Japan has always served as a major galvanizing force in the life of anthropologist and writer Christal Whelan. Even in the toughest and most bewildering times – the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, and the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown of 2011 – these calamities also offered new directions. The former begged for a better understanding of how religions continually reinvent themselves to keep apace with the times and how they can also go horribly awry. Christal’s work on new religions emerged from her direct experience as a commuter in Tokyo at the time of the incident. The latter continues to shape her interest in the tiny house movement and a dedication to sustainability.
Christal’s early work as a linguist of Italian and Portuguese led to her production of the film Otaiya that deals with religious persecution of Christians in Japan and the cultural hybridity that resulted from hundreds of years of camouflaging their faith. She wrote a regular column on Japanese culture for the Yomiuri Newspaper’s English-language daily, co-produced programs for China’s CNC World Television, has contributed to Fodor’s guidebook on Japan, worked as a Japanese interpreter at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and is the author of The Beginning of Heaven and Earth: The Sacred Book of Japan’s Hidden Christians, and Cool and Classic Japan to be released next year. She has taught various subjects — religion, language, and anthropology at RISD, Brown University, Boston University, Hawaii Pacific University, and Kyoto University.
Beginning of Heaven and Earth: The Sacred Book of Japan’s Hidden Christians, a book by Christal Whelan
Gratitude – A Japanese Lesson, an essay by Christal Whelan