Japanese Christians and Society

Article excerpt

Japanese Christians and Society. By Alan Suggate, with the assistance of Yamano Shigeko. Bern: Peter Lang, 1996. Pp. 285. Paperback $39.95.

This book is a welcome addition to the studies of Japanese Christianity in the modern era. Alan Suggate is a senior lecturer in theology in the University of Durham, England, and has been particularly interested in the theologies of Japan and of East Asia as they relate to ecumenical Christian social ethics. He introduces his subject with anthropological and sociological analyses of dominant characteristics of Japanese society. His surveys of the literature about the Japanese home and family, the educational system, and work patterns provide a helpful introduction to Japanese social conditions that an outsider needs to know.

The author's main focus, however, is on the Tenno system, dealing with the role and the functions of the Japanese emperor. He shows convincingly how this system has come to dominate virtually all other Japanese social systems and how Japanese Christians, in trying to have an impact on Japanese society, have repeatedly come into tension with the Tenno system. Christians who have been involved in urban industrial mission, in trying to improve the lot of Japanese women, in dealing with problems of day laborers, in defending the rights of minorities, in opposing the revival of militarism, in fighting industrial pollution, and in addressing countless other issues have been told that changes in the status quo would go against the Tenno system and are therefore unacceptable. Readers unfamiliar with the Japanese situation might think that the author is exaggerating, but his analysis is on target. …