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History of Japanese Christianity

Christian history in Japan was started when St. Francis Xavier came to Japan as a first Christian

missionary in 1549. Then Christianity was spread in Nagasaki region. However, unparalleled

hidden Cristian history was started from when Toyotomi Hideyoshi Shogunate proclaimed Christian

ban in 1587. During ban on Christianity, people secretly continued to faith while surviving in the

midst of the conventional society and Japanese religions.

Since ban on the Christianity was lifted in 1873, new Christian history in Japan has begun.



1549  St. Francis Xavier came Kagoshima Japan as a first Christian missionary and

           commenced the Christian history in Japan

1550  St. Francis Xavier came Hirado as a Christian missionary

1551  Catholic Hirado Church was constructed as first church in Japan

1557   Introduction of Catholicism to Ikitsuki, Kasuga in Hirado

1563  Omura Sumitada, feudral lord of Nagasaki who was first lord convert to Christianity

1569  Todos os Santos Church was constructed as first in Nagasaki

1571  Nagasaki Port was opend to Portugal by feudral lord Omura Sumitada

1580   Arima Harunobu, lord of Arima convert to Christianity and the Seminario was

          established in Kuchinotsu as first in Japan

1582  Arima Harunobu teamed up with Kyushu Christian lords Otomo Sorin and ura Sumitada

          to dispatch the Tensho Mission to the Pope in Rome

1587  Shogunate, Toyotomi Hideyoshi proclaimed Christian ban

1590  The Tensho Mission retured to Nagasaki

1597  The Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan, were a group of Catholics who were

          executed by crucifixion on February 5 at Nagasaki. Their martyrdom is especially

          significant in the history of the Catholic Church in Japan.



1603 Tokugawa Shogunate was established and the natioanl isolation policy was appied

1614 The Tokugawa Shogunate prohibited Christianity throughout Japan

Continue Christian faith during the ban period in the following hidden Christian sites resistered on

the UNESCO World Hiritage Sites

Kasuga Village in Hitado

・Ikitsuki in Hirado

Sotome district

・Goto island



1622 five Christians were martyred at Nakae no Shima in Hirado

1624 three Christians were martyred at Nakae no Shima in Hirado

1627 twenty seven Christians were martyred at Unzen Jigoku

1637 Shimabara Rebellion : a peasant uprising agaist bakufu’s persecution of Christians

         under the leadership of Amakusa Shiro

1637 Lorenzo Luiz from Philippines martyred at Nashizaka hill in Nagasaki

1641 Dejima, the small artificial island was opened as Dutch trading port in Nagasaki 

1644  Last Christian missionary in Japan is martyred



1862     The 26 Japanese Martyrs at Nishizaka Hill in Nagasaki were canonized by Pope Pius IX.

1865     Oura Cathedral was built as the basilica of Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan 

1868     Meiji Restoration : led to enormous changes in Japan’s political and social structure and

             spanned both the late Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period.  

1873     Ban on the Christianity was lifted

1882     Shitsu Church in Sotome construction started by Father de Rotz’s design

1909     Shitsu Church was completed 

1914     Urakami Cathedral construction was compleeted, it was the largest Catholic church in East Asia

              at that time

1912     Yamada Church in Hirado was constructed

1917     Tabira Church in Hirado was construted

1920     Kurosaki Church was completed by Father de Rotz’s design

1931     St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church in Hirado was constructed at the present location

1945     Atomic bomb dropped in Nagasaki on Aug. 9

    The most part of Nagasaki was destroyed, and a tremendous number of lives were lost.  

              and Urakami Cathedral was completely destroyed.

    About 73,000 died instantly, and up to 60,000 were injured.



1950     Pope Pius XII designated the Nishizaka Hill in Nagasaaki of Martyrdom of 26 Japanese

             Saintsas an official Pilgrimage site for Catholics

1959     Urakami Cathedral replacement was built

1981     Pope John Paul II visited in Nagasaki

1982     Saint Teresa of Calcutta commonly known as Mother Teresa visited in Nagasaki

1987    Satint Lorenzo Ruiz was canonized by the same pope in the Vatican city on 18 October,

            making him the first Filipino Saint

2000    Ebdo Shusaku ( novelist of Silence ) Literary Museum is opened in Sotome

2018    Hidden Christian site is registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage



2019     Pope Francis visited Nagasaki on Nov.24 and and calls for a ‘world without Nuclear

             Weapons’ at the Ground Zero.



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