History of Christianity in Japan
Hidden Christian site is registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site
Japan’s unique practice of the Christian faith continued even during the ban on Christianity
Hidden Christian Site in Nagasaki, Shimabara and Amakusa Regions bear unique testimony
to the tradition of people and their communities who secretly transmitted their faith in
Christianity while surviving in the midst of the conventional society and its religions during
the time of prohibition.
Oura Cathedral / World Heritage
Basilica of Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan.
Built in 1865 under the supervision of the French priest Bernard Petitjean.
It was designated as a National Treasure in 1933 for its value as Japan’s oldest Gothic-style
Entrance gate of Oura
Japan’s oldest Gothic-style
Statue of Mary, at entrance of
Cathedral, installed in 1867
Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The martyrs including four Spaniards, one from Goa, India, one Mexican and
20 Japanese demonstrated their spiritual unity despite differences in races, ages and professions.
Nishizaka hill, the site of
Martyrdom in 1597
The martyrs said that
” All people, bless God ! ”
The 26 Japanese martyrs have
been canonized in 1862
Sotome area Hidden Christian Site / World Heritage
When he discovered the underground Christians, Petitjean realized that there were many other
Christians hiding in the Sotome region.
He appointed de Rotz as the parish priest of the Shitsu and Kurosaki districts.
Former Shitsu Aid Centre
The Statue of Mary
Originally constructed in 1895 as a brick Romanesque building, after a long-standing ban on
Christianity was lifted. When completed in 1914, it was the largest Catholic church in East Asia.
The atomic bomb dropped on August 9, 1945 explored in Urakami, only 500m from the
cathedral, which was completely destroyed. What remained of the cathedral is now on display
in the Atomic Bomb Museum.
A replacement the Cathedral
was built in 1959
Ruins of destroyed Urakami
Cathedral are displayed
Ruins of destroyed Cathedral,
displayed nearby Ground Zero
Harajo Castle Ruins / World Heritage
The Battle field of Shimabara Rebellion which was a peasant uprising agaist bakufu’s persecution of
Christians under the leadership of Amakusa Shiro in 1637. Christian farmers rose in a riot due to their
grievance about the oppression by Matsukura Shigemasa. The Shogunate regarded this riot as Christian
rebellion and sent its punitive force, therefore locked themselves in the castle and with their leader
Amakusa Shiro Tokisada fought against the Shogunate. On February 27, 1638, he died in battle.
The following day, the castle fell. 37,000 Christians including women and children died a violent death.
Entrance to Harajo Castle
Battle field of Shimabara
The Statue of Amakusa Shiro
Jigoku, means Hell, is the number one attraction of Unzen with a peculiar smell of sulfur emitted
from the springs, and with white smoke rising from the ground over a wide area.
Unfortunately, this was once put into reality nearly 350 years ago during the time of religious
persecution in Japan. 30 Japanese Christians, failing to renounce their faith met their death
here in the scalding spring of Jigoku.
Smoke rising from the ground
over a wide area
Martyrdom site of Christians
The Cross written the name of
Amakusa / Kumamoto-prefecture
Hidden Christian of Amakusa
Christianity was first brought to Japan in 1549 by a Jesuit priest named Francis Xavier when
trading opened in Kagoshima. Not long after, it spread to neighboring areas such as Nagasaki
and Amakusa. In 1614, the Tokugawa regime felt threatened by the growth of Christianity out of
their fear of colonialism. Persecutions began and the eradication of Christianity started.
Missionaries and priests alike were killed, while those who practiced Christianity were given an
option to renounce their faith or face death. Some chose to convert to Shintoism and Buddhism
in order to hide their Christian faith.
Fed up with famine and cruel treatment, peasants from Amakusa organized a rebellion to fight
against the regime. This resulted in the Shimbara Rebellion, which is considered as one of the
largest revolts during the Edo period.
Oe Cathedral / World Heritage
The oldest Catholic Church in Amakusa and was one of the first churches built right after the ban
on Christianity was lifted. The and Romanesque-style architecture and the chalky white structure
was rebuilt in 1933 by a French missionary priest named Father Garnier using his own money and
contributions from local Christians living in the area.
Sakitsu Village / World Heritage
A Gothic-looking church is located on a cove of a fishing village. In 1934, a French priest
Augustin Halbout MEP purchased the premises of the former village headman and built a
wooden and concrete finished church, with Tetsukawa Yosuke’s design and construction.
He placed the altar at the very site where fumie or a test to ensure non-allegiance to
Christianity had been conducted.
The theme Museum shows History of Christianity in Amakusa and Shimabara Rebellion
which was a peasant uprising agaist bakufu’s persecution of Christians under the leadership
of Amakusa Shiro in 1637.
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