History of Scripture Union Japan
History of Christianity

Japan was originally a country of Shintoism and Animism.

In 538 A.D., Buddhism came through China and Korea, and also Confucianism. Since then all of the religions have been mixed and coexisted in Japanese culture.

In 1549, Catholic priest came to Japan to evangelize. The Japanese feudal government of that time really was afraid of Christianity. Therefore, they not only prohibited the evangelism but also made Japan to be a closed country. So from the beginning of the 17th century, to the middle of the 19th century, Japan was a closed country without having any connection with the other countries only except for few countries.

During that time, the government established a parishioner system, which means every Japanese home should be registered with the local Buddist temple, and they had to offer a donation regularly to the temple, and all the funeral services should be done in Buddhist way. This closed condition continued almost 300 years. That custom is still deep-rooted today in the society, and the Christians have had a hard time to break from this old custom.

In 1853, American general, Mr. Perry, came to Japan and asked to start the trade with the US. And in 1859, the first protestant missionaries, Mr. Hebon and Mr. Brown, came to Japan and opened the way for evangelism through the protestant faith. So the history of the protestantism is only 150 years in Japan. The first missionaries established the good mission-schools. (Unfortunately, however, those schools gradually fell into liberal theology.)

In 1872, the first protestant church was established in Yokohama. But at first, they evangelized to the people who had a background of Samurai family, that is, they were rather intellectuals. Therefore, it is said that Japanese Christians are mostly white-colours, or middle and upper-middle class people even today. The evangelism of that time was done mostly in big cities, and evangelism did not penetrate into the rural areas.

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