This is a very important subject since our understanding of how we understand God and how Japanese understand God will vibrate throughout our sharing of Jesus.
Here are a few thoughts:
Since our understanding of God is colored by culture, experience and Biblical understanding, we need to be sensitive and not presume too much when we use the word “God.” Or in Japanese when we say “kami.”
Even when we are committed to the Biblical teaching, we must be humble to realize that we most likely have 1 to 90% distortion of the true Creator God of the Bible.
Even as each person from the Western world brings baggage and distortion to the word “God,” so Japanese bring large differences to their understanding of God or Kami.
The word “Kami” or “God” brings very different images which include the nature gods, past hero gods and family ancestor gods.
Romans 1:19 and 20 (NIV) says, “…what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” This passage tells us that God has been active in the past and still is active in Japanese hearts, revealing Himself.
So perhaps a good place to start talking about God with Japanese is not with a declaration, but a question, something like “How have you seen the Creator God reveal Himself?”
It is helpful to use the Scriptural analogies when we talk about God. Concepts like “Father, “Lover,” “Creator (Maker),” “Shepherd,” etc. will be helpful here.
So we have an encouraging truth–God is already active in showing Himself, and a sobering truth–Japanese as well as Westerners continually hide and distort the truth of God.