest Christian missionaries. The following essay will focus on the conflicting ideologies within Japan between the Shinto militarists and the Protestant mission effort from it¹s germination in 1859 until 1957.
Dr. Young cites the entrance of Christianity into Japan at 1542 when a ferocious storm found two Portuguese sailors shipwrecked on the southern island of Tanegashima. The Japanese accepted the Romish syncretism of the gospel, but were more interested in the goods and technology that came with later Roman Catholic missionaries who arrived in 1549. The priests¹ attempts at proselytization were not very difficult; the spirit in which their efforts were received is aptly demonstrated :
³The images of Buddha, with slight application of the
chisel, served as images for Christ. Each Buddhist saint
found his counterpart in Roman Christianity; and the road-
side shrines of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, were rededi-
cated to Mary. Temples, altars, bells, holy water vessels,
censers, and rosaries were all ready and could be easily
adapted to the needs of the new religion. ( Young, pp. 12 )
Oda Noyabunga welcomed the Roman missionaries, for he needed their advanced weaponry to successfully defeat the Ashikaga Shogunate.
Shortly after his victory, Noyabunga was assassinated and all priests were driven out of Japan in 1587 vis a vie a decree from Hideyoshi the Great.
Sadly, Japan went more than 400 years without the influence of true religion
in the entire land. Until the arrival of two Presbyterian missionaries, Dr. and Mrs.
J.C. Hepburn in 1859.
As the new missionaries became established they began starting mission schools for the children in which could become trained in the way of the gospel. However, after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 ( which consisted of the demotion of 270 Daimyo and over 2 million samurai giving up thier sword and status ), the indigenous religion of Japan, Shintoism, took a revitalized grip on the masses.
Shinto was the underlying worldview for all of Japanese public culture and societal institutions. Including education, which stressed the worship of Amatersu-omi-kami, the mythological sun-goddess from whom the Emperor descended ( hence, making him divine as well ).
In 1886, the Imperial Rescript on Education was issued in which filial piety was prescribed to given to the Emperor in ³ profoundest obeisance². Herein lies the source or focal point of the conflict in the
relations of Christianity and Shinto in Japan. Was bowing to the portrait of the Emperor merely a sign of political loyalty and demonstration of the spirit of patriotism, as the Ministry of Education contended ? Or was
obeying the mandate of the Rescript idolatry, because the Emperor was perceived as divine, as the faithful Christians maintained ?
The two men who were representative of the varying degrees of Christian commitment in the midst of this struggle were Masahisa Uemura and Kanzo Uchimura.
A very interesting historiographical conflict arose here because Lee regards Uchimura as sub-orthodox because he denied inerrancy, even though he didn¹t give in to the so called ³ Japanese Christianity ³ ( which was a syncretic blend of Shinto nationalism and Christianity similar to the worship in the Old Testament of Jehovah and Baal ); Lee then says Uemura is the orthodox spokesman because he
believed in the substitutionary atonement and inerrancy ( even though Young says Uemura compromises with his Mukyokai (no-church) movement and his desires to
disregard any and all forms of confessional Christianity ).
Young further says that even though Uchimura denied inerrancy, he was
valiant in his refusal to bow to the portrait when he said ³ We are Protestants, we do not even bow to a portrait of Jesus Christ, lest it be said that we worship a man. ² However, Uchimura was swept by compromise, and
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Christianity in Japan, Japanese Christians, Polytheism, Shinto, Religion in Japan, Uchimura Kanz, Kami, Syncretism
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