Saturday, January 31, 2009

Japanese Jehovah's Witnesses

A strange thing happened on my way to school the other morning.

I was walking along a busy road, listening to my iPod. My body was in Kyoto but my head was somewhere else. I didn't notice that a well-dressed, middle-aged Japanese woman had sidled up beside me, matching my stride, step for step.

"Hello. Hello. Hello? Konnichiwa. Hello," she said, jogging ahead of me and twisting her body so that her face suddenly appeared in front of mine.

Startled, I pulled my headphones out of my ears and apologized for not noticing her right away.

"How are you?" she asked in perfect English.

I told her I was fine, thanks. I thought maybe she was going to ask me for directions or maybe she just wanted to practice her English with a foreigner (which happens surprisingly often).

"Sorry to bother you," she said with a polite bow and a smile. "I'm a volunteer in this area."

Okay, she's not lost. Not looking for directions. Maybe she wants me to join some sort of neighbourhood clean-up crew?

"I'm a Jehovah's Witness," she said.

A Jehovah's Witness? They have Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan? Not just Jehovah's Witnesses but Japanese Jehovah's Witnesses?

"I'm a Jehovah's Witness" was the last thing I expected her to say.

I was so surprised I think I just said something like, "Oh." I was intrigued and annoyed at the same time.

"Have you seen these before?" she asked, handing me a copies of The Watchtower and Awake magazines.

I told her that I hadn't and that I'd be happy to take a look at them. She seemed relived that I was such an easy sell. I told her I was running late for class (I was) and didn't have time to talk (I didn't). She smiled and bowed some more and told me she hoped to see me again.

I spent the rest of the day puzzling over our brief encounter. I had no idea there were Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan. When did they get here and how did they manage to brainwash the locals? I mean, this is Japan. A country that doesn't exactly welcome foreign religions with open arms. They used to persecute Christians not too long ago.

I asked my classmates if Japanese Jehovah's Witnesses had ever approached any of them.

"Are you kidding?" said Seema. "All the time!"

Apparently, I was the last foreigner in Kyoto to have been accosted by Jehovah's minions. I was a little insulted. Why did they wait so long before approaching me? Don't I look like I'm in need of salvation too?

To be honest, I know absolutely nothing about Jehovah's Witnesses and what they believe in. So I decided to flip through the magazines before I threw them in the garbage.

The Watchtower was full of all kinds of simplistic crap like, "God's Kingdom, which is a real government in heaven, will soon bring an end to all wickedness and transform the earth into a paradise."

Thanks but no thanks. I think the Jehovah's Witnesses and I probably have different ideas of what "paradise" would look like. For example, my vision of paradise is a world without religious lunatics forcing their crazy brainwashed bullshit on other people.

Anyway, there's no real point to this story. I'm just making a random observation. I had no idea there were Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan.


Michelle said...

Hey there! I know this post is from ages ago, but I found it when I googled "Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan". I recently answered my doorbell to find two Japanese Witness ladies standing there with tracts. They invited me to a meeting and, since I was free, I went. I found a whole church of 80 or more Witnesses meeting in my local area of RURAL Kochi Japan. I was the only white face in the building.

Like you, I didnt know there were Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan. Like you I wonder how the religion has caught on here when the culture seems so resistant to foreign religions in general.

If I find any answers, I'll let you know. ;)

Sarah M. said...

Wow! You actually went to a meeting. What was it like? Let me know if you get any answers. I'm also very curious about how it caught on in Japan.


Anonymous said...

This is really funny. My girlfriend was just approached by two Japanese Jehova's witnesses but not in Japan, in Toronto. I haven't found any stats on the membership in Japan but I'm going to look now.

Sarah M. said...

Cool. Let me know what you find out!


Christopher said...

Hello, I stumbled here when I Googled how to say Jehovah in Japanese... I was just going to click away, but I thought I would answer your question before I did.

There are Jehovah's Witnesses in 239 countries including Japan. All are taught the Bible and engage in preaching to others in fulfillment of a prophecy at Matthew 24:14.

"To be honest, I know absolutely nothing about Jehovah's Witnesses and what they believe in."
-A very true statement from you.

Gothique said...

I am sorry I know this is an old post, but two of them knocked on my door today and didn't say they were, but handed me a small flyer of their ideas. I am now scared they would come to bother me every week. What should I do?

Sarah Marchildon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah M. said...

Hi Gothique. I would either explain to them very politely that you're not interested and ask them not to come again. Or don't answer the door.