28 February, 2012

One of Japan's dark secrets

Yesterday I went on a day trip to a place south of Yokohama called Kamakura. It is about 60km south of here. Kamakura is a small town that was Japan's political centre for over a century from 1192 A.D. It has many temples and shrines and even a beach and an island. Tourists flock there (see here).

The trip was organised by the wife of our regional director, particularly to visit the temple where people go to pray for the souls of dead children and aborted babies. We spent time listening to a short-term missionary tell us about her experience with post-abortion counselling in the US and then about what she's discovered about Japan's situation. Ohhhhh, it's terrible.

The many statues here were shocking to see.
This is less than a third of all the statues we saw
in this small area.
You probably don't know, but oral contraception has not been available here until quite recently. In fact abortion has an accepted form of birth control for centuries. It is believed that at least 1 million abortions are performed every year. Approximately one in three women have had one, and many women have had several.

We also learned that some doctors practice infanticide. Where, if an obviously disabled child is born, they'll kill it and tell the mother is was still born! The evils hard to even type here.

It was hard to see the exploitation of pain. Their
grief is taken advantage of by selling all sorts of
incense, candles, and various charms, and tablets.
Temples are a money making business for sure.
One of the ways they deal with the emotional pain is by visiting temples and making offerings, having a special ceremony, burning incense etc. 
Yesterday we went to a temple that is especially visited by people who had abortions or children who died. The temple houses the kannon, a popular Japanese Buddhist deity who helps in the raising of healthy children. However, in recent years, parents have set up statues (see photo) to represent their aborted babies. Parents visit there to pray for the souls of their lost children. They are considered to be still alive and have a link to this world via the cemetery. They seek to maintain some active verbal or emotional communication with the dead child so that the soul of the dead child doesn't seek retribution upon the mother or living family. (I don't really understand the above, but am largely repeating what has been explained to me.)

There is much tragedy here in this issue, but one of the tragedies are the women who continue on living as if everything is okay (emotional control is a high value here), but who are devastated inside. Like other problems in Japanese society they are covered up by the family so that no one else knows of the shame. You can only wonder how much of the depression and other mental illnesses that many Japanese suffer stem from this one issue.

I get mad when people rave about how amazing Japan is. When they've just visited here briefly and seen the glamorous, polite Japan, the polished outside, the portrayed image that we'd all supposed to believe — they don't really know how much pain and ugliness is hidden underneath.  They miss how much Japan needs true hope.


KarenKTeachCamb said...

Thanks for sharing from your heart Wendy, and for being will to touch on an often "unmentionable" subject. Yes, Japan needs the true hope that is the reason for you being in that country.

Footprints Australia said...

That is so sad. But at least they acknowledge, via the statues, that their baby was a living soul.

Karen said...

Wow. I don't know what to say. That is very sad to hear. Praying for those poor mothers who are suffering in silence.