The Japan FAQ: How Do You Prepare for Japan?

With about nine months to prepare for our move to Japan, it still seems a bit far off. The truth is that moving from a place we’ve now called home for over ten years to a place where we technically haven’t visited yet (the neighborhood we’ll try to find a home in, at least) is a bit daunting. So how do we go about preparing to move to Japan.

I’ll skip the logistics. Obviously, there are the boring details of paring down our material goods and separating our worldly belongings into categories: Keep in the house, put in storage, sell/give away, and trash. I don’t think we need to go down into that darkness.

In a more holistic sense of preparation, how are we going about preparing for Japan?

Getting familiar with the language. Notice this is not getting FLUENT with the language. I’ve been studying Japanese off and on for over a decade and a decade from now, I doubt I’ll still be able to claim fluency in the Japanese language. But gaining a familiarity with the language, by using it at least a few times a day in reading, writing or speaking helps get the rusty wheels of language acquisition turning again. Right now, I’ve committed to 30 minutes a day of language study in Rosetta Stone.  I also intend to start attending our Japanese service once in a while so I can get familiar with Christian terms in Japanese, something no language school is going to teach me. Again, it’s not about fluency, but just about getting used to seeing, hearing and speaking Japanese.

Learning the culture. As a frequent visitor to Japan, I know in the broadest strokes the uniqueness of Japanese culture. However, if you’re trying to figure out how to address the deepest needs of a people, a surface level understanding of culture isn’t going to be nearly enough. This past year, one of my Perspectives instructors clued me to a paper written for the Lausanne Conference entitled “Exegesis of the City” by Glenn Smith. The word Exegesis means an exposition or explanation, but in the context of the city, it is the study of various aspects of a city to discover the entire culture and subcultures that contribute to making the city what it is and determining how to address the real spiritual needs of the city. There are 20 steps in the exegesis of a city including, to name a few: studying significant historical events and how they shaped the city, understanding the different zones of a city and their locations relative to one another (financial, industrial, ghettos, blue collar neighborhoods, etc.), power centers and people of influence,  how communication and information flows,  and analysis of currently existing churches and church strategies, especially among successful, high growth churches.

In this area, I’ve purchased a collection of non-fiction work about Tokyo, ranging from pure historical works to what do Tokyoites like to eat and what neighborhoods do they eat in (I have some ulterior motives for discovering that, of course). I am also researching the locations and basic information about the current growing evangelical churches in the city, in hopes of arranging interviews with pastors or other leaders when we arrive. Of course, much of the research required for properly studying a city must be done in person over a considerable length of time. I think my exegesis of the Tokyo metropolis will continue as long as we are living there.

Praying for Japan. I find it’s important to pray for Japan even more now than ever. The tendency for me is to selfishly pray through my own needs and insecurities about our situation, but it should already be clear to us that if God wants us in Japan, He’s going to bulldoze the path for us (or plant the little flowers along the road, however you prefer to see it). We’re  going to be serving the people of Japan for a long time, so we might as well get into the habit by starting now. There are about a zillion things we can pray for Japan about: suicide, broken families, nuclear disaster, but my focus is on one thing that God has set my mind on: hopelessness. There is HOPE for Japan; his name is Jesus. This is what I believe and why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Today, would you join me, if only for a minute or two, in praying for the people of Japan? Christian, Muslim, Jew, agnostic, whatever you are, God hears a sincere prayer of faith. Pray that HOPE comes to the people of Japan in the form of something worth believing in.

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