Assets which tell the Story of the Continuation of the Faith
The “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region” are a collective heritage site which tells the story of cultural traditions created over 450 years of history, following the dissemination of Christianity into Japan.
Christianity, first introduced to Japan in 1549, was accepted by the regional leaders who came to be called the “Christian daimyos” (a daimyo was a kind of feudal lord). In their domains, large numbers of peasants were baptized and communities of believers sprang up. However, when the Anti-Christian Edicts were passed in 1614, the foreign missionaries were expelled from Japan, and Japanese believers suffered harsh persecution. Yet, even in these circumstances, the believers chose to maintain their faith, albeit in secret. Because many Christians were involved in the Shimabara-Amakusa Rebellion, when fierce fighting took place at Remains of Hara Castle, the Bakufu government began to suppress Christianity ever more severely and in a more organized manner. Despite this escalation, the believers in the Nagasaki region stayed in hiding and kept the faith. In each community, leaders took the place of foreign missionaries, and maintained the organizational structures of the faith. Events like Christmas, handed down from parents to children, and rituals like baptism were also secretly passed on, thanks to this organizational structure, and in the harsh living conditions to which they were subjected, faith became a staff to lean on. Villages which retain evidence of the lifestyles and faith organizations of this time of concealment remain to this day throughout the Nagasaki region.
In the 19th century Japan opened its borders, and when missionaries from Europe began once again to come to Japan, most of the believers who had been in hiding around the Nagasaki region returned to the Catholic Church. These Catholic communities show that, with firm roots in the faith organizations that developed during its time underground, the faith had been passed down without faltering since the time of Francis Xavier’s missionary work. Furthermore, the churches built around the region as proof of the transmission of belief are significant symbols showing how the faith had been protected in each village, in the face of harsh persecution.