Christmas Memories

When I was studying in Japan I wrote a monthly newsletter for the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Thanks to the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr Milagros Ibe, for encouraging me to do it. I’ve found the original copy of the newsletter I wrote in December of ’92 and decided to share it. Please scroll down to see the 23 year-old printed copy, and though it’s still readable I decided to type it all for easy reading. 😉 

December 1992


Greetings to you and yours! May your holiday be a deeply meaningful time as you celebrate the wondrous event of God becoming man! I am especially looking forward to celebrating Christmas this year because I’ll be with a Japanese Christian family for the winter vacation homestay program. Can’t wait!

Lately, I’ve been observing the character qualities of the Japanese people. One trait that stands out is faithfulness. For example, I spend time with Japanese friends for discussions and studies together. The group consists of three graduate students. I really enjoy them very much. Kindness, warmth and faithfulness usually characterise the members of this group. Sometimes Eiko-san, a marine Biology graduate student, tells me that she will bring me some home grown fruits the next time. The next time I see her there is always a bag of fruit in her hand. She has never failed in keeping her promises. I have had the same experiences with most of my relationships in Japan. The Japanese people, on the whole, are a faithful people who follow through with what they say.

This faithfulness to promises has also added to the harmony which exist within their society. Of course there is a peer pressure and the fear of conflict that adds to this stable situation, but intertwined within all their motives is the desire to be faithful to their responsibilities. This faithfulness has been filtered down into all sectors of their society and especially business. The Japanese corporation is a well-organised machine that is lubricated by a common language and culture. Japan takes great pride in quality, efficiency and low cost in production. All these things spell success in the world of economics. However, as I view the different endeavours of the Japanese people I realise that it will all end up in futility. The Bible says, “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun and behold all is vanity and striving after wind.”  Japan, as well as the other developed countries of the world, is involved in a quest of futility.

The Japanese businessman usually goes to work by 8 a.m. and usually comes home at 10 p.m. or later. They are striving for a more comfortable lifestyle, education for their children, etc. In the end their youth is devoured by time and they retire when their capability to enjoy their money is at their lowest. This is also futility.

The Japanese student is sucked into the frenzied quest for economic success. They usually go to school all day and at night they pack the ‘juku’ (cram schools) that prepare them for the formidable college entrance exam. If they pass into college they are then drawn into the same vicious cycle of the economic world. This is also futility.

The non-Christian who strives after riches, status and sex will die in the eternal fires of hell apart from the saving hands of God. Japan’s superior technology, money and strong national character will not add one iota to its people’s salvation. In a country where over 99% of the people is non-Christian, this bleak future is the eventual outcome of this unique and special people. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life: he who believes in ME shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in ME shall never die…” Only Jesus can redeem the Japanese people from a sure death and it is my desire to bring this hope to them. Let us continue to pray for this economically rich but spiritually destitute people.

Recently I went to the Yayaema Islands for the fall holliday. During the summer vacation (July and August) I visited Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Tokyo, Yokohama and Chiba Prefecture. I also joined the “5th Annual Japan Tent” in Ishikawa Prefecture. It was a big international event sponsored by various governmental agencies for 350 international students to become friends in the beautiful Noto Peninsula. The homestay program in Kanazawa, Wajimi and Nanao-shi has deepened my understanding of the Japanese family life. My three host family were all businessmen who work for 14 hours or more in a day hence, spend very little time at home. The Japanese men tend to turn over most household matters, including children’s education, to their wives. Women make almost all of the major family and household decisions and they exercise considerable power in the home. As I observed, there is very little communication among the family members, and I really feel sorry for the children who don’t get to spend time with their father for leisure or any other activity.

December makes eight months that I’ll be in Japan. Friendships, both with  foreigners and Japanese dorm mates, has deepened in recent months. Sure, I’ll always prioritise relationships in the wonderful way Filipinos do, and I’ll always value Filipino traits like hospitality and close family ties (the parents and children are tightly wielded by bonds of affections).

It’s December but I don’t feel the Christmas air. I miss home very much. The greatest gifts this year will certainly be the memories. It is my hope that I will return to the Philippines with a bundle of them. Memories to take back and hold onto for the time that I’ll be away from home. Foremost of these thoughts being the overwhelming sense of God in bringing me to Japan, and the remembrance of His provision throughout my stay. There is no place like home, here and now in Japan, and to what has been my very own home, in the Philippines.