When asked about modern Japanese music, most people think of “Jpop” a genre of music filled with the cute and kitschy, churned out by the “idol machine” making publicity companies in Japanese media marketing. It might surprise people that a very popular genre of music in Japan is Black Gospel. I won’t recant the history of how Gospel music became popular in Japan, as my friend Paul Nethercott did an excellent job in explaining this phenomenon on his blog, JapanCAN.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to photograph a gospel concert with singers from Saddleback Church in California and Japanese gospel choir participants and directed by the incredibly talented Meg Awano who has written wonderful gospel songs in Japanese. Meg performs with the Crystal Beads gospel choir as well as holds gospel music workshops which attracts many Japanese, Christian and non-Christian alike.
There is a large network of Japanese people who are involved in Black Gospel choirs, and the majority of them are not Christians, but simply lovers of the music. However, God has used the message of the music to touch the hearts of many Japanese who had never heard the gospel before. One of the gospel singers who visited our church, Tinika Wyatt, explained to the audience that it’s not the music that attracts them, but it is God’s presence in the music. The gospel is the ultimate magnet for the desire of our hearts.
Black Gospel music represents an opportunity to thousands of Japanese with the gospel message, particularly because it breaks down the walls between the gospel message and the people meant to receive it. Many Japanese who would never enter a Christian church to hear an evangelical message will gladly come to hear a gospel concert. And the message they receive is exactly the same, the message of the love and sacrifice of Jesus for them.
One of the large Japanese networks of gospel choirs in Japan is Hallelujah Gospel Family. The choirs in this network are hosted by Christian churches, ensuring that the gospel message contained in the music can be properly explained to the participants. Please continue to pray for ministry opportunities like this where God makes the gospel available to the Japanese people in unique and powerful ways.