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Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region

About the Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region

Japan lies at the far eastern edge of the area in which Catholicism was introduced during the Age of Exploration. The Nagasaki region, located in the western part of Kyushu in the south-western part of the archipelago, has served as Japan’s gateway for exchanges with the Asian Continent from antiquity and, in the latter half of the 16th century, Catholic missionaries were very active throughout the region. As a result, newly baptised Japanese in the region could receive pastoral guidance from these missionaries over a longer period than anywhere else in Japan, and Catholic communities became firmly established there.

Based on these communities, even after Japan banned Christianity in the 17th century and not a single missionary was allowed to remain in Japan, some Catholics in the Nagasaki region nurtured their own unique religious system and continued to practice their faith in secret while coexisting with the conventional society and its religions. After the ban on Christianity was lifted in the latter half of the 19th century, the Hidden Christian communities rejoined the Catholic Church and built churches in their villages, which visually marked the end of their clandestine religious system nurtured during the ban. Against this historical background, the Nagasaki region still has an exceptionally large number of Catholics and churches, compared with other regions in Japan.

The property, ‘Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region’, is a unique testimony to the history of people and their communities who secretly transmitted their faith in Christianity during a time when the religion was prohibited for more than two centuries.

Japan’s unique practice of the Christian faith continued even during the ban on Christianity

‘Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region’ 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. These sites consist of 12 vital components that express the history of the tradition from its origin and formation, through its continuation and spread, to its transformation and end in the transitional phase following the lifting of the ban. The 12 components are located in very remote areas including peninsulas and small islands in the Nagasaki region where practitioners received pastoral guidance from Catholic missionaries during the Age of Exploration to a greater extent than in any other region of Japan. Japan itself lies at the far eastern edge of the area in Asia where Christianity was first introduced.