Christians are a tiny minority in Japan, less than one percent of the total population. Yet Christianity is ubiquitous in Japanese popular culture. From the giant mutant "angels" of the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise to the Jesus-themed cocktails enjoyed by customers in Tokyo's Christon café, Japanese popular culture appropriates Christianity in both humorous and unsettling ways. By treating the Western religion as an exotic cultural practice, Japanese demonstrate the reversibility of cultural stereotypes and force reconsideration of global cultural flows and East-West relations.
Of particular interest is the repeated reappearance in modern fiction of the so-called "Christian century" of Japan (1549-1638), the period between the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries and the last Christian revolt before the final ban on the foreign religion. Literary authors as different as Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Endō Shūsaku, Yamada Fūtarō, and Takemoto Novala, as well as film directors, manga and anime authors, and videogame producers have all expressed their fascination with the lives and works of Catholic missionaries and Japanese converts and produced imaginative reinterpretations of the period. InHoly Ghosts, Rebecca Suter examines the popularity of the Christian century in modern Japanese fiction and reflects on the role of cross-cultural representations. Since the opening of the ports in the Meiji period, Japan's relationship with Euro-American culture has oscillated between a drive towards Westernization and an antithetical urge to "return to Asia." Exploring the twentieth-century's fascination with the Christian century enables Suter to reflect on modern Japan's complex combination of Orientalism, self-Orientalism, and Occidentalism.
Subjects: Religion, Language & Literature
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