Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas dinner -- Japanese style

An article by AMY CHAVEZ on the Japan Times Site

Christmas in Japan has always left a little to be desired, but you can't blame the Japanese for this -- they're merely importing the parts they like. And why not? They are quite sure God understands this. I imagine the first Japanese importer went abroad to some place like the U.S., held up a Wal-Mart store with a samurai sword and said: "Give me your entire stock of blinking lights and the sparkly trees!" He then took all the decorations back to Japan and set up pachinko parlors.

Read the rest at: Christmas dinner -- Japanese style

Christmas -- Saint Gregory of Nyssa

"O inexpressible mystery and unheard paradox: the Invisible is seen, the Intangible is touched , the eternal Word becomes accessible to our speech, the Timeless steps into time, the Son of God becomes the Son of Man!"
Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

マリア - The Nativity Story

The Nativity Story. It's a movie that I (Scot) didn't get a chance to see last year, since I was living in South Korea and it was in theaters for only two weeks. However, after a one-year delay, this movie is coming to Japan under a new name: Maria (マリア). You can see one of the promotional posters on the right, and you can visit the website, which includes a trailer, here:
I decided that I would take the opportunity to finally watch this movie. So this is my review of sorts, though I do talk a little bit about Christian media in general. Unfortunately, it's not a good review.

Let's start with the music, since that is my specialty. The soundtrack for this movie is based off of famous Christmas carols like "Silent Night", "What Child is This", and "O Little Town of Bethlehem". ["Carol of the Bells" even makes a surprise appearance.] However, for some unexplainable reason, all of the songs are sung in Latin. Why?! Every single one of the songs was written AFTER the Reformation, in either German or English. Maybe they were just trying to emulate the ethereal sound of the Lord of the Rings soundtracks, where the choruses were sung in one of the two forms of Elvish, both of which Tolkien based off of Latin. Either way, it gives the movie a decidedly Catholic flavor from the start, which could alienate some Japanese viewers.

While we're on the subject of languages, it should be noted that the whole movie is a mix of English and Aramaic. Basically, it works like this: whenever someone greets another person, says goodbye, or prays, it's in Aramaic. Not Hebrew. Again, why? It makes the priests look like they are chanting an incantation, rather than praying to God. I cannot vouch for the Japanese subtitles, since I didn't watch the Japanese version, but I'm assuming they left the Aramaic untranslated. I should also note that whenever the Lord speaks, he does so in King James English. Can someone tell me if a similarly outdated form of language is used in the Japanese?

Now we come to the writing and directing. This movie has two half-climaxes, but no real climax at all. The movie is supposedly centered around the night of Christ's birth, and yet it opens with a scene of Herod killing all of the young children in Bethlehem (which happened two years later). Then, when we finally get to that scene, which was set up from the beginning to be the climax, it is treated as an Epilogue or an afterthought. Along with that there are certain factual inaccuracies, such as the wisemen visiting Jesus on the night of his birth, not when he is two years old (as the Biblical account puts it). As far as directing goes, Catherine Hardwick tries to portray Mary as a character with angst and rebelliousness right below the surface, but then backsteps from that and always shows Mary making the perfect decision. What we get is a lot of sustained shots of Mary's face where she is supposedly thinking very deeply, but for all we know, she could just have indigestion; we don't know, because we are never let into her thoughts, and her decisions never carry any weight.

This writing and directing typefies what I see so often in Christian media. Biblical characters are introduced, but are never given development. We are supposed to automatically like them because they're from the Bible, but the writing/directing portrays nothing in them that allows us to empathize with them or struggle through the problem with them. They instead become moving icons, rather than real characters. [This gives the actors themselves nothing to work with, so I will not comment on their performances beyond saying one thing: it's dull. Really dull.] The far-reaching results of this are that people, children especially, are far more likely to identify themselves with, and form their ideas about the world from, characters they can relate to, like Harry Potter, Spiderman, Edward Elric (from Fullmetal Alchemist - 鋼の錬金術師), or, in extreme cases, Yagami Light (from Death Note - デスノット, a young man with a strong sense of justice who decides to cleanse the world of evil by supernaturally killing all of the evildoers). All of this instead of modeling themselves after the faith of Mary, the selfless giving of Joseph, or the radical government-toppling culture-renewing life-changing messages that Jesus gave. Why? Because those characters, and those messages, are never portrayed with the same amount of artistic flair or dramatic tension; we are simply told about the decisions these people made instead of being shown how they arrived at those decisions and the radical amounts of dying-to-self that it took.

So, should you see this movie, and should you recommend it to your Japanese friends? It's a tough call. One good thing about it is that it DOES visually represent the time and geographical periods very well. It's also a piece of Christian Media that is getting a somewhat mainstream release in Japan, which seems like an accomplishment that should be celebrated. Then there is always the issue where I feel like I am somehow betraying my faith by saying you shouldn't recommend it. However, in the end, I have to say "No." If someone is seriously looking into the faith, there is nothing in this movie that is going to help them through the process (though I'm not denying the possibility of the Holy Spirit using it), and if somebody is already a Christian, there is little here that adds to the original. I'd recommend just re-reading it.

Sufjan Stevens Japan Tour (Jan, 08)

I (Paul) am really looking forward to seeing Sufjan in concert here in Tokyo next year.

Sufjan Stevens Japan tour dates:
Osaka Gig(Monday Jan. 21, 2008)
Tokyo Gig (Tuesday Jan. 22, 2008)

I feel connected to "Suf" because he is a good friend of a friend of mine. Suf is a Christian, but has gained a broad international following that is not confined to the Christian sub-culture. A very creative and rather unorthodox songwriter/performer Suf produces music that is both fun and thought provoking. He has been spotted wearing wings while performing. If you want to see what that looks like check out this video:

About Sufjan Stevens

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"A Sharp Transformation" Quote by Peter Drucker

“Every few hundred years in Western society there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself… We are currently living through such a transformation.” Peter Drucker

Eastern societies also experience sharp transformations and Japanese society appears to be "rearranging itself" in a major way. This is one reason for a greater openness to the gospel in Japan today than there has been in several generations. It is an exciting time to be part of the church in Japan.

The changes occurring in Japanese society present both huge challenges and opportunities --- we all face the critical question: "how are we going to respond?"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Visual Worship

About five weeks ago, I had the chance to play alongside singer/songwriter Mark Miller (http://www.theothermarkmiller.com/) in a concert in Tokyo. Sadly, it was Mark's final concert in Japan before he moved back to the United States, and he is already missed. It was one of the most fun concerts I have ever played in (I played djembe), with Mark, myself, and two other very talented musicians. However, the thing that made it most memorable was not just the great music, but the great art that accompanied it. Graham Fleming (http://www.gramskrit.com/) added his skill to the concert by making works of art while the music was playing. Using a mixture of chalk and watercolors in order to produce the art in a short amount of time, he created 8 drawings over the course of 9 songs. I have included the eight pictures (plus a pre-concert test) right here:

Graham's experiment during the concert filled my head with thoughts and questions. Specifically, it made me think about worship. A commonly accepted definition of worship is that it is "the act of coming into God's presence and responding to Him on the basis of who He is and what He has done." Bruce Leafbald expands this by saying that worship is "communion with God in which believers, by grace, center their minds' attention and their hearts' affection on the Lord, humbly gloryfying God in response to His greatness and His word."

The phrase that jumps out at me is "center their minds' attention." As I mentioned in my last post, I am an English teacher. As such, I have learned about various teaching and learning methods. One of the most widespread theories is the theory of learning modalities, which says that each student has a particular modality, and if information is presented in a way that resonates with their modality, they will be able to easily comprehend it. The modalities are as follows:
Audio - responds best when information is verbalized or presented via sound. They have a hard time gaining information from books.

Visual - responds best when information is presented visually, whether that be through graphics or diagrams. Learning that occurs solely through sound is very difficult for them.
Tactile/Kinesthetic - responds best when information is associated with movement and hands-on activities. These people generally have a hard time with reading and listening, but will immediately understand when they can walk through the process.

Now, let's connect this with "centering their minds' attention." To me, it only makes sense that a person's learning modality is directly connected with how they are able to channel their thoughts and center their minds' attention. I don't think that worship is an exception. I think that audio learners will naturally be able to express themselves to God most fully using sound, and tactile kinesthetic learners will naturally express themselves to God with movement.

The problem is, our worship services are not set up to favor anyone except the audio learners. Think about the elements of the service. In any service, there are active and passive elements. Generally stated, the active elements are the parts of the service where the congregation directly interacts in the service. The passive elements can include sermons and times of prayer (both audio by the way) as well as the church environment. I am not a pastor, so I am not going to qualify on the passive elements. Let me instead focus on the active element: the worship time.

Most worship times consist of two things: singing and responsive reading. These two things highly favor the audio modality. The advent of computers and slide-show presentations have added some visual element to this time, but it is passive. I am looking for things people can participate in. In some churches, dancing is acceptable, which is a blessing to the tactile/kinesthetic people out there. In other churches, the T/K people have to resort to clapping and sometimes (gasp) raising their hands. As far as the visual people go... well... I'm drawing a blank. I can't think of any commonly accepted elements to the service that allow visual people to actively participate in a response to God. This is sad, even tragic! If worship is about centering our minds' attention and our hearts' affection to God, then we are neglecting a sizeable portion of the body without realizing it! How do these people learn to focus on God when the active congregational times are all conducted in a way that doesn't allow them to center their minds' attention?
This is where Graham comes back in. He was a participant in the concert through the visual element, and it was powerful for us musicians, him, and many people in the audience. Is it inconceivable to bring that same idea into a worship service? Here is a small picture of what it could look like: Set up a table on one side of a sanctuary, and on the table to have blank white paper, small amounts of colored paper, old magazines, crayons, markers, scissors, and glue. During the time when the worship team is playing (especially for extended 3-4 song sets), people are free to come to this table and worship God, centering their minds' attention visually. Whatever is produced can either be taken by them or displayed after the service. Think of how that could transform the worship experience for some of the people in our churches! Just last Sunday, I was sitting next to a friend, and when the pastor was talking about advent, she started scribbling the word "Anticipation" in various fonts all over a stray sheet of notebook paper. It was her way of entering into the worship experience. I questioned her about it later that day, and the short conversation that followed was engaging, heartfelt, and meaningful. I would like to see that story repeated every Sunday.

One final note. Adding the visual element to worship is not a new concept. People who practice Lectio Divina have been discovering this for hundreds of years. I have seen this concept transform campus meetings, where instead of a message, an artistically minded student will lead their peers to meditate on a passage of scripture and respond to it visually.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Greetings. My name is Scot Eaton, and along with Paul, I will now be making postings to Worship and the Arts. This isn't my first time on the blog, as Paul posted one of my graduate papers three months ago entitled "The Issue of Authenticity in the Japanese Production of Western Music."

I graduated from Northwestern College in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 2006 with a degree in Intercultural Studies. During my time there, I was able to learn from World Venture missionaries Dr. Garry Morgan and Dr. John Easterling. I also took some classes with Dr. Gaylan Mathiesen and Dr. Russ Lunak, whom you may know. Currently, I am working towards my Master's in Ethnomusicology through Music in World Cultures, which is headed by Dr. John Benham and is currently stationed at Bethel University in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I am also a member of the International Council of Ethnodoxologists.

Six weeks ago, I moved to Tomioka, Fukushima, where I teach English at Zion Language Institute, a school connected with Rev. Akira Sato's church. Prior to coming here, I also taught English for a year in Daegu, South Korea.

I am looking forward to writing for this blog. Paul and I have been in communication for about 18 months now, and have come to respect and value one another. We share a common vision, which is to partner with our Japanese neighbors in order to use arts to creatively reach out to this country. That being said, we sometimes have differing opinions, so be sure to read the comments sections from now on in order to get the whole picture!

I have many ideas for posts in mind, which you will hopefully get to read in the next few months. I will be bringing some ideas to the table, including...
1) Reviews of certain anime/manga series, how they relate to the Japanese and Christian worldviews alike, and how we can use them creatively in our outreach
2) Ideas of how the words "scanlation", "fansub", and "short-term missions" can fit together
3) Academic looks into Japanese music trends and their possible effects on Christian Worship
So, hopefully we can generate some interesting, meaningful, and God-honoring discussion that can lead to new perspectives for all of us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mika's Book "Kimi No Soba Ni" 「君のそばに」

Our good friend and colleague Mika Tsuneda's CD/book set will be released on December 1st. "Kimi No Soba Ni" (Close to You) includes a CD with original music composed by Mika, and performed by her group "Wings." It also includes all the lyrics of the songs on the CD, photos by Mika, several essays by Mika, and some Scripture. This set is a wonderful combination of visuals, sound, and printed words. But, the really exciting thing is that Book Com, the publisher, is a mainstream Japanese publishing house. This means that this book is going to be sold all over Japan, in hundreds of bookstores! Making it accessible to a wide range of readers here in book loving Japan.

I went with Mika to Book Com so I got to meet the two men she has been working with (a promoter and an editor). It was amazing to here them say things like, "this book is for people who are seeking something, this book is for people who are looking for healinhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifg, these photos have power." They were warm and supportive towards Mika and seemed genuinely excited about the book. One incredible fact they told us is that every day there are four hundred books published in Japan! That does not include manga, magazines, or newspapers. Amazing.

If "Kimi No Soba Ni" sells well, and I think it will, all kinds of possibilities will open up for publishing other books by Mika, as well as others. Perhaps it will become a series.... with several artists who are Christians publishing similar works of art.

How to Order:

++Book Details in Japanese: 「君のそばに」 CD付フォト&エッセイ/常田美香(ウイングス)

++Any bookstore in Japan should be able to order the book, if asked to do so.

++You can order directly from the Publisher "Book Com"

++Japan Amazon also has it but at this time is out of stock "Kimi No Soba Ni" on Japan Amazon

++If you live overseas and want to place an order, write to me by putting a comment on this blog, if you want to keep it private just indicate that and no one else will see it.

The center page is this photo of "love" written on a moist window, with flowers visible in the background

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Japan & US Premiere of "Mujo No Kaze"

In January of this year (2007) we (CAN Japan) collaborated with Biola University in the making of a short film. "Mujo No Kaze" was shot on location here in Tokyo, in Japanese. It was a big project that took a lot of teamwork and planning. For me it was a great experience working with the group of eleven that came from Biola, soon we will get to see the results of all our effort. The new, high quality, trailer is gorgeous! The music, mood and cinemaphotography are all very impressive. I heard from Graham Fleming of All Nations, who saw the entire film that "it turned out fantastic, really, I was very, very pleased. "

The Japan premiere
of Mujo No Kaze will be hosted by All Nations on November 30.

Name: All Nations - A Year in Review

Date: Friday, November 30, 2007

Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Location: Grace Church (Grace Christian Fellowship) in Ome, Japan (Tokyo Area) MAP

Phone: 042.830.1604

Description: Please join All Nations Japan as we celebrate our accomplishments in 2007. We will showcase dance selections from AN Dance Summer Tour, short film projects including Mujo No Kaze, and unveil the first painting from a children’s book, "Perfect Places to Play."


The following update was posted by Alyssa Iwata, one of the Biola students, on the Mujo No Kaze blog.

Mujo No Kaze was picture-locked in July (or thereabouts). Dean Yamada (Biola teacher/Director of the film) then began working with various post-houses on sound-mixing, and color correction. Many of you may be wondering what the blazes has been going on with this film since then. A lot, actually. I’ll attempt to corral all that information here:

>>The completed film was submitted to (two film festivals) Sundance and Slamdance, mid-October. We’ll hear if we’re in at the end of this month/beginning of the next.

>>The US premiere is set for December 1st at the AFI Mark Goodson Theatre in Los Angeles. Doors open at 8:15pm. Admission is free. The first screening will be at 8:30pm. For those who are late (which would be a very sad thing, indeed), there will be a second screening at 9:15. Following the 8:30 screening, there will be a Q&A session with the Director/Writer -- Dean Yamada,

>>We launced a Mujo No Kaze Website website where there is a high quality version of the trailer posted!

>>The trailer is also on YouTube. The quality leaves much to be desired, but if it would tickle your fancy to see it on that massive purveyor of media, I present you with the link here.

>>We have created a Facebook group, so if you would like to support us or want to catch the latest news, join us at: “Mujo No Kaze: The Wind of Impermanence”

Mujo No Kaze has been one heck of a wild ride, and it’s not over yet! –posted by alyssa iwata

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Eight or Nine, Maybe Ten"

"Eight or Nine, Maybe Ten" is what my Dad said when I asked him now many church dinners he and his girlfriend Aggie had attended. Now, for those of you who don't know what "church dinners" are.... There is this tradition in Minnesota where every fall churches, mostly of the Lutheran variety, serve a meal in the church. The churches charge admission (according to my Dad rates vary from $7.00 to $12.00). So, this is not a program for reaching out to the homeless. The more popular ones attract large crowds (hundreds) hungry for featured items like home made pies, ham, roast beef, turkey, Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, lefse and yes, of course, lutefisk. Most all of them have lefse, some have Lutefisk. "It was no good" was my Dad's response to the Lutefisk he got this year.

My 86-year-old Dad and I outside his apartment in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

Lefse & lutefisk are what a lot of people get excited about.

Lefse is a primarily potato driven, flat, soft, bread type of delicacy that purists (i.e. my family eats it) roll up and eat cold with a little butter and white sugar.

Lutefisk is a barely edible, slimy, gelatin like, white fish that they soak in lye (can you imagine eating something that has soaked in lye for weeks, perhaps months)? When I was a kid, I sold Lutefisk to our customers in the Red Owl store in Kerkhoven MN. We would get large vats full of liquid with the lutefisk floating in it. We kept these vats in the walk in cooler. People would come up to the counter and order big portions of it so I would go into the walk in, fish it out (pun intended) of the ice cold fluid, and put the slimy, nasty stuff into clear plastic bags. Made me wonder if our customers hadn't lost their minds.

Apparently, they took it home, ate it and enjoyed it because every year, late in the fall, we sold hundreds of pounds of Lutefisk. The season for Lutefisk sales in MN runs from around Halloween, ramping up to Christmas when demand is high. After Christmas, Lutefisk pretty much disappears from both stores and minds until the next season rolls around.

For those of us from a Scandinavian background, both lefse and lutefisk bring back memories of home, Christmas and of Mom cooking up all kinds of great stuff in the kitchen. I guess that is why I miss it so much.

There really are a few people who live the life of Lake Woebegone.

Monday, October 29, 2007

"COLORS" by Naomi Nethercott


Bright, dark, and beautiful,

Someone is drawing,

The colors are acting colorful,

It feels like colors are everywhere.

This type of poem is called a Cinquain. Naomi will turn ten next month and is in fourth grade.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Manga Messiah Gets A Response on the Web

On August 24, 2007 Anime News Network posted a news item on Manga Messiah and the Manga Bible. ANN is one of the more important mainstream anime sites, it has a huge amount of information on anime and also features bulletin boards where readers can post comments. So far, the news item about the Bible Manga project has generated 110 posts by ANN members. One of the more prolific posters is a young friend of mine who is a fan of both anime and manga. He is doing a great job of interacting about important spiritual issues, from a Christian perspective.

The posts in this thread (which can be read by anyone, you don't have to sign in) are informative and interesting.

The Original Article on ANN: Christian Manga, Bible with Japanese Artists Announced

ANN Discussion Board Posts: Click Here To Read

There is a well written, review that includes a number of photos of Manga Messiah at a site called Manga Life.

Finally, "independent comics site" has a scathingly negative review that includes the following paragraph: "There are many weird things out there, like pizza with spaghetti topping or movies about killer tomatos. In the comic book world I'd guess that the weirdest thing to date is "Loaded Bible" or "Swing with Scooter." Now, Tyndale House Publishers takes the cup with their newest project, coming this fall: The Manga Bible!"

I will add more links as I find them.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Bible Manga: How Will the Church Respond?

A Report on the Bible Manga Meeting:

We held a "Bible Manga Informational Meeting" in Tokyo on October 27th, 2007. At the meeting Roald Lidal, director of New Life League Japan, announced that the Japanese version of Manga Messiah (the first book in a series of five) will be released early in 2008 and sold in mainstream bookstores in Japan for between 800 and 1,000 yen per copy.

MM (Japanese version) will also be available in Japan to churches and other ministries for the deeply discounted price of 250 yen per book -- if ordered by the case directly from the publisher.

Lidal emphasized that the Japanese used in this series of books will be genuine "street Japanese" in typical manga style. Participants speculated that many, if not most, Christians in Japan will not appreciate the Bible being published as manga. But, Lidal is deeply committed to his almost forty-year-old dream of producing genuine Bible based manga that will connect with mainstream Japanese.

We got to see a full color draft of "Manga Mutiny," the first of the five Bible Manga books. No details but I can assure readers that NLLJ is taking a bold and exciting approach to depicting the early chapters of Genesis.

The attendance at this meeting was low, only a dozen. It could have been one of those days when lots of people had other things going on. But, my feeling is that it indicates the established church is not very interested in Bible Manga. This is because Japanese pop culture is feared, ignored and/or rejected by a large percentage of Christians. This is a huge blind spot but people can't see that because, well, because it IS a blind spot.

How important is pop-culture in Japan?

Lidal told the group that a few years ago a Japanese manga series called Shyonen Jump, was publishing 6 million copies per week. One of the well known series published in the weekly Shyonen Jump magazine is a series called Bleach. The manga called "Bleach" is an amazing depiction of a cosmic battle between good and evil spirits. The story is squarely based on widely held Japanese beliefs about the spirit world. Bleach has also been produced as an anime series.

This kind of story is part of pop culture in a country where people are said to be "secular" and "not interested in spiritual things!"

Both "Shonen Jump" and Bleach are popular in the US market as well.

Note: "Shyonen" is the standard way to spell this word and also better reflects Japanese pronunciation, apparently the publishers decided to use "shonen" to make it shorter.

This photo is a montage of images from "Bleach"

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Danny Doyal & House Church

Last evening I was in the central area of Tokyo where Avery Toves and I met with Yu Shibuya and his friend Danny Doyal. Danny is a Christian guy who works as a DJ in the LA underground scene.

We had a great conversation about a lot of things but what most interested me was his church in LA. He is the pastor of a small "house church." Danny said "it is a group of friends who didn't fit into established chruches." They hang out together at the home of one of the members. They hold meetings but have almost none of the "normal" church programing and organization. Right now I am listening to Danny's CD "turntable praise" which is a fascinating mixture of worship, black gospel, pop, and techno, with some "preaching" spliced in the crevices.

There are a growing number of similar house church groups in the US. This is also happening in Japan. One group of house churches in Tokyo meet in Karaoke bars, which are cheap to rent by the hour and places where people are used to going to.

Danny is part of a new wave of young Christians who don't really "fit" in any of the old categories. He is also one of a growing number of media savvy, artistic, internationalized Christians who have a great deal to offer to our world.

Anime and Popular Culture: Interview with Bill Ellis

-- an excellent article for those who want a basic introduction to anime from the blog TheoFantastique run by my new Cornerstone friend John Morehead

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bible Manga Informational Meeting: Announcement #2

“Bible Manga is one of the most contextualized mass-media presentations of the gospel in the history of Christianity in Japan."

New Life League Japan (NLLJ) is publishing an exciting series of books called “Bible Manga.” These books are are genuine full-color manga, created by Japanese artists with text in Japanese. The first of the five books in the series, Manga Messiah, has already been published in English and is being translated into at least twenty other languages. It is getting a good deal of attention in mainstream, manga related blogs and news sites.

According to Roald Lidal, NLLJ will publish the original Japanese version of Manga Messiah in early 2008. This meeting with the publisher is a strategic opportunity to learn more about this important new resource. We want the Christian community in Japan to know as much as possible about this tremendous opportunity to artistically communicate the gospel to millions of Japanese manga readers.


Roald Lidal (Director of NLLJ) and his associate, Toshi Iwaoka (Assistant General Director of NLLJ), will make a presentation. They will also bring samples of Manga Messiah for attendees and a copy of the artwork for the next book in the series. There will be about an hour of time allocated for Q & A. This meeting will be conducted in English. If there is enough interest we will schedule another meeting in Japanese.

When: Thursday, September 27, 2007 10:00 AM to Noon

Where: Harvest Hall, Matsukawa Place, Higashi Kurume, Tokyo

(Matsukawa Place is located next to Christian Academy in Japan)

500-yen donation

Registration: None needed – just come, you are welcome to bring others with you

Sponsor: CAN (Christians in the Arts Network)

Bible Manga Home Page

Questions? Contact Paul Nethercott info@japancan.com or call 090-9845-0091

Monday, September 10, 2007

Announcing an Informational Meeting Regarding "Bible Manga"

New Life League Japan (NLLJ) is publishing a very important and exciting series of books called “Bible Manga.” Japanese artists are creating five genuine manga books based on the Bible (three Old Testament and two New Testament). The original art and text is in Japanese but Manga Messiah has already been released in English and is available at Amazon. According to Roald Lidal, NLLJ will publish the original Japanese version of Manga Messiah in Japan in early 2008.

“Bible Manga” is probably the most contextualized mass media presentation of the gospel in the history of Christianity in Japan. Remarkably, it is already being translated into at least twenty different languages.

The purpose of this meeting is to build vision for and provide information about the “Bible Manga” project. We want the Christian community in Japan to be prepared to make the most of this tremendous opportunity to communicate the gospel to the millions of mainstream Japanese who are manga readers.

Program: Roald Lidal (Director of NLLJ) and his associate, Toshi Iwaoka (Assistant General Director of NLLJ), will make a presentation. They will also bring samples of Manga Messiah for attendees and a copy of the artwork for the next book in the series. Finally, we will have about an hour for Q & A. This meeting will be conducted in English.

When: Thursday, September 27, 2007 10:00 AM to Noon

Where: Harvest Hall, Matsukawa Place, Higashi Kurume, Tokyo
(Matsukawa Place is located next to Christian Academy in Japan)

Cost: 500-yen donation

Registration: None needed – just come

Sponsor: CAN (Christians in the Arts Network)

Questions? Contact Paul Nethercott at info@japancan.com or call 090-9845-0091 (in Japan)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Japanese Pop-Culture’s Popularity in the West: What does it mean for missions in Japan?

This post is my column for the fall issue of Japan Harvest magazine. The readers are primarily career missionaries serving with established mission organizations in Japan so the article is written specifically for that group.

Some definitions (adapted from wikipedia.org):

Manga (漫画) is a Japanese word for comics and print cartoons. Outside of Japan, it refers specifically to comics originally published in Japan.

Anime (アニメ) is an abbreviation of the word "animation". Outside Japan, the term popularly refers to animation originating in Japan.

Otaku (おたく) is a complicated word that in Japanese slang refers to a narrowly focused obsessive person. In English “otaku” is often used to refer specifically to fans of anime and/or manga, but can mean "geek."

J-Pop is an abbreviated form of “Japanese pop” and refers to popular Japanese music; it is often featured in anime.

Hayao Miyazaki is a famous creator of anime and manga. Ghibli Studios, co-founded by Miyazaki, has been called "the Japanese version of Disney."

For further information go to the The Anime and Manga Portal on wikipedia

After WW II, there was a surge of missionaries to Japan, many of whom “connected” with Japan because of the war. The current popularity of Japanese pop culture in the West may be the catalyst for a new surge of young people coming to Japan as missionaries. These young people are “connecting” with Japan via anime, manga, and J-pop. They tend to be bright, creative, media savvy, unconventional, and many aren’t interested in raising support; some young adults who fit this profile are already showing up in Japan. And, there are signs that many more will follow.

Murray Trim represented TEAM Japan at the last Urbana missions conference where he was extremely busy meeting with students interested in Japan: “I was amazed at the number of young people who came to talk to me regarding possible service in Japan who said their interest began due to their involvement with anime and/or manga.”

I sent a survey to a number of young Westerners who are, or have been, involved in Japan-focused missional activity. Eight of fourteen respondents said they are fans of Anime and/or Manga. Of those eight, four said that manga/anime was a factor in them being involved in missions in Japan.

What these young adults said:

Jesse Gillespie (artist in his twenties):
Anime is becoming more popular each year here (in the USA), and I'm amazed at how many series are being translated in print and video. There are not many series, which Americans aren't able to get in English.

Bryan Davidson (musician in early 30s):
As manga is embraced by all ages here (in Japan), understanding and caring about what our neighbors enjoy will often show we love them. To not observe the art (pop or otherwise) of a culture is a foolish and unloving mistake for any missionary to make.

Jessica Stebbing (college student):
Just like any media, people have to be careful and mindful of what is good and pleasing to God. I think some people are a little overboard and assume it is all pornography, and tend to come off as condemning of the people who are interested in it. I think it’s good to have an understanding of the good aspects of manga and anime so they can approach discussing the bad elements in a less condescending way.

Scot Eaton (graduate student):
For me, anime, manga, and video games really helped raise my awareness of Japan. They also helped me to start understanding the (Japanese) world view.

Miwa Isomura (college student):
It is very interesting that much of the manga/anime has a lot of spiritual aspect in it, more than it has in the past.

Stephe Halker (artist):
I have found no better way to understand the Japanese spirit than through its commercial arts. Couched inside every fight scene and comic situation is a myriad of epic, culturally based, moral, and ethical positions. I think it would be very difficult to learn about Japanese culture without having comics and cartoons as treasure maps and porters.

Missionaries who want to learn about manga and/or anime deal with a massive amount of material, some of which is perverted, so it is difficult to know where to start. My suggestion is to start with one of Miyazaki’s films, which are available in Japanese rental stores. In particular, I recommend “Princess Mononoke” 『もののけ姫』There is violence, so it is not appropriate for young children.

How we respond to this new surge of young adults arriving in Japan is critical. One response is to wring our proverbial hands in despair over their faults and criticize them. If we do that, we will lose the strategic opportunity to invest in the lives of these gifted young people. Instead, we need to ask constructive questions:
  • How can we help them grow and to be effective?
  • Are they going to fit into current structures and programs? Should they?
  • Should we expect them to sit through long meetings?
  • How can they contribute to media related outreach?
  • What special contributions can they make to building up the church?
These young fans of Japanese pop culture need people who believe in them, accept them as they are, guide them, and nurture them. Wow, what an exciting opportunity!

Links to pertinent articles:

Weekend Beat: Cashing in on over-the-counter culture

Manga Demographics

What's hip, fresh and appeals to young readers? MANGA!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Princess Mononoke: A window into the Soul of Japan

This is one of the presentations I did at Cornerstone Festival in June. "Princess Monoke" is an outstanding anime movie produced by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. My perspective is that the Mononoke story is rooted in Japanese mythology/beliefs and therefore reveals "the soul of Japan."

I don't know if this video, actually a slide show, "works" or not. There is no audio so it is just an outline, but it does include some photos. There are also a couple of technical glitches I know not how to fix. So, it is as it is. If you have seen "Pincess Mononoke you will get something out of this. If you haven't seen it, you probably won't get a thing out of it. If you think it is lame, let me know and I will delete it (two votes for "delete" will probably be enough to get it off this blog). On the other hand, if you think its good, let me know that too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Authenticity in the Japanese Production of Western Music

by Scot Eaton
A paper for Applied Ethnomusicology, Bethel University, St. Paul, MN

It was 8:00pm on a warm summer night in Hiroshima, and everything was closed—CD stores, bookstores, coffee shops, even some bars! I was astounded. I was traveling with the Northwestern College Symphonic Band, and we had been given the night to explore the city on our own. Frustrated at the lack of things to explore, I went back to my hotel room and turned on the TV. After all, Japanese game shows were entertaining enough, even if I didn't know the language. I ended up finding a game show called “How's Your J-Pop English?”, where contestants listened to their favorite J-Pop (Japanese Pop) songs and had to translate the English lines back into Japanese. They were given points for accuracy, and they were mercilessly teased if they mistranslated a line. I was amazed and amused, especially when two of the three teams confused the word “exotic” with a similar-sounding English word. At that time, I didn't understand the significance of what I was watching.

One common feature of J-Pop music (and its harder alternative, J-Rock) is the blending of English and Japanese lyrics. Sometimes, this will take the form of an English chorus tagged on to Japanese verses. Other times, the song may be entirely in English. Still, at other times, there will be a very free mix of English and Japanese peppered throughout the lyrics. This is illustrated by the band Flow in their hit song GO!!!! The lyrics for the chorus and first verse are as follows:

We are Fighting Dreamers Takami wo mezashite
Fighting Dreamers Narifuri kamawazu
Fighting Dreamers Shinjiru ga mama ni
Oli Oli Oli Oh-! Just go my way!

Right here Right now (Bang!)
Buppanase Like a dangan LINER!
Right here Right now (Burn!)
Buttakitteku ze Get the fire!

As you can see, there is enough English for an English speaker to almost understand what is being said, and there is enough Japanese for that to work in reverse. This style of lyric writing is very stylized, and it is considered highly enjoyable. The same holds true for songs with entire sections in English.

Interestingly enough, this is not only part of the professional music scene. Even amateur singers and bands use this feature in their music. The following is an excerpt from the song I Remember Feat, written by two members of the Jesus Lifehouse Church in Tokyo, Japan:

I remember anokoromo really really love u mou osoi?
Ne-e? Darling? R U leaving me?
I do not know why I did it
Sorry anokorowa really really busy
Always my heart crying kaitainoni
it was all my fault

The roots of this feature are very deep, spanning the entire 120-year history of Western music in Japan and taking the historic view towards 'foreign' music into account. In 2005, Bonnie C. Wade wrote a landmark book entitled Music in Japan. Its importance lies in the fact that it recognizes the recent adoption of Western music as an integral part of the development of Japanese music, and shows how this is in reflection of, not in contrast to, Japanese history. In the last chapters of the book, she takes a look at the current J-Pop trend, specifically focusing on the inclusion of English lyrics. She says that this feature “is quite common, as knowledge of English is a prestige factor” (Wade, 152). English as a prestige factor is in many ways indicative of the larger view of Japanese people towards Western music; though they claim ownership in Western music, they see themselves more as observers than participants.

This paradoxical thought has crept into the Japanese church as well. Their worship music is reflective of their heart music, but issues of authenticity make it hard for the Japanese people to take ownership of their worship music. Instead of being truly inventive in making music that reflects their growth and struggles, they have instead relied on translated songs and new songs written in imitation of American/Australian/European worship styles. In this paper, I will briefly examine the history of music (Western and Oriental) in Japan, trace the roots of the authenticity issue in order to come to an understanding of the Japanese heart-music paradox, and apply that knowledge by building a framework for songwriting workshops that will help the Japanese church write new music that they can take ownership of. I believe that a proper knowledge and understanding of the history of popular Japanese music will provide many insights into how to make the repertoire of Japanese Christian music more meaningful for everyone.

History – Importation, Assimilation, and Indigenization in the Heian Period

Historically, Japanese music has been formed and expanded by importing music from other cultures and assimilating it. Though this has continually occurred throughout the past 1500 years, there were two periods when music and culture were imported at a very rapid rate: the Heian period (794-1185) and the Meiji period (1868-1912) (Wikipedia, Japan).

The first recorded culture that brought foreign music to Japan was the Korean Shilla Kingdom. In 453, eighty performers from Korea traveled to Japan, bringing music and Buddhism with them (Wade, 23). Though not much is known about this contact, Korea continued to have an effect on the development of Japanese music.

The period of Japanese history where there was a very rapid importation and assimilation of foreign music and culture was the Heian period. Until that point, contact with other cultures had been slow and unpurposeful, but with the Chinese re-introduction of Buddhism, Japan took proactive measures to transplant parts of Chinese culture, philosophy, music, writing, and religion (Wade, 24). They began rapidly importing many different styles of music, which they broke into two categories: tougaku (music of the left—from China and Southeast Asia) and komagaku (music of the right—from Korea and Manchuria) (Wade, 25).

These two influences were combined to form the style of music called gagaku, the music of the court. This style is now considered classical Japanese music, even though it was formed in imitation of Chinese and Korean music. From my own experience and research into Korean music, I can confirm the vast similarities between Japanese gagaku instruments and the instruments used in traditional Korean music. The most important instrument for gagaku is arguably the Hichiriki—a double-reed aerophone. In its sound and construction, it is very similar to the Korean Piri. The Shou, which is sometimes called a mouth organ, is very similar to the Korean Saenghwang—and both of these were developed from the Chinese Sheng (Wikipedia, Sho). Even three of the four most well-recognized Japanese instruments have their Korean doubles. The Shakahuchi is extremely similar to the Danso; the Koto is almost identical to the Gayageum (the Korean national instrument); and the Taiko drum could be mistaken for the Jingo by all but the most educated scholars. One might argue that the Shamisen is the only true Japanese instrument, until we learn that it was imported from Okinawa, which wasn't even a part of Japan at that time (Wikipedia, Music of Japan).

So we see that even the styles of music and the instruments that are seen as 100% Japanese have, in fact, been developed in light of other countries. Admittedly, it is hard to know which instruments and music styles originated where, and who transmitted them to who, since China, Korea, and Japan have a very long and messy history—each influencing the other in turn. What we can know is that the idea of importing, assimilating, and eventually indigenizing foreign music is integral to Japanese musical history.

Therefore, when the Japanese imported and assimilated Western music over a century ago, it was part of their natural process of developing music in their culture. Presently, when we speak about Japanese music, we are no longer speaking solely about gagaku, music from the No and Kabuki theaters, or Min'yo (folk) music. We are not even talking about music based on the in and yo scales. Now, when we talk about Japanese music, we include all of the historical styles and add to them Punk, Electronica, J-Pop, J-Rock, Enka (a ballad fusion style), Black Gospel, Western Classical music, and especially Jazz. This musical shift can even be traced in language. In Japanese, the word for music is ongaku (音楽), which combines the kanji gaku (楽), meaning comfort (shorthand for 'music' in other cases), with on (音), which means sound. So, one could say that the Japanese word for music is “comfortable sound” (Wikipedia, Music of Japan). Bonnie C. Wade notes that the word ongaku “is now used to refer to music in the Western tradition or by composers trained in Western music rather than in the Japanese tradition” (Wade, xiii). The word for “traditional” Japanese music is now hougaku (邦楽), which means “home sound.” When did the meaning change? When did the comfortable sound become the home sound?

History – Importation, Assimilation, and Indigenization from the Meiji Period Onward

The introduction of Western music came during the Meiji Period (1868-1912, aka the “Meiji Restoration”), when the Tokugawa Shogunate was displaced by the young Emperor Meiji, and Japan's two-and-a-half century policy of isolation was abolished (Wikipedia, Meiji Period). Like the Heian period, where Chinese culture was imported and assimilated, European and American culture were now being imported at rapid rates. Industrialization was made a goal, and though State Shinto was established, the ban on Christianity was lifted.

One of the things that was imported was a classless education system, whereby all children could be educated, instead of just the elite children. This was modeled after the school systems of the USA, and since music was a part of the US curriculum, it became part of the Japanese curriculum as well (Wade, 11). However, there was a dispute as to which kind of music would be taught. This dispute was founded on both “psychological” and “pragmatic” issues (Wade, 14). Psychologically, many people did not see Western music and Oriental music as equals. They held the idea that Oriental music was underdeveloped and imperfect, whereas Western music had very nearly reached perfection (Wade, 13). Pragmatic reasons, however, were the deciding factor. The Japanese government was trying to create a classless education system, but all hougaku music was associated with a particular class or social setting. It was simply easier to import a new style of music than to try to remove social stigmas from the more traditional forms of music. Wade says, “European music was a solution to the dilemma: the meaning of European (i.e., foreign) music could be constructed as the same for all Japanese” (14). So Western Classical music became the music of the schools.

At the same time, the new influx of Protestant missionaries brought in hymns, which were accompanied by a small reed organ or a piano. Hymns, with their simple four-part harmonies, caught on very quickly (Wade, 15). This, in turn, inspired a young man named Torakusu Yamaha to start designing reed organs and pianos. He named his company Yamaha, and they have been at the forefront of innovation in instrument creation ever since (Yamaha, About Yamaha). In the late 50's, they created an instrument called the “Electone,” or the Electric Organ, which was the first classified electrophone in the world (Wade, 46). As a side note, Yamaha also created schools of music for the purpose of teaching Japanese people how to enjoy the instruments that they made (Wade, 45-46).

The organ, piano, and electone became instruments of prestige in Japan through a roundabout manner. It was not because they were church instruments. Rather, Japanese homes are not carpeted; they are covered in tatami (mats made of relatively fragile straw). The heavy pianos, organs, and electones would simply break the tatami. So, as Wade says, “the piano went into the wood-floored space for especially treasured items (tokonoma), thereby being accorded high status spatially, visually, and emblematically” (Wade, 15). This was the first sign of the prestige of Western music.

Jazz, however, became the “comfortable sound” of the people. It was introduced during and immediately after World War I, and it immediately took (Wade, 18). The Japanese began importing and assimilating jazz music, buying recordings of American jazz bands and calling upon Filipino Jazz musicians to come and be their teachers (Wade, 19). With the readily available Yamaha line of instruments, and students who had been trained in classical music which emphasized chord structures and metric rhythms, jazz became the most vibrant music scene of Japan. It stayed vibrant until the period of Japanese Imperialization just prior to World War II, when the government ordered all jazz bands to disband (Wade, 133). During this period, the only Western music allowed was music from Italy or Germany—Japan's allies. After the war ended, jazz resumed, eventually developing into rock and roll, which in turn developed into pop (Wikipedia, Music of Japan). So, jazz music is ultimately the root music of the J-Pop/J-Rock phenomenon.

Western Prestige and the Issue of Authenticity

Jazz did not immediately resume after World War II though. Instead of Japanese artists being able to freely express themselves, jazz bands were forced to cater to the American occupying forces. They learned the repertoires of Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong. According to Wade, “The occupation period, the first opportunity they had for prolonged interaction with American musicians rather than learning from recordings or other foreigners, was at the same time a period when imitation was demanded.” She then goes on to quote Atkins, who says, “Because the essentially American character of jazz is regarded as so incontestable, Japan's jazz community has had to locate itself in an aesthetic hierarchy that explicitly reflects and reinforces asymmetries of power and cultural prestige on the Japan-US relationship by placing American artists at the apex as 'innovators' and non-Americans at the bottom as 'imitators' (Wade, 134).

This led to a skewed view of authenticity, which originated in jazz music but spread to other Western genres. The only “authentic” jazz was American; Japanese jazz was automatically given a lower standard. This view is still seen today. In 1993, Keith Cahoon wrote the following: “While many of Japan's jazz artists display marvelous technical ability, few display any real originality” (qtd. in Wade, 139).

This idea of authenticity has taken root in the idea of Western music in Japan. Even though Western music has become the heart music of the people, there is still the idea that it can only be authentically done by Westerners.

Is it possible that this is the root of the feature of mixing English and Japanese together in lyrics? Is it possible that Japanese bands who write rock songs entirely in English (their second language) are simply doing it in a vie for authenticity? That is a subject for further research. What we do know is that there is prestige awarded to those who can mix the languages in their pop music. For now, let us simply note that the Japanese people have a history of aggressively importing and assimilating music and instruments from around the globe. Western Music, from its very inception, became the music of the common people—the music that was shared across all class boundaries. It evolved from classical music to hymns to jazz to rock to the myriad of forms which are found today. It has become the “comfortable sound” of the Japanese people, set apart from the “home sound” of more traditional forms. Japan has been the scene of much innovation in Western music, from electric instruments to karaoke. And yet, there is still the paradox that even though it is their heart music, they struggle with seeing their own production of Western music as authentic.

Authenticity and the Japanese Church

This same historical rhythm of importing, assimilating, and indigenizing, as well as the paradox of authenticity with their heart music, can be ascribed to the Japanese church. As we have already seen, hymns play a very important role in the development of Western music in Japan. As Japanese Christians were looking to import and assimilate Christian music, the missionaries were only too happy to oblige. This has continued with the importation of many modern-day praise choruses from America. Recently, the trend has shifted to Hillsong music from Australia. The result is that the majority of Japanese churches still use translated music for their worship. This helps to expand their repertoire of music, but it is not helping their views of authenticity.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Nancy Nethercott about the state of Christian worship in Japan. Nancy and her husband Paul are the directors of the Christians in the Arts Network of Japan (Japan CAN). Together, they have developed one-day workshops that cover the subjects of what worship is, how worship operates as a rhythm of revelation and response, and how to plan services accordingly. Nancy informed me that there is a lot of Japanese Christian music being written, but that most of it is being written in imitation of American/Australian styles (Nethercott, 2007). Because of this process of importing and assimilating, they are assimilating the same deficiencies that Western worship music suffers from, namely the overabundance of response-based songs and the lack of revelation songs. Some are writing testimony songs as well, but there is still a large gap in the worship repertoire that needs to be filled. Nancy is encouraging Japanese Christians to write revelation-based songs that are loaded with theology, but she is finding it hard, since “it takes a very spiritually mature Christian to write those songs” (Nethercott, 2007).

What is unspoken in this case is the idea that many Japanese Christians are trying to write authentic worship music, and the only way they know how to do it is to imitate what they see. This is not a bad thing. When I learned how to draw, I began by tracing the work of other artists. From their pictures, I learned the elements of form, proportions, and styles. When I finally moved myself away from imitation and started drawing on my own, my work was awful. It took me a very long time to develop my own style to the point where it was recognized as “good” by other people. Musicians go through the same process. We begin by playing the works of other people, and then we start to move away from that and play on our own. It is my underlying assumption that almost every musician goes through this stage. However, most get frustrated that the art that they produce doesn't even meet their own standard of being good, and they quit. In a broader sense, I can see the same thing happening with the Japanese church. Some have moved away from imitating Western worship music, but when they weren't satisfied with the result, they quickly reverted back to what they perceived to be authentic. They didn't trust their own result.

Christianity is very small in Japan. The highest estimates I have heard are at about 4%, but most would admit that it is less than 1%. The CIA World Factbook lists the Christian population as 0.7% (CIA World Factbook Japan). As such, there are really only 890,000 Christians in the entire nation. If even 1% of those Christians were songwriters, there would only be 8,900 songwriters. Unfortunately, because many have tried songwriting and failed (in their own minds), the percentage is actually much lower, and Christian music is not yet taking off in Japan.

My goal is to see that sense of authenticity shift. The Japanese music culture is much like America's—highly competitive and artistically demanding. As it is in America, most are too afraid to try their hand at songwriting for fear that they will fail to produce single-quality material. However, I believe that wherever musicians are assembled, we have a group of songwriters. With that in mind, I would like to build a framework for songwriting workshops in the Japanese churches that will help to produce new, authentic material which will speak to the needs of the Japanese heart.

[A section "Workshops for Examining and Deepening the Musical Worship Repertoire"
- 3800 words - removed with permission from the author]


All of this is to fulfill the vision of the Japanese people no longer feeling like imitators of worship music, but as innovators in the field. The Japanese have a long history of importing, assimilating, and indigenizing music. Through an understanding of their musical history, we see the paradoxical state that the Japanese are in with regards to Western music, where American is seen as “authentic” and English lyrics are considered “prestigious”. However, as I said before, I believe that a proper knowledge and understanding of the history of popular Japanese music will provide many insights into how to make the repertoire of Japanese Christian music more meaningful for everyone. Long ago, during the Heian era, the music, philosophy, culture, and religion of China and Korea was imported into Japan, and now all of that is inseparable from Japanese culture. I believe that history has been repeating itself since the Meiji era, and we are seeing Japan take on Western music and culture in the same way. However, we are not seeing them accept the new religion because of a misunderstanding of what worship is and how authentic worship is not imitated from other cultures, but produced by a union of the mind and the heart through the spirit. Through these workshops on the examination and deepening of musical worship repertoire, I hope to make small changes in that ideology, so that one day, Christianity will be just as inseparable from Japanese culture as Western music currently is.

Elmer, Duane. Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for Effective Ministry. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Nethercott, Nancy. Personal Interview conducted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2007.
Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions (2nd Ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004.
Saurman, Todd and Mary E. Some Principles for Leading Ethnomusicology Workshops: Encouraging the Development of New Songs in the Lives of Believers. Paper included on the Proceedings CD Rom for the Global Consultation on Music in Missions 2006.
Schrag, Brian & Paul Neeley, eds. All the World Will Worship: Helps for Developing Indigenous Hymns (Third Edition). Duncanville, Texas: EthoDoxology Publications, 2005.
-Saurman, Todd and Mary E. Catalyst H: The Worship Wheel: Developing Culturally Appropriate Music as Expressions of Worship in the Lives of Believers. pp.49-53.
-Hendershott, Mary. Tool EE: Ideas for Enriching Song Texts. p.166.
-King, Roberta. Tool GG: Using Different Scripture Songs for Different Stages of Church Growth. pp.169-177.
Wade, Bonnie C. Music in Japan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Wikipedia: The Free Online Encyclopedia, www.wikipedia.org. All articles retrieved on 08/03/07.
-Japan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan
-Sho, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sho
-Music of Japan, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Japan
-Meiji Period, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiji_period
Yamaha Global Gateway, “About Yamaha.” http://www.global.yamaha.com/about/index.html

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

English Version of Manga Messiah now available at Amazon

The English version of Manga Messiah, distributed in the US by Tyndale, is now on-sale at Amazon.com

Press Release from Tyndale:
"We're thrilled to offer the greatest story ever told, about the most controversial man who ever lived, in the most popular graphic novel format on earth," explains Kevin O'Brien, Director of Bibles and Bible Reference at Tyndale House Publishers.

Four additional titles in Tyndale's manga series will roll out in four consecutive years. Fans can look forward to Manga Mutiny (Fall 2008), Manga Metamorphosis (Fall 2009), Manga Malech (Fall 2010), and Manga Messengers (Fall 2011).

Tyndale House Publishers has purchased exclusive English language rights for all of the titles in the manga series from NEXT Inc., a nonprofit corporation formed in 2006 to produce and distribute biblically based manga materials worldwide. Behind NEXT is a group of dedicated professionals with years of experience in Japanese printing and publishing. For additional information, please see www.nextmanga.com

Anime News Network -- Report on Manga Messiah

A contact in Minnesota sent me the following information:
"Anime News Network, a highly popular US-based anime web site, did a news article about Manga Messiah. The message boards (on this site) will give you an indication of what people in America are thinking about it."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Evangelicals seek role as ‘creators of culture’ (Title is a link)

Once wary of pop culture and high art, faithful look to artistic renaissance

MILAN, Italy - There are no crosses in Makoto Fujimura’s paintings. No images of Jesus gazing into the distance, or serene scenes of churches in a snow-cloaked wood. Fujimura’s abstract works speak to his evangelical Christian faith. But to find it takes some digging.

Link to full article on msnbc

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reflections on Cornerstone Festival 07 by Nancy Nethercott

Cornerstone is big, it is also eclectic, which makes it difficult to imagine it unless you experience it. There are a large number of venues/stages where all kinds of concerts, workshops and other events are taking place simultaneously, all day, and late into the night.
Two of those venues are called Flickerings (primarily a place to show movies) and Imaginarium (mostly for workshops). It was these two venues that featured Japanese pop culture.

Nancy’s Cornerstone Festival experience: I went into the week wondering what I would get out of an event like this and was thrilled with what I found there. For starters, Paul's workshops targeted American youth and adults who are fans of Japanese "anime." Paul did a great job of presenting on the relationship of anime and Japanese history, culture, and religion. Paul also presented a videotaped interview that he produced of a young man who had been "hikikomori" ("a modern, Japanese hermit”) and talked about pop culture in Japan.

I attended a seminar by a Wheaton professor analyzing the theological writings of N.T. Wright - helping people sort through what is theologically sound and what is questionable. I attended a workshop on creative use of the arts in worship, another on contextualization of the gospel for missions AND in the US.

I also attended a lovely evening worship service led by a group from a Lutheran church. I walked through a well-done and meaningful art gallery focused on Christ and His work in our world. I had great conversations with a Presbyterian pastor, another Wheaton professor, TEAM MKs, TEAM staff, Asbury seminary students, a Baptist church youth group, Christian punk rock band members, EV Free Church people, etc. Naomi (nine year old daughter) was happily engaged in two areas - one a typical VBS program and the other "Art Rageous" where kids could be creative and make a mess!

Anyway, while I may not have "liked" all the music that there was at Cornerstone, the atmosphere and direction/theological soundness of the conference was not a concern. It was a place where people of all kinds could come and explore their relationship with the Lord in a safe place without being the "weird" ones (like they might be in some church settings) but with plenty of godly people there to steer them in the right direction.

Information on Cornerstone: Wikipedia

Cornerstone Photos:

1. The Nethercotts in a golf cart we borrowed from Imaginarium/Flickerings.

2. Daughter Naomi in front of Imaginarium tent -- made up to look like a fall-out shelter.

3. Paul standing beside cut out of "Totoro" a character from the movie "My Neighbor Totoro." This movie was produced by Hayao Miyazaki -- on of the most well-known creaters of Japanese anime.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Anime: Revealing the Soul of Japan

Japanese religious beliefs "show up" in anime to a degree that is surprising. Shinto and Liminality in Anime, a post on John Morehead's blog, includes links to two scholarly articles that articulate the role of Shintoism in Hayao Miyazaki's animated films, Spirited Away & Princess Mononoke.
Note: Miyazaki is an award winning creator of both anime movies and manga (comic books). Due to the exceptional quality of his productions, Miyazaki has gained an international audience. Ghibli Studios, co-founded by Miyazaki, has been called "the Japanese version of Disney." Spirited Away & Princess Mononoke are two of the highest-grossing films in the history of Japanese cinema. They also accurately depict the traditional, animistic Japanese world view (which has not changed that much since ancient times).

The photo above is an advertisement for the feature length anime, Spirited Away. The large building is a bath house where the 100 million gods of Japan go to get cleaned up.

The photo below is a screen capture from Princess Mononoke. The little white figures are forest gods called Kodama. According to Wikipedia: "A kodama is a spirit from Japanese folklore, which is believed to live in certain trees (similar to the Hamadryad of Greek myth). Cutting down a tree which houses a kodama is thought to bring misfortune, and such trees are often marked with shimenawa rope.

Friday, June 01, 2007

"J-Pop in Context" -- preparing for Cornerstone workshop

It has come to pass that I am doing a workshop called "J-Pop in Context" at Cornerstone Festival. Cornerstone is an annual event that takes place in some out of the way place in Illinois (USA). I am really looking forward to being there as it will be an opportunity to meet people and experience great music, films and other art.

Here is a draft of what I will present:

For "J-Pop in Context" which will take place in the "Imaginarium" I plan to use two or three anime (Japanese animated films) as "conversation starters." In particular I have prepared screen shots from two of Miyazaki's fine works (Spirited Away & Princess Mononoke).

Here are the tentative titles for the three workshops at the Imaginarium:

1. Myths, Mysteries & Mayhem: how Japan came to be the way it is, an historical/cultural overview.

2. Sin, Shame and Salvation: if Japan is so "secular" why is anime so spiritual? A focus on the worldview of Japanese as revealed in anime.

3. Hikikomori: Modern Japanese Hermits
Why are large numbers of “lost” Japanese hiding out in their rooms?

I will also do one session at the "Flickerings" venue where I will show a short video taped interview of a young man named Taku and discuss it. I have known Taku for several years but I didn't realize until this week that he spent about three years as a hikikomori. Here is what Taku wrote to me:

Sure (I will do the interview) But I don't really know if I'm the one that you are looking for though.

I mean, I was kind of "active" one.
I don't know if I can call myself "hikikomori".
I used to be a high school drop-out, but that was loooong time ago.

I said I become kind of "hikikomori" for a short time, even sometimes now. But serious ones are not even
going outside for years + years.

It promises to be an interesting interview! As far as I know, this will be the first interview with a hikikomori person that shows the person's real identity. I may post it on youtube.com, we will see.

Billy Graham: "A Spiritual Gift to All"

I have grown up "knowing" Billy Graham. He has been an important influence in my life so this article meant a lot to me. Perhaps more than any other person who is both a Christian and a world-famous celebrity Billy Graham has lived a life of integrity. He is a genuine, 24/7 worshiper of Jesus who offered his life to God.

This article pays tribute to Billy at the time of the dedication of the new Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. LINK to TIME Article: Billy Graham: "A Spiritual Gift to All"

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Power of Images

This article by Steve Mathewson is a good, short piece on preaching and the power of images.

Link: The Power of Images

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Two Articles by Dave Hall

Every Team Needs One: The essential role of the worship-arts leader in church-planting

The Centrality of Worship: Foundational points for a theology for worship and missions

About Dave Hall: A missionary with Pioneers Dave Hall directs a ministry called Worship For the Nations. He enjoys living in Budapest, Hungary with his wife, Sarah. Four of their five children still live under the same roof.

About WFN: Our mission is to glorify God by partnering with church planting teams to equip their worship leaders and empower the church to grow and multiply.

More info & worship resources: Worship For the Nations Home Page

Report on Passion in Tokyo from Loui Giglio's Blog

An early Sunday flight took us to Tokyo where we worshipped with over 1200 people in a church in Chiba, one of the largest gatherings for worship in the city. The church we met in was, once again, on the third floor of a building that was home to a casino (Pachinko Parlor) on floor one and a bowling alley above. What a great place for a church! It was a really amazing night followed by a few days to chill in the city. From our 32nd floor hotel rooms Tokyo spread out to the horizon in every direction, an incredibly efficient and inviting urban mass where only 1% of the people walk with the Savior. That’s a bit hard to swallow when you can’t see the end of “city” in any direction, yet there are many Jesus followers there planting churches for the next generation and making the Gospel accessible to the young people of Tokyo. Something powerful is stirring, the wave is growing, and in time the tide of His great mercy and rescue is coming in. Source: http://www.268blog.blogspot.com/
The official web site of Passion Conferences

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Matt Redman & Louis Giglio in Tokyo by Nancy Nethercott

Last night I (Nancy) traveled across Tokyo to a Passion Night of Worship and Teaching with Matt Redman (and his band from England) leading a time of worship through music and prayer (he even sang a chorus in Japanese!). Then Louis Giglio (from Atlanta, GA) gave a great message followed by more singing in response to the message. It was so moving to see 1,000 young Japanese (plus a number of foreigners) praising God with all their strength, soul, and heart. It is our prayer and belief that this event is one part of a new thing God is doing in Japan. They led us in worship with a biblical rhythm of "revelation and response" [hearing what God has to say and responding to it]. Louis' message echoed Henri Nouwen's "Life of the Beloved" theme of the need to be "taken, blessed, broken and given". By the way, this is one of my favorite books and one I HIGHLY recommend!

Please pray that God would use those 1,000 people as instruments of His grace, love, and salvation in this land where only ½ of 1% of the population of 127 million + profess Christ as Lord.

On the way home there was a suicide on our train line (sadly, a common occurrence...I got stopped on Thursday for the same reason!). A heartbreaking ending to a wonderful evening; it brought home the reality of the need for Christ in this land.

NOTE: Louis Giglio announced at this event that he plans to hold a Passion Conference in Tokyo. A reliable source says that Passion Tokyo may take place in Oct. of 2008.

Photo of Matt Redman with our friend and CAN staff Faith Amano (in black hat)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mujo No Kaze Trailer

LINK to New High Quality Trailer

I am one of the producers for this short film, which was shot on location in Tokyo during the first week of January, 2007. Mujo no Kaze is now in post production, it will be completed sometime in the summer of 07. This is a joint project with CAN and Biola University's Film Department


One of the 'major modern mission misses' (can we call these '4Ms'?) of our time is the huge disparity between the highly-wired, tech-loving Japanese population, and the searing lack of online evangelism in the Japanese language.

For instance, YouTube popularity is exploding in Japan, comments 'Pacific Rim Media' blog:
"YouTube's user base is growing more quickly in Japan than any of the other major websites, including Yahoo Japan, Amazon.co.jp or Wikipedia.org, according to the latest report by Internet research firm NetRatings Japan. Even though it does not have a separate Japanese-language version, last month YouTube notched up its 10 millionth Japanese visitor after just 14 months - ­one-fifth of the nation's entire home Internet users.

"IMPLICATION: If more and more Japanese are going to YouTube and viewing videos, how could we use this low cost medium to reach Japanese?"

Three new blogs start, every second! Of course, similar numbers probably fade away too. The remarkable thing is that of the total of 70 million, the largest language grouping is Japanese, with 37%. English is in second place, with Chinese third:

This highlights to us yet again, the strategic significance of the Web for Japan. It's a highly-wired, technically-minded, prosperous country. Many Japanese cannot read English sufficiently well to use English-medium websites. And church growth has been depressingly minimal. Most Japanese have a benign indifference to the Christian message, and statistically are unlikely to know a Christian personally, or see Christianity modelled within the community of a local fellowship.

The Web, therefore, could be uniquely strategic in starting millions of Japanese on a spiritual journey, using 'bridge strategy' topics within websites, blogs and video clips.

© Web Evangelism Guide web-evangelism.com, used with permission

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Alleluia! Seminars Logo

Alleluia! Seminars is a project of Japan CAN (Christians in the Arts Network). This logo by Stephe Halker represents the biblical rhythm of revelation and response -- an integral part of Alleluia! Seminars teaching.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dr. Robert E. Webber died April 26, 2007

Noted theologian and author Dr. Robert E. Webber died (on April 26) in his home in Sawyer, Michigan, after an eight-month struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was 73 years old.

Dr. Webber was born in Congo of missionary parents, and was raised in the Philadelphia area. He earned the Th.D. from Concordia Theological Seminary. From 1968 to 2000 he served as Professor of Theology at Wheaton College, and was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement in 2000. He was appointed William R. and Geraldine D. Myers Professor of Ministry and Director of the M.A. in Worship and Spirituality at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 2000.

Bob Webber founded The Institute for Worship Studies (now the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies) in 1998. The Institute for Worship Studies is a Masters and Doctorate level graduate school focused on the study of the theological, Biblical, historical, sociological and missiological foundations of Christian worship. The school is hosted by Grace Episcopal Church of Orange Park, Florida and combines distance learning with one-week on-campus intensive courses involving students, faculty and alumni from around the globe.

IWS Provost and President-Elect Dr. James R. Hart commented, "Bob Webber significantly influenced many in our generation with the understanding that worship is the key to the renewal of the church. We mourn the loss of our friend and mentor, but rejoice with him in worshiping the risen Christ."

Webber was noted for his numerous writings and workshops in worship and worship renewal. His books include such titles as Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, Worship Is a Verb, Worship Old and New, Ancient-Future Faith, Ancient-Future Time, Ancient-Future Evangelism, Journey to Jesus, The Younger Evangelicals, and The Divine Embrace. He served as editor of the seven-volume The Complete Library of Christian Worship (Hendrickson, 1993) and was a regular columnist in Worship Leader magazine.

Webber leaves behind a wife, Joanne, four children, John (Isabel), Alexandra (Jack), Stefany (Tom), and Jeremy (Susie), seven grandchildren, and a rich legacy of friends, colleagues and students.

Memorial services will be held at Northern Seminary (please visit www.seminary.edu for date, time and location) and at Grace Episcopal Church in Orange Park, FL on Friday, June 15 at 7 PM, during the June session of the Institute for Worship Studies. In lieu of flowers the family has requested that donations be made to the Robert E. Webber Endowment Fund at the Institute for Worship Studies, 151 Kingsley Ave., Orange Park, FL 32073, or the Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient Evangelical Future, c/o Northern Seminary, 660 E. Butterfield Rd., Lombard, IL 60148.

Grace and peace,
Dr. James R. Hart
Provost/President-Elect, The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies


My wife, "Dr. Nancy," graduated from The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in 2006. She gained a deep respect for Robert Webber.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On Fostering Community

"(I) believe that there is no better place to foster community and nourish those you love than around a table piled with delicious food." Bonnie Moore、FoodFit's Executive Chef

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"brokenness" by Henri J.M. Nouwen

"The most-celebrated musical composition, the most-noted painting and sculpture, and the most-read books are often direct expressions of the human awareness of brokenness." From "Life of the Beloved"