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Japan Board of Education: Amazing Grace...?

Japan Board of Education Textbook.

Amazing Grace

Shuken Shuppan  Polestar textbook English Communication


Preface:  Japanese / Japan is  one of the leading donors in humanitarian aid around the world.   They have donated billions of yen to charities, developing countries, and startup business to just about every country on the globe.  Some Japanese have even taken matters to the extreme  to the point of poking their noses into hotspot areas like Palestine and Isreal, things the Japanese may want to avoid.  Had Japan shared its borders with an ethnic minority with its own government, the relative peace and calm of this country would be questionable.   No other country can be like nor emulate Japan.   So, where does this spirit of charity and altruism come from exactly?   Why do the Japanese feel they need to save the whole world, while caring very little for its own people?   It's the Board of Education...?  The essay below is one such example of what Japanese kids learn in school, and how stories like Minako resonate with so many Japanese and how the spread of Christianity is subversively being taught to Japanese kids.   


This article was taken from Polestar Shuken Shuppan English textbook:


Amazing Grace is a very popular song.   It has been heard by millions of people at least once in their lives.   In Japan, probably the most famous version was by Honda Minako.   Two years after its release in 2003, Minako entered hospital.   She had leukemia.   In hospital, Minako recorded the song on a voice recorder.   It was to cheer up a friend in the same hospital.   A short time later, in November 2005, Minako passed away.

[ I have noticed over the years, mainly through my  empirical observation  with a lot of Japanese people, that they take comfort and joy in western  religious hymns  with Christian themes such as Amazing Grace.  Most admittedly do not understand the lyrics.  I am wondering how this is possible when 90% of Japanese are non-Christians...   [ " Many Japanese are familiar with Christianity and have had exposure to the religion either through school or churches based in Japan"].  [me]


According to her wishes, a commercial was made for a bone marrow bank.   In the commercial, the version of Amazing Grace on her voice recorder was used.   Many people were moved by her beautiful voice.   However, most people had no idea of the meaning behind the song.   The words to Amazing Grace were originally written by an Englishman called John Newton in the eighteenth century.   The reasons why he wrote this hymn are rather interesting and unexpected. 

[ In this paragraph, I notice the virtues of Minako and how she tries to offer solice and comfort through her voice.  This is good, but I do not know why Christian hymns are chosen for this when most Japanese do not even understand the songs  words, or why they were used in the hymn.][me]


John Newton was born in London in 1725, the son of a ships's captan.   At the age of 11, he began going to  sea with his father.   When he grew up, he found work in the slave trade.   He took slaves from the west coast of Africa to the New World .   In those days, trading slaves was legal.   Newton himself saw nothing wrong with the business.


[ I am also concerned about why slavery in context seems to be justified because it was legal?    Why couldn't Shuken reword this by condemning slavery as wrong in spite of it being legal for the sake of posterity?    
And then going as far as to say Newton saw nothing wrong with it.   Where the students should be feeling more sympathetic towards the slaves, they now feel endeared toward John Newton as a sort of man who was spared by God's wrath for his own personal transgressions and not for the condemnation of slavery bought upon him by his involvement in human trafficking***]   Most slaves perished at sea due to disease or  were thrown overboard during storms at sea to lighten the load of the slave ships, why couldn't they have been spared?  Why does Shuken need to  attach some altruistic virtue to Mr. Newton?  Maybe young Japanese want to be like John Newton, or other Anglo saviors of the world?


In 1748, at the age of 22, Newton experienced a life-changing event.   It occurred in the Atlantic Ocean during a great storm.   His shop was about to sink.   For the first time in his life, he called out to God: "Lord, have mercy upon us!"  Eventually, the storm passed and the ship managed to make it to Ireland.   Newton saw it as a miracle. 

[ The miracle here is that he was spared?  Were the slaves spared, too? How did one man's legacy become something worthy to be published and taught in a Japanese textbook..?   How does it relate to education?  ]


Newton believed that he survived as a result of God's protection.   When he reached land, he went straight to a church and got baptized.   After that, his faith in God gradually increased and he began to regret his sins.   He also began to feel sympathetic towards the slaves that he met on his work.

[ So, here we see the slaves were not important until a storm hit and that is the reason god spared his life was because of his own sins....   The real reason God may have spared his life was to save the lives of the slaves he was trading... and not his own for the sake of his own salvation...]  


At the age of 30, Newton had a stroke.   His doctor told him to give up his life as a sailor.   He worked as a tax collector, but he was no happy.   Newton felt that the time had come when he should serve God rather than himself.   In 1764, Newton became a clergyman in Olney, a small village in the English countryside.   Around this time, Newton wrote many hymns to tell people about the Christian message.   he never forgot the memory of this miraculous rescue at sea.   That was the image in his mind when he wrote the famous lines of Amazing Grace. 


[ So again, I am wondering what was the intended message for publishing Minako singing a song with religious implications?   What are Japanese students supposed to take from this story?   The story could have been written with a greater focus on her talents as a singer and her struggles with Leukemia rather than using her legacy as a great singer to elevate a white slave owner who had an epiphany with God with a ship full of slaves to the New World.  Shukan, you can do much better than using Minako's legacy for spreading Christianity in your public schools. ]me  

Final notes:  

Christian themes  on salvation have been subtly implemented in school textbooks in Japan for well over 50 years either through songs or stories of Anglo salvationism.    They start to see Anglo favorably in the site of God, and not the lesser people like the slaves who endeared horrors unspeakable during the human trafficking and slave trade days.   The original teachings of Japanese ancestry where those of suicidal glory or death through sacrifice, has now been replaced by Anglo salvationism indirectly.    What were the reasons for the BOE to add this story in their high school textbooks?   What exactly is the lesson to be learned by Japanese students from this story?    Was it the story of Minako and her struggle or John Newtons?  Whose salvation?    Minako was not spared.    What did the students actually learn here?


N.B. Not all slaves were from African countries, some came from southern Europe and that is why I used the word human trafficking, too. 

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