日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【February 2020 No.406】My Encounters with Missionaries Coming to Japan 40 Years of Japanese Language School Teaching


by Tohya Masumi, member

                      Kobe Tobu Church, Hyogo District

—Compiled by the Shinto no Tomo (Believer’s Friend), Editorial Committee

Crossing denominational lines, missionaries from North America, Germany, Norway, etc., founded Kansai Missionary Language Institute, a school for learning the Japanese language, in Sannomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, in 1979. It moved three years later to Rokko Church of the Kinki Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hyogo and rented several rooms there.


At its peak, there were 40 students at a time. After the Great Hanshin Awaji (Osaka-Kobe and offshore Awaji Island) Earthquake of 1995, when missionaries were recalled to their home countries, this language school was forced to close. However, I continued to use one room at the church and taught people who wanted to study Japanese. So I was a Japanese language teacher from 1979 at Kansai Missionary Language Institute and continued to teach privately from 1995 to 2018.


I had difficulty teaching students with a wide range of various abilities in Japanese, but more than anything else I happily responded to their devotion to their mission in Japan. I am particularly happy when children of missionaries return to Japan as missionaries. In my classes, I also taught the students about Japanese society and culture. As practical training, we went shopping at a supermarket. Reflecting the difference in food culture, the response was, “There are so many varieties of food, it is difficult to shop.” For example, even if they knew the difference between green tea, roasted green tea, and barley tea, it was difficult for them to choose the appropriate tea for a particular situation at church. I also heard about the mistake of choosing round buns filled with sweet bean paste when searching for plain dinner rolls.


I not only taught, I also learned about the various cultures of the students’ countries. Many Norwegian missionaries came after the Great East Japan Disaster in 2011, but no matter what their church denomination, they were all careful about liturgical colors. During the Advent season, churches in Norway use a purple theme throughout, even to the extent of using purple napkins at lunchtime. I was amazed by the students’ surprise that the Japanese churches where they had been do not observe the custom of displaying liturgical colors.


Besides celebrating Christmas at the churches they were sent to serve, the missionaries also valued observing Christmas with their families, and they always invited single missionaries. Christmas dinner menus differed, depending on the area they were from, and I also helped them search for food in Japan. Chicken and salmon were readily available, but I also ate salt-preserved lamb procured from Norway, which is used in a dish called pinnekjott. This may or may not be palatable to the average Japanese person’s taste, but it was fun to try, which made the experience quite enjoyable.


Beyond that, the ways of observing the season from the beginning of Advent to Christmas differ little from those in Japan. I always sensed that the missionaries were truly using this time for the purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus. I learned that Advent was not spent trying to call to mind a certain feeling but was a period for quieting the heart, of being invited and inviting, of sharing joy together.


Sometimes missionaries must leave Japan for reasons dictated by the country in which the sending body has its headquarters. At the time of the 2011 Great East Japan Disaster, the Norwegian government prepared planes and made Norwegians residing in Japan return home. Missionaries I knew said, “Especially at a time like this, missionaries are necessary,” and returned to their homeland only temporarily. There are also denominations that have stopped assigning missionaries to Japan, so the number of missionaries being sent to Japan has decreased.


Despite that, I have enjoyed meeting new faces. Two years ago, taking advantage of their summer break, two seminarians in their twenties came from Norway for study. Even though it was not a long period of time, they experienced an earthquake, a typhoon, and a blackout. However, they were amazing! Skillfully using their cell phones, they found places to charge them during the blackout and investigated how to reinstate city gas usage. The care that had been necessary for former missionaries was unnecessary for them. They had studied where to ask questions and had also mastered the online application for automatic translation from Norwegian to Japanese.


They came to me with questions about the difference in intonation between the various accents they heard in the Kansai area and what they had learned at the Japanese language school. (Vowels are emphasized in spoken Japanese in the Kansai area.) It seems that the online Japanese-language application they were using for study did not include the Kansai dialects.


These students possess the same passion as the missionaries who stirred me at the place where I first worked. They also told me of their plan to bring younger seminary students and to visit Japan again. I have taken a break in my work as a teacher, but if I can help them share the joy of the Gospel, I hope to be able to respond to their passion in the future as well. (Tr. RT)


—From Shinto no Tomo (Believer’s Friend), December 2019


来日宣教師たちとの出会い 日本語学校教師の40年

東家眞澄(とうや ますみ)









 それでも新たな出会いがあります。一昨年は20代の男子神学生2人が夏休みを利用して、ノルウェーから研修にやってきました。決して長い期間ではなかったのに、なんと彼らは地震、台風、停電を経験する羽目に陥りました。しかし彼らはすごい! スマートホンを駆使して、停電中でも充電できるところを捜し当て、ガスの復旧の仕方も調べました。以前は必要だったお世話が、彼らには必要ありません。訪ねたいところも検索済みで、ノルウェー語から日本語への自動翻訳ソフトも使いこなします。



   KNL2019年12月号   (まとめ・信徒の友編集部)+KNL編集部

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