In the June/July issue of First Things, then assistant editor John Rose reviewed a fascinating book about a certain kind of youth culture in Japan. The book was Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation by Michael Zielenziger. The culture, more a sociological phenomenon, is called hikikomori, or, as John described it, “young people who, in protest against their families and society that bred them, don’t leave their homes or, in some cases, their rooms for years.”
Zielenziger sheds some light on the spiritual dimension of this problem by contrasting South Korean culture with Japan’s. The author, who is not religious, also had to note that Christianity, especially in its evangelical form, had provided a framework for “notions of a self apart from the group,” which had helped Korean young people ward off this shutting down that some Japanese youth experience.
Needless to say there are young Christians in this country who have experienced the great gift of a renewed and reborn self by virtue of their faith in Christ, and who want to share that faith with their Japanese peers. The Navigators is a 75-year-old interdenominational youth and missions organization that has ministries planted around the world, including such exotic places as NYU, where one Megan Smith happened to be studying not too long ago.
Megan and a group of other Navigators are in the process of raising money to fund a mission to Japan to share their faith there. Christianity has but an infinitesimally small presence in Japan, but through the dedication of young Christians such as Megan, and the work of the Holy Spirit, the Land of the Rising Sun may soon see another Son on the horizon, offering escape from a “futile way of life” (1 Pet. 1:18).
Thanks to Justin Moffatt for bringing this to my attention.