Deaconess Katherine O Kim Takes a Ubuntu Trip to Japan
Eleven ladies from 4 different UMC Jurisdiction went Ubuntu Japan from September 30 to October 12, 2017. The theme was “Listening with Love and Hope”. Our main purpose was to visit “Heart Knit” project and Fukushima area where the Tsunami and nuclear disaster happened.
We arrived Narita Airport in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan. Tokyo is a bustling big city of Japan. Streets are clean, but congested with many people. 90% of the Japanese live in urban area.
Oct. 01: we visited Wesley Center and Aoyama Gakuin University which was started by UMW missionary. I remembered our Ca/NV conference missionary, Judy Newton was working there before. Wesley Center is a UMW sponsored organization, and Rev Hikari Chang is a director and regional missionary in Japan. The center have seminars and training for the leadership for young Christian women in Asia. They serve community under UMW slogan of Faith, Hope, and Love in action.
Oct 2: We visited Ginza Church on Sunday. Just like U.S., there were many old folks were there. They followed some form of Methodist tradition during the service. We visited Asakusa temple in the afternoon.
Oct 3: Visited Japan Women’s Organization (KYOFUKAI). It is the oldest women’s organization active in Japan. They have worked for Women’s human rights, promote peace, and operate two shelters.
Going to Kawasaki KCCJ church, Kawasaki Korean church. We shared gift we brought; handkerchiefs, scarves, etc. They prepared delicious dinner for us. During the worship time, they told us how difficult their lives are in Japan. Even 3rd generation Koreans are not accepted as a citizen due to prejudice. Five of Korean Ubuntu sisters sang Korean folk songs. We all sang together and remembered our homelands. Some of us are in tears remembering our history under Japanese occupation. We donated $200.00 to women’s group which was given by my Korean church Hallelujah Chorus group. Later we sang Amazing Grace together.
Oct 4: Fellowship with UCCJ at Gyoninnzaka church. We worshiped and later we line danced together. Presentation of UMW history and organization, then shared our gifts; paper fan, scrubbers, handkerchiefs. They provided us Tea ceremony and flower arrangement (Ikebana). We had craft session, and made prayer squares together. Shigeko Shibata prepared Japanese prayer translation on Luke 8:8. We tied bible verses in Japanese with ribbon to the prayer square, cross in the middle.
Oct 5: Travel to Sendai where Tsunami and nuclear disaster happened. We took Singangsen which is the fast bullet train to Sendai. Most Japanese use train and bus for the public transportation.
Oct 6: We had a visit from “Heart Knit” project. Hand-made knitted products were made by people in Tohoku disaster area and the Heart Knit volunteers. They wish this knitting project would heal, lift up the heart of people after the disaster and also become a support to carry on rebuilding their lives. We all bought scarves, gloves, bottle warmers, other items.
On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake occurred. More than 15,800 people were killed, and more than 2,600 were missing in Sendai prefecture. The disaster also sparked emergencies at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The earthquake and tsunami caused emergencies at several nuclear power stations. Without a working cooling system, nuclear fuel at the station’s reactors overheated and spread dangerous amounts of radioactivity into the surroundings.
Oct 7: Meeting with young mother at Hope House. Young mothers who have children showed their anxieties and concern on radioactive environment. One mother told us that when the disaster happened, she wanted to leave with children. Husband told her she can go alone without children. The other mother said, she packed and moved to Tokyo with children. People were discriminating her because she came from Fukushima area. In Japan, man (husband) is breadwinner, wife stays home takes care of children and household.
Kyoto Trip; this is an extra sightseeing trip. We visited Buddhist temples in Kyoto and Nara which were the capital city of Japan. We saw Great Buddha, huge bronze statue in Nara. Shinto and Buddhism are the two major religious traditions in Japan. Back to Tokyo, three of us went to S. Korea, the rest went back to US.
The Christians in Japan are about 1% of population. Their national religion is Shintoism. They believe in many God. I was told when they get married, they want to have church wedding. It doesn’t matter at the church or chapel where church background is. When they have baby, then they go to Shinto temple to pray for long life and best fortune for the baby. When they die, they go to Buddhist temple to go to heaven (Nirvana). In Japan, all the churches under one umbrella of UCC (United Church of Christ). There are no independent denomination.
Fukushima area is still barren next to the beach area (bank). The disaster happened on March 11, 2011. The effect are still there. People are still afraid to come back. But government has discontinued to subsidize. Families are being forced to move back to areas where the radiation is still very high. Before the disaster, Fukushima area became rich because of Nuclear energy. The government are planning to build more nuclear energy plants. The children who got affected by the radiation are having 12 times more thyroid problems. I was told there are doctors coming once a month to check on children, but they are government employees and they do not give favorable report to the people. Also the government has changed their radiation safety stardards since the disaster.
On the way back home, we visited S. Korea, my homeland. We visited Scranton Center and Yanghwajin foreign missionary cemetery. Scranton Women’s Leadership Center in Seoul says “to educate a woman is to educate her family, her society, and her country”. In 1885, Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church sent Mrs. Mary Scranton as the first female missionary to Korea and started Ewha Hakdang, the first school for girls in Korea. Continuing Scranton’s legacy,” the Center will plant seeds of hope and love in the lives of women around the world.” Rev Hea Sun Kim is a director.
At Yanghwajin, we paid our respect to the foreign missionaries for their sacrifice for the Koreans, especially Mary Scranton, Appenzeller, and Underwood among 145 tombs. Without their dedication, there will be no Korean Christians today.
We thank you God for our safe journey back home and a great trip to Japan. Also we send our love and deep appreciation to our fearless leader, Jeanie Blankenbaker, Rev Hikari Chang, and Natsuko Takito at Wesley center for their hard work to guide us to finish our Ubuntu Journey success. THANK YOU.