Saturday, November 04, 2006

Commercialism, Not Christmas

How to escape a Japanese Gideon...
Japanese approach - bow slightly, accept his pamphlet, and say "arigatou gozaimasu"
Liberal American approach - yell loudly about his intention to subject others to his beliefs, rather than letting them discover everything on their own path
Scary foreigner approach - chew and swallow the paper without a word - he'll never bother you again

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Japan, and the Gideons are swarming about like locusts. Amazing, I would have thought that would be one thing I'd be guaranteed to escape in Japan...

Walking down Hondori Street in Hiroshima, I had a foreign looking man step directly into my path and ask loudly, "Do you speak English?" Not wanting to give anything away, I accepted the paper he was offering (it might have been a free coupon, for all I knew) and continued to walk. He pursued, which was somewhat unusual.

"Have you considered letting Jesus into your life?"

At this point the wear and tear of climbing a mountain earlier in the day really took its toll - here I was, a foreigner in a prime opportunity to stick it to all missionaries by providing a nice international retort... yet, that didn't happen this time. I continued walking and pretended he was something loathsome. Instead, I should have said, "I live in Japan, buddy; I have a hard enough time letting natto into my stomach. Baka."

Nevertheless, despite my hatred for Gideons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and everything they stand for (well, not the beliefs, just the fact that they believe they need to "sell" them), Japan is starting to look a lot more Christmasy. Right after Halloween the ad campaign began.

Japan is primarly a Buddhist society, though it is relatively religiously diverse. But Christmas, like Halloween, means absolutely nothing to a Japanese person. It's just a holiday, like any other. Another excuse to party. An excuse to buy expensive gifts. An excuse to decorate. I would say this is true for many Christians as well, but why even bring the holiday to Japan?

The answer... is simply taking advantage of a consumer society. Give them a symbol, an image to work around. Christmas will do. Halloween will as well. I may be writing an in-depth article on this for Fukuoka Now, so I'll hold off on major details. Nevertheless, Japan is exploiting Christmas, as it exploits so many foreign ideas.

The day I ran the Peace Marathon in Hiroshima was a national holiday - Culture Day (文化の日). Read more about it here.


Anonymous said...

Just a note on Jehovah's Witnesses: they aren't trying to "sell" religion. They are a Christian religion based firmly on the bible, and they preach and teach in the same fashion that Jesus and his disciples did in the first century. They do so out of obedience to Jesus (Matthew 24:14; 28:19,20; Romans 10:13-15) and out of love of neighbor.

In short, preaching is intrinsic to their religion (it's a large part of why they're called "Witnesses" - they are bearing witness or preaching about Jehovah God).

Their work is done freely - they put on dignified attire and spend time and money without any monetary compensation to share bible knowledge with neighbors. Any donations they receive go towards the publication of the free bibles and magazines they give away.

You might already know this. If not, perhaps you'll reconsider how you feel about their work, even if you're not interested in the message.

ターナー said...

I did not know the root of that preaching, but that doesn't change my argument one bit - they ARE trying to sell religion, just as almost every other religion on earth is doing. It has nothing to do with the source of of "bearing witness," or the fact they don't receive any money - they force you to hear their message, intead of just leaving people be. If we want religion, we know where to go. We don't need people on the street accosting us, yelling passages, or coming to our doorstep.