If you have ever looked up the statistics on the world's largest cities, then you would understand that Tokyo is the largest as well as most populated city in the world by far with close to 38 million people. In land area comparison, Tokyo is about the size of Puerto Rico or the U.S. state of Connecticut. With this huge population comes the issue of finding property for the purpose of meeting with groups of people. Often times housing for living purposes or business purposes though expensive can be used for meeting places. Naturally, the further one moves away from the city the cheaper properties become. Sometimes it is possible to find cheap places to rent or even abandoned places to buy, however these properties have their issues as well. With cheap places comes a lack of space, far distance from public transportation for access, and lack of parking for vehicles. Often times to even have one parking spot is very fortunate. With abandoned places comes extensive regulations for remodeling, various taxes, as well as further regulations for what the property can be used for. All of these various issues become such a nightmare that often times abandoned properties are left alone indefinitely. However, with God's help these obstacles can be overcome.
When it comes to church many times people will meet in their homes, away from the city, or buy an expensive property and building to meet in if allowed by regulations. The Japanese church that we were working with paid one million US dollars to buy a parking lot area (for a patch of dirt about 30 small car spaces), and another million to build a building. Often times Japanese will not allow for foreigners to own property let alone use it for a church, which is where some challenges come in. In Tokyo most community center areas have a lot of space, but will not allow for any religious use for any reason (unless for culturally specific Japanese religious type practices). Because Japan has many cults, they are very skeptical when it comes to anything that they consider an outside religion. In Japanese thinking there is no difference between a cult or a religion that is not “native” to Japan. Even though Christianity has been in Japan over 200 years (some evidences show that it even arrived before Buddhism) it is still considered foreign. Often times, only through established relations with people can trust be gained to rent a property. Many times in Tokyo start-up ministries will come and go taking a high risk approach of renting an expensive building and trying to fill it up with people only to have to abandon the project when people do not come or will become successful enough to continue. In a country with close to 1.2% “Christian” (including all that are considered Christian by broad defintion) population the risk is high since it takes a lot of time for Japanese to consider God. However it is not impossible. With such a low percentage of Christians most of the ministry work here consists of planting and watering spiritual seeds. A lot of “harvest” occurs with Japanese after many years of ministry or with foreigners who are not part of the native culture.
These are some of the perspectives that we have gained from living here for years, and is one of the reasons why we have opted to take the approach of building a core group of believers first before acquiring or renting a property strictly for church use. It may or may not work out as Japan has traditionally been a hardened nation to the gospel. However, God is good and is always working even when we cannot see it. Fortunately, we live in an area where we can meet people in person in public places or over the internet to establish relations with. Please pray for this nation as many like-minded missionaries attempt to reach the people here!