My Experience with Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan

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This article is somewhat personal, that's why it's in my blog category. I'm not one to address these subjects on the website, but at the request of many friends I have to write about my experience with Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan.

One of the main reasons I like Japan is because the Japanese strive to be humble, honest, polite and respectful, and even without any biblical beliefs they strive to follow a moral standard. A country where people value knowledge, avoid profanity and slang with sexual connotations and they think more about their neighbor than about themselves.

If you don't already know, I'm a Jehovah's Witness and I take the principles of the Bible seriously. And even though Japan is a country with 90% of Buddhist and Shinto people, we are treated much better than by some Christians in Brazil. The only thing I ask is respect! Because maybe you don't know it yet, but Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians.

Meeting the brothers of Japan

In Japan there are more than 25 Portuguese-speaking congregations (or groups). The total data for Japan in 2017 is about 214,000 evangelizers, 3059 congregations and about 1 Jehovah's Witness for every 591 inhabitants. There are other congregations in several languages such as Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog and English.

Before I traveled to Japan, the brothers from Brazil even used to say stereotypes to me, asking if the brothers weren't cold, or didn't work all the time, not having time for me to pay attention. If you think like that, you are totally unaware of Japanese culture and hospitality.

My experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan

They also forgot that 1 in 5 of Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan are regular pioneers and spend more than 70 hours in the preaching work. Something impossible for those who work more than 12 hours a day. The Japanese don't work very hard, they are just dedicated to work and sometimes pressured to work overtime (especially in factories).

Before going to Japan I always tried to add brothers from there on my Facebook and Instagram. Talking with them a little, I got a contact from an Elder in Osaka. Our contact was very little, he wasn't online much and I just talked about my interest in going to Osaka and he was ready to find brothers who would host me.

I thought it would be lonely, as I talked very little with the brothers from Japan and went alone with absolutely nothing confirmed. xD

Arriving in Japan and Visiting Bethel

When I arrived in Japan I stayed in Tokyo for about 14 days at a hostel in the Akihabara neighborhood. The second week in Japan on Wednesday I went to visit Bethel in the city of Ebina in Kanagawa. The day before, the brother from Osaka said that there would be a guide in English to do a tutorial at this branch responsible for creating publications not only for Japan, but for the whole world.

Apparently it looked like a small place, smaller than the Brazil headquarters, but it was a huge building with several floors that later seemed much bigger to me. An assembly hall is located on the same grounds as Bethel, which appears to occupy a gigantic court.

My experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan

The city of Ebina seemed pretty quiet, I arrived too early and took a long walk around the neighborhood. Before the visit we sat in a place at the reception to watch the video about the visit. I met some brothers from Yokohama and also some foreign sisters who were visiting Bethel.

The Yokohama brothers invited me to visit their congregation. We took some pictures at a place that tells the story of Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan. Then my guide arrived and we took a different route. As I am very stupid, I forgot the camera battery at the hotel and had to take few pictures with my cell phone.

Visiting Gunma and Yokohama

In the second week in Tokyo, I was invited to visit a family in Gunma, through social media. I went to Isesaki station where the sister picked me up by car along with other sisters who had just left the camp. We went to a KFC and then shopped at a gigantic market called costco.

For those who think that houses in Japan are small, the sister's house was gigantic and with 2 floors. We drove about 1:00 to the Portuguese congregation that was in another city, then we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, where the food was so great, we couldn't even finish the size of the portions they brought.

Early the next day I had to go back to Tokyo, because I promised that I would visit the Yokohama brothers I met at Bethel. I located their congregation and went to the place, the station was far and I had to climb a lot of stairs and even buy a transparent umbrella because it was raining.

My experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan

The brothers were surprised and I never had so much attention in my life. A sister came to give me a 2000 yen note, lol did she think she was starving? Another sister in a wheelchair used to go to my place all the time to show the text of the bible in English. After the meeting we took a picture together and the brother and others took me to lunch at Saizeriya.

I don't even know how we talked a lot, my Japanese was limited, we used a lot of paper to explain some things. Another young brother took me to see one of Yokohama's highlights, with one of the fastest elevators in the world. Then he took me to a square where scenes from the anime oreimo took place.

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Portuguese Congregation in Osaka

I was talking to a brother for a long time about how he would stay in Osaka. On my way to Osaka, I met the brother in Kyoto, a very fun Japanese from the Portuguese congregation. He let me stay in an apartment for 1 day, the next day at the meeting I would go to the brothers' house.

The Osaka Portuguese congregation is a lot of fun, most of those taking the lead are native Japanese. Some were still learning Portuguese and you could see their zeal and dedication. The Hall had several floors (3 I think), each with a congregation. There were other foreign-speaking congregations on site, I think a total of 12 congregations in one Hall.

I went to stay at a youth house so I could go on a special field trip, where several congregations of different languages came together to look for foreigners. We spent the whole day looking for foreigners, we went to buildings and checked mailboxes to see if there was any family with a foreign name.

My experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan

We even entered a mall and had lunch on a sushi mat. I remember going out with brothers from the Chinese congregation. In the evening I went to my brother's house, who was staying for a few days, he was very funny and took me to several interesting places in Osaka.

Another Brazilian who lived in Hamamatsu stayed in this house, he was also very nice. One day at night we visited Namba Dotonbori, a very famous tourist spot for informal witnessing. We were wearing normal clothes like jeans, even in Japan wearing a formal outfit is extremely common.

We approached foreign tourists and had normal conversations, took pictures and tried to speak their language. Only at the end, after a lot of random conversation, did we leave a leaflet. It was a very busy and peaceful place at the same time.

On Saturday we went to visit various tourist spots and then we went to the meeting. On Sunday we went to the field in the morning, we visited only one building where there was a Brazilian who had already studied. We spent hours talking and the resident even paid for a bed of chocolate at the vending machine. The camp was just that, then we visited a famous tomb in Osaka and had soba lunch.

My experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan

The rest of the trip in Osaka

Then I was going to stay at another brother's house, so I had to go looking for a gift. As part of Japanese culture, we should always bring a gift when visiting a home. I bought a kind of teddy bear that cleans floors for the child to crawl around on the floor while cleaning the house. I stayed the rest of my stay in the house of this family that had 2 children.

They were very nice, the lady of the house was always at the door saying goodbye until I was out of sight every time I went out. One day I went to Hamamatsu to visit the brother who had been walking in Osaka. It was one of the funnest days, where I went on an area base, yakiniku barbecue and onsen hot springs (I've detailed my hamamatsu tour here).

On Saturday we went to another city (Shiga) where the brother I contacted before going to Japan was going to give a speech. There I stayed at the house of an elderly Brazilian couple. It was great, the sister works with chiropractic and gave my spine a deal, she also had giant and beautiful cats. The other day the brother took me to have a traditional breakfast where there was rice and even fish.

Shiga e hamamatsu's photos

In every house I've stayed, the breakfast was phenomenal. It wasn't just a traditional bread and coffee, but it had tuna, miso soup, juice, yorgut, sausage, ham and mozzarella. There were many options and it looked like a feast, I can't say if it was just because I'm visiting.

How are the brothers from Japan

Of course I'm just summarizing what my association with the brothers was like during my 30 day trip. It was an amazing experience, there really are no differences between everyone's brothers. They were very warm and playful, patient and fun. I asked several questions to the brothers there and realized a few things.

They are much more reasonable and carefree. It was great to live in an environment where I could discuss Japanese animation without brothers creating stereotypes and misconceptions. They even said that it was okay to visit some tourist spots like Kyoto's famous golden temple (kinkaku-ji).

They also said that they never had this thought of danger of buying used things and where they came from. The most common thing in Japan is to buy used things, which are apparently new. The brothers took me to several stores where I bought used manga and junk. (The association also shares the same opinion: no problem).

My experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan
Stone with Psalms 23:1 text in shiga hall

They also watch sports games in stadiums and visit places that some might question in Brazil. I even understand, since the atmosphere of places in Brazil is totally different and disorganized compared to Japan. And even if that bothers some, their culture doesn't seem to like meddling in other people's lives and gossiping behind their backs.

It's amazing this contrast between individualism and teamwork that both the Japanese in general and the brothers of Japan follow. I realized that Japanese people live a simple life without wanting great things and find joy in simple things. If you follow a Japanese brother on Instagram you will notice the random live or talking about a certain product or the pictures of animals and landscapes.

I wanted to say a little more about what I remember, but I didn't have enough time and I don't want to identify people's lives without authorization. I can conclude that the brothers in Japan are simple, very loving and hospitable. I can't wait to go back and hang out for 3 months or maybe even stay there permanently...

PS: I asked several brothers in Japan, that experience of the sister who lost her finger because of the Father and the Yakuza is a lie!

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