In my 18 months of island hopping and jetting all over Japan, I have dropped in on half a dozen different churches here. Invariably, the congregations have showered me with affection and hospitality — inviting me to lunch, offering to guide my sightseeing, urging me to come again.
Our friend’s family church fit the pattern in all respects except one: it dwarfed every other Japanese church I have attended. Multiple services, Sunday school divided by age group, even a bookshop — we marveled at the ministry built up over the decades. During the service, we sang hymns accompanied by organ and pored over an English transcript of the sermon. Afterwards, I rejoiced at joining an English Bible study in person, for the first time in months.
Then our friend conducted us on an all-day tour of the local mall — a playground of intriguing merchandise and international cuisine. We marveled at a petting zoo populated with meerkats, capybaras, and a sloth (opening the following day, alas) and cooed over puppies and kittens. We peeked into anime shops, a kimono shop, the Disney store, then ventured a foray into high school girl culture with the photo booths in a psychidelic arcade.
Over lunch, we swapped a selection of seafood pastas: avocado and shrimp, squid and fish roe, a full-size crab! The seat meal included a drink, dessert, and side — all for less than $15.
As we dined, our friend confided in us the hardships women face in Japan, particularly as Christians. They outnumber men in the church 4:1, hence little prospect of marriage. In general society, they are caught between the vestiges of patriarchal tradition that affords them a menial status, and the pressures of competition in a modern workforce. The men in London amazed her, she said, by offering her a seat on the metro and helping to carry her luggage.
All too soon, we boarded the train, en route to a two-day excursion that I will detail in the upcoming post: a return to Tokyo Disney!