Beneath the Cherries
Whilst Easter is not 'a thing' in Japan for the church this is a great time to get out and about and share the gospel. One of the great things about Easter time is that it often corresponds with Spring and the Cherry Blossom Season. This is, for many Japanese, a time when they head off for picnics and spend time among the Sakura (Cherry) trees.
For the Japanese the Sakura represents new life, but also the frailty of life too. Life and death together but then also renewal. The cherry trees bloom for only a couple of weeks - or until the first good rain, whichever comes first.
Whilst this symbology of the cherry blossom has its roots in Buddhism, the practice of Hanami or cherry-blossom viewing is said to be a time when people consider their own mortality and reflect on and take hold of life. What a great mindset to be in when hearing about and contemplating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For many churches this practice of hanami was a great way to share the gospel and celebrate Easter too. Along with all the usual church services and Easter celebrations you could also find Easter picnics happening around the place; where possible under the sakura trees. One of the churches we were involved in would often hold an Easter picnic in one of the local parks, and beforehand would invite many local families and children along, as well as whoever was at the park when we turned up.
It was a great time to share the gospel as well as practice other fun aspects of Easter - such as Easter eggs. Whilst the chocolate kind were rare, the practice of dyeing hard-boiled eggs was relatively common and decorating them with Easter messages was a thing too. Not only did they make for a good Easter-egg hunt, they were a healthy treat to hand out too.
Of course, there was always a gospel message in there somewhere and opportunities for people to hear more about this Jesus who through his death brings life.
Let us be praying, this Easter, for the over 128 million Japanese who do not yet know Jesus, and for the Japanese church, that they would shine the light of Christ to those around them.