Reaching past closed doors
New film and website to reach those who are isolated and lonely in Japan
Nozomi, your life isn’t a waste.” A distraught mother utters this heart-filled cry while reaching out to Nozomi, an 18-year-old Japanese girl. Nozomi has shut herself in her own room for almost two-and-half years, and she is approaching her breaking point.
This is a scene from the short film Nozomi (2021), produced by Christ In Youth (CIY) in partnership with Mustard Seed Network. It follows the inner turmoil of a young girl struggling with hikikomori. Nozomi is a fictional story but was inspired by the testimonies of Japanese people who had experienced similar darkness. The film does not directly talk about faith, yet it certainly hints that there is hope that does not disappear even in the most difficult moments of life.
The film was created to impact Japanese people and to be of help to the churches in Japan. Upon its release, it was also shown at Christian conferences in the US to inspire youth to pray for those in Japan who are lost and feel hopeless, and also to pray for the mission work in Japan.
Since 2009, Mustard Seed Network has been planting gospel-centered churches in urban Japan and making disciples for Christ. We are committed to God’s mission to reach the lost but felt called to do something more—to take the gospel to those who are isolated, lonely, and depressed. However, it is often difficult to reach out to them because they remain hidden behind closed doors. That is why many people concerned about this situation have invested in making this film and the online outreach and ministry tools.
How can we meet isolated people?
How can we let people know that they would be warmly welcomed into our faith community? One way is to use the internet to reach those who are isolated in their own rooms. We decided to make this film available to watch on YouTube1 and link it to a website (nozomidoor.jp) that explains more about this hope—the hope beyond Nozomi’s opened door.
Therefore, in August 2021, we launched this ministry, Nozomi Door (“Door of Hope”), with prayers that whoever is touched or challenged by the film could be inspired to seek out the hope found in Jesus Christ. We encourage visitors to our website to contact us. They will be introduced to a Christian who is ready to engage with them and share the gospel when appropriate.
We will encourage anyone seeking hope to participate in an online course called “First Steps,” which is an introduction to Christianity tailored for Japanese seekers. Then we will seek to introduce individuals to God by connecting them with a local gospel-centered church. We are mindful that many of these people will probably find visiting a church too challenging at first. Regardless, we still want to offer them a chance to talk and relate with another person; because we are created in the image of God, we are created to be relational. It’s also possible that some people may visit the website without trying to contact us, but we hope that they will still see the truth of God’s hope and that it may plant a seed of the gospel in their hearts.
Ways you can help
If you feel stirred to join us in this mission, there are three ways you can participate and use this tool to reach out to those in hikikomori situations.
- Share the film and website with your Japanese friends who might benefit, as well as with other Christians and churches you are involved with.
- Cultivate conversations around the issues such as hikikomori, isolation, loneliness, and depression. It is not easy to talk about difficult things. However, if anyone should not be afraid of engaging in difficult topics such as these, it ought to be Christians. We can talk about fear, despair, and death because Jesus conquered them all. To facilitate this, we have created some companion materials that go with the film to help you talk about these things in your small groups. They are available on the Nozomi Door website.
- Pray for the lonely and isolated people in Japan and for the gospel to be brought to them. Please pray that churches will be filled and renewed with the love of God so that when someone knocks on the doors of churches, taking a brave step to exit the darkness, they will be met with the love of Christ.
1. Nozomi, filmed April 2021 in Joplin, Missouri. WRKR Films, produced by CIY and Mustard Seed Network, 15:18. https://youtu.be/eZ4PcbPYKOo