Despite being a modern and quite secular nation, Japan has quite the paradox of religious views. A mix of Buddhist and Shintoism, many Japanese still follow these religous ways for the sake of tradition. Shinto priests will offer to "bless" just about anything (for a price of course) from cars, boats, houses, and children. (Buddhists provide funerals and longer names to use in heaven for a price).
Often missionaries have complained of feelings of uneasyness or children not sleeping once they move into Japan. Oftentimes there is still a Shinto blessing in the rafters of the house (pictured) and once removed eliminates the oppression. One home we worked on had a blessing in it, so we doubled our prayers before and after we worked in it.
Almost every home we've seen has a shelf for the family altar (a mini shrine). Prayers are said for ancestors along with leaving out food and flowers for the dead. Sadly Japanese Christians have received criticism for not keeping these altars as "not loving their family" even if they provided for their relatives above and beyond the Japanese norm whole they were still living.
Shinto gates are ubiquitous in Japan, a county known for its shrines and temples. Pray for the spiritual atmosphere in Japan make the hold of Shintoism and bhuddism to weaken so that the gospel can shine through these empty traditions.
Brett & Beth record their milestones in academia and medicine as they roam far and wide with Jethro, Edessa, and Genevieve in tow.