Veronica Winters: Dance Class and Church

For the 2017 Fall semester at KCJS, I originally had decided to take group lessons at a studio in Osaka, located close to Umeda station. The vocabulary used by the instructors was fundamentally the same as dance instructors in America; for example, “From the top”, “One more time”. The register changed depending on the instructor; friendlier teachers tended to use the plain speech styles while colder, more detached teachers used polite form. About halfway through the semester, I realized that 1) I was not gaining any major cultural insights and 2) while I do enjoy dancing, I did not enjoy taking formal classes.

For the second portion of the semester I have been going to a church with a multi-national congregation. I was shocked at how similar service was to my church in America. I usually go to a majority black Church of God in Christ (COGIC) church in the U.S. where it is common practice to interject with “Amen” during a sermon to show your agreement, to pray aloud individually but simultaneously during worship service and greet your neighbor between programs. The church that I attend in Japan does the exact same thing, except that services are either conducted in Japanese, Korean, Chinese or in all three. More than 70% of the congregation is Chinese, however the pastor is Japanese, so for regular services there is a Japanese-Chinese interpreter present. If necessary, there are a two international students who regularly attend the church that will interpret services into English.

I did realize that the pastor gave the sermon using polite speech, since she was address the congregation; however, during prayer, on behalf of everyone, the pastor would use keigo as a means of exaltation. Also, during my first visit, some members of the church did a coordinated praise dance in honor of the guest Korean pastor. The praise dance was done with fans, using moves from traditional obon dancing, while wearing a kimono.

Furthermore, after learning about difficulties amongst Chinese, Japanese and Koreans in Japan, I was pleased and surprised to find this space where they all cooperate without tension. Since, they share the religion of Christianity, “We are all brothers and sisters in Christ,” is a commonly said phrase at church. Also, the phrases that the pastor uses during the sermons and communal prayer are very similar to the phrases used at my church in America. Nevertheless, this is most likely be due to a shared text, the Bible, which is full set phrases that are very popular among Protestant Christians. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience for my personal enrichment.

Nevertheless, I realize that the church is a bit separated from Japanese society as whole, so to make the most of my study abroad in Japan and get more of a first-hand view of the inner-workings of Japanese society, I will participate in a more integrated CIP during the spring semester.

8 thoughts on “Veronica Winters: Dance Class and Church

  1. Very interesting to go to church, especially since we are in Kyoto (land of 1600 temples and shrines.) I have always been interested in religious prosecution, and in Japan, I would immediate think about Christian prosecutions and later Buddhists. Did the church offer any other services or post-sermon events?

    Also, what activity are you thinking about pursuing in the spring to get a more integrated view?

    • There are several bible study groups based on language and after service every Sunday, most of the young people in the congregation go to the second floor to eat homemade Chinese food together. There was also a church sports day and a Thanksgiving event with several skits.

      As far as next semester’s activity, I have not yet decided. I want to going a circle that attracts a lot of young outgoing Japanese people.

  2. Veronica,

    I find it so wonderful that you were able to experience a space wherein people of various identities are able to congregate in Japan under a shared set of values or interest. To be honest, while I have wondered for a while now about where and how such spaces come to exist in Japan, I hadn’t thought about the role of religious organizations like churches taking up such a role. Perhaps this is due to my own non-religious upbringing, but anyways, I think it is really amazing that you were able to enter and participate in a space of mutual cooperation. It reminds me of why a chose to volunteer at Bazaar Cafe for my own CIP. So happy for you!

    • Thank you, Alex! I’ve heard that Bazaar Cafe has some sort of religious affiliation as well.

  3. Its really nice that you could find something so close to what it would be at home! And I bet it was interesting to experience it in Japanese.

    • I know you said that you wanted to come before you left Japan. Would you be interested in going this Sunday?

  4. Do you still plan to go to this church even though you’re thinking about doing another CIP?