Saturday, April 21, 2018

Japan Culture Series 17: Ninjō

    In the social composition of the Japanese being exists the very real conflict between social obligation and personal feelings. These personal feelings are known as Ninjō. In an earlier blog here I spoke of social obligation, otherwise known as giri. This social obligation plays such a strong role in Japanese culture that it is often expected that one yield personal desires and feelings to it unquestioningly. However, this does not mean that personal feelings are absent. For example Japanese employees are expected to provide excellent service to customers even when treated very poorly. The honor of the company as well as the duty of the individual are at stake, so the insults must be taken. Whereas in the Western world a insult by a customer may or may not be taken so kindly; company or not! We may now understand how pressure could easily build up within each person as they continually deny themselves in order to fulfill social obligations. Perhaps this is one reason why Japanese life can be stressful.

    To an extent no matter where we are at in our lives we all deal with certain social obligations. However in Japan social obligation has been taken to a high degree as they have been integrated into every aspect of life. This especially becomes painfully obvious to the newly born-again Christian when trying to live every day life here. There are great expectations to conform to religious ceremonies, work obligations, and other various activities – which can bring great conflicts within the Christian conscience. What happens when in order to keep your job it is expected to drink after work every night? What happens when the school requires your child to do something against their beliefs? What do you do when your family pressures you into breaking your convictions? These are all real pressures that Japanese Christians face in a strong group oriented society. By default these brave men and women have to 'Dare to be a Daniel'. Perhaps this is why few here choose to become Christians, or are very quiet about telling anyone that they are a Christian. In reality no matter where we live in the world we have to make a decision to either go along with the world or to oppose it. We must ask ourselves if we are going to be of the world or in the world witnessing to it of Christ. May God grant us the resolve to live a Christ-honoring life!

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