Japan is, to the Christian, an enigma. How can a country that Basque Francis Xavier (you may know him as Saint Francis Xavier) called “the joy of his heart” and suited to Christianity, now only consist of 1% of Christians? I think, to understand the reason for the low acceptance of Christianity, we must understand traditional Japanese culture. To me, this book “Myths and Legends of Japan” by F. Hadland Davis is the best method of explaining Japanese culture.
Because the book was written published in 1913, it’s references to ‘modern’ Japan are dated. But that shouldn’t impede the enjoyment of the book. Divided into many small sections such as ‘Flowers and Gardens’, ‘Concerning Tea’ and even ‘Legend in Japanese art’, the legends are accompanied by an explanation of the background and how it affects Japanese culture. The explanations are what set the book apart from others, as it allowed me to understand traditional Japanese culture more fully.
The authorial voice in the book is very strong, which may or may not cause you to dislike it. Personally, I enjoyed the authorial voice, because it felt like a guide walking me through the various legends.
Actually, I did hesitate over whether to recommend this book, due to the pervasive influence of Buddhism. However, I realized that this is precisely why we need to read the book. If we are to understand why the Japanese do not take to Christianity readily, we need to understand how Buddhism has influenced Japanese culture. This actually made me wonder, if we are to spread the Gospel in Japan, how can we tell the Good News without being disrespectful to Japanese Culture?
Once again, because this book was published a long time ago, the style of writing may feel a little dated. In fact, due to translation methods, some of the Japanese poetry seem to have taken on an ‘English’ feel, which was a little strange. However, after reading the book for a little while, I got used to, and enjoyed the style of writing. It’s an easy read, and not an ‘academic’ book at all.
In conclusion, I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone interested in Japan. It is a entertaining and clear explanation of traditional Japanese culture. In particular, I’d recommend anyone interested in missions to Japan to read the book, so that they can understand where the difficulties of evangelism may be.
Published on 2 August, 2011. Last updated on