• Joseph Simurdiak

THE MARTYRS OF NAGASAKI (SPRING JOURNEY I)

最終更新: 5月22日

(The following post - the first in a series of five - comes from my travel journal detailing a journey I took through southwestern Japan in the spring of 2018. My purpose was to explore the lands most associated with the Hidden Christians and the cataclysmic Shimabara Rebellion. While spring is usually my favorite season to go on a lengthy hiking adventure, due to the coronavirus I refrained from doing so in 2020. Nevertheless, I dug these journal entries up to present here for public viewing.)


Entry 1: Introduction

This year during Easter Week I traveled to southwestern Japan and went hiking through the heartland of the old Hidden Christians. Walking through the mountains, trekking the coastlines, and sleeping under the stars, I went traveling in search of stories—harrowing old tales of struggles, battles, and persecutions, of Japanese communities who gathered in secret, under penalty of torture and death, to offer prayers to a silent, hidden god. My journey lasted a week and took me through the Amakusa Islands, up the coast of the Shimabara Peninsula, and finally to Nagasaki and the volcanic springs (hells) of Mt. Unzen.

I encountered many fascinating stories and sights in those remote, quiet corners of the country, and in this journal I'd like to record just a little of what I found, to hopefully shed light on a part of Japan that few Westerners today ever get the chance to see.


Monument to the Twenty-six Martyrs of Nagasaki, near the site of crucifixion.



Crucifixions in Nagasaki

500 years ago, southern Japan fell under the influence of a mysterious new religion—Christianity. Strange, white-skinned foreigners from the West had arrived on Japanese shores, bringing new technologies and weapons for trade. Their missionaries had come with them, seeking to save souls and spread the faith of a universal, all-powerful God.

Some of the local samurai warlords eyed these foreigners with suspicion. Others, eager to trade for European scientific knowledge (and especially firearms), embraced the newcomers. Jesuit missionaries soon won over 100,000 converts throughout southern Japan, and the religion seemed to spread like fire. Christianity flourished—but only briefly. Within a couple decades, that fire would be ruthlessly suppressed, all but stamped out.

Japan’s rulers quickly became suspicious of Christianity as a sinister foreign religion, and in 1597, twenty-six Christians (twenty Japanese and six foreigners, including three Japanese children) who refused to recant their faith were skewered with spears and crucified on a hill overlooking Nagasaki.

Today, a monument to the twenty-six martyrs stands on the site of this mass-crucifixion.


For Japanese Christians, however, this was far from the end. It was only the first stage of a long and terrible tribulation.



 © 2018 by Joseph Simurdiak