William Vories was a missionary in Japan in the early 20th century. He came to Omi-Hatchiman, in this county, with the YMCA, first as an English teacher in a local high school. He set up preaching tours of Lake Biwa from his boat, Galilee-Maru. He established an architect’s office, a pharmaceutical company, and a printing press. As well as preaching, he was a great believer in social action, and founded a school, a library, a women’s society, and a hospital. As an architect he designed many churches and schools in the region, as well as many of the main buildings in Omi-Hatchiman. His name became synonymous with the town. He brokered the talks between Macarthur and the Japanese prime minister. This, together with his work for Omi-Hatchiman, led him to be awarded many civil honours by the Japanese government, as well as a public commendation from the Emperor.
He wrote ten books. His first, in 1915, was “The Evangelization of Rural Japan”. His final book, in 1970, was his autobiography. He called it “The Autobiography of A Failure.”
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Yesterday was a long day for me; my first sermon here in Japanese. Well, that's not quite true. The other week I was preaching at the Spanish service, with an interpreter, and it turned out that, although I had been assured it was OK to do it in English, the interpreter was happier with Japanese. Well, doing it on the spot like that forced me to make the sermon really simple, and simple sermons are always better than complicated ones. One of the things I'm learning in my Japanese lessons is how to express complicated ideas in simple language. It doesn't come naturally to me.
Tonight I enjoyed a lovely free meal with the church youth group. Well, I enjoy a lot of free meals connected to the church - lunch was provided by the house group I attended, and on Sundays we often have noodles together for a nominal fee. As a church, we're known for eating a lot.
“giri” and “onjo” are two of the most powerful cultural forces in Japan. I know, I know, there are altogether too many blog posts where people say that if you don't understand X, then you won't understand Japan, where X may be anything from Shinto esoterica to the way people put out their garbage. But I think that these two ideas can really help to give a sense of what is going on in ordinary relationships in Japan.
I live in Kansai, which is geographically the west of Japan. It may be geographically the west, but culturally, it's very much the North. As the Doctor put it, lots of planets have a North. Kansai is in the North.
Today I went to Nagahama again, to register as a foreign resident. (Everyone giggles at “alien registration” the first few times, but it gets a bit old after that.) I also took the chance to have a bit of a wander around the city center.
I've been pretty much on the go since arriving here, apart from one or two less busy days. This past week was no exception. On Monday we had a seikai (regional church meeting) which was a full day of services involving the churches in our area: Hikone, the church I'm staying at right now; Nagahama, where I'll be moving in two weeks time and working for the next six months; Kinomoto, and Yokaicihi. The speaker was Rev Mikio Yokoyama; he was very good and very entertaining, at least in the morning session. I think in the afternoon I was… shall we say, flagging a little. Still, it was good for me to show my face at Nagahama church.