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From a “Foreign Religion” to a “Religion of Foreigners”: the Challenge of Contemporary Immigration to the Catholic Church in Japan

  • Antonio Genivaldo Cordeiro de Oliveira
Article

Abstract

The presence of foreigner workers in Japan has had a great impact on the local Catholic Church. I will point out to data, which shows that the number of foreign believers has overtaken the number of Japanese believers. As a transnational religious institution, cooperation between the churches, which came from different countries, and Japanese Catholic churches would be the expected way to attend to the pastoral care of those Catholics. However, several conflicts have blocked that solution. Tensions and conflicts arise from the distinct understanding of organization of the local church and different command “centers” (such as National Bishops Conferences and the charismatic movement administrations). The article focuses initially on the intra-religious tensions resulting from the transplantation of a Pastoral Nipo-Brasileira—PANIB and the charismatic communities from Brazil to Japan. Further, I will show how the Catholic Church in Japan has adopted multiculturalism as the center of its policies of action aiming to become a model within Japanese society. All cases here presented have failed to offer an appropriate answer to the challenge of contemporary immigration with the Catholic Church.

Keywords

Immigration Japanese Catholicism Multiculturalism PANIB Catholic Charismatic Renewal 

Introduction

The religious scenario in Japan is certainly complex. Christianism as a late comer in the Japanese religious scenario continues to struggle to be accepted. A success during the so-called Christian Era Catholicism, at one hand, began to function as an oppositional ideology unifying some parts of the population but, on the other hand, was also seen as a threat by those who desired a centralized government, since missionary activity in that period was ran by the conquering countries of Europe. That dynamic led to the proscription of the Christian religion.

The initial removal of that proscription is also associated with a threat from outside the country. The door to Japan was forced open by the Perry mission in 1854, which enabled another great increasement among Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics, to the point that some Japanese leaders and politicians advocated the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of Japan.

A third phase of Christian influx came with the efforts of Allied forces to rebuild the country after the II World War. Again, Protestant and Catholic missionaries were associated with foreigner powers. Presently, Japan is facing a new Christian wave with the different expressions of Catholicism and Protestantism brought to the country by immigrant workers.

The contemporary immigration phenomenon has an important repercussion in the outlook of the different religions. In Japan, since the majority of the newest wave of immigrants is coming from the largely Catholic countries of South America and The Philippines, they directly affect the Catholic Church and its organization in the country. As in other scenarios, those immigrants also carried with them their devotions, practices and different ways of living their faith. However, the transplantation of some of those elements to Japan has become very problematic, as they have failed to create roots in the Church in Japan.

I will look at those cases from a sociological perspective in order to differentiate how religious markets are diversely regulated in Japan and in Brazil (Lu et al., 2008). Even though, I acknowledge that numbers would be less relevant than the unity and faithfulness to the tradition within the Catholic Church, that sociological approach would be of a help to understand some changes in the Christian immigrants religious identities. Further, to analyze the local approach of the Catholic Church in Japan to deal with migration, I will look at the criticism the multiculturalism has gone through over the past decades (Phillips 2007). Finally, I will bring some ideas from Montgomery’s theory on his approach to the favorable condition to the spread of religions (Montgomery 1996).

To look at the cases of failure here, I will be following Ian Reader’s theoretical perspectives, who calls for close attention also to the cases of the decline and failure of the religions, in order to have a more balanced image of the religious phenomena nowadays and to obtain better insights in the study of religions (cf. Reader 2012: 448). I have chosen to focus initially on two experiences: the PANIB and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal cases that happened in the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s. In addition, I will also present the approach of the Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move—J-CaRM, which has tried to deal with the challenge immigration over the past decade.

Contradictory Immigration Models

People make decisions to move, or are forced to move, from place to place for political, economic, scientific, or religious reasons. The contemporary immigration phenomenon varies depending on the region, but, from the 1990s on, this has affected almost all regions of the world, whether as regions of origin or of destination.

Several industrialized states, facing the challenges of aging and diminishing populations, have revised their laws regarding immigration to encourage the temporary immigration. Many states and societies remain uncomfortable with the notion of large-scale and continuous immigration, especially if the new arrivals have a different ethnic, cultural, or religious background than the majority of citizens. Japan is one of those societies that had to face that challenge during the past decades.

The presence of foreigners in Japanese territory has a long and peculiar history. In the late twentieth century, growth in Japanese industry could only be met by the importation of a labor force whose need continues to increase every year. The number of foreign workers, which was 750,000 in 1975, increased to 1.8 million in 2001. That number continued to increase to the point that Japan appears among the top 10 immigrant host countries in the past decade.

Despite the absence of coherent immigration policy, and the long economic recession, recent data of the Ministry of Justice, from October 2016, shows a continuous increase on the number of Brazilians entering Japan. As for December 2014, they were 176.284 people and the biggest concentration was in Aichi Prefecture, in Central Japan area, that concentrated 49,444 of the Brazilians in the country (cf. PM, 2017/12/15).

The governmental policy is very restrictive when it comes to immigration control aiming to import needed foreign labor on a temporary basis. Exceptions were made only for those of Japanese descent, called Nikkeijin, from South America1 and members of their families (up to the third generation), who are also eligible to enter Japan as foreign workers. The prevailing idea was that these descendants of Japanese would upon entry into Japan find it much easier to adapt to Japanese society. Tsuda shows that “they are ethnically marginalized and socially segregated in Japan as foreigners and have become Japan’s newest ethnic minority” (Tsuda 2006: 15). That is, he says, “many have been able to settle with their families in some areas of Japan. These populations are supported by a vast array of ethnic business, churches, employment agencies, and ethnic media” (Tsuda 2006: 20).

The fact that immigration phenomena differs around the world also makes it difficult to find coherence between official policies and the reality of immigration. Once a country adopts and promotes an official immigration policy, it does not mean that it is effective.

Many causes have been cited as responsible for this ineffectiveness: incoherence between immigration policies and other economic and social policies, incoherence between the objective and actual means, incoherent policies among institutions managing immigration, lack of cooperation between countries of origin and destination, and difficulties in accepting immigration as a structural phenomenon (cf. Batistella, 2009a: 36). In general, it is possible to find a disconnection between the reality of immigration and the policies adopted by governments and other organizations. As an example, countries that adopted a temporary model of immigration are now facing the fact that the migratory phenomenon is becoming “a permanent and structural configuration” (EMCC 2017: 1).

Each country has regulations regarding immigration that, at least theoretically, should guide the flow of people through its borders. The official policies on immigration basically follow three models: permanent settlement, long-term settlement, and temporary immigration. These models are shaped by demographic, economic, social, and political factors. Also, “behind each model is a different self-understanding of national identity” (Batistella, 2009b: 36). Even though it is possible to identify a prevailing model in a given period in history, it does not mean that they have been successively replaced. The three models still co-exist today depending on different countries’ policies.

Permanent settlement was the basic model of the past, largely because of the difficulties migrants faced in moving from one country to another. With the changes in the world, a second model of immigration was adopted, long-term settlement. Countries that adopted this model focused on contributions that migrants might make to the economy. In recent years, increased facility in traveling, speed of information, and pace of economic change have pushed countries to favor the temporary model of immigration. Countries that adopt this model consider immigrants only as workers and do not intend to let them settle; they seek to avoid the establishment of new minorities. That has been the case especially in Asia, including Japan.

The Impact of Contemporary Immigration on the Catholic Church in Japan

From the beginning of the newest wave of immigration to Japan in the 1980s, churches and their organizations have been affected and have tried to attend the new needs of immigrants. Tsuda observes that “Japanese Christian Churches have welcomed foreigners into their congregations, providing an informal mean of social support” (Tsuda 2006: 24). However, as in other spheres, churches were not prepared to face the challenges that were just beginning. “When church and labor groups began responding to emergency needs in the mid-1980s, their lack of familiarity with the issues and their paucity of resources, produced virtually immediate cooperation […]. Informal communications networks were actively formed and drew on some preexisting networks-for instance, those among churches, women’s shelters, and labor unions targeting workers in small firms or day laborers” (Milly 2006: 133). Hence, new immigration has drastically changed the Church’s reality in several regions.

Being the destination point for many foreign workers, the church in Japan is “booming” with different ethnic communities formed by the newcomers for whom being Christian is perhaps an aspect of cultural identity. For many, being baptized Catholic in their home country meant becoming part of the major religious group and was one more cultural element of being Brazilian, Peruvian or Filipino; to become Catholic was a way to adapt to the new culture in Brazil, since the majority of people there still declare themselves Catholic.

In Japan, immigrant groups have started to gather around some parishes that welcomed them. Their motivation to be part of a Christian community in Japan was not primarily religious but mostly social. With the struggles and identity crises experienced by immigrants, many find some space in churches where they feel welcome. Communities start to gather and to increase. Many of those who had very little contact with the church in their own country started to see in the Church at least a space where they can speak their own language, share their ideas, make friends, and even make work contacts. This gives them a new impulse to deal with the hard reality of migrant workers’ lives in that other set of so-called 3Ds—dangerous, dirty, and difficult work.

How can we start to understand the scope and dynamics of the relationship between immigration and the identity of both migrants and the Church? A pioneer in the field of study of religion in the migratory context, the sociologist R. Stephen Warner, has established bases for research on that field. He started by making clear that religion will be analyzed in the form of living communities (Warner, 1998: 9). One of the problems to achieve that seems to be obtaining proper data regarding religion. Since most governmental agencies cannot ask people about their religious affiliation, “scholars of religion must rely on the public records of religious organizations themselves or on the result of sample surveys” (Warner, 1998: 11).

In the case of the Catholic Church in Japan, the difficulty in obtaining exact data is very clear. The official numbers given by the Bishops’ Conference guidebook do not account for the great majority of immigrants since they are not registered in their residing parishes as the majority of Japanese believers are. Besides that, immigrants are constantly moving around the country depending on the job market.

Under the official Japanese policy of granting temporary workers’ visas, the understanding among the general populace of Japan seems to be that immigrants are “guest workers” and that sooner or later they will return to their country of origin. In the Catholic churches, there should not be a distinction between a “guest” and a “full member” of a given parish. However, believers with foreigner citizenship were and in some parishes continue to be considered as simply “visitors” even if they have been present for many years, as long as they are not registered according to the Japanese system of believers—Shinjaseki. 2

The system of believers’ registration, in the case of the Catholic Church, is presently failing to do the recommended registration even among Japanese believers who are already used to it (Table 1). The system fails to benefit foreigner immigrants even more. It does not appeal to them because it does not exist in their country of origin and because they are transient (dependent on the prospects of employment). Even the priests who attend those ethnic communities lack information. As a result, similar to what happens to the official immigration statistics, the migrants’ situation in the Church can generate different categories of believers according to the “regularity” of their registration in the territorial parish.
Table 1

Number of registered Japanese believers and estimated number of foreign believers

難民移住移動委員会

Japanese believers

Foreign believers

Total

Japanese (%)

Foreigner (%)

Sapporo

18,205

2433

20,638

88

12

Sendai

10,947

9726

20,676

53

47

Niigata

7707

6540

14,247

54

46

Saitama

19,814

85,104

104,918

19

81

Tokyo

91,586

75,134

166,720

55

45

Yokohama

53,512

118,934

172,446

31

69

Nagoya

25,380

107,386

132,766

19

81

Kyoto

19,194

43,047

62,241

31

69

Osaka

55,732

39,911

95,643

58

42

Hiroshima

21,702

18,106

39,808

55

45

Takamatsu

5407

4778

10,185

53

47

Fukuoka

31,600

8905

40,505

78

22

Nagasaki

67,728

1186

68,914

98

2

Oita

5765

2694

8459

68

32

Kagoshima

9527

2880

12,407

77

23

Okinawa

6119

2688

8807

69

31

Total

449,925

529,452

979,377

46

54

Source: TIK, J-CaRM (2005)

For all these reasons, as previously mentioned, it is very difficult to obtain the exact number of Catholic members in immigration communities. But we can make some educated guesses. Although in the total population of Japan, the number of migrants is not very large; in the Catholic Church scenario, it considerably changes. Lacking specific data about religion among foreigners, but combining information from other sources, the Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees, and People on the Move—J-CaRM, estimated the following numbers in 2005.3

The Catholic hierarchy has contested these estimates by the J-CaRM by saying that a great number of those who declare themselves Catholic in the official statistics often are “nominal” or “non-practicing” Catholics. And researchers question the Vatican numbers for Brazil, saying that there is a difference between the statistics for ordinary Brazilians (73.57%) and for the so-called yellow descendants, mostly of Japanese descent (63.90%), in the percentage of Catholics in the total of Brazilian population (cf. Shoji, 2008: 50). Even though there are many questions regarding these estimates, they indicate the changes and challenges facing the Catholic Church in Japan. However, the real dimension of the challenge goes far beyond mere numbers.

Aging and quiet Japanese parishes have undergone sudden change. The number of foreign believers has become overwhelming in many dioceses. In many parishes, masses in foreign languages have far better attendance than those in Japanese (Table 2). Foreign believers’ communities are also much younger in composition than the general Japanese communities. Foreign believers’ organizations have a vitality that results in conflict with the already established host community that has constructed its own distinctive sense of belonging.
Table 2

Parishes or chapels with foreign language masses by diocese in 2016

 

English

Spanish

Korean

Vietnamese

Portuguese

Tagalog

Indonesian

French

German

Polish

Chinese

International

Sapporo

2

Sendai

3

1

1

1

1

1

Niigata

7

1

Saitama

33

11

1

6

11

8

1

3

Tokyo

27

6

2

1

2

5

2

2

2

1

1

3

Yokohama

23

13

2

4

16

4

1

4

Nagoya

18

10

2

5

13

15

1

1

1

2

Kyoto

17

8

7

1

1

Osaka

15

10

11

5

6

1

1

1

Hiroshima

15

4

3

8

5

Takamatsu

5

1

Fukuoka

10

1

1

1

Nagasaki

3

Oita

6

1

Kagoshima

1

6

Naha

4

5

Source: KJHB, 2016: pp. 273–280. The number of masses is larger since many of these places have more than one mass by language every month

Now, that sense of belonging is once more under transformation. The consequence of the migrant presence has been immense. As foreigners arrived from several countries and in large numbers at the same time, their presence in certain parishes started to challenge the Church as a whole.

The Case of Toyohashi Parish

The Nagoya Diocese was one of the most affected by the presence of foreign believers. That diocese has its center in Aichi prefecture, the home for the largest Brazilian population. In addition, Toyohashi city has the largest concentration of them.

Acknowledging the difficulties in obtaining correct data on migrants’ communities and that the estimates put out by the J-CaRM have been questioned, I would like to consider the case of Toyohashi Parish in Nagoya Diocese as one of the places where the number of believers of foreign citizenship exceeds the number of Japanese believers.

The Mikawa area has become home to the plants of many car manufacturers and many electronic device makers; ship factories and other industries are also there. Consequently, Toyohashi is one of those cities in Japan that has had to face the influx of a large foreign workforce, answering the needs of development.

This industrialization has a great impact on the Catholic Parish of Toyohashi history and organization. The place has become a critical site of negotiation over identity, and it must address the issue of the mass of foreign migrant workers. The Church could become the center of tension and conflict. Cultural differences could very easily be pointed out as being based on discrimination; ethnic communities could overwhelm the Japanese local community.

After having become completely accustomed to their own way of doing things for many years, this small predominantly Japanese community suddenly had “their church” “inundated” by large numbers of foreigners.

The present wave of “foreign believers” basically formed four communities: Japanese, Filipino, Brazilian, and Peruvian. Other nationalities also have a presence in the parish: Vietnamese, Bolivians, a few Koreans, and people from various countries. These groups had to try to fit into the space conceived and built by and for a small Japanese community. The integration of the different religious customs and practices of several groups has often created many problems other than faith based ones and is a constant source of misunderstanding and incomprehension.

The simplest explanation for this division would be language. However, I believe that the real division results from different senses of belonging. “What does it mean to be a member of the Catholic Church?” The answer differs in various church cultures.

Acknowledging the difficulties and questions regarding proper data on migrants and noting, as previously shown, that the Japanese system of believers’ registration does not account for the “new wave of migrants,” these are necessarily simply estimates. I will proceed using the instrument given by the sociologist Kyomi Morioka in his book Religion in Changing Japanese Society. He proposes, among other elements, the number of baptisms as one of the variables that can help us to figure out the population influx into an area and its consequent increase in Church membership (cf. Morioka 1975: 138) (Table 3). Records can be unreliable: he mentions “the tendency of ministers to report the increase accurately and the decrease inadequately” (Morioka 1975: 146).
Table 3

Influx of foreign and Brazilian populations

 

Total population

Foreign population

Brazilian population

December/2007

384.042

20.024

12.738

December/2008

385.523

20.240

12.564

December/2009

384.148

18.314

10.788

December/2010

382.564

16.666

9.180

December/2011

382.043

16.001

8.530

December/2012

381.272

15.197

8.034

December/2013

380.149

13.989

6.936

December/2014

378.862

13.550

6.360

December/2015

378.364

13.860

6.202

December/2016

378.039

14.639

6.490

June/2017

377.387

15.039

6.597

Source: 広報とよはしポルトガル語版 e HP www.city.toyohashi.aichi.jp

With these caveats, I will present data in the following chart from contemporary baptismal records of Toyohashi Parish, which began listing foreign believers’ baptisms in 1991. The early registrations, I found, did not always note nationality, so I put them in the separate category of “others.” I also separated those who have Japanese citizenship but with parents of different nationality, mainly Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers (which assures Japanese citizenship), calling them “dual” (Table 4; Figs. 1 and 2).
Table 4

Contemporary Toyohashi Parish baptismal records

 

Japanese

Filipino

Brazilian

Peruvian

Duala

Others

1992

10

05

01

01b

1993

03

09

03

07a

1994

10

01

12

04

03a

1995

06

01

09

02

01

1996

07

01

13

1997

12

03

32

08

07

1(Chile)

1998

13

06

17

02

04

1999

05

06

61

02

03

2000

14

42

02

05

1 (Korea)

2001

06

02

14

04

05

2002

02

01

23

01

01

2003

09

08

15

04

08

2004

06

01

32

07

06

2 (Ukraine, Argentina)

2005

03

25

02

04

3 (Korea)

2006

02

02

49

09

2007

02

42

03

10

1 (Sri Lanka)

2008

05

06

55

07

17

2 (Bolivia)

2009

08

08

38

04

12

2010

11

03

21

07

09

2011

10

04

22

02

13

1 (Borneo’s)

2012

02

02

12

05

2 (Paraguay)

2013

06

04

06

03

13

2014

04

07

08

01

13

2015

04

14

08

6

2 (Tanzania, Ghana)

2016

02

07

09

05

01

1 (Tanzania)

Total

160

89

579

63

163

27

aJapanese citizenship but with parents of different nationalities. A few hold double nationality

bUnknown country

Fig. 1

Toyohashi Parish growth by year and parents’ nationalities

Fig. 2

Parish composition based on baptismal records

Catholic Believers, Guests, or Problems?

These figures indicate that the great majority of new members of that parish are of foreign citizenship. From this perspective, we may be able to develop a picture of this parish in the years ahead.

Again, it is important to emphasize that changes in the Catholic Church in Japan are not simply a matter of numbers or estimates. The sudden presence of many Catholics with different ways of living their faith and organizing their communities becomes a constant occasion for Japanese believers to question their established practices. Therefore, the Japanese believers may see the presence of migrants as a “problem.” This has been the case in Japan where, once again, foreigners provide the springboard for a full debate about national identity. Within the church in Japan, things are not very different.

There is a growing awareness that this is not a “Catholic Church of Japan” or “Japanese Catholic Church” [日本人の教会], but rather a “Catholic Church in Japan” [日本にある教会] (Tani 2008: 29). However, the fact is that the vast majority of those believers are not counted in the official number of believers published every year by the Bishop’s Conference in Japan. Currently, foreign believers are called “believers of foreign citizenship.” This struggle continues in different parishes, since changes on the rational level are not immediately assimilated at the practical level.

The Catholic Church in Japan already faces the challenge of being part of a Christian minority that accounts for about 0.3% of the total Japanese population. In addition, like most Japanese religious corporations, Catholic communities are aging without being able to pass their faith on to the next generation. Because of the aging process, the majority of Japanese parishes is facing a considerable decline in numbers. However, some parishes have undergone sudden change and have become overwhelmed by the increasing number of foreign believers. As a whole “Christianity is often regarded as a “foreign” and “Western” religion” (Mullins 1998: 9). This vision is aggravated by the actual foreign believers’ influx of Catholics; this makes Christianity to be considered a “foreign religion” which, in turn, becomes a “religion of foreigners.”

Challenges of Pastoral Care Models

Internally, that challenge is being faced with the lead of episcopal commission in charge of immigration. Based on the experiences of these early years, church officials in Tokyo decided not to create new national or personal parishes for immigrants (except those already existing, created after World War II for English speakers and a personal Korean Parish in Tokyo). Bishop Tani, former head of J-CaRM, explained the decision: “Discussing the pastoral care of migrants, the Ecclesiastical Province of Tokyo, which includes the six dioceses (Sapporo, Sendai, Saitama, Tokyo and Yokohama), has come to an agreement to not erect personal parishes (i.e. Brazilians forming an independent Parish based on language, independent of the territorial parish). Other dioceses have been following the same pastoral direction. That choice was the result of the change in image of the Church as a ‘Japanese Church’ to the understanding of ‘the Church in Japan,’ which is a multiracial and convivial multicultural Church, within which the Japanese have to accept to be one of them. That does not mean just ‘accepting foreigners,’ but rather proceeding together with people from different races and different cultures. In a different way of speaking, we have made a choice to try to build ‘one Church’ and one community” (Tani 2008: 33–34).

The Nagoya Diocese based its guidelines on the one approved for Tokyo Ecclesiastical Province (cf. YNK 2003). The guidelines also specified that different national communities’ needs would be met by the religious orders that were already established in the diocese Cf. NTSG n.d.). In other dioceses, the policy is for diocesan priests from abroad to come under contract for a determined number of years to attend the needs of particular foreign believers.

Since appropriate language skills were not available, priests who spoke a language close to that of the immigrants were called on to attend them or at least to read the Mass in its language. As Brazilians became the majority group, their pastoral care was initially given much attention.

Aside from the religious orders or diocese initiatives, parallel experiences had also happened in order to answer the needs of pastoral care of Brazilian immigrants in Japan. Here, I will describe the intents of transplanting PANIB and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR). A Nikkei Catholic priest took the first one and the second one by lay peoples’ initiative as shown on the following seals found in documents of late 1990s.

Both organizations, however, have faced strong resistance from the local church and have failed in their intended transplantation. For those carriers of new catholic movements, priest and lay people thought that it could work here as a kind of branch of the Brazilian Church. The seal of the Charismatic Renewal is much clear in showing “affiliation and orientation” to the home organization in Brazil.

The PANIB’s Case

Japanese immigration to Brazil from the beginning of twentieth century had to face the challenges of the discussions regarding the so-called yellow peril that have also marked the Brazilian constitution of 1934. In order to avoid more problems, Japanese authorities favored the cultural adaptation of Japanese immigrants promoting the adoption of the Catholic faith in Brazil since its preparation to embark at Kobe port. To answer that need, the Catholic Church tried to find a priest who could help in that mission. In the first years, the needs were met specially by Jesuits and Franciscans who had learned Japanese and were back in Brazil. Years after, in 1923, some Japanese missionaries following Fr. Chohachi Nakamura started to attend the Japanese spread in many parts of Brazil.

Before World War II, many Japanese and their descendants had joined a Catholic Circle called Morning Star—Ake no Hoshi (Cf. AK 1954). The movement seems to have been successful at the time. The historical records of PANIB’s foundation shows that among those who immigrated to Brazil, only 1.3% was baptized as Catholics. In the middle of the 1960s the rate of baptisms was estimated in 70% (cf. NH 1978: 36). In 1966, the Archdiocese of São Paulo created a Japanese personal parish in the neighborhood of Liberdade in order to attend at least 170 Nikkei’s catholic families living in the region at the time.

Following the inspirations of Council Vatican II (1962–1965) and the increasing numbers of Japanese missionaries, the bishop of Londrina, Mgr. Geraldo Fernandes, motivated the foundation of a new organization that would be in charge of the Pastoral care of Japanese immigrants and their descendants in Brazil (Cf. MCM 2008 and Panib 2017). Following that inspiration, the association was created in 1967 under the direction of the National Brazilian Bishop’s conference (CNBB).4

Other personal parishes were created in Mogi das Cruzes, also in São Paulo State, and two others in Londrina and Maringá, in Paraná state. Those parishes, as well as other organizations, were very active in helping the “integration and assimilation” into the Brazilian culture. From that pastoral attention, some Japanese descendants have chosen to become priests. Some of those priests have also followed other Nikkei’s and their dekassegui’s journey. That was the case of Father Antonio Isao Yamamoto (Fig. 3). He has tried to attend Brazilian immigrants during the first half of the 1990s.
Fig. 3

Photos by the author

Upon arriving in Japan, he started work on his own to try to attend to the pastoral needs of other Brazilians who realized for the first time they were not Japanese, as they were usually called in Brazil. In Japan, they were all discriminated and considered gaijin. However, what seemed to be the most plausible for the needs at the time did not work out properly. First, the Church in which these priests were trained was quite different from that of Japan, friction and complications arose. As he had a working visa, he was not much inclined to follow the diocesan pastoral policies in order to have more freedom to answer the needs of the constantly moving workers. Since he was attending some communities in a personal initiative without connection with the Church in Japan, that experience was not well accepted. The local bishop also claimed that PANIB was a Brazilian pastoral organization, and the needs of the immigrants in Japan should be addressed according to the local bishops directions and through the local commission in charge of immigrants’ pastoral care.

The Case of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) has been one of the most successful movements and has helped the Catholic Church to deal with the strong loss of believers, especially to other Protestant Pentecostal churches. The movement as a whole can also be placed among the several new Catholic movements that are trying to react to the loss of space of the Catholic monopoly in the religious market because of the increasing secularization. As Chesnut pointed out, like the Protestant Pentecostalism, the CCR is also a religious product exported from the USA. Even though several groups that follow that spirituality “manifests diverse local and national characteristics, it is generally a Catholic lay movement that seeks to revitalize the Church through the power of the Third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit” (Chesnut 2016: 79).

That author also defends that the charismatic groups are more attractive in their offers to religious consumers in Brazil. He asserts that the movement “has proliferated to the point that in just three decades since its arrival in Brazil, home of the largest Catholic population on earth, it can claim at least half of the practicing Catholics among its rank. Such is the hegemony of charismatic Christianity that those Catholic and Protestant groups that do not offer some form of pneumacentric worship face stagnation and even decline” (Chesnut 2016: 77).

In order to attain that hegemonic status in Brazil’s religious economy the movement had to compete with Pentecostalism and to be able to meet with the internal demands to form its staff that included preachers, healers and exorcist priests or lay people who specialize in “cure and liberation.” Such religious services have proven to be very attractive especially to the middle class of Catholic believers. These features of the first adherents to the CCR marks one of the differences to the Pentecostal movement that attracted initially more people from lower class and the outskirts. According to Chesnut, “the afflictions that compel middle-class Brazilians to join the CCR may stem less directly from material deprivation (such as in the Protestant Pentecostal Churches), is more often from psychological problems, such as those that may stem from early childhood trauma” (Chesnut 2016: 87).

In the Brazilian religious market, the healing offer has already a long history like the practices offered by curandeiras in the traditional Catholicism. However, these traditional services have remained at the margins of the institutional church. The evangelical Pentecostal healers were more clever and skillful in utilizing this background in order to offer more active and attractive strategies of evangelization to answer the direct prospective of the believers. Institutional Catholicism has ignored that “product” with remarkable appeal to the believers. This new expression of worship was assumed by the new movements and has helped the Catholic Church to recover some of its lost space. However, this offer demands a differentiation from the already existing offers. Chesnut has pointed out that a Catholic offer “must provide sufficient continuity with the catholic doctrine or worship in order to maintain the potential consumer’s comfort level” (Chesnut 2016: 85). Looking at concrete cases, we can say that the catholic doctrine is preached favoring a more assertive way. Regarding the worship, it is a very ambiguous way: at one hand, it has many innovations brought in by the typical Pentecostal manifestations that ignore many of the official rubrics; on the other hand, some leaders are pushing back and rescuing the Trent liturgy. The differentiation goes also with the strong identification with the devotion to the blessed virgin and the strong connection with the teaching of the Popes, especially in the points that favor their spirituality.

Among the many associations, communities, and prayer groups, two groups stand out as the voice of CCR in Brazil: The Canção Nova (New Song) and the Associação do Senhor Jesus (Association of Lord Jesus—ALJ). The first one was founded in 1978 by a Salesian priest, Fr. Jonas Abib, and aims the evangelization through the mass media. Nowadays, the group is one of the biggest charismatic association and has a huge center in Cachoeira Paulista with missions in almost every state of Brazil and abroad. They are already installed in Portugal, Italy, Israel, and Paraguay (Cf. CN HP 2017). Fr. Edward Dougherty, an American Jesuit who lives in Campinas, founded the second one. He started this mission of evangelization through television in 1981. He was responsible for the first Catholic program on Brazilian TV, Anunciamos Jesus (We announce Jesus), which started in 1983 with rented equipment and, as many other Pentecostal associations, it was born in the “garage.” Currently, the association has a TV channel and a monthly magazine called Brasil Cristão with more than 250,000 copies. The public concession to the TV channel was granted in 1999. With the advance of the internet, in 2013, this movement created the Rede Século XXI (XXI Century Network) that also includes some online courses.

Both groups are financed through a combination of contributions from the thousands of members associated with the communities, from sales through television programs and the sale of religious articles. There are occasional donations from wealthy believers from Brazil, North American, and European charismatics. Even though these two groups are hegemonic, there is a TV channel ran by the National Catholic Bishops Conference, as well as many new charismatic communities, which started the broadcast, opening up a very competitive internal dispute. In that dispute, new contributors from wealthy regions such as Japan represent a good target to be conquered. However, the internal disputes for believers and contributions have started much confrontation (not openly said or admitted) that was transferred to the small community in Japan. In the micro-level, that situation ended in communities splitting and dividing.

Intent of CCR’s Transplantation to Japan

Once the CCR groups conquered great acceptance in the Brazilian audience, they felt a kind of religious obligation to spread that message to other places with the help of Brazilian followers. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this would be targeting on the many Brazilians in diaspora and from them try to create roots in others cultures. The two cases here presented, however, are cases where the hope of transplantation did not work out.

The intention to import the CCR through Brazilians to Japan can show us how real those disputes were. The first one to go there was Fr. Edward Dougherty. His presentation at the home page of his association summarizes that strategy of evangelization in a very good way: “From a basketball player and athletics practitioner to a Jesuit priest. From New Orleans to Brazil. From Brazil to the world!” (cf. ALJ HP 2017). Following that desire of expanding the mission to other countries, he was opened to attend the request of Brazilian Catholics living in Japan who had the desire to keep their charismatic practices from Brazil.

In Japan, as well as in Brazil, a good number of those believers were from the middle-class and fled from the Brazilian economic crisis at the end of the 1990s to settle in Japan’s central area, especially in Aichi, Shizuoka, and Mie Prefectures.

Practicing the faith was certainly not a priority for the great majority of those migrants. However, for many who were already engaged in several religious activities, the continuation would be important. The reception in the Japanese Parishes was not pleasant at beginning. Among the pioneers, it was not difficult to find someone who reported looking for another church for foreigners. A foreign priest served almost all of them. The Divine Word Fathers in Nagoya Diocese saw the situation and decided to start a new parish in Anjō City. Even though it was not exclusive for foreigners, the new parish did not have a long history and the already established Japanese leadership made it difficult for the integration of the new comers. That parish was the exact place for many Brazilians from Londrina and Maringá, who were welcomed by the integration of Japanese and their descendants into the Catholic Church, with the attention of PANIB. Several ones among them had already been taking part on the Charismatic Renewal activities in Brazil.

It was from that community that the first contacts with CCR started in Brazil at the end of 1990s. They tried initially to contact Fr. Jonas Abib from the already booming Canção Nova, but since they could not get him, they started to look for other preachers who shared the same spirituality. The contact with Fr. Eduardo Dougherty was finally made through the leader from Hibino Parish in Nagoya, Mr. Edno Monteiro.5 As reported personally by him, the priest accepted the invitation and immediately sent around “800 Bibles, dozens of CDs and DVDs and other Catholic books” to be sold in order to cover the expenses.

In Japan, there are three long holidays during New Year, the so-called Golden Week during spring and Obon in August. This is the period in which immigrants can also enjoy the country’s nature. Starting in 1997, those periods, especially during spring and summer, were dedicated to the gatherings of the Charismatics in Japan. The first one, still small in numbers, was held at Anjō Parish. The following year, it was held at a bigger auditorium at Nanzan Secondary Schools in Nagoya. Motivated by those big events, the believers started to hold small gatherings in the several parishes of the region. The contact, usually made among Brazilian Leaders, was not always communicated to the parish priest, who was usually surprised by the different ways of worshiping and at the same “disturbed” by the selling of religious goods. This became the source of many misunderstandings and the beginning of resistances to the movement. Neglecting the proper ways to get permission from the ecclesiastical authorities can be pointed out as one of the mistakes of the movement leaders in Japan. Even though Brazilian preachers (priests or bishops) were welcomed by the local bishops, this was done in a diplomatic way but never as permission or support to the events.

In the specific case of Fr. Eduard Dougherty, after the second meeting, the local bishop told him in a Japanese way that he did not want the preacher again in the diocese. Among the possible motivations for that was the plan to start a branch of the association in Japan. This would become a problem to the local diocese because of the legal requirements necessary to mass media, which are completely different from Brazil, especially regarding religious corporations. Since religion is a very delicate topic in contemporary Japanese society, current regulations do not allow public concession of mass media for religious corporations in Japan.

The second reason was the direct connection to Brazil. Brazilians would consider that natural. However, this kind of suspicion regarding movements with a line of command from abroad has been a historical problem to the Catholic Church, as I will show later.

The gatherings however kept on going with other famous preachers from Brazil. Jonas Abib, Roberto Lettieri, and Padre Léo, among others, would go to Japan sometimes with a whole group of musicians in charge of cheering up the crowd. That demanded increasing logistic and consequently increasing expenses. Besides that, personal tastes started to be involved. Individual invitations were made for certain preachers or healers for different gatherings at the same period in different places. This generated, on one hand, an internal competition since the believers would take part in the gathering with whom he or she would identify more; on the other hand, it started to cause problems in the neighboring Dioceses of Yokohama and Kyoto which had different arrangements, neglected by Brazilian believers.

The internal division soon began to cause problems and questioned the leadership of the movement in Japan. Since the number of followers of Canção Nova had become bigger than those who followed the ALJ, they started to claim the right to lead the movement, which eventually happened. The new leadership had in mind to begin with the settling of a new branch of Canção Nova. With the refusal of Nagoya’s bishop, they moved to Hamamatsu and rented a place where they settled a library and a prayer service room. At that time, they had the help of a religious priest who left his community to join the movement. However, all that was done without the previous permission of the local order. Since the leading family decided to live exclusively for the religious mission with the priest who joined them, sources of income had to be found. The request for financial support in different parishes that belonged to different dioceses6 generated complaints that eventually came to the knowledge of the bishop, who made some decisions after a lot of discussion with his clergy.

Japanese bishops found it difficult to understand where the limits were between the CCR spirituality and organizations, the features of the Brazilian Catholicism, and internal divisions due to groups’ particular charismas or personal differences. Besides that, the disputes for personal established parishes would represent a loss of potential income. Moreover, there were also cases of misappropriation of funds controlled by certain individuals. All that ended up in disputes among priests who had tried to solve the situation in order to keep the unity of the desired community.

Among the decisions, it was ruled that the diocesan levels should call any meeting and that the invitation should be done by the local bishop, who would not actually make any invitations. This as a matter of fact would be a guarantee for the preachers. These series of mistakes, problems, and misunderstandings ended up in resistance that undermined the intent of the transplantation of the movement. Some prayer groups continued to exist under the parish priest or the priest in charge of the Brazilian chaplaincy but without the direct connection with Brazil. Charismatic prayer groups are present in only two communities.

Different Regulations to Different Religious Markets

The above description might sound like mere ecclesiastical disputes; however, if we look at the regulations regarding religious corporations in Japan, some of the reasons for the resistance can be better understood.

The contemporary understanding of religion and the regulations of its organization in Japan are deeply marked by Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo Subway system by Aum Shinrikyō members in 1995 (Cf. Reader 2017). Following this event, Japanese authorities were forced to make new regulations regarding religious corporations, making it more difficult to obtain legal recognition as such and making it stricter regarding financial flow of money, its sources, and the use of it. According to these new regulations, all accountability of a religious corporation should be made public to every member, who is free to inquire about the legal representatives of the corporation.

Religious groups can function without the legal recognition (shūkyō hōjin); however, they are subject to pay taxes if they have any sales of goods as any other business organization. Following that, “a number of cases have been taken to court and religious bodies have been ordered to compensate the plaintiffs, but consumer advocates argue that the current law allows widespread abuse and provides no incentive for religious bodies to practice restraint and self-discipline in financial matters” (Mullins 1997: 43).

As described above, not all flow of money generated by the charismatic movement in Japan fit the legal requirements. If any problem should arise, the established diocese would be responsible for solving it. The problem was that it actually held no direct responsibility for all the events since there has not been any official invitation.

The revision of the “free religious market” in Japan has not only affected the actions and activities of religious corporations already settled but has also affected the intentions of transplantation and spread of new religious movements. The case presented here should help to confirm once again the thesis that the growth of a religious market depends largely on the regulation and on the free market in order to generate offers that would help the consequent expansion of that market (cf. Lu et al., 2008: 140).

Another issue regarding the legal regulation is connected to the immigration law and the different kinds of visas. In Japan, the visa for religious activities does not allow those holding it to take any other activities. The religious corporation in charge of them should cover their expenses. In both cases presented here, those who tried to transplant PANIB or the RCC were not connected directly with the recognized religious corporation nor had religious visas. However, if any legal or fiscal problems would arise, the Diocese again would be the institution answering for that.

Considering that Japanese Catholics in general are seen as majime (really serious people), they would not be open for this kind of cheating on the Japanese regulations or to go with the jeitinho brasileiro as Brazilian believers were proceeding. The Church in Japan, even with limitations, tried to solve these difficulties inspired by other countries that had adopted a multicultural approach to the challenge of immigration.

The Church in Japan and Its Approach to Immigration

As shown before, the Catholic Church in Japan did not adopt the model of personal parishes to meet the needs of increasing waves of immigrant believers. The commission in charge of that issue has also a particular history. In 1960, the Japanese government established an official policy regarding immigration to South America and other countries. At the same time, the Japanese Bishops’ conference started a commission to deal with immigration, the “Japan Catholic Immigration Commission.”

Changes in the economy, and in the vision of the Church as a whole regarding immigration, have also been reflected in the organization and the approach taken by the Bishops’ Conference in Japan. In 1989, Japanese bishops pointed out the defense of human rights regarding foreign workers in Japan as one of the priorities of the Catholic Church in Japan. In 1992, they called on the Church to overcome differences of nationality and take the challenge of building communities that would be signs of the “Kingdom of God.” In 2001, the organization changed its name to “Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move” (J-CaRM). Moreover, throughout its 16 dioceses in Japan, the organization has dealt with problem of immigration, trying to connect the Vatican Commission, the bishops in Japan, and the local churches. It has organized several forums and workshops throughout the country to create awareness and put the topic into discussion. Even though the organization has been active, the range of its activities can show the difficulty of dealing with the issue of immigration in Japanese society.

The J-CaRM, for more than a decade, presented its vision in the following way in its homepage:

Japanese

English

Portuguese

活動目的-「民族的排他主義が根強い日本社会で、多くの難民・移住者・移動者の人権や”いのち”の尊厳が侵害されている。本委員会は福音に基づき、多民族・多国籍・多文化共生社会をめざし、すべての人が神の子として、平等で基本的人権が尊重され、相互の文化・民族性を尊敬し、ともに兄弟・姉妹として生きることのできる社会の実現のために働く。そのために難民・移住者・移動者に対する各教区の司牧活動に恊働する。」

“In deeply racist Japanese society, the respect of human rights and the “lives” of many refugees, migrants and people on the move are violated. This Commission, based on the Gospel, is aiming at a society that lives together with peoples of other races, nationalities, and cultures. We are working towards realizing a society where we live together as brothers and sisters. As children of God we respect equality and basic human rights, the mutuality of cultures and the uniqueness of different peoples. Towards this end we cooperate with the pastoral activities related to refugees, migrants and people on the move of the different dioceses.”

“Já que o exclusivismo racial tem raízes tão profundas na sociedade japonesa, os direitos humanos e o respeito à vida de muitos refugiados, migrantes e itinerantes são frequentemente transgredidos. Esta comissão, baseada no Evangelho, procura ajudar para uma sociedade multiracial, multinacional e multicultural onde todas as pessoas sejam respeitadas como filhos e filhas de Deus, em condições de igualdade no que diz respeito aos direitos básicos. Trabalhamos para que se realize uma sociedade na qual possamos viver juntos como irmãos e irmãs. Por isso nos solidarizamos com as atividades pastorais de cada diocese em prol dos refugiados, migrantes e itinerantes.”

Source: <http://www.jcarm.com/index.htm>. Accessed 05 Apr 2016. Changed September 2016

From this statement, we can notice that the official Church policy is taking as a base for its work an “exclusivist,” homogeneous or as in the English version a “deeply racist” self-image of Japanese society. Based on that, the commission dreams of “a society that lives together with peoples of other races, nationalities and cultures.” In the Portuguese version of the presentation, the translation is “multiracial, multinational and multicultural” society.

There are differences in the understandings of the words and nuances that are difficult to translate. However, it is important to observe how multiculturalism came into the discussion in Japan, to the extent that it became the basis for the Catholic Church’s official policy even though the government official policy remained based on the idea of temporary immigration.

Multiculturalism originated in Canada and Australia has marked immigration policies in several countries. Anne Phillips defines multiculturalism “as a policy agenda designed to redress the unequal treatment of cultural groups and the ‘culture-racism’ to which members of minority cultural groups are often exposed” (Phillips 2007: 3). It is necessary to recognize “an unequal power relation between majority and minority groups” (Phillips 2007: 18). According to her, in order to overcome that disadvantage, multiculturalism advocates the need “to have different rules for different groups” (Phillips 2007: 11). The problem is that while aiming for an egalitarian view among groups, a society ends up supporting differential treatment. In its radical version, “multiculturalism emphasizes group difference at the expense of what people have in common” (David Muller quoted by Phillips 2007: 13). She also highlights that the risk of multiculturalism is that it “can lead to an exaggeration of cultural difference in contexts where cultural classification is not really the point” (Phillips 2007: 53).

One translation into Japanese is tabunka. Positively speaking, “one key term is tabunka kyōsei, ‘many cultures living together,’ which closely resembles the concept ‘multiculturalism.’ One key example of tabunka kyōsei emerged following the great Kobe earthquake of January 1995 when Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and other foreigners living in the same devastated neighborhood began to help each other; this positive development was lauded by the press, print, and television and held up as an example of something new in Japan. In other instances the clash of cultural differences within Japan has not been uniformly positive. There is confusion over the nature of a society that includes foreign residents and workers. […] Kyōsei, literally meaning ‘symbiosis,’ generally means ‘living together’ side-by-side in a relationship, positively as in commensality” (Graburn and Ertl, 2008: 8). In that specific context, the words tabunka kyōsei were used to describe inter-ethnic cooperation where Kyōsei can be used to mean solidarity. From that time, the expression started to be used as multicultural co-existence “a concept describing the ideal of coexistence of ethnic Japanese and minorities and immigrants as equal partners rather than hosts and guests” (Takezawa 2008: 32).

The word has already been criticized for its obscurity and for its use in slogans by organizations. Moreover, the concept of kyōsei in practice reveals that instead of communities “living together,” communities live “side-by-side,” in parallel, separated, and nationalistic ghettos. Some sociologists, looking at the negative side of the policy, prefer to use the phrase tabunka shugi instead of tabunka kyōsei. Tabunka shugi “also may be translated as multiculturalism but could engender a more neutral “hands off” connotation of the fact of, or the study of, multiculturalism. Yet, tabunka shugi could also be interpreted as the policy of, and in favor of, multiculturalism” (Graburn and Ertl, 2008: 8).

Toyohashi is one of the cities that are trying to promote a tabunka kyōsei policy, but the understanding of such policy is very weak in the Japanese population. Some authors have pointed out that the results of that policy “seem to be mainly cosmetic and are actually attempts to contain cultural difference through assimilation and the creation of national cultural homogeneity” (cf. Tsuda 2006: 27). In spite of that, local governments, NGOs, and the Catholic Church in Japan have used this multicultural policy and these slogans.

The Catholic Church as a Possible Model of Multiculturalism

The constant increase in numbers of immigrants in the Catholic Church leads its leadership to search for a model that would be of a help to accommodate those newcomers. In 2001, the Catholic newspaper- KS, describes the beginning of a reflection about multiculturalism: Tabunka kyōsei wo kangaeru e gaikokujin to no kyōsei mezashi 多文化共生を考える, 外国人との「共生」目指し (KS 2001a/01/28 and KS, 2001b/06/17). In 2003, another article raises questions about the increase in the numbers of foreigner believers with the title “Transition into a multicultural church” 推移する多国籍教会の実像 (KS 2003/09/07). In 2007, the J-CaRM started to advocate that the Church could become a model leading Japanese society to multiculturalism 「多文化共生のモデル」として社会をリードする教会へ (KS 2007/11/18).

Those reflections can also be found in some scholars that deal with the immigration issues in Japan. The best example of it is Hiroshi Komai who has been pointed out as “Japan’s most active scholar of immigration and multiculturalism” (Graburn and Ertl, 2008: 10). He edited a series of books entitled “How to build a Multicultural society” in which he points out three critical sites: “corporations in intensive international competition, universities facing the crisis of survival due to falling birth rates, and the Catholic Church (and other churches) overrun with dependent immigrant followers […]. He notes the dependency of third-world immigrants (except for Chinese) on their overburdened Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant churches, for emotional, social, and practical support” (Graburn and Ertl, 2008: 10–11).

Nakagawa describes the difficulties believers encounter in attempting to live together, aside from other minor obnoxious things; he says that it is also possible to see how Japanese believers are recognizing values different from their own in the way of living of the foreigners (cf. Nakagawa 2003: 132). Therefore, he argues that the Catholic Church can be seen as a point of reference to think about a multicultural society in Japan. However, many obstacles have to be faced in order to achieve that. For example, he points to the increasing number of Peruvians in a small village church and how the warmth in their relationships had provoked a “sense of inferiority” in Japanese believers, leading most of them to move to the next town’s church (Nakagawa 2003: 137).

Given the fact that foreign believers are concentrated in some regions and that they are not equally well received in all places, Nakagawa stipulates that the case of one church cannot be used to generalize about the whole Catholic Church in Japan (Nakagawa 2003: 126). And, more specifically, he says “that multicultural reality in church was not desired by the Catholic Church on its own, rather it was the outstanding presence of the foreigners, the increasing number of Masses in foreign languages, and several other challenges that pushed the Japanese Church to some kind of revitalization” (Nakagawa 2003: 138).

Besides that revitalization, the ethnical and cultural diversities in contemporary Japan bring back the opposition between Japanese and foreigners also within the Catholic Church. More than this, the practical result is that instead of creating a place of “living together with,” multiculturalism has resulted in “parallel,” “side-by-side,” in touch but not necessarily connected worlds—in other words, it has reproduced the same scenario afflicting Japanese society, instead of becoming the intended model of a better society.

Discussion and Conclusion

As described above, the discrepancies between local regulations and pastoral actions were not an exclusive action of catholic movements brought from abroad. Similar approach can be identified also in the Church and its leadership in Japan.

In the cases of PANIB and Charismatic groups’ intentions of transplantation to Japan, there is a clear lack of sensibility regarding the needs of sensing the local religious market and adapting the product to fit local ecclesiastical and governmental demands.

As for the PANIB case shown first, it should be more plausible to say that the lack of connection with local Church leads to a rejection of that kind of pastoral care of Brazilian immigrants. However, another reason can also be pointed out that helps to understanding the resistance faced by PANIB and CCR as well. Since 1941, one of the requirements made by the government for the establishment of the Catholic Church as a religious corporation in Japan was to have a complete national leadership. This has been one of the main features of Japanese Catholicism. The fact of bringing movements to Japan as a Brazilian branch certainly has helped to build that resistance.

Regarding the Charismatic groups, Chesnut’s considerations about its success in Brazil can be of a help to understanding the present case. He finishes his article by asserting that those groups “have prospered in Brazil’s unregulated market of faith because its religious specialist produced standardized products—faith healing and pneumatic spirituality” (Chesnut 2016: 93). In other words, the local demand met a propitious space that allowed its spread. However, in the intent to transplant it to Japan, even though the favorable situation among immigrants would facilitate the first steps to enter the country, local regulations favored the resistance and the failure of the intended transplantations.7

It can be argued that governmental regulations were used by the already established Church to avoid extra internal competition. However, I argue that the main difficulty here is the difference of regulated and unregulated religious markets that lead to a wide acceptance in Brazil and a failure in Japan of the same movements, also considering that this can work as a protection to avoid the internal competition that these new movements eventually bring to the already established churches.8

Besides that, there is a discrepancy between the official policies in Japan that are based on a temporary model of immigration and the model adopted by the Catholic Church through its commission in charge of the pastoral care of immigrants. Assuming multiculturalism as its inspiration, the Catholic Church in Japan probably helped to increase the difficulties to integrate immigrants in the already existing parishes’ structure and at the same time made Japanese believers feel the presence of foreigners as a threat rather than as co-religionists. In other words, multiculturalism aims at maintaining cultural differences and Catholicity is based on the communal element of the faith. Just as multiculturalism has failed in the countries that have adopted it as the official policy, in the Catholic Church in Japan, it has resulted in failed integration and in the rise of parallel and conflicting communities. Consequently, the Catholic Church has failed to become a successful model.

The present influx of Christians in Japan is completely different from previous periods. The current carriers are lay people, immigrant workers, generally poor people from “developing countries,” people without a past as conquerors, and people who are assumed to be in a less favored position than the Japanese are. This should be a plus rather than a threat for a “shrinking” church. Therefore, the current wave of immigration could offer the “favorable conditions” for spreading Christianity, this time from the bottom, as proposed by Montgomery.

Montgomery’s theory about the spread of religions has pointed out that that is crucial to understand how and why people view other groups, and if a new religion or a new form will be accepted or rejected by a given society (cf. Montgomery 1996: 153). One of the dynamics he posited in his theory is that population size can help to signal the direction from which the threat comes. In some Catholic parishes, as in Toyohashi Parish, the number of foreign believers is much larger than the number of Japanese believers, who see them as overwhelming their church and a threat. Instead of seeing these foreign people as co-religionists, or a population assuring the continuation of their church, the Japanese believers feel a threat to their Japanese identity, seeing that they are outnumbered. Instead of immigrants being seen as an aid to cope with the “shrinking” Christian minority, they are being regarded as a threat to “Japanese” identity. What should be favoring the spread of Christianity in Japan can become one more threat to Japanese identity. Misunderstanding the macro-social religious context and the macro-social immigration context thus distorts the perception of the receivers regarding immigrants.

Another challenge of the presented situation is of pluralism, which has been pointed out as one of the features of the contemporary religious phenomena. That feature can also be found in the internal level of the big religious institutions. Historically, several cases show the internal diversity because of different locations and different periods. When lived in a different context or in different places, the same religion can generate different experiences, “one and the same religion practiced in Constantinople and in the catacombs, the affirmations that are made and the feelings that are experienced may be fantastically different” (cf. Lindbeck 1984: 84). However, this becomes very problematic when it is processed in the same space and at the same time as it has been happening with many religious bodies. When particular expressions of a faith in one context are now transplanted to a different context, people from the same religious tradition become unable to recognize what they have in common with their co-religionists. This brings the universality of the so-called world religions under threat, revealing them not so universal after all.

All these elements, which are taken seriously by the Catholic Church in Japan, do not seem to be a problem for many evangelical believers who became missionaries, initiating their own churches. They are not involved with an institution strongly tied up with local regulations. Besides these structural problems, the church in Japan does not have enough linguistic and cultural affinity with migrants. As a result, that action continues to be delegated to foreign missionaries that are trying to build some bridges between the different ethnical communities. From all these facts, one must reflect on the difficulties of the Catholic Church to respond to the new situation brought in with immigration, one more reason that helps to understand the growth of evangelical churches among Brazilians in Japan.

Recently, in September 2016, The Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan has published a revised version of its booklet “Toward the kingdom of God beyond Borders” updating its visions, acknowledging once more not only the challenge brought by the presence of immigrants but also the time the multicultural model was left behind. In a more assertive way, it advocates a rediscovering of universality of the Church in order to achieve a better response to the present challenge (Cf. KKKKM 2016).

Finally, the Catholic Church, featured by its favorable condition of being a transnational religious corporation, was thought to answer more properly to the needs of immigrants. However, the cases of those here exposed show that the challenge of contemporary immigrations has several situations of conflict that are far from being addressed in a satisfactory way. Therefore, researches from the social sciences continue to be a great help for a better understanding of the contemporary immigration in connection with religious phenomena.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    The Nikkei’s from the Philippines only had the right to obtain the working visa in the past years but with a different status from South Americans.

  2. 2.

    I would posit that the believer system of registration is a continuation of the danka seido and tera-uke certification system used against Christianity since the Tokugawa period. As argued by Mullins “the system was localized, however, and did not provide means of unifying the nation—for the most part it served to firmly link Buddhist temples with individual households or extended families (ie)” (Mullins 1998: 7).

  3. 3.

    These estimates were made combining three sources: the number of foreigners residing in Japan according to the statistics of the Ministry of Justice, the number of foreigners registered with local governments (Gaikokujin Toroku), and the percentage of Catholics in the migrants’ country of origin based on Vatican figures. The Vatican figures, in turn, are based on the number of baptisms reported by the Catholic Church’s official data in each country.

  4. 4.

    PANIB continues to hold its “civic-religious” status that grants a certain independent status in relation to the normal territorial parishes’ organizations and directly connected to the CNBB. As it is registered in its statutes, the association aims at the integration of the Nipo-Brazilian community in the local Church. The four personal parishes still exist but three of them have already been amalgamated with territorial parishes. Even though some tensions in that process seem to be an avoidable stage in the ethnic religious communities: its total assimilation into the local community. Sunday mass in Japanese is held only in two places. Besides those parishes, many missionaries and lay people continue to assist the communities throughout the country. Presently, there are 16 Japanese priests and 6 Nikkei’s or from other origins that know the Japanese language. There are also 39 Japanese sisters and 24 Nikkeys. The association publishes a monthly magazine called Horizonte with 800 copies and the weekly Sunday mass liturgical pamphlets with 450 copies.

  5. 5.

    Mr. Edno Monteiro who became a leader of the CCR in Japan for a period has gently written the report of those contacts and of the development of facts here described.

  6. 6.

    According the ecclesiastical regulations, those kinds of collection demand a permission from the local bishop.

  7. 7.

    Even if the movement had succeeded among Brazilians, I argue that the movement would face certain difficulty to reach Japanese believers since the market for the healing and exorcism already occupied by Shinto priests.

  8. 8.

    Here, Adam Smith in the Fifth Book, article three of The Wealth of Nations would be of a help for a deeper understanding of the question; however, that discussion is beyond the scope of this paper.

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge Prof. Dr. James Heisig from Nanzan University who was the advisor of my master’s thesis, which is the basis for the present article. I also want to acknowledge Ms. Mituko Sadashima and Mr. Edno Monteiro who have helped me to gather and update data and information described here.

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Abbreviations for Church’s documents, articles and homepages

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  3. CN HP—Canção Nova (2017) —<https://www.cancaonova.com/>. Accessed 28 Jun 2017
  4. EMCC (2017) —Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi. Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. (Available at http://www.vatican.va, last accessed June 2017)
  5. KJHB (2016) —カトリック教会・情報ハンドブック2017. カトリック中央協議会. TokyoGoogle Scholar
  6. KKKKM (2016)—国籍を超えた神の国を目指してー改訂版 [Toward the Kingdom of God beyond borders]—Revised version. 日本カトリック協議会.社会司牧委員会. TokyoGoogle Scholar
  7. KS—カトリック新聞 [Katorikku Shinbun] (2001a)/01/28Google Scholar
  8. KS—カトリック新聞 [Katorikku Shinbun] (2001b)/06/17Google Scholar
  9. KS—カトリック新聞 [Katorikku Shinbun] (2003)/09/07Google Scholar
  10. KS—カトリック新聞 [Katorikku Shinbun] (2007)/11/18Google Scholar
  11. MCM (2008) —50 anos da Missão católica Nipo-Brasileira em Maringá, 1958–2008. Maringá, Publicação especial do Centro Cultural São Francisco XavierGoogle Scholar
  12. NH—Novos Horizontes (1978), Igreja nos 70 anos de imigração. 緑の地平、日系カトリック教会七十年. São Paulo, Pastoral Nipo-Brasileira. 1978Google Scholar
  13. NTSG (nd)—名古屋教区多国籍化する信徒司牧ガイドライン (司祭用). カトリック名古屋教区事務所Google Scholar
  14. Panib HP (2017) —<http://panib.org.br/>. Accessed 28 Jun 2017
  15. PM (2017)—Brasileiros no Japão: veja a distribuição por província. <http://www.portalmie.com/atualidade/noticias-do-japao/comunidade/2016/11/brasileiros-no-japao-veja-distribuicao-por-provincia/>. Accessed 13 Jun 2017
  16. TIK (2005) —共に生きる教会。日本の教会. 信徒数統計. カトリック難民移住移動委員会. J-CaRMGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Estudos de Religiões Alternativas no BrasilPontíficia Universidade Católica de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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