Sunday, February 24, 2013

Turn, Turn, Turn

Hello everyone!

This morning the sun was up before we were! Were we sleeping in? No. The days are finally getting longer. Though it has been snowing all morning, we are encouraged by the extra bit of light in our world. I'm listening to the Byrds, "To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time to every purpose unto heaven."

Monday was a replacement holiday. The Monday before this, February 11th, was "National Foundation Day" here in Japan. It is a day for celebrating the nation and showing patriotism, you know raising flags and all that stuff. However, we at ARI did not celebrate the holiday. 

Our reasoning? Before the end of World War II, the holiday was known as "Empire Day." It was one of Japan's four major holidays at that time. Its purpose was to celebrate and reinforce the Shinto mythology surrounding the Imperial  Family and especially the Emperor himself. The mythology held that the Emperor was actually god and worthy of worship. The government' supported this particular sect of Shinto, known as State Shinto, for a long time and oppressed all other religions in an effort to unify and strengthen Japan.

Since Japan lost the war, the Japanese have been weary of such strong nationalism. Fuji is a staff member here. His father is Japanese and his mother is German. He grew up in Germany and says that there is a similar hesitation toward such nationalism there also. 

Last year, Japan elected a new Prime Minister. Many people are concerned that some of his proposed policy changes may lead down a dangerous road to militant nationalism. Specifically, they are talking about his proposition of reworking Artical 9 in their constitution, which states that Japan will forever be a nation of peace. I've heard that the new Prime Minister wants to begin increasing the military budget in Japan.

Anyway on February 11th, even though the official name and purpose of the holiday has been changed, many Christian and Buddhist organizations exercise their right not to celebrate the holiday. 

So since ARI is based in the love of Christ, we took the next Monday off instead.

On this day, Jenny and the rest of the kitchen staff ate lunch at Nishi's house. It was a welcome party for the new staff member from India, Acivo. It was also a "goodbye" to the volunteer, Megumi, who will be leaving soon. Jenny felt that it was really special to be invited into Nishi's home. 

Nabe, traditionally Japanese cold-weather soup!
Nishi, Acivo, Des, Yukiko, Megumi, Fujimoto, Takamura, Jenny
That night the volunteers hosted a dinner party at the missionary house. We cooked Gyoza (Chinese dumplings) for everyone. It was a nice gathering. Everyone was packed into a warm house, laughing and telling stories. It was more close, personal, and warm than the big Koinonia hall can be. 
Making a mess, per usual!
On Wednesday, I went with a fellow volunteer, Tsu-san, and the farm manager, Gussan, to the Rice Research Institute. We took 600kg of soy beans so that we could use their sorting machine. It took all day but was much faster than sorting by hand.

Next weekend, we'll be traveling back to Sanichi "Trinity" Church in Tokyo. We were invited to do a Lenten lecture about the YASC program. We'll send all your love to everyone we meet there. They are really just distant family, you know!

Back to nationalism. Some Japanese are worried that to solve the problem of a diving economy, Japan will again turn to militarism. I can sympathize and encourage them to continue to speak their mind. They are still on the other side of that line. 

I realize that I am from a country that spends a MIND BLOWING amount of money on its military. According to a press release from the Department of Defense on February 11th, President Obama sent Congress a proposed budget for the DOD of $525.4 billion. The release claims, "The proposed budget makes more disciplined use of defense dollars to maintain the world’s finest military and sustain U.S. global leadership." Our nation's leadership is dependent upon military action.

The word "control" comes to mind. While some Japanese are worried about starting down the path of militarism, my passport makes me a walking emblem of such a power structure. I don't know if I should feel shame or pride for the history of U.S. occupation of Japan. Part of that budget supports the continued occupation of Japan. 

I can only hope that our work here will be a small drop of water used to quell a raging fire. 

Peace be with us all,

Doug and Jenny Knight

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your insightful reflections. Whilst my focus in studies has often revolved around nationalism, more so in the Eastern European & Middle Eastern sense. It was super interesting to hear your thoughts on things based on what you've learned from your experiences so far :)

    ola from Sao Paulo!