There is an interesting but important balance that every non-Japanese must process, that balance between being yourself and being Japanese.
People often go through stages as they adapt to a different culture. The honeymoon stage is when everything is exciting and fresh and right. That often slides into a feeling of rejection because of language barriers, frustrations and resentment. A sense of isolation often follows. But hopefully the person climbs out of this into a healthy sense of assimilation and acceptance. (See Mary Ann Satoro Bellini’s writings)
Christian workers don’t go through this process if they are centered in their own culture and working with Japanese, but when we move to Japan for an extended period of time we all walk along these four experiences.
We can draw a number of guidelines here, but for me the basic one is that of love. I will never be a Japanese because my skin color, funny accent and core experiences. However, the law of love moves me to accept, learn and minister at a level that will make me an effective minister of the gospel.
I have met some who became so Japanese that they had shelved their unique gifts and strengths. Others remained so western that those Japanese around them could only see their God as a foreign god. Only I was able to perfectly walk the middle of being Japanese, but still be myself! (And here, those who know my ministry in Japan rise up and howl in laughter.)