By: Mari León
Qatar 2022 is the Japanese men’s national soccer team’s seventh consecutive World Cup appearance. Interestingly enough, the Samurai hadn’t been to any World Cup prior to 1998. This time around, they had to win at least second place in the Asian Cup, doing so behind Saudi Arabia.
Japan (Nippon/Nihon in Japanese, spelled 日本) is a term of Chinese origin, which translates to “of the sun.” That term is often a reminder of their flag. Strong influences from Chinese culture not only show up in their name, but also in the country’s main religion, which is Buddhism.
One of the most beautiful symbols that people associate with Japan is the cherry blossom tree, which is full of delicate, pink flowers. During the spring, one of the culture’s most beautiful traditions takes place under these trees: Hanami. For hundreds of tourists, the event may mean nothing more than its literal translation, “to see flowers”; however, for the Japanese, who have celebrated this tradition for more than 1300 years, it means a pause in their hectic lives to enjoy a day of family togetherness and establish a connection with nature. For the Japanese, Hanami represents spiritual transformation, hope, and sometimes, love.
Unlike in some other Asian countries, Christianity is not prohibited in Japan. However, only 1% of the population would label themselves as Christian. It’s surprising to see how freely Christianity can move in Japan today and not really affect the traditional Buddhist faith of the Japanese, but this relationship has history.Christianity entered the country in 1549, but from the 17th century until the second half of the 19th century, there was a big surge in Christian persecution. Its influence reached economic, military, and political spheres, marking a very important period in the country’s history — possibly the reason why the Japanese became so firmly rooted in their culture, tradition, and faith.
I’d like to invite you to pray for Japan, that the eventful daily lives they experience will not lead them astray from Jesus Christ. Pray that their spiritual eyes may be opened, and that people may surrender their hearts to the true God — that all the devotion they can give, they may offer to our Lord Jesus.
Credit: Agencia EFE
Photographer: Masayuki Sugita