My Japanese Bible is actual a dual translation, with the New Living Translation on one side and Japanese kanji characters on the other. I can't read the kanji, but I still love this Bible because it is a reminder that I have Japanese brothers and sisters who stand strong, and often stand alone.
During my four years in Japan I had the opportunity to go on a retreat with the Misawa AB chapel's women's ministry. Our hostess was a young Japanese woman who was a Christian. She told us her story of how she struggled to witness to her grandfather before he died, yet failed to bring him to Christ. We were much caught up in her sorrow.
It must be very difficult to be a Christian in a country where there are so few believers. To others of your culture you are, at the very least, somewhat peculiar. At the most, you can be a threat.
During my time there I learned of the Japanese Christian artist Sadao Watanabe. (There are two artists by this name; one is a well known musician. The one I'm speaking of is a printmaker.)
His art is unique, neither entirely Japanese, nor entirely of the European tradition whereby we get the majority of our own Christian art. Having only the American experience of Christianity, it was marvelous to experience the church as Jesus envisions it; made up of people redeemed by his "blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." (Rev. 5:9)
I learned too that in this lovely country of Japan, Christianity has deep roots. In 1597, twenty-six Christians were executed by crucifixion on a hill in Nagasaki. Yes, at one of those cities where we later dropped an atomic bomb in 1945.
All of these Christians were not foreigners, indeed 20 of them were Japanese natives. Given the opportunity to deny their faith in Jesus, they refused. One of the youngest, twelve year old Ibaragi Kun, asked, "Which is my cross?" He ran to the one pointed out to him, knelt and embraced it.
Are we too ready to ask "Which is my cross?" and run to it? Are we ready to take it up with joy?
It was to such as Ibaragi that Jesus issued his challenge when he said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." "And he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake... shall find it." (Matt. 10:34, 38-39 - KJV)
Ibaragi Kun was honored to die in the name of the One who died for him and sang Jesus' praises until he could sing no more. The world thinks he lost his life. The world is wrong. And he was most certainly received into eternal life with the highest honor.