Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Japanese Hidden Christian(隠れキリシタン kakure kirishitan).

The root of the Japanese word for Christianity (キリスト教 Kirisuto-kyō) comes from the Japanese katakana transcription of the word Cristo (キリスト kirisuto), Portuguese word for Christ, and the Japanese word for doctrine (教 kyō, a teaching or precept).

Nestorian (Assyrian Church)
A Japanese Christian institute claims that there is enough archaeological evidence to suggest that Nestorian (Assyrian Church) missionaries first landed in Japan in AD 199, believing that they traveled through India, China and Korea before the Tang Dynasty. It also estimates that the first churches were fully established by the end of the 4th century especially at Nara in central Japan. Historical evidence in China have proved the arrival of Nestorian during Tang Dynasty, it is possible that some of them had arrived at Japan.

In the year 1542, the first Europeans from Portugal landed on Kyushu in Western Japan. The two historically most important things they imported to Japan were gunpowder and Christianity. The Japanese barons on Kyushu welcomed foreign trade especially because of the new weapons, and, therefore, tolerated the Jesuit missionaries. The missionaries were successful in converting quite large numbers of people in Western Japan including members of the ruling class.

On August 15, 1549, St. Francis Xavier (later canonized by Gregory XV in 1622), Fr. Cosme de Torres, S.J. (a Jesuit priest), and Fr. John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. The arrival started the Christian history in Japan.

On September 29, St. Francis Xavier visited Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Satsuma (containing the city of Kagoshima), asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe. Within a year, however, he relented on this promise and made it illegal for people to convert.

In 1550, Francis Xavier also undertook a mission to the capital Kyoto.

The Hideyoshi's Prohibition Edict was published on July 24,1587

Towards the end of the 16th century, the Jesuits lost their monopoly position in Japan when Franciscan missionaries arrived in Kyoto despite a first banning edict by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1597, Hideyoshi proclaimed a more serious banning edict.

日本二十六聖人 Nihon Nijūroku Seijin

On February 5, 1597, twenty-six Christians(six European Franciscan missionaries, three Japanese Jesuits and seventeen Japanese laymen) including three young boys—were executed by crucifixion in Nagasaki. These individuals were raised on crosses and then pierced through with spears.

List of the 26 Martyrs of 1597
•Saint Antonio Dainan
•Saint Bonaventura of Miyako
•Saint Cosme Takeya
•Saint Francisco Branco
•Saint Francisco of Nagasaki
•Saint Francisco of Saint Michael
•Saint Gabriel de Duisco
•Saint Gaius Francis
•Saint Gundisalvus (Gonsalvo) Garcia
•Saint Isabel Fernandez
•Saint Ignatius Jorjes
•Saint James Kisai
•Saint Joaquim Saccachibara
•Saint Juan Kisaka
•Saint Juan Soan de Goto
•Saint Leo Karasumaru
•Saint Luis Ibaraki
•Saint Martin of the Ascension
•Saint Mathias of Miyako
•Saint Miguel Kozaki
•Saint Paulo Ibaraki
•Saint Paul Miki or Saint Paulo Miki – Born in Japan in 1562, he joined the Society of Jesus in 1580 and was the first Japanese member of any Catholic religious order. He died one year before his ordination to the Catholic priesthood. Miki's remaining ashes and bones are now located in Macau, China.
•Saint Pablo Suzuki
•Saint Pedro Bautista or Saint Peter Baptist – He was a Spanish Franciscan who had worked about ten years in the Philippines before coming to Japan. St. Peter was a companion of St. Paul Miki when Christianity was made illegal.
•Saint Pedro Sukejiroo
•Saint Philip of Jesus - Born in Mexico in 1572 (at the time "New Spain"). Upon his martyrdom he became the first Mexican saint and patron saint of Mexico City.
•Saint Thomas Kozaki
•Saint Thomas Xico

Tokugawa Ieyasu and his successors continued the persecution of Christianity in several further edicts. In 1612, the Tokugawa Regime published the Tokugawa Prohibition Edict dated 1-9-1612, by which not only the Missionaries or Religious, but all their followers were suppose to change religion or get out of Japan.

1616 (the restriction of foreign trade to Nagasaki and Hirado, an island northwest of Kyūshū), 1622 (the execution of 120 missionaries and converts), 1624 (the expulsion of the Spanish), and 1629 (the execution of thousands of Christians). Finally, the Closed Country Edict of 1635 prohibited any Japanese from traveling outside Japan or, if someone left, from ever returning. In 1636 the Dutch were restricted to Dejima, a small artificial island—and thus, not true Japanese soil—in Nagasaki's harbor.

Persecution continued sporadically, breaking out again in 1613 and 1630. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.

On September 10, 1632, 55 Christians were martyred in Nagasaki in what became known as the Great Genna Martyrdom. At this time Roman Catholicism was officially outlawed. The Church remained without clergy and theological teaching disintegrated until the arrival of Western missionaries in the nineteenth century.

While there were many more martyrs, the first martyrs came to be especially revered, the most celebrated of which was Paulo Miki. The Martyrs of Japan were canonized by the Roman Catholic Church on June 8, 1862 by Blessed Pius IX and are listed on the calendar as Sts. Paul Miki and his Companions, commemorated on February 6. Originally this feast day was listed as Sts. Peter Baptist and Twenty-Five Companions, Martyrs, and commemorated on February 5.

The last persecution was during 1868-1873, the Christian in Japan endured 250 years of persecution.

For the other list of Catholic martyrs, please refer to wikipedia, , and the official website of The 26 Martyrs Museum in Nagasaki City, Japan, The museum is located at Nishizaka-machi 7-8, Nagasaki City, 850-0051 Japan.

The Shimabara Rebellion(島原の乱 Shimabara no ran)1637-1638

The Shimabara Rebellion (島原の乱 Shimabara no ran) was an uprising largely involving Japanese peasants, most of them Catholic Christians, in 1637–1638 during the Edo period.

In the wake of the Matsukura clan's construction of a new castle at Shimabara, taxes were drastically raised, which provoked anger from local peasants and lordless samurai. In addition, religious persecution against the local Christians exacerbated the discontent, which turned into open revolt in 1637. The Tokugawa Shogunate sent a force of over 125,000 troops to suppress the rebellion, and after a lengthy siege against the rebels at Hara Castle, defeated them.

The Shimabara Rebellion, led by a young Christian boy named Amakusa Shiro Tokisada(天草四郎時貞), took place in 1637. The Rebellion broke out over economic desperation and government oppression but later assumed a religious tone. About 27,000 people joined the uprising, but it was crushed by the shogunate after a sustained campaign. Shiro led the defence of Hara Castle and died when it fell. The rebel leader Amakusa Shiro was beheaded, and persecution of Christianity became strictly enforced.

They are not considered martyrs by the Catholic Church since they took up arms for materialistic reasons.

Shimabara Rebellion ended in 1638, about 35,000 Christians die.

Japan's national seclusion policy was tightened, and formal persecution of Christianity continued until the 1850s.

Dutch and Chinese were restricted, respectively, to Dejima and to a special quarter in Nagasaki. Besides small trade of some outer daimyo with Korea and the Ryukyu Islands, to the southwest of Japan's main islands. By 1641, foreign contacts were limited by the policy of sakoku to Nagasaki.

By 1650, Christianity was almost completely eradicated, and external political, economic and religious influence on Japan became quite limited. Only China, the Dutch East India Company, and for a short period, the English, enjoyed the right to visit Japan during this period, for commercial purposes only, and they were restricted to the Dejima port in Nagasaki. Other Europeans who landed on Japanese shores were put to death without trial.

First Japanese Mass Migration - nikkeijin(日系人)

Many Japanese were deported to Macau or to the Spanish Philippines. Many Macanese and Japanese Mestizos are the mixed-race descendants of the deported Japanese Catholics. 400 were officially deported by the government to Macau and Manila, but thousands of Japanese were pressured into moving voluntarily. About 10,000 Macanese and 3,000 Japanese were moved to Manila. Some went to Siam.

Nikkeijin in Siam(タイ王国の日系人)

Some of Japanese Christian went to Siam. The Japanese quarters of Ayutthaya were home to about 1,500 Japanese inhabitants (some estimates run as high as 7,000). The community was called Ban Yipun in Thai, and was headed by a Japanese chief nominated by Thai authorities. It seems to have been a combination of traders, Christian converts ("Kirishitan") who had fled their home country to various Southeast Asian countries following the persecutions of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, and unemployed former samurai who had been on the losing side at the battle of Sekigahara. Padre Antonio Francisco Cardim recounted having administered sacrament to around 400 Japanese Christians in 1627 in the Thai capital of Ayuthaya ("a 400 japoes christaos"). Until 1630, Ayudhyan society was very tolerant toward diverse religions.

The Japanese settlement is situated on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River in an
area called Ko Rian. It was located opposite the Portuguese settlement and was
separated from the English and Dutch settlement by the Suan Phlu canal to the north.( Fr. Nixi took care of the Japanese in the church they had built, most probably in the Japanese settlement of Ayutthaya.

There were four hundred Japanese Christians in the Japanese enclave in 1624 and six hundred soldiers in 1628. The Christian refugees came mainly from peasant families, thus it is unlikely that this category overlapped too much with the warriors. There were specialized Japanese employees who, in turn, may have had families. Thus, a number between 2,000 and 3,000, including non-Japanese residents, seems more realistic. According to such an estimate, Ayutthaya featured one of the biggest Nihonmachi in Southeast Asia, probably second in population only Manila (which featured two Japanese settlements, in Dilao and San Miguel). At the same time it was larger than Faifo and Tourane (both in Cochinchina, today Da Nang and Hoi An in central Vietnam) and Ponhealu and Phnom Pehn (in Cambodia).

The Christian men were in all probability the only Japanese who brought their Japanese wives with them to Siam. For the rest, it can be assumed that intermarriage between Japanese men and local women (Siamese, Mon or Laotian) was likely, since Ayutthaya was cosmopolitan enough to accept unions between members of different communities. The Christians, whenever possible, probably sent their children (both males and females) to receive their teaching in the Portuguese enclave, which faced the Nihonmachi on the western side of the Menam.

There probably would have been a whole generation of young “Japanese-Thai” adults. The males among them were educated in the Japanese martial way but born and raised many thousands of miles away from Edo. “it might be inferred that through constant intermarriage with the women of the county, they have become absorbed in the mass of the population.”

(extract from

In 1626, the Portuguese Jesuit Antonio Francesco Cardim visited Ayudhya together with a converted Japanese priest, Roman Friar Nixi, Nagamasa invited them for a banquet and entertained them at length. The apparent friendliness of the 'capitano' Nagamasa is described in a letter written by Cardim in Italian and sent to Rome. In the same missive, the Jesuit father talks of 400 Japanese Christian living in Ayudhya. Tolerance toward the Japanese Christians in Ayudhya might had been assured as well by the fact that the Japanese, despite their relatively small number, represented a military power the Siamese court and the other inhabitants of the entrepôt had learned to take seriously. The Japanese colony was highly valued for its military expertise, and was organized under a "Department of Japanese Volunteers" (Krom Asa Yipun) by the Thai king.

There were also Japanese communities in Ligor and Patani.

From the 1580s to the 1630s, a Japanese community of traders, mercenaries, and Catholic exiles thrived in the Ayutthaya Kingdom's capital Ayutthaya. They arrived primarily on the red seal ships which controlled trade between Japan and Siam. By 1620, the Japanese district in the city's southeast, on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, numbered between 1,000 and 1,500 inhabitants, making it the second-largest Japanese community abroad, behind that in Manila.

Yamada Nagamasa(山田長政, 1590–1630)
One of its members, Yamada Nagamasa(山田長政, 1590–1630), who later became the governor of the Nakhon Si Thammarat in southern Thailand. He rose to prominence as a military advisor to King Songtham, attaining the rank Ok-ya Senaphimuk (ออกญาเสนาภิมุข). However, in 1630 Sri Voravong (later known as King Prasat Thong) the defense minister sent him to put down a rebellion at Ligor (today Nakhon Si Thammarat); he was wounded in the battle, and then poisoned by an emissary sent by Prasat Thong.

Following Yamada's death in 1630, the new ruler was Prasat Thong (สมเด็จพระเจ้าปราสาททอง, reigned 1629-1656), who was the first king of Prasat Thong dynasty, the 4th dynasty of Ayutthaya kingdom. He sent an army of 4000 soldiers to destroy the Japanese settlement in Ayutthaya, but many Japanese managed to flee to Cambodia. A few years later in 1633, returnees from Indochina were able to re-establish the Japanese settlement in Ayutthaya (300-400 Japanese). Upon hearing the news, Tokugawa Iemitsu, then shogun of Japan, cut off relations with Siam, refused to issue further Red Seal ship(朱印船 Shuinsen) permits for Siam. Red seal ships were Japanese armed merchant sailing ships bound for Southeast Asian ports with a red-sealed patent issued by the early Tokugawa shogunate in the first half of the 17th century. Between 1600 and 1635, more than 350 Japanese ships went overseas under this permit system.

Japan was concomitantly closing itself to the world at that time, initiating the "Closed Country"or Sakoku(鎖国), period. Dutch then took over the trade between Siam and Japan.

Monseigneur Laneau(1637 in Mondoubleau-1696 in Ayutthaya) worked at propagating the Christian faith and also took care of Annamite Christians and Japanese Christian communities in Siam. He was head of a Roman Catholic mission in Indochina, with his headquarters at Ayutthaya. Laneau became bishop of Ayutthaya in 1674. During the 1688 Siamese revolution, Laneau and his missionaries were taken hostage by the Siamese.

I wonder is there any Japanese Christian now in Ayutthaya, Thailand.....

Filipino Japanese(フィリピンの日系人)

The Japanese population in the Philippines has since included descendants of Japanese Catholics and other Japanese Christians who fled from the religious persecution imposed by the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo period and settled during the colonial period from the 17th century until the 19th century. A statue of daimyo Ukon Takayama, who was exiled to the Philippines in 1614 because he refused to disvow his Christian beliefs, stands a patch of land across the road from the Post Office building in the Paco area of Manila. In the 17th century, the Spaniards referred to the Paco Area as the 'Yellow Plaza' because of the more than 3,000 Japanese who resided there.

Daimyo kirishitan- Dom Justo Takayama (高山右近)
Dom Justo Takayama (高山右近,or Iustus Takayama Ukon or Hikogoro Shigetomo) (1552 Haibara-cho, Nara, Japan – February 4, 1615 Manila, Philippines) was a kirishitan daimyo and a Japanese Samurai who followed Christianity in the Sengoku period of Japan. He was a layperson of the archdiocese of Tokyo.

Takayama Justo was born to be the heir of Takayama Tomoteru, the lord of Sawa Castle in the Yamato Province. His name as a child was Hikogorō (彦五郎). At the age of 12 (1564), his father converted to Catholicism and Hikogorō was also baptized Justo. After his coming-of-age ceremony, Hikogorō was named Shigetomo (重友). However, he is better known as Takayama Ukon (高山右近). The name Ukon comes from the government post he pretended, the officer of Ukonoefu (this was usual practice among samurai of the time).

Following the 1614 prohibition of Christianity by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the ruler of the time, he was expelled from Japan. On November 8, 1614, together with 300 Japanese Christians he left his home country from Nagasaki. He arrived at Manila on December 21 and was greeted warmly by the Spanish Jesuits and the local Filipinos there. It was reported that the Spaniards referred to the Paco Area as the "Yellow Plaza" because of the more than 3,000 Japanese who resided there. Plaza Dilao is the last vestige of the old town of Paco. There is a statue of Dom Justo Takayama in Plaza Dilao, Manila. When he died in 1615, the Spanish government interred him with a Christian burial with full military honors as a Daimyo. He is the first Daimyo to be buried in Philippine soil.

Shimabara peninsula after the war
On the Shimabara peninsula, most towns experienced a severe to total loss of population as a result of the rebellion. In order to maintain the rice fields and other crops, immigrants were brought from other areas across Japan to resettle the land. All inhabitants were registered with local temples, whose priests were required to vouch for their members' religious affiliation. Following the rebellion, Buddhism was strongly promoted in the area. Certain customs were introduced which remain unique to the area today. Towns on the Shimabara peninsula also continue to have a varied mix of dialects due to the mass immigration from other parts of Japan

Period of Isolation and Hidden Christianity Period started in 1639, where there was a complete ban of Portuguese ships.

Hidden Christian(隠れキリシタン kakure kirishitan).

教会シリーズ 平戸・生月

The Catholic remnant in Japan were driven underground and its members became known as the "Hidden Christians". Kakure Kirishitans are called the "hidden" Christians because they continued to practice Christianity in secret. They worshipped in secret rooms in private homes. As time went on, the figures of the saints and the Virgin Mary were transformed into figurines that looked like the traditional statues of the Buddha and bodhisattvas. The prayers were adapted to sound like Buddhist chant, yet retained many untranslated words from Latin, Portuguese and Spanish. The Bible was passed down orally, due to fears of printed works being confiscated by authorities. Because of the expulsion of the Catholic clergy in the 17th century, the Kakure Christian community relied on lay leaders to lead the services

Some priests remained in Japan illegally, including eighteen Jesuits, seven Franciscans, seven Dominicans, one Augustinian, five seculars and an unknown number of Jesuit irmao and dojuku. Since this time corresponds to the Thirty Years' War between Catholics and Protestants in Germany, it is possible that the checking of Catholic power in Europe reduced the flow of funds to the Catholic missions in Japan, which could be why they failed at this time and not before. During the Edo period, the Kakure Kirishitan kept their faith. Biblical phrases or prayers were transferred orally from parent to child, and secret posts (Mizukata) were assigned in their underground community to baptize their children, all while regional governments continuously operated Fumie to expose Christians. Drawn from the oral histories of Japanese Catholic communities, Shusaku Endo's acclaimed novel "Silence" provides detailed accounts of the persecution of Christian communities and the suppression of the Church.

On March 17th, 1865, some month after the opening of Oura Church in Nagasaki, some hidden Christians from Urakami come out to confirm that the catholic priest were back in Japan.

Hanare Kirishitan (離れキリシタン, separated Christians)

Many secret Christians, some of whom had adopted these new ways of practicing Christianity, came out of hiding when religious freedom was re-established in the mid-19th century and rejoined the Catholic Church after renouncing their unorthodox, syncretic practices. However, there were those who decided not to rejoin. They are known as the Hanare Kirishitan (離れキリシタン, separated Christians).
Following the legalization of Christianity and secularization of Japan, many Hanare Kirishitan lineages ended abruptly. Traditionally, boys learned the rituals and prayers from their fathers; when boys were uninterested or moved away from the homes, there would be no one left to continue the lineage.

In some cases, the communities drifted away from Christian teachings. They lost the meaning of the prayers and their religion became a version of the cult of ancestors, in which the ancestors happened to be their Christian martyrs.

For a while, Hanare Kirishitans were thought to have died out entirely, due to their tradition of secrecy. A group on Ikitsuki Island in Nagasaki prefecture, which had been overlooked by the Japanese government during the time of persecution, made their practices public in the 1980s and now perform them for audiences; however, these practices have acquired some attributes of theater, such as the telling of folktales and the use of statues and other images which most underground Christians had never created.


Ikitsuki (生月町 Ikitsuki-chō) is a former town on the island of the same name located in Kitamatsuura District, Nagasaki, Japan. Ikitsuki is known historically for two primary reasons: a legacy of whaling and hidden Christians. Near the south end of the island is a museum with exhibits on both these aspects of Ikitsuki's history.

Yamada church is the last remaining one in Nagasaki Prefecture to have an organized group of Hidden Christians (Kakure Kirishitan) in practice and existence. Located near Yamada Elementary School, this small church holds much history as one of the first and last outposts of Christian belief and persecution in Japan

The anthropologist Christal Whelan uncovered the existence of genuine Hanare Kirishitans on the Gotō Islands where Kakure Kirishitans had once fled. There were only two surviving priests on the islands, both of whom were over 90, and they would not talk to each other. The few surviving laity had also all reached old age, and some of them no longer had any priests from their lineage and prayed alone. These Hanare Kirishitans had a strong tradition of secrecy.

Gotō Islands 五島列島(ごとうれっとう)

The Gotō Islands (五島列島 Gotō rettō, literally: "five-island archipelago") are Japanese islands in the East China Sea, off the western coast of Kyūshū. The islands are a part of Nagasaki Prefecture.
Many of the inhabitants are descended from Christians of the Catholic-derived Kakure Kirishitan sect, and until recently Hanare Kirishitans still lived there, but the majority either returned to Catholicism after it was legalized in the 19th century or reverted to earlier practices. The islands have numerous Catholic churches, the oldest and most famous of which is Dozaki church, built in 1868 and located about 6 km north of Fukue port.

Following the legalization of Christianity and secularization of Japan, many Hanare Kirishitan lineages ended abruptly. Traditionally, boys learned the rituals and prayers from their fathers; when boys were uninterested or moved away from the homes, there would be no one left to continue the lineage.

The main reason which led to the complete extinction of Christianity in Japan by 1638 were the government's intentions to exert absolute control over its people. This would not have been possible with the interference of an aggressive and intolerant foreign religion like Christianity of that time.

After the Meiji restoration, prohibition of Christianity was abolished in 1873, on the 6th year of the Meiji Government. After World War II the number of Japanese Christians has been slowly increasing again.

Suggested movie in youtube;

1. Hidden Christians - Japan ,, Journeyman Pictures( Since Japan's rulers outlawed Christianity in the sixteenth century, believers have hidden their faith. But what began as Christianity has evolved into something quite different).

Further reading/viewing;

1. The Cross and the Rising Sun: The British Protestant missionary movement in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, 1865-1945, by A. Hamish Ion, Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 1993
2.Photo-Documentary of Christian history in Japan with Concentration on Hidden Christians,
3. Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan,
4. Shimabara - St. Olaf College,

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