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Japan is recognised as the world's third largest economy, yet it has been rocked by recessions and economic stagnation in recent years. Despite a lack of natural resources and oil, Japan has one of the world's most powerful exporting orientated economies. Unlike most economies, Japan has a high savings and enormous trade surplus. However, the low birth rate and ageing population presents major societal and economic concerns for the future. The Japanese have a strong work ethic and are polite, yet materialism dominates the ambitions of these very busy people, so they give little thought to God and Eternity.
Urbanised Mission Field
Tokyo/Yokohama with 36 Million people, is one of the largest cities in the world. Over 66% of the population of Japan are urbanised. Life expectancy is 82 years. The multiple religious loyalties of the Japanese can be seen in that 85% describe themselves as Buddhist and 90% Shinto! Japan is an extremely materialistic culture. Its own leaders call Japan: "A superpower without a moral compass." Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world – over 30,000 a year. Bullying and teenage prostitution are major social problems.
Japan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. Of the 126 Million people in Japan, 85% claim to be Buddhist and only 1.5% members of a Christian church. Of the 2 Million Christians, barely 600,000 would identify themselves as Evangelical. Only 10% of the Japanese population believe in the existence of a personal God. The concept of a Creator-God is foreign to most. Strong pressure to conform to the social norms and the shame/honour mentality held by many Japanese, makes conversion to Christ very difficult. A pervasive nationalistic Shintoism makes Missionary work extremely difficult in Japan. Japan is the largest unevangelised Mission field that is completely open to Missionaries.
Christians in Japan
There are 15,575 congregations in Japan, consisting of 1,291,021 church members and 2 Million adherents. 3% of Japanese would identify themselves as Christians. Christians are a small minority in a society where consensus and conformity are important. House Churches have been effective in reaching Japanese. 70% of all churches in Japan have an average attendance of less than 30. On average, woman attenders outnumber men, 7 to 1. Yet there are approximately 300 Japanese Missionaries serving in 34 countries.
Strategic Literature Ministry
Japan has a 100% literacy rate. This highly literate, reading, commuting society offers an excellent market for publishing and distributing high quality Christian literature. Yet, there are only 100 Christian book stores in the whole country.
Reformation and Revival
Pray for the impact of the Japanese Church on the nation. The churches in Japan desperately need Biblical Reformation and Spiritual Revival. They need to turn from their insular bunker mentality to engage with the society and effectively Evangelise their nation.
"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to Salvation for everyone who believes." Romans 1:16
Dr. Peter Hammond is an author and Missionary Director of Frontline Fellowship.