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Author Topic: Do you know anything about Japanese Christianity? ...  (Read 2072 times) Average Rating: 0
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Minnesotan
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« Reply #45 on: January 24, 2015, 12:51:47 AM »

The result would be fully Orthodox, but architecturally and aesthetically styled based on Japanese capabilities.

What you think that there is something un-Japanese in normal Byzantine rite Orthodox traditions? Western people seem to have some strange idea that non-White people are unable to comprehend regular Christian traditions. That's weird since there is hardly anything specifically Western or White in Christianity.

Pardon for ranting. Not specifically directed at you. I'm just sometimes bewildered over some ideas about how to adapt Christianity to non-Christian cultures.

Certainly not.  The enthusiasm with which the Japanese and many other cultures have embraced the beauty of Byzantine and Slavonic liturgy, music and architecture proves that as a form of worship the Easrern rites are able to transcend cultural barriers, perhaps with even greater dexterity than the old Latin Rite of the Roman Church, which as a rule did not make any provisions for acculturation.

Rather, as an aficionado of Japanese artwork, gardens and architecture, I would like to see the Japanese Orthodox build Orthodox temples and paint icons in such a way as to represent a distinctly Japanese cultural expression of the Orthodox faith.

I get what you're saying. The Russians/Slavs made the Byzantine style "their own", including a lot of native elements and building upon it rather than just taking it as it was. This was a process that took a long time. Take for example this, which would have been beyond the original Byzantines' wildest dreams:



The Japanese could further develop the Russian style. St. Basil's, coincidentally enough, rather resembles a lot of Japanese architecture already. If you made the spires and onion-domes a bit longer, changed them to be something like a squircle in cross section, and added sloped roofs at regular intervals, you'd have what looked like a church made of pagodas (Japanese pagodas are square and most of their architecture is rectilinear, but Orthodox symbolism uses circles more often, so rounded squares could be used). The color scheme is another area where a lot of localization is possible (St. Basil's itself got its own colors over several centuries). It'd be both recognizably Japanese and recognizably Orthodox at the same time, and while not strictly Byzantine (any more than St. Basil's is), those roots would also be apparent. Symbolically it'd represent the faith going from Byzantium through Russia to Japan. You'd also be paying homage to some of the earliest Christian churches in the region (which are believed to have been modeled on pagodas, with some alterations).

However the Japanese Orthodox Church would need to get a lot bigger before it can afford to build something on the scale of St. Basil's. Even small chapels, though, could be built in on similar principles, just, you know, smaller.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2015, 12:54:46 AM by Minnesotan » Logged
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« Reply #46 on: January 24, 2015, 03:59:39 PM »

While there are some pagodas or in Japan, they are not the definition, as it were, of religious architecture.    Originally from Buddhism there are some found at Shinto shrines that have buildings for both religions such as at  Itsukushima Shrine.  http://visit-miyajima-japan.com/en/culture-and-heritage/spiritual-heritage-temples-shrines/goju-no-to-senjokaku.html#gojunoto

(Just for information's sake, this is also the location of the Great Torii that is in the water http://visit-miyajima-japan.com/en/culture-and-heritage/spiritual-heritage-temples-shrines/le-torii-flottant.html  )

There are also various forms of the pagoda, some of which are stone carvings that have round elements.

But Shinto shrines are not generally towered just for starters.  Here is a link to a page on shrines and architecture.  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2059.html


Quote
You'd also be paying homage to some of the earliest Christian churches in the region (which are believed to have been modeled on pagodas, with some alterations.

Would you post on what churches you're thinking of, please?  It's always good to learn more.   Smiley
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« Reply #47 on: January 24, 2015, 04:57:57 PM »

A.N. I have gotten a copy of a book by Dr. Ben-Ami Shillony, professor emeritus of Japanese History and Culture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem http://www.japan-studies.org/Ben-Ami-Shillony.html
titled The Jews and the Japanese: the Successful Outsiders, pub. Charles E. Tuttle, 1991, which has a section on the development of the idea of the Japanese being part of the Ten Lost Tribes with references to some of the persons mentioned in the Rev. Mr. Joseph's document and a chapter on "The Rejection of Christianity".   Rev. Joseph is just one in a line of persons putting forth some of the ideas that we've been discussing and the starting point, according to Dr. Shillony, is Mr. Norman McLeod.
 
I'll give you more specific quotes when I've finished reading it but from my first looks, Dr. Shillony says that there is no historical support of any Japanese people, culture or religion being derived from anything Jewish or Christian before the 16th century.

Thanks!  I look forward to your assessment.

I'm reading the whole book and it is quite interesting. Dr. Shillony is doing a "compare and contrast" as it were, showing both similarities and differences between the two cultures.  Both groups were isolated, the one by their religion and the other by their location on the islands.  Both have the concept of "Chosen Peoples and Promised Land" (the title of chapter 1). But by no means does he say that the two peoples were connected in earlier millennia nor that one taught/influenced the other before the "Opening of Japan" in the mid 19th century.

An example of similarity is that both Jewish and Japanese culture are "Two Peoples of the Book" (the title of chapter 5).  This is in the sense that both have a tradition of literacy and the importance of study. There is a difference in the subjects since Judaism has had a focus and religious obligation to learn such things as Torah and the Talmud while the Japanese have had histories and literature, both prose and poetry, and other works but that it is not generally linked to religion. Dr. Shillony notes that Tokugawa Ieyesu in setting down rules for the samurai wrote that they should study literature and not just the arts of war (p.48)

Chapter 8 is "The Rejection of Christianity" and here there is one of the differences that Dr. Shillony sees.  For the Jewish people their religion was"for a long time the central elements in their lives" (p.70). For the Japanese somewhat the opposite was/is the case as they were "far more lenient than the Jews in matters of worship and religion" since the culture had long worshiped "a plethora of local divinities". These include Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucian and Taoist influences.  So when Christianity arrived with "the uncompromising attitude of the new religion toward existing creeds and its subservience to Western powers" this was perceived as a threat to society. (all quotes from p. 71). 

There's more to that chapter and of course the one on the supposed Jewish as source for Japanese things to among other things but I have to go do some things. Please let me know if this is being of interest to you A.N. .
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« Reply #48 on: January 24, 2015, 06:59:34 PM »

While there are some pagodas or in Japan, they are not the definition, as it were, of religious architecture.    Originally from Buddhism there are some found at Shinto shrines that have buildings for both religions such as at  Itsukushima Shrine.  http://visit-miyajima-japan.com/en/culture-and-heritage/spiritual-heritage-temples-shrines/goju-no-to-senjokaku.html#gojunoto

(Just for information's sake, this is also the location of the Great Torii that is in the water http://visit-miyajima-japan.com/en/culture-and-heritage/spiritual-heritage-temples-shrines/le-torii-flottant.html  )

There are also various forms of the pagoda, some of which are stone carvings that have round elements.

But Shinto shrines are not generally towered just for starters.  Here is a link to a page on shrines and architecture.  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2059.html
Quote
You'd also be paying homage to some of the earliest Christian churches in the region (which are believed to have been modeled on pagodas, with some alterations.

Would you post on what churches you're thinking of, please?  It's always good to learn more.   Smiley


I'm referring to the Daqin Pagoda in China, which, according to Martin Palmer, was actually a church. This claim is not universally accepted, though.
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« Reply #49 on: January 24, 2015, 08:37:01 PM »

Ebor, most of the comparisons you have Shillony making here seem very, very superficial.  Literacy?  A concept of themselves as a peculiar people?  Really?  It seems he's setting the bar very low indeed.  Even the common "rejection of Christianity" is a thing applicable to a great many civilizations.  This bit is interesting though:

Chapter 8 is "The Rejection of Christianity" and here there is one of the differences that Dr. Shillony sees.  For the Jewish people their religion was"for a long time the central elements in their lives" (p.70). For the Japanese somewhat the opposite was/is the case as they were "far more lenient than the Jews in matters of worship and religion" since the culture had long worshiped "a plethora of local divinities". These include Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucian and Taoist influences.  So when Christianity arrived with "the uncompromising attitude of the new religion toward existing creeds and its subservience to Western powers" this was perceived as a threat to society. (all quotes from p. 71). 

In this respect I think the Japanese were entirely justified in seeing the version of Christianity with which they were presented as a threat.  I wonder how more receptive (if at all) they might've been to a Christianity that didn't have an invasive imperial power behind it; to a humble St. Herman of Alaska or St. Frumentius type of missionary, one more respectful of local traditions with no geopolitical strings.

There's more to that chapter and of course the one on the supposed Jewish as source for Japanese things to among other things but I have to go do some things. Please let me know if this is being of interest to you A.N. .

It would be, yes, as it would take quite a bit of hard evidence to convince me that anything in Japanese culture had its source in Judaism.
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« Reply #50 on: January 24, 2015, 09:37:50 PM »

Well, I haven't finished the book yet (what with having other things to do and all that.  Smiley )  and much of my last post in is my own words, so one might find some flaw in that transmission.  It is just one of the works by Dr. Shillony who describes himself "As a Jew, an Israeli and a longtime student of Japan, I thought it was my duty to tackle this subject, to connect the several worlds in which I live.  A comparative study of the Jews and the Japanese may also help us to better understand both."(p. 10)

Here is a bit more from the preface "The purpose of this book is to compare the rich cultural heritages and historical experiences of the Japanese and the Jews from early times to the present and to see how these have influenced the behavior of each group.  The book then looks at the ways these "successful outsiders" have interacted with the Christian West as well as with each other throughout the stormy course of their modern histories (p.10).

The portion on literacy is from the first part "Shared and Singular Traits".  Then the second section is "The Successful Outsiders" which is where the chapter 8 and the one on the rise of the "Ten Lost Tribes" idea with various points and persons mentioned in the Rev. Ken Joseph's work come in.  

Looking for more information on the the idea that there was Christianity in Japan prior to the 16th century has served to introduce me to further works on that country's history as Dr. Shillony has written a number of books on Japan which having found out about them I now would like to read such as Enigma of the Emperors" and Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan

Re the idea of a Christianity without an invasive imperial power behind it - I think that Russia was already seen in that way since there were various interactions between the two countries in such things as clashes in the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin Island re territory and with fishing vessels being stranded.  There are a couple of accounts of Russian ships trying to open trade being rebuffed prior the the Meiji Restoration.  Then there was the "Tsushima Incident" in which the Russians tried to set up an anchorage on the island of Tsushima in 1861 (trying to get a year-round open water port and all that).  Relations between the two countries were somewhat mixed then in the decades prior to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. But there is still the idea of there was Japan and there were the other countries who were not, if you take my meaning.  There was some strong resistance to the encroachment by foreigners.  If you like (and if you don't mind this conversation going on at a somewhat leisurely pace) I can get some references from books.  
« Last Edit: January 24, 2015, 09:39:44 PM by Ebor » Logged

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« Reply #51 on: January 24, 2015, 09:38:58 PM »

I'm referring to the Daqin Pagoda in China, which, according to Martin Palmer, was actually a church. This claim is not universally accepted, though.

Thank you.  Interesting. I had not heard of this before.
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« Reply #52 on: January 25, 2015, 10:41:34 AM »

Re the idea of a Christianity without an invasive imperial power behind it - I think that Russia was already seen in that way since there were various interactions between the two countries in such things as clashes in the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin Island re territory and with fishing vessels being stranded.  There are a couple of accounts of Russian ships trying to open trade being rebuffed prior the the Meiji Restoration.  Then there was the "Tsushima Incident" in which the Russians tried to set up an anchorage on the island of Tsushima in 1861 (trying to get a year-round open water port and all that).  Relations between the two countries were somewhat mixed then in the decades prior to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. But there is still the idea of there was Japan and there were the other countries who were not, if you take my meaning.  There was some strong resistance to the encroachment by foreigners.  If you like (and if you don't mind this conversation going on at a somewhat leisurely pace) I can get some references from books.  

That's fine.  I am well aware of the history of Russo-Japanese relations, and I used St. Herman as an exemplar of a type of missionary, not specifically as a Russian national.  I wasn't expecting St. Frumentius to step through time from 4th century Syria to evangelize Japan either.  I meant, I wonder how the Japanese might've responded to a missionary that was not tied to a state-sponsored or state-connected mission, but was more of an itinerant and indisputably holy and self-sacrificial ascetic father (things that might resonate with the Japanese) respectful and inclusive of the indigenous culture.  Perhaps like the hypothetical East Syrian missionaries.  Your point about there being "Japan and nations that are not Japan" is well-taken, but the Japanese have apparently been open to Indian and Chinese philosophical and theological influences, so I don't see why a non-threatening Eastern Christianity untainted by association with a menacing Western power would be summarily vilified or rejected, especially if it made its appearance before contact with said powers.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2015, 10:42:58 AM by Antonious Nikolas » Logged

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