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Ai Rabu Yuu?

...I know that there are many Japanese out there who DO express their love and appreciation to their spouses and family, and this does not apply to ALL Japanese. I'm only speaking in general terms, as a whole. I also want to say that it is not my intention to say that the American culture is better than the Japanese culture. Obviously there are good and bad in both. One Japanese mom told me quite vehemently that even when American couples do share those wonderful words to each other, that their divorce rate is much higher, and that they often don't know the concept of commitment. It's just fluffy words not accompanied by action. Action speaks much louder than words, she said to me. YES! Very, very true. I do understand both sides.

With that said, let me just continue on with my observation, and share with you what I've been told by many Japanese women over the past 2 years. In a typical Japanese home, spouses do not go out of their way to speak words of encouragement. They don't say "I love you" to one another, because there really isn't a Japanese phrase that conveys the same thing as it does in English. There is "daisuki", which is "I like you a lot", but it's a bit different. Some find it easier just to use the English, "Ai rabu yuu." There is "aishiteru", which means I love you, but when I ask if they ever use that, they'll say, "Oooo gross! If my husband said that to me it would feel creepy! If I said that to him he'd think I've had too much sun or something!".

There usually isn't a public (or private) display of affection between husband and wife. I have seen some older couples holding hands around town, much more than there ever was 10 years ago. And of course younger people are showing much more affection out in public these days. But again, in general, there isn't much "skinship", as the Japanese call it, between married couples. And in yesterday's Joy Group, we talked about how sexual intimacy is a part of the dating process here in Japan (and of course in much of the U.S. as well, unfortunately), and after having children, that part of the relationship comes to a halt. One reason is that the children and parents all sleep in one room on the futon, so intimacy becomes extremely difficult after kids. The husbands also do not return home until very late at night, so that is another factor.

Returning to the concept of not saying words of affection or appreciation, I've busted out Dr. Phil's famous question several times to my friends here, "So how's that workin' for ya?" I've always wondered if the Japanese women are really okay with it. It's cultural, and that's all they've seen or known...but I wanted to hear for myself. Do they truly feel loved without being told? Do they feel treasured? And when the husband says something negative about them in front of their friends, does that hurt? I HAD to know!! So I asked. Let me insert here that there are many who are happily married! But I hear more comments that tell me they long to hear loving words. They want to encourage their husbands not just through acts of service but also speaking them out loud (but they're too embarrassed or don't know how). And yes, the negative comments DO hurt, no matter if it's said as a "joke". The wives long for interaction, for deeper communication, and some plain fun. And I bet if I were to ask the Japanese husbands, many would agree that it would be a GOOD thing to have loving words exchanged in their marriage. No one wants to have a cold relationship. But at the same time, I bet they would give me the usual saying, "shooganai"...a word that I have come to dislike here in Japan..."it can't be helped". It is the culture, and that's the way it is, they'll say.

So does the Bible go against Japanese culture? I don't think so. Since moving here to Japan, I have been struck anew by the amazing, awesome fact that GOD'S WORD TRANSCENDS ALL CULTURES!! It is so beyond culture. He created all nationalities, so he's not taken aback by this at all:) His Word stands true in all of Asia, North America, Africa, Europe. It is absolute truth no matter who reads it, or where, or when. THIS is why I'm realizing how WONDERFUL biblical principles are. This is why when we talk about expressing kindness, unconditional love, other centered-ness, and forgiveness, people LISTEN. It hits home, because God their Creator placed that desire for meaningful relationship deep in their souls!

My heart's desire is that believers in Japan will take on this FUN and EXCITING challenge of busting out of the Shooganai-Syndrome!! Jesus is the answer! I've been thrilled to hear about the Alpha Marriage course that our friends are introducing to many of the Japanese churches. They spoke of one couple who have been married for 40 years, and how the Marriage Alpha course has helped them in brand new ways. I also know that many of our Asian Access friends are spending lots of time with individuals, couples, and families all over Japan, sharing this Good News of the Bible. Furthermore, I've been impressed with Family Forum Japan (, who have many wonderful books and seminars on marriage, family, and parenting, including books by James Dobson that have been translated into Japanese. For my Joy Group, I'm using a book called Futari no Tameni by Jonathan Benedict, which you can also find on this website.

Let me end with a teaser for my next blog entry. There is a group of Japanese MEN who have realized that something needs to be done. It's a small movement--5,000 members out of 127 million--but a movement nonetheless. Get yourself another cup of coffee and click on the next entry.

Jeff's Posts


Jeff's column offers a mix of reflections on leadership and fatherhood, as well as news from Asian Access.


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Nozomi's column contains reflections on motherhood, Japanese culture, and ministry.


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