national

12 Christian sites in Japan added to UNESCO World Heritage list

34 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© 2018 AFP

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

34 Comments
Login to comment

I saw the movie Silence on a long flight. Really good movie. I have been to Kyushu many times but never had the chance to visit these sites. Hope to get there some day.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Beautiful area, and a fascinating history. Quite remote. Sakitsu, one of the more accessible sites, is a five hour drive from Fukuoka City. Trains and highways will only get you part of the way there.

The area is beautiful though, with some wonderful beaches used by few people. Seafood is abundant and cheap. And it is very quiet, though the locals are very friendly. I am told that some of the smaller islands are stunning as well. There are small boats (fishing boats I think) that ferry people back and forth.

It's one of the nicest "secret" spots in Japan. The inaccessibility and lack of development has kept it off most tourist radars.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Oura Cathedral is a beautiful building.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Why don't Japan just try to put the whole country on UNESCO heritage list? Talk about running something into the ground! They are addicted to compliments.

Japan is like an insecure teenage girl willing to sacrifice her dignity online just for some likes. Which has also been described as an addiction by the medical community. This is also like the TV shows that look for foreigners at the airport to tell Japanese people why Japan is so great.

I will admit that it is a nice a photo.

-2 ( +17 / -19 )

Go by bicycle. Did it twice myself. If you leave Nagasaki city early, a small ferry from Mogi (茂木) to Tomioka (富岡), Reihoku (苓北) will get you to Shimoshima Island (下島) in Amakusa. Head due south along the ocean road, Rt389, with almost no traffic through Sakitsu (崎津) and on to the main road from Amakusa City to the ferry port if Ushibuka (牛深). That’s one day if you’re in a hurry. A delight.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

A group of nervous peasants approached a French priest at Oura Cathedral and one woman whispered "our hearts are the same as yours"

I wonder how they said it, I don't think they spoke French at the time (even university students now can barely speak English).

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@ike. Thanks. I was wondering what to do for our summer holidays.

giving 12 Christian sites World Heritage status makes a mockery of such status. Just some crumbling old churches. Japan has many more important places. Just one church is enough to explain that in Japan christians weren’t welcome, but 12?

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

The era of Christianity in Japan is quite important in Japanese history although, it only gets a brief mention in high school textbooks. On the other hand, the following era when Japan locked out foreigners is extensively covered in textbooks. Something to ponder.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A fascinating, if grim period of Japanese history.

The orthodox church in Toyohashi, Aichi is worth a peek.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Good to see this. I have been to a few of these sites, very worthwhile.

I know there are those who question why 12 sites needed to be included; however, the submission to UNESCO was based on the subject matter, which was the Hidden Christian sites and what they represent. It is not just about the individual sites and what they individually represent, but also the overall subject / theme.

And, in fact, the impact on Japanese history and cultural is incalculable. Japan closing itself to the West for 250 years was in great part due to the impact of Christianity on Japan and the threat it was perceived to pose to the rule of Japan by the leaders of Japan, where unwavering allegiance was threatened by the idea of subjects whose ultimate allegiance was to a supreme being rather than to themselves.

As such, recognizing this part of Japanese history and its impact on Japanese culture is actually well warranted.

Apart from that, visiting these sites is encouraging Japanese and non-Japanese alike to visit a part of Japan and learn about a part of Japan not widely known. And a very beautiful part of the country to boot.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

And, in fact, the impact on Japanese history and cultural is incalculable. Japan closing itself to the West for 250 years was in great part due to the impact of Christianity on Japan and the threat it was perceived to pose to the rule of Japan by the leaders of Japan, where unwavering allegiance was threatened by the idea of subjects whose ultimate allegiance was to a supreme being rather than to themselves.

What is weird is that there are some in J-government and some public people that I have talked to and seen in Japan who want to see it closed off again. A lot of the protectionist business practices and "this is Japan" crowd know what I am talking about. That is a byproduct of that time in Japanese history.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Agreed with most of the above comments. Read the book and saw most of the film and movie versions, all very different takes on a difficult theme. These sites were built with a collective and emotional feeling, with a particular touch of Japanese sensibility. Beautiful and from the heart, whatever religion(s) they represent. This history has partly surfaced here and there, but there is surely so much more beneath the surface.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Reading school textbooks at Doshita Schools and University’s you would be led to believe that japan is a Christian country.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good to see UNESCO celebrate a period where Japan got it right.  OK, OK, too brutal I know, but still it was a time when Japan was fighting to keep its identity in the face of a foreign invasion.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Silvafan: The Rising Wasabi got there before you -

https://www.therisingwasabi.com/unesco-adds-whole-of-japan-to-world-heritage-list-to-save-time/

And full marks on the insecure teen girl comparison. "Do you think I'm pretty? Am I prettier than her? Do you like me most?"

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Does anyone know the name/location of the church in the article picture?

Thanks

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's one of the nicest "secret" spots in Japan. The inaccessibility and lack of development has kept it off most tourist radars.

Sadly not anymore.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Just some crumbling old churches.

Disagree. I live in Kumamoto and have traveled extensively through the area (hint: bring a tent). The buildings are neither particularly old nor impressive (though the surrounding scenery is); what is being celebrated here is the endurance of the human spirit.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's a known fact that Christianity and Islam have existed in Imperial China since the 7th century AD. Hasn't it been in Japan sometime between then and 1549? Buddhism began in India and it spread throughout the Orient kind of fast.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Yoshifumi,

Does anyone know the name/location of the church in the article picture?

It's Nokubi Church on Nozaki Island in Nagasaki.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

These sites have been denied until now because Japan failed to properly address the persecution and white-washed it. I doubt they’ve changed their tune much, given they reneged on the conditions for have Gunkajima (or whatever it’s called) listed.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

starpunk, good point. There are various theories about earlier Christianity in Japan and it's an interesting area to look at. A case could be made for the cross of Shimazu being from an earlier time. Roman coins were recently excavated in Okinawa. There are actually some weird theories too about a Star-of-David like symbol, and about Christ ending up dying and being buried in Japan.

When it appeared, possibly anew, in the 1540s, it came with the introduction of firearms and all of Western culture, and was quickly adopted  by many of the top warlords and their fiefs. This made it dangerous to the central authorities; they saw control over the people being placed in the hands of the Pope and other secular world powers like Portugal, Holland and Spain. The suppression was savage and long-lasting, driving what was left deep underground.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

These sites have been denied until now because Japan failed to properly address the persecution and white-washed it. 

You just made that up. I am intimately familiar with this application, and there was no mention at all of that. Don't you have better things to do?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Commanteer: your selective memory is not my problem, bud. Both in 2016 and in May of this year — both covered on JT — the local governments discussed scrapping plans for the sites and related sites because the UNESCO panel said they played up the longevity of Christianity in Japan while failing to see the irony, that they were the ones who tried to stamp it out, and that they did not talk about the persecution seriously enough. I doubt very much since May they changed it that much. More likely UNESCO just decided to take some

money.

as for having better things to do, heck true mirror as you read and reply, amigo.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

“as for having better things to do, heck true mirror as you read and reply, amigo.”

that’s “check the mirror”

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Congratulations!! This will be a massive tourist boom in southern areas, as foreign tourists now flock to Pilgrimage in World Heritage sights. There are several more sights I would like awarded the World Heritage prize throughout Japan. Tokyo Tower, Tsukiji fish market and Golden Gai in Shinjuku, for instance. There are many more outside Tokyo also.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Let’s see. More UNESCO world heritage sits means more tourists, more money for the empty coffers. How many new Japanese are going to be baptized in the foreseeable or even distant future? Few. Selling their soul - again for a few dimes. Oh well. What other value, someone, is there in setting a few more heritage sites in something Japan NEVER cared for? Really sad.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

The era of Christianity in Japan is quite important in Japanese history although, it only gets a brief mention in high school textbooks. On the other hand, the following era when Japan locked out foreigners is extensively covered in textbooks. Something to ponder.

At least there's something well covered in Japanese textbooks :)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

your selective memory is not my problem, bud. Both in 2016 and in May of this year — both covered on JT 

Again, I read the documents themselves, which are the only official records. Maybe somebody said something to somebody and it ended up on JT. But there is nothing at all all in the documents I read. I am quite certain I know more than whoever was reporting for JT or whatever news service made that claim.

So far as having "better things to do," I was referring to the constant negativity. I don't deny I waste my time here.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan failed to properly address the persecution and white-washed it.

The Shimabara rebellion some 400 years ago, when Japan was a Shogunate. Are you seriously suggesting that it has anything to do with the current Japanese government? We are talking centuries ago. Do you know how violent the world was then?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I particularly like religious sites of antiquity, since that means they are no longer in use for their intended and often repressive uses.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

nandakandamandaThere are various theories about earlier Christianity in Japan and it's an interesting area to look at. A case could be made for the cross of Shimazu being from an earlier time. Roman coins were recently excavated in Okinawa. There are actually some weird theories too about a Star-of-David like symbol, and about Christ ending up dying and being buried in Japan.

I've heard about the Roman coins in Japan. Makes sense since what is now Thailand had a replenishment port for Roman merchant vessels and the Chinese Empire traded with the Roman Empire (calling it 'Tien'). Roman traded with India and African kingdoms too (where'd they get those animals for their stadium games, for instance). China had stories of a religious prophet who'd come from the 'West' - a possible reference to Christ. It wouldn't surprise me about the other things you mentioned with the extensive 'middle man' trade and such but the theory of Jesus dying and being buried in Japan has no merit. Sounds like a kooky New Age story to me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_Portugal

A Portuguese missionary secretly kidnapped Japanese much. Hideyoshi Toyotomi notice about that and decided to ban Christianity.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Only Catholicism is true." Had this gone another way, with the Japanese persecuted Christians becoming the majority, Buddhism would've been banned, temples razed, and the English and Dutch Protestants in Kyushu burned at the stake by some of the Catholic martyr leaders, who, historically, got the "best press" for being 'the' persecuted' , not 'the' persecutors'. What was happening in Catholic Portugal and Spain in the 17th century? Hmmm?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites