Today’s UU Trivia Question of the Day asked what topic and location come up in most of the top hits when you search for information about Unitarianism in Japanese. Using Google Japan and the katakana term for UUism, the large majority of your hits will send you to pages dedicated to wedding venues. Time and again you will find All Souls Unitarian Church on the Upper East Side extolled as an excellent place for a Japanese couple to have a traditional American wedding. If the number of hits on so many different pages is any indication, All Souls must do a pretty healthy business in Japanese vacation marriage ceremonies.
It is common for Japanese young people these days to have an American style wedding, in a Christian church with a white dress, tuxedo, flowers, minister, organ, maid of honor, etc. This is not seen as religious but as Western, aka cool and modern. The people themselves are rarely Christian and sometimes the “minister” is merely an actor hired for the part (not infrequently in Japan there are unordained foreigners who make a living by posing as ministers at Christian-style weddings).
What does it say that most Japanese searching for information on UUism will only be shown the rather high-church architecture of All Souls and invited to spend their money on a luxury wedding? These sites make no differentiation between UUism and mainstream Christianity; it is highly doubtful that the Japanese wedding planners who promote the church venue have any understanding or interest in the differences. No significant religious information is carried on such sites. So perhaps people are left with the impression that UUism is just some small sect of Christianity, with pretty, traditional churches that are eager to make money on tourists. If you want information about UUism as a living, particular religion, you must did much deeper into the internet; actually, no matter how far you go, if you’re restricted to Japanese you will not find much.
The Unitarians and the Universalists both ran missions in Japan, with the Unitarians in particular being partly responsible for important social, religious, and educational innovations in Japan’s lurch into global modernity. Unitarian-Universalists, on the other hand, have not organized Japanese missions, and the religion that was once a key player here has become utterly obscure, a word not one in a thousand Japanese could even recognize.