You can tell a lot about a country, particularly a highly literate country like Japan, by the books that people buy. I walked into a book shop today, (I don't do this anything like often enough) and the books on the main display were a complete sociology lesson: books about the hikikomori syndrome (by survivors), books about "how to restart your life", one on "eight great founders of the world" (Socrates, Confucius, Jesus and Moses were in, Mohammed was not), and things on Iran and Israel.
There are some things I like about this country, and some things I don't like.
Today I went with a few people from my church to visit an exhibition of William Merrell Vories’ life and work. I’d actually been to the exhibition before, but I wanted to see it a second time. To be honest, I’ve developed quite an interest in Vories. Some would say an unhealthy interest. But I think it’s an important interest. Read more about We are a voice, a voice crying at the lakeside
I've got a load of things to write about tonight, but I'll get this one out of the way because it's quick and snarky.
On Wednesday I got back from a rather good holiday in Hokkaido with some Bible college friends. I seem to have brought the Hokkaido snow with me, because for the past three days I've had to dig myself out of my house.
OK, I said it was coming. Here goes.
As a mission, we at WEC say that we go "where the need is". Not where it's easy, or where it's personally convenient, but where the need is. And, well, I could be cynical but for the most part we do that pretty well. I keep forgetting how well we do it.
Through my various trips to Japan, I'm now aware of most of the things which catch out the unwary foreigner. Things like the stealth public holiday, where you go into work and wonder why you're the only person there. But this is my first New Year in Japan, and it's completely got me.
Friday was a very joyful day. In the morning, I was doing a visit to a local primary school as part of their "world festival" - the school had rounded up a few likely foreigners, and we had to give a short presentation on our home countries and then a thirty-minute activity. I got the kids doing the London Bridge nursery rhyme and game, and while it was a bit slow to start, they got there in the end.
One of the things that happens when foreigners live for a country in a while is that they come across things that they don't understand. They then make a guess at interpreting what they see. Then, unless they're corrected, they continue to believe this guess and it eventually becomes received wisdom. When you've got a community of such foreigners, such as a mission field, the received wisdom can be passed down the generations. And all the time it can be completely and utterly wrong.