【February 2020 No.406】My Encounters with Missionaries Coming to Japan 40 Years of Japanese Language School Teaching

by Tohya Masumi, member

                      Kobe Tobu Church, Hyogo District

—Compiled by the Shinto no Tomo (Believer’s Friend), Editorial Committee

Crossing denominational lines, missionaries from North America, Germany, Norway, etc., founded Kansai Missionary Language Institute, a school for learning the Japanese language, in Sannomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, in 1979. It moved three years later to Rokko Church of the Kinki Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hyogo and rented several rooms there.

 

At its peak, there were 40 students at a time. After the Great Hanshin Awaji (Osaka-Kobe and offshore Awaji Island) Earthquake of 1995, when missionaries were recalled to their home countries, this language school was forced to close. However, I continued to use one room at the church and taught people who wanted to study Japanese. So I was a Japanese language teacher from 1979 at Kansai Missionary Language Institute and continued to teach privately from 1995 to 2018.

 

I had difficulty teaching students with a wide range of various abilities in Japanese, but more than anything else I happily responded to their devotion to their mission in Japan. I am particularly happy when children of missionaries return to Japan as missionaries. In my classes, I also taught the students about Japanese society and culture. As practical training, we went shopping at a supermarket. Reflecting the difference in food culture, the response was, “There are so many varieties of food, it is difficult to shop.” For example, even if they knew the difference between green tea, roasted green tea, and barley tea, it was difficult for them to choose the appropriate tea for a particular situation at church. I also heard about the mistake of choosing round buns filled with sweet bean paste when searching for plain dinner rolls.

 

I not only taught, I also learned about the various cultures of the students’ countries. Many Norwegian missionaries came after the Great East Japan Disaster in 2011, but no matter what their church denomination, they were all careful about liturgical colors. During the Advent season, churches in Norway use a purple theme throughout, even to the extent of using purple napkins at lunchtime. I was amazed by the students’ surprise that the Japanese churches where they had been do not observe the custom of displaying liturgical colors.

 

Besides celebrating Christmas at the churches they were sent to serve, the missionaries also valued observing Christmas with their families, and they always invited single missionaries. Christmas dinner menus differed, depending on the area they were from, and I also helped them search for food in Japan. Chicken and salmon were readily available, but I also ate salt-preserved lamb procured from Norway, which is used in a dish called pinnekjott. This may or may not be palatable to the average Japanese person’s taste, but it was fun to try, which made the experience quite enjoyable.

 

Beyond that, the ways of observing the season from the beginning of Advent to Christmas differ little from those in Japan. I always sensed that the missionaries were truly using this time for the purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus. I learned that Advent was not spent trying to call to mind a certain feeling but was a period for quieting the heart, of being invited and inviting, of sharing joy together.

 

Sometimes missionaries must leave Japan for reasons dictated by the country in which the sending body has its headquarters. At the time of the 2011 Great East Japan Disaster, the Norwegian government prepared planes and made Norwegians residing in Japan return home. Missionaries I knew said, “Especially at a time like this, missionaries are necessary,” and returned to their homeland only temporarily. There are also denominations that have stopped assigning missionaries to Japan, so the number of missionaries being sent to Japan has decreased.

 

Despite that, I have enjoyed meeting new faces. Two years ago, taking advantage of their summer break, two seminarians in their twenties came from Norway for study. Even though it was not a long period of time, they experienced an earthquake, a typhoon, and a blackout. However, they were amazing! Skillfully using their cell phones, they found places to charge them during the blackout and investigated how to reinstate city gas usage. The care that had been necessary for former missionaries was unnecessary for them. They had studied where to ask questions and had also mastered the online application for automatic translation from Norwegian to Japanese.

 

They came to me with questions about the difference in intonation between the various accents they heard in the Kansai area and what they had learned at the Japanese language school. (Vowels are emphasized in spoken Japanese in the Kansai area.) It seems that the online Japanese-language application they were using for study did not include the Kansai dialects.

 

These students possess the same passion as the missionaries who stirred me at the place where I first worked. They also told me of their plan to bring younger seminary students and to visit Japan again. I have taken a break in my work as a teacher, but if I can help them share the joy of the Gospel, I hope to be able to respond to their passion in the future as well. (Tr. RT)

 

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believer’s Friend), December 2019

 

来日宣教師たちとの出会い 日本語学校教師の40年

東家眞澄(とうや ますみ)

兵庫・神戸東部教会員

 アメリカ、ドイツ、ノルウェー、イタリアなどからの来日宣教師が1979年に超教派の日本語学校「関西ミッショナリー・ランゲージ・インスティトゥート」を兵庫の三宮に作りました。3年後に近畿福音ルーテル教会六甲教会に場所を移したこの学校で、私は日本語教師をしていました。

 多いときには40名が一度に在籍しましたが、1995年の阪神淡路大震災を機に宣教師たちが母国へと引き上げたこともあり、学校は解散を余儀なくされました。しかしその後も教会を貸していただき、日本語を習いたいという宣教師たちにこの場所で授業を行ってきました。来日時期も、日本語の能力もさまざまな彼らに教えることに苦労を感じることもありましたが、何よりも彼らの日本宣教への篤(あつ)い思いに応えることが喜びでした。生徒だった宣教師の子どもが宣教師として日本に戻ってくることもあり、それは本当にうれしいことです。

 授業では日本の社会や文化についても教えます。スーパーに買い物の実習に行くと、「食材が細分化されていて難しい」と言います。例えば煎茶、ほうじ茶、麦茶の違いはわかっても、教会で状況に合わせたお茶を選ぶことが難しい。丸いパンをハンバーガーを作るために買ったら、あんぱんだったという失敗も聞きました!

 教えるばかりでなく、それぞれの国の文化を教わりました。東日本大震災の後はノルウェーの宣教師たちが多かったのですが、どの教派の教会も典礼色を大切にします。アドベントのシーズンになれば教会中が紫になり、ランチタイムのペーパーナプキンに至るまで紫を使います。日本の教会は色が変わらないのかと驚かれたことに、こちらが驚きました。

 宣教師たちは彼らの任地である教会でクリスマスを祝いますが、家族でクリスマスを過ごすことも大切にしていて、単身の宣教師を必ず招待します。クリスマスディナーのメニューは地域によって異なり、日本での食材探しから手伝うこともありました。鶏肉や鮭は日本でも手に入りますが、「ピンネヨット」という料理に使う羊肉の塩漬を、ノルウェーから取り寄せて、食事に出してもらったことがあります。日本人の口に合うかというと、なかなか難しいのですが……。それもまた楽しい、喜びのひとときでした。

 アドベントからクリスマスまでの過ごし方は、日本人とそんなに変わらないにも関わらず、彼らがこの期節を本当にイエスの誕生を祝うために過ごしていることをずっと感じてきました。アドベントは浮ついた気持ちで過ごすのではなく、心を静める期間であること、招き招かれ、喜びを共にするのがこの期節であると教えられました。

 派遣元である本国、本部の都合で日本を離れなければならないことがあります。東日本大震災のとき、ノルウェー政府は飛行機を用意し、在日ノルウェー人を帰国させました。知人の宣教師は「こんなときだからこそ、宣教師が必要なのに」と嘆きつつ、一時帰国をしました。日本への宣教師の派遣をやめた教派もありますし、日本に送られてくる宣教師は少なくなっています。

 それでも新たな出会いがあります。一昨年は20代の男子神学生2人が夏休みを利用して、ノルウェーから研修にやってきました。決して長い期間ではなかったのに、なんと彼らは地震、台風、停電を経験する羽目に陥りました。しかし彼らはすごい! スマートホンを駆使して、停電中でも充電できるところを捜し当て、ガスの復旧の仕方も調べました。以前は必要だったお世話が、彼らには必要ありません。訪ねたいところも検索済みで、ノルウェー語から日本語への自動翻訳ソフトも使いこなします。

 そんな彼らが私に質問してくるのは、関西で使われている日本語が、日本語学校で学ぶイントネーションと異なることです。母音が強調されるのが関西の日本語です。日本語習得ソフトで勉強もしているようですが、関西弁は学べないようです。

 彼らは私が仕事を始めたころに心動かされた宣教師たちと同じ熱意を持っていました。後輩の神学生を連れて再び来日の予定だともいいます。私の教師としての務めは昨年で一区切りとなりましたが、福音の喜びを分かち合っていくために役に立てるのならば、今後も彼らの熱意に応えていくことを願っています。

   KNL2019年12月号   (まとめ・信徒の友編集部)+KNL編集部