Churches and Hakodate

In Hakodate, there are several historic churches in the sightseeing district of the city. Among the three or four churches, there is the Motomachi Catholic Church, which my host family and I frequent on Sunday. In Hakodate, there are three Catholic Churches, but only two priests to say Mass. As such, the priests alternate churches every week. These churches are fairly small, and lots of the members know each other very well.

In Japan, Christians are part of the religious minority, as the large majority of the Japanese population identifies as Shinto or Buddhist. As this is hugely different from the United States, I was very interested to see how this affected my host family’s identity as Japanese people and their social identity. I wanted to see how it differs from my experiences as a Catholic in the US, where the religious majority is heavily Christian. I interviewed my host family to ask them how they felt about being in the social and religious minority as a Catholic.

First, I asked how they felt about being in the religious minority. They told me that because there is freedom of religion in Japan, they feel that they are treated much the same as everyone else. They explained that when they inform other people they are Catholic, they do not get any special kind of reaction, and instead feel as if their treatment is very normal. They said that although their church is extremely small, and they know quite a lot of the people there, they still feel as if the community is not closed off from the rest of the community. They told me they are very open to the community and have both Catholic and non-Catholic friends and acquaintances.

I was interested to find out how similar their experiences theirs were to mine as a Catholic. It was interesting to see that even being largely outnumbered almost 10 to 1 they said their social identity was not particularly affected. I was very excited to find out more about Catholicism in Japan, and was really glad we had an opportunity to discuss their cultural experiences in conjunction with their religious ones.