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

“Why is Christianity Unsuccessful in Japan?”


Hashizume Daisaburo, author of the best-selling book Fushigina Kirisutokyo (Wonders In Christianity) lectured at a meeting held on Jan. 14 at the Japan Christian Center in Tokyo, under the auspices of the Kanto Program Center, Nippon Christian Academy. In his book Hashizume, a professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology, presents Christian doctrine and history from a sociologist’s viewpoint in an easily understandable way. To the Japanese church, the growth of which has come to a halt at one percent of the population, Hashizume offered frank advice in his lecture about the church’s way of doing things and proposed the strategy to increase the number of Christians as follows.


Become a more open church

The reason my co-author Osawa Masachi and I chose the title “Wonders ” In Christianity was to attract the attention of the 99 percent of the Japanese people who are thinking, “What is Christianity doing?” and “Even so, I would not go to any place like a church.” Average Japanese people who are not Christian arbitrarily keep their distance from Christianity, have no understanding of it, and are on guard against it.


First of all, an issue at point on the Christian side is the sense of the church as being closed from within. Churches in North America and other places operate under the clear principles that anyone may come to church; no church registration is required; and no name is asked for, even on the first visit. Also, anyone may enter at will and listen to the sermon. Japanese people consider the church building a kind of “house,” and this type of thinking creates the perception that some persons are “inside” and some “outside.” For those “outside,” the church becomes a very difficult place to enter.


Make a study of rival religions

My next thought is that believers do not use enough general vocabulary words. It is necessary to stand in the place of the unbeliever and converse first by using the vocabulary of the person being addressed. Believers must put their own beliefs in parentheses and, in their minds, assume the state of the unbeliever. Thus, the unbeliever will want to come to church; and with this kind of approach, the unbeliever will want to read the Bible. Next in order, doubts will be settled, and then it may develop that a person might even want to be baptized. This is the course that must be considered and tried.


Among the Japanese population, 99 percent may be unbelievers, but no one is completely unrelated to faith. Each has a type of religious life. To engage in mission work in Japan, it is necessary to study the rival religions of Japan and develop a roadmap of the kind of words that if used, will acquaint unbelievers with the church.1



Understand different situations in China and Korea

Currently, there is a surge in the number of Christian believers in Korea and China. For the people on the Korean Peninsula who have been intimately accustomed to the Confucian worship of their ancestors, grandfathers, and fathers, the advancement of city life has caused a breakdown of traditional society as well as a weakening of Confucian culture. Into the wide-open space in those empty hearts, the worship of the “Father in Heaven” of Christianity has entered. It is said that at present, 30 to 50 percent of Korean people have become Christians. Currently in China, “house churches” are spreading rapidly, and even conservatively estimated, the number of Christian believers is said to be over 100 million people. Confucianism is China’s national religion, and with the demise of the eminent father Mao Tsedong, there was a need to make up for that loss.2


On the contrary, Japan is the country of the eminent mother. So even if there is a gaping hole in their hearts, it is hard for the Christian faith to become the faith that fits “just right.” What is to be done about the part that does not fit? This relates to the most important point of the strategy. In Japan, Christian events have been accepted as part of its annual activities. Wedding ceremonies are held at churches  (or Christian-style wedding chapels) and is where the largest number of weddings takes place. Its kindergartens and schools are making inroads, as are the specialty areas of Christianity, like hospitals and hospices.


First increase the number of those who sympathize with Christianity rather than focusing on the laity

The first thing to be considered, even by Christianity, is increasing its groups of supporters. Supporters may be persons who have not been baptized, although they comfortably go in and out of the church and even participate in its outside activities. These supporters would have a broader network of persons and could widen the church’s ties: going from church members to supporters and then on to the supporters’ friends, who ordinarily relate to and do not ignore even Buddhist believers and persons in Soka Gakkai. Traditionally, many festivals and other annual events have played an important part in village life that helping everyone get along well together. However, the shrines and temples at the center of these events are becoming hard to maintain. As a cooperative body in an area where there is aging and a shortage of workers, I can envision, as a strategy, a widened structure of outreach. For example, Christian churches could conduct such functions as funerals, which they could not do if Christianity was not a religion.


Make more use of the Bible

It is an advantage that the Bible can be easily understood by anyone who reads it. Outside the church building, for example at a public hall or gathering place, a kind of Bible study could be offered that is aimed at persons who, following retirement, want to better understand life and the world situation. Anyone would be welcome and, while consulting commentaries, everyone would read the Bible together.


Another advantage of the church is that it is an international organization with translations of the Bible in English, French, Chinese, and other languages, thus enabling the study of those languages. So persons like children or housewives could be included. Reading the Bible and studying it in English would also be helpful.


So my proposal is that we consider many of these new types of strategies. In the blogs of people who have read Wonders In Christianity, I read the comment by many people that they would like to try something. The number of people reading the Bible has increased, and so I think this has been helpful in propagation and evangelism. The seeds have been planted. Following this, how the harvest will be done is left up to each one of you. (Tr. RMT)


—Summarized by Nishio Misao, member

Suginami Church, West Tokyo District and

KNL Editorial Committee member

Based on an article in Shinto no Tomo

(Believers’ Friend), April 2012 issue


*Editor’s notes:

1. The number of Japanese people registered as believers throughout the country by Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and Christian churches are: Shintoists, 52 percent (106,498,381 persons); Buddhists, 43 percent (89,674,535 persons); Christians, 1 percent (2,121,956 persons); and various other faiths, 4 percent (9,010,048 persons). These statistics were issued by the National Cultural Agency in Dec. 31, 2009. [As methods of calculation vary among the religious bodies, the combined number of believers exceeds the total population of Japan.]

2. Statistics quoted are from sources used by Hashizume.

やっぱりふしぎなキリスト教…なぜ日本で成功しな いのか?

橋爪大三郎(はしづめ だいさぶろう)氏の講演から


東京の日本キリスト教会館で、日本クリスチャンアカデ ミー関東活動センター主催による、ベストセラー『ふしぎなキリスト教』の著者、橋爪大三郎氏の講演会が去る1月14日に開催された。橋爪氏は東京工業大学教授で、この本では社会学者の観点からキリスト教の教義や歴史をわかり やすく紹介している。今回の講演を通して、橋爪氏は、クリスチャンの数が総人口の1%にとどまっている日本の教会のあり方に苦言 を呈し、クリスチャンを増やすための作戦を、次のように提言した。



共著者の大澤真幸さんと私が考えて、『ふしぎな キリスト教』というタイトルにしたのは、「キリスト教は何をやっているのだろう」と思いつつ、「でも教会なんか行かない」と思ってい る、99%の日本人に興味を持ってもらうためです。クリス チャンでないふつうの日本人は、勝手に、キリスト教と距離をおいたり、知識がなかったり、不必要に警戒したりしています。

まず、クリスチャン側の問題点としては、教会が 内側に閉じているような気がする。アメリカの教会などでは誰でも来ていいという原則がとてもはっきりしていて、受付もないし、初めて でもすぐ名前を聞かれたりしない。勝手に入って説教を聞いてもよい。日本人は教会を「家」みたいに思っていて、そうすると「内」と 「外」ができてしまう。外の人には入りにくい場所になるのです。



つぎに思うのは、言葉のボキャブラリーが少な い、ということです。まず、相手のボキャブラリーで語り、不信仰者の立場に立つことが必要です。信仰者は自分の信仰をいったんカッコ に入れて、頭の中を不信仰者の状態にしないといけない。不信仰者がこういうふうに教会に行きたくなり、こういう段取りで聖書が読みた くなり、こういう順番で疑問が解けて、洗礼でも受けようかという人が出てくる。そういう道筋を考えてみるべきです。

不信仰の99%の日本人にしても、全く信仰と無関係ではなく、彼らなりの宗教生活がある。日本で布教をしようと思ったら、日本 のライバル宗教について研究する必要があります。どんな言葉づかいをすると、彼らが教会のほうに近寄ってくるかというロードマップが なければなりません。



最近、韓国や中国でキリスト教徒が急増しています。父親や祖父、先祖を崇拝する儒教に慣れ親しんできた朝鮮半島の 人びとは、都市化が進むにつれて、伝統社会が破壊し、儒教文化も弱体化した。そのぽっかり空いた心の空白に天の父を崇めるキリスト教 が入ってきた。今や全人口の30~50%の韓国人がクリスチャンになった。中国では最近に なって「家庭教会(ジアティン・ジァオフイ)」(家の教会)が急速に拡がり、キリスト教の信徒数は控えめに見てもおよそ1億人はいるようです。中国も儒教国家で、毛沢東と いう偉いお父さんがいなくなると、それを埋めあわせてほしいというニーズがあるわけです。

ところが、日本は偉いお母さんの國です。心に ぽっかり穴があいても「ちょうどよかったキリスト教」とはなりにくい。このそりの合わない部分をどうするか。これが作戦のいちばん大 事な点です。日本ではキリスト教は年中行事として受け入れられています。結婚式は教会で、が一番多いでしょう。幼稚園や学校にも食い 込んでいるし、病院やホスピスなど、キリスト教のお得意の分野がある。



キリスト教でも、サポーターの層を増やすことを まず考えた方がいいと思います。

サポーターは洗礼を受けてないけど、教会に気軽に 出入りしたり、教会の外側でも活動します。そのサポーターにはもっと広いいろんな人びととのネットワークがあり、つながりを広めるこ とが出来ます。教会員→サポーター→サポーターの友だちというふうに、ふだんは仏教徒や創価学会の人でも切り捨てないで接触する。日 本には年中行事があって、村中が仲良く過ごしていた。でも、その中心となる神社やお寺がもう維持できなくなってきている。高齢化し て、人手不足の地域の共同体で、例えば、お葬式を引き受けるなど、キリスト教が宗教でなければできないかたちで手を差し伸べる、シン パが拡がっていく作戦を思い描いてみることができます。



聖書は、誰が読んでも意味がわかりやすい、とい う利点があります。退職後、自分なりに人生や世の中を納得しておきたい、という気持ちをもっている人びとを対象に、教会の外で、たと えば公民館や集会所で、聖書の勉強会みたいなものを開く。誰でもウエルカムで、解説書を読んだりしながら、みんなで聖書を読んでい く。

もう一つの教会の利点は国際組織で、聖書は英語 もフランス語も中国語も何でもあることです。外国語を勉強するのにちょうどよい。子どもや主婦といった人びとを取り込んで、英語で聖 書を読んで勉強するのも有効です。


こういった新手の作戦をいっぱい考えてみたらど うだろう、というのが私の提案です。『ふしぎなキリスト教』を読んだ人のブログを見ると、次になにかやりたくなった、という感想を述 べる人が多い。聖書を読む人が増えて、布教・宣教に少しは役だったのではないかとおもいます。種はまいた。あと、どう収穫するかは、 みなさんの出番です。

(「信徒の友」2012年4月 号より要約・ KNL編集委員・西東京教区杉並教会員 西尾 操)



文化庁2009年12月31日の統計より。*信者数の把握の方法は宗教団体によって異なるため、合計人数が総人口を上回っている。その他の統 計の数字は、橋爪氏の資料による。

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