Happy Trails (photo of the week)

Odaigahara Mountain, October 2015

Oh Dear (photo of the week)

Odaigahara Mountain 2015

Old Town Japan (photo of the week)

Tondabayashi, Osaka. Jinai-machi. May 2015

Looking Up (February Prayer Letter)

Look up

Hi everyone,

I hope your new year is off to a great start. Things are certainly “looking up” here…

The picture above is some concept art I’ve been working on for the Manga Project. Pieces are starting to fall into place for this project, and I hope to have some more detailed information for you next month, along with sample art from other potential contributors.

Meanwhile, our church had a groundbreaking ceremony on January 21, and the construction phase of our rebuilding project is under way, with the new building scheduled to be finished in August.

And on a personal note, Yoko and I have set our wedding date for April 30 in Nagoya!

Your ongoing prayers for all of the above would certainly be appreciated! Also, please pray for these upcoming dates:

  • 2/13 — Leading worship at the Nagoya Church prayer meeting.
  • 2/16 — Class reunion and coffee time with former English students.
  • 2/28 — My final kids English class.
  • 3/5-7 — The Immanuel Church national conference.

By the way, I’ve been doing some extra blogging lately: New posts include some manga ministry related writing that might help you understand the why behind this new project. There’s also a short video update you can use in your church if you’d like to remind your congregation who they’re supporting. And I’ve been getting back into the habit of posting a Photo of the Week actually weekly.

You can heck it all out here: japanlog.co/blog

As always, thank you for being on our team through your prayers, giving and encouragement!

– Robin

From Above (photo of the week)

Sengatake, January 2016

Why Digital?

In a previous blog post, I talked about what manga is and why I think it’s a great tool for 21st century missions in Japan. Today I want to talk about the another side of this ministry vision: digital.

It should come as no surprise that Japan is one of the most “wired” nations in the world. Almost every is online, and much of that is mobile, especially among the young. It’s more and more common to see people reading manga on their smartphones, too.

Here are some statistics I dug up recently:

Devices — University Students:
99.3% have a smartphone (100% use 6-7 days/week).
90% have a computer (31% use 6-7 days/week).
87.5% say their smartphone is their main internet access device.
Overall Internet Usage:
115,111,595 Internet Users in Japan (2016*)
Share of Japan Population: 91.1 % (penetration)
Total Population : 126,323,715
Share of World Internet Users: 3.4 %
Internet Users in the World: 3,424,971,237
Social Network Usage:
Social network usage by % of population (2017):
Twitter 35.55% (45 million active users)
Facebook 22.12% (28 million active users)
Instagram: 15.8% (20 million active users)
— Twitter still top in Japan, one of its strongest markets.
— Twitter most diverse user base.
— Instagram growing rapidly; could overtake FB.
— Females in 20-30s biggest Instagram users.
— 75% over 30 on Facebook.
(Source: Source)
– #1 messaging app in Japan
– 75 million monthly active users (2018) in Japan
– Found on over 90% of all smartphones in Japan
(Sources: statista / humblebunny)
So, why digital?
In the 21st century, if you want to get the good news of Jesus out to as many people as possible, it seems obvious to me that digital is the way to go. Yes, we need more churches actively reaching out to their communities. Yes, we need more Christians to share their faith with friends. But an online outreach, effectively done, can (in a non-confrontational way) get the Gospel out to people who might might not have any Christian friends or a church in their neighbourhood. In the developed world, it should be at least a part of our missions strategy. That’s why I want to make it part of mine.

Double Exposure Japan (photos of the week)

Why (and What’s) Manga?

If you’ve been keeping up with my newsletters and prayer updates, you know that I’m in the middle of transitioning from church-based English ministries to a more creative outreach focus. Specifically, I’m working towards creating a digital ministry platform centred around manga. Some of you may be wondering what that’s all about, so in this and some follow-up posts, I want to share some of the thinking behind this vision.
Manga is the Japanese word for comics. Comic magazines, comic strips, graphic novels, they’re all called manga in Japan. In English, the word is used to refer specifically to Japanese comics; and the fact that we need a separate word for them in English shows you that they must be pretty distinct from the typical style of comics we see published in the US or the rest of the west.
In reality, manga doesn’t refer to any one art style or genre. In fact, there’s something for everyone: From kids comics to very adult; from fantasy to slice-of-life; from action-adventure to romance. And really, that’s a big part of what sets manga apart from western comics. Though it’s changing, comics in the west have for a long time had a limited audience. In Japan, really, manga is for everyone. (This article gives a pretty good overview of the various popular styles)

And the continuing popularity of manga in Japan shows this. US comic sales pale in comparison to Japan. The most popular manga series in Japan, One Piece, sold about 12,314,326 copies between Nov 2015 and Nov. 2016. For comparison, the total number of sales for all graphic novels in the US in 2016 were 11,938,000. (Sources: Anime News Network // ComicsBeat.com)
According to Shinichiro Ishikawa, president of GDH, a Japanese animation studio: “There are still at least ten weekly manga magazines that sell thirty million units per week. On top of that, there are monthly magazines and comic books. In the U.S., the total annual comic market is fifty million units. In the span of one week, Japan does a full year’s worth of U.S. comic sales.” (Source: Japanamerica p.196)
Manga is a huge part of the publishing industry as a whole. As one article says, “The Japanese publishing market is one of the most vigorous in the world. How much market share does manga have? The gross sales from publishing in 2002 was 2.3 trillion yen. The total number of published materials including magazines was over 750 million. 22.6% of total sales, or 38.1% of published material sold in 2002 are of manga.” (Source)
All that to say, manga are a huge part of modern Japanese culture. Not only do the magazines and books sell like crazy, but many popular movies and TV shows, both animated and live-action, are adapted from manga. Many characters and their creators are household names. And like I said, there’s something for every taste.
So why use manga as a tool for sharing Jesus in Japan? Why not?

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The Mist (Photo of the Week)

Near the Kannonji Castle Ruins. January 2016.

New Year’s Video Update