Rebuilding Japan!

By: Wolfgang Vondey
Monday, March 21st, 2011

There was a time when Japan was fashionable. During the 1980s, when I completed a degree in Japanese Studies, everything Japanese was all the rage. Japan was the business giant. “Made in Japan” became synonymous with quality and affordability. The Japanese way of life was admired and emulated (even if it was often romanticized). Japan was “in”; it was “cool” (in the language of the 80s). Japanese writings could be found on t-shirts, dishes, movies, and framed on the walls (even though the characters were often upside down). Japanese food became increasingly popular. And the demand for relations with the country and its people increased the demand for opportunities to study the language, the culture, and everything that made the country “different.” Japanese art was en vogue. And none more so than the traditional Japanese wood-block prints. In the early 19th century, the artist Hokusai (1760-1849) created “Mt. Fuji off Kanagawa,” popularly known in the West as “The Wave.” This is one of the best-known Japanese prints that with others of this period inspired the entire French Impressionist school. (I had it on a T-shirt while living in Tokyo.) Little did the artist imagine that this image would one day become the symbol of utter destruction. The wave of the tsunami that devastated the Japanese shoreline destroyed lives, buildings, and infrastructures. Japan has entered the greatest crisis of its history. The once fashionable country has become unfashionable. The world is fleeing Japan.

In the minds of the world, two images characterize recent Japanese history: the cloud of Hiroshima and the wave of the tsunami. This year, both images have come to overwhelm the country and spread fear across the world. No doubt, the image of Japan will have to be rebuilt. The two titles for Hokusai’s print in circulation reveal the options. Whereas the West has seen the wave as the centerpiece of the print, Hokusai was commissioned to create a series of views of Mt. Fuji. The mountain is the center of the image, not the wave. The real Japan is fashioned neither by iodide pills nor gas masks, neither by the cloud of radioactive material nor the devastating wave of the sea. The image of Japan is fashioned in the minds of the people. When the wave subsides and the cloud dissipates, the mountain will remain! But it is a different mountain this time. Mt. Fuji might as well represent the image of a new age. The world should become aware of what the crisis in Japan represents. 日本は現代世界のイメージ. Japan is the image of today’s world. The rebuilding of Japan begins in the minds of the world. Rebuilding Japan is a start to rebuilding the image of the world.

Let’s rebuild it together!

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Wolfgang Vondey
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2 Responses to “Rebuilding Japan!”

  1. Monica Masiko says:

    I agree, Japan is the image of today’s world.
    Immediately following the earthquake, aftershocks, and tsunamis, in my prayers for Japan, I was truly saddened by the compunding difficulties due to the cold, snowy weather. I found my prayers led into prayers regarding improved weather conditions. When I did this, I could not help but receive a reminder of the Scripture to pray that the dreadful atrocities spoken of in Mt 24:20 and Mk 13:18 do not occur in winter. I was awakened to prayer for us all as I prayed for Japan.

  2. Sally Jo Shelton says:

    Dr. Vondey, thank you for your piece on rebuilding Japan. It has inspired me. I hope you don’t mind if I preach a little in response.

    Yes, people flocked to Japan as long as it was prosperous, but fled the moment disaster struck. Clearly, peace, prosperity, and popularity in this world are only fleeting.

    The situation brings several Scriptures to mind, but I will mention only one: Haggai 1. As the prophet reminds the people of Judah, when they busy themselves with their own houses and neglect the house of God, they end up sowing much but harvesting little. They earn wages only to pour them into a bag with holes. It is time to consider your ways, the prophet tells them. They need to abandon their efforts toward own comfort and well-being and embrace obedience. They need to rebuild the house of God (Hag 1:1-12).

    Japan is indeed the image of the world but sadly it is also the image of the Church. Yes, even the people of God–those of us who claim allegiance to God–have neglected God’s house to feather our own. Pray God that we his people will reconsider our ways and refocus our efforts, so that we together may rebuild the house of God.

    In the broad sense, to rebuild God’s house includes rebuilding the Japans–all the places of devastation–of this world. Libya and the Sudan come to mind, but the entire world, it appears, is under the threat by a tsunami of economic ruin. Worse still is the moral and spiritual corruption that has infected the planet.

    The good news, though, is that it can be different. We can heed God’s warnings and reconsider our ways. We can respond in obedience to his call to work toward rebuilding his house. And as we do so, God promises that he himself will be with us and in us, stirring our spirits, energizing us by his own Spirit to do what he asks (Hag 1:13-14).

    In the past, we in the Renewal have sometimes sat on the sidelines and prayed for a miracle. Fact is, God expects more of us than that. Not that he doesn’t expect us to pray–of course, he does!–but he expects more. He expects us…

    to put legs to our prayers,
    to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty,
    to enter into the sufferings of those who suffer,
    to live in solidarity with the poor, the enslaved, the tsunami-and-nuclear devastated of this world,
    to bring love, faith, and hope where all seems lost.

    God grant us the heart–the love, strength and boldness–not only to intend it and to preach it but to do it.