Category: Japan

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It’s Japanese.

I’ve watched the video of Pope Francis slapping–in something of the manner of a YMCA self-defense class; his movements are a standard way in martial arts to break an unwanted grip on one’s arm–a young Asian woman in St. Peter’s Square numerous times now, trying to work out what the woman is saying to him. I recognized the language immediately as Japanese, a language in which I majored in college and which I can still...

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Loneliness Today, Part I: More on the Youth Encounter

This is the first in a projected series of essays dealing with the phenomenon of “loneliness,” beginning with a discussion of the loneliness described to Pope Francis in the “youth encounter” in Tokyo, and moving from there into a broader view.  In Japanese-American author Ruth Ozeki’s 2013 novel A Tale for the Time Being,[1] teenage protagonist Nao Yasutani leads an unenviable life. Her techie father Haruki was fired from his job in Silicon Valley and...

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A Testimony to Loneliness

One underreported event during Pope Francis’s recent trip to East Asia was a meeting with three Japanese young adults, who delivered personal testimonies to him. These testimonies shed further light on some of the themes of the trip overall. Such themes include the treatment of migrants and the need to confront widespread loneliness in a society that is collectivist by tradition but now very atomized. The three young adults were a young Japanese Catholic, Miki...

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Catholicism in Thailand and Japan, By the Numbers

The Vatican press bulletin recently published a series of statistics about Catholicism in Thailand and Japan in the lead-up to Pope Francis’s visits to those countries. These statistics clarify some points that were long unclear (I’ve seen estimates of the total number of Catholics in Japan ranging from 100,000 to 5 million; the Vatican pinpoints it at 536,000). They also imply some interesting things about the specific forms that Catholic religious life is taking in...