Japan and Christianity: Impacts and Responses

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Japan and Christianity: Impacts and Responses. Edited by John Breen and Mark Williams. (New York: St. Martin's Press. 1996. Pp. xiii, 189. $49.95.)

This significant volume brings together ten papers delivered at an international conference on Christianity in Japan held in St. Mary's College, Strawberry Hill,Twickenham, England, in 1991 .The authors, who include one Japanese, are all well qualified and share a deep interest in their subject. Most have teaching positions at universities in England or Japan. One, a Norwegian, teaches systematic theology at the University of Oslo. Their special competencies vary from language and literature to history and religion.

In addition, there is a very helpful introduction by the two editors, John Breen and Mark Williams, lecturers in Japanese studies at two different British universities, whose papers are also included. Their introduction serves to present the relationship of each of the papers to the general theme of the volume: the encounter of Christianity with Japanese culture from the time of the arrival of the first Christian missionaries at the end of the sixteenth century to the present, a theme which they rightly observe has not received the attention it deserves in the scholarly world.

The first four chapters are largely concerned with the initial missionary period.The first chapter, by Stefan Kaiser, presents the Japanese translation of various Christian terminology from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. The second, by Michael Cooper, treats western-style Japanese paintings of both secular and religious subjects during the early period of contact with Christianity. The third chapter, by Ohashi Yukihiro, offers some unusual perspectives on the early Tokugawa persecution. The fourth, by Stephen Turnball, identifies the elements of acculturation in a principal text, Tenchi Hajimari no Koto, of the Kakure Kirishitan (underground Christians). …