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A Roadmap To The Japanese Soul By Mark Joseph

Nine years ago George Gallup was a guest on my NHK talk show and I was immediately impressed with the depth of his convictions. We stayed in touch, and two years later I called him with an unusual request: Would he be willing to survey the Japanese people about their views on God, spirituality, religion and other related issues? He not only said yes, but to my surprise said he had an office in Japan which did just such research.

As a missionary kid, I often heard the figure "one half of one percent" tossed around when it came to identifying the Christian population of Japan. I also heard rumors of a poll that allegedly claimed that 35% of Japanese would choose  Christianity if they were told they had to choose a religion. I had long thought that any missionary strategy would best be built on a solid foundation of research that captured the heart and soul of the Japanese people.

I think that George and our entire team have accomplished just that with this survey. The data is insightful, intriguing and often surprising. I was particularly struck by the fact that of the 20% of youth who claimed to have a religion, 36% said they were "Christians." That is an almost unimaginable figure. Overall, this survey puts the "Christian" population of Japan at 6%. I can already hear the question: "Are they truly Christians?" The answer is, of course, nobody can say for sure. Others will  rightly conclude that some Japanese are saying yes to all three religions claiming that they're Shinto, Buddhist and Christian. But whether or not these represent true believers or not, it's nonetheless significant that they're willing to tell a Japanese interviewer that they are Christians in such high numbers. It's also interesting to note that while youth claim the Christian faith in almost double the numbers that they claim to be Buddhists and Shintoists, adults are almost exactly the reverse, claiming to be Christians in far fewer numbers.

George Gallup Jr., America's premiere researcher and pollster, says that this survey is the most important one he has ever participated in, period. He believes, and I believe, that in the data there is a roadmap to the Japanese soul that needs to be explored. We hope that many of you will pick up the baton and use this research in ways that we can't even imagine.

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