Saturday, August 10, 2013

God's Fingerprints in Japan

Before I first went to Japan I thought of advanced technology, computer games, Japanese cars (Toyota, Honda, etc), Mt Fuji, Geisha, Samurai, Karate, bowing, politeness, earthquakes, Godzilla... Later when I went to Japan and lived there for 4 years I found that there is much more to Japan than this.

The vast majority of Japanese people are Shinto Buddhist – Shinto (the way of the gods) being the indigenous religion of Japan. Only about 1% of Japanese are Christian.
Despite the low numbers of Christians there is evidence of ‘God’s fingerprints in Japan’ left there by the God who created all peoples. This is because we all come from Adam and Eve around 6000 years ago, and then from Noah and his family, and then from the Tower of Babel where God created the different language groups.

The Japanese language writing system uses about 2000 Chinese characters that have been borrowed from Chinese. Among these characters there are many amazing similarities to the Bible. For example, the word for boat / ship ( 船 fune) contains the number 8 (八) within it. Likewise, the word for flood (洪水 kouzui) also contains the number 8. This coincides with the Flood account of Noah’s Ark in the Bible where only 8 people were saved from the Flood. These are just two examples of hundreds that show that in ancient times the Bible stories were common knowledge because they were based on real events. (See ‘Bible Stories Hidden in Chinese Characters – A Japanese Perspective’ by T. Boyle)
In Acts 17 the apostle Paul said, “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

In a similar way Japanese are very religious, having around 80,000 Shinto Shrines throughout the country. Shinto is a form of polytheistic animism and their Shinto shrines are dedicated to numerous different gods. One of the gods is called ‘Ame-no-minaka-nushi-no-kami’ ( 天之御中主神 ), which means ’the Chief God in the Centre of Heaven’. This god is ‘unknown’ to most Japanese but was one of the creator gods within Shintoism. However, most Japanese have relegated this god to just being one of many gods.

Shinto shrines are also fascinating in how similar they are to the Tabernacle shrine of ancient Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. (In order to understand the similarities you need to be familiar with the Tabernacle). Typical Shinto shrines have a fence around the outside, a gate at the front, a wash basin, a temple in the centre divided into two parts, the back part being only for the priests, and containing a wooden box covered in gold. These boxes are called mikoshi (神輿), and are paraded through the streets of Japan in their festivals. These are just a few of the numerous similarities between Shinto and ancient Judaism. (See

Japan is also famous for its festivals, and one of the most intriguing (and dangerous) festivals is called ‘Konomiya Hadaka Matsuri’ ( 国府宮神社の裸祭り ) – the Konomiya Naked Festival.

Hadaka Matsuri
In this annual festival near the city of Nagoya hordes of men run through the freezing streets wearing only loincloths. Their goal is to try to touch the naked ‘god-man’ ( 神男 ) in order to get rid of their ‘bad luck’ and receive ‘good luck’. Due to the large sake fuelled crowds it can get pretty violent, especially for the poor ‘god-man’, who has been specially chosen before the festival and has purified himself for 3 days before the festival. Those who can’t participate directly tie prayer cloths to a large bamboo pole which is carried by the men and raised up. At 3am the next morning the exhausted and bruised ‘god-man’ is made to carry a large ash-covered rice cake on his back. The ‘god-man’ is then chased away and buries the rice cake which symbolises bad luck and evil being removed.
The Naked Festival has many parallels with the ancient Jewish ‘scapegoat’ sacrifice and most of all with the God-man Jesus Christ, who was abused by men and hung naked on a ‘pole’ (the Cross) in order to take away our sins. All who touch Jesus in faith are able to receive true spiritual blessing that comes from knowing the Creator.

One explanation for the huge amount of similarities between Japanese culture and ancient Jewish culture is that many Japanese could be descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel (from c. 720 BC). In connection with this, note the similarity between the word Samurai, and Samaria - the latter being the name of the place from where the lost tribes of Israel came from.

There is also evidence to show that the first Christian missionaries arrived in Japan in the 5th C and perhaps as early as 70 AD – well over a thousand years earlier than Francis Xavier’s arrival in 1549. (See ‘Lost Identity’ / ‘Japan: the Nation of the Cross’ by Ken Joseph).
Unfortunately, most Japanese people have lost the true meaning of much of the spiritual things within their culture. They have lost their true identity, and with it have lost their true ikigai ( 生き甲斐 ) which means ‘reason for being’.

There are many other things within Japanese culture that point towards God, and if you search you will find the fingerprints of God in your culture and life. I encourage you to rediscover the deeper meaning behind the things in your culture, and to find the God who loves you and desires a relationship with you.

For Further Reading / Research:

Shintoism - God or Absurdity.

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