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December 2017

JAPAN SPECIAL: Follow the hidden history of Christianity in Japan!

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  • JAPAN SPECIAL: Follow the hidden history of Christianity in Japan!
  • JAPAN SPECIAL: Follow the hidden history of Christianity in Japan!

    Located in the Southwest region of Kumamoto Prefecture, Amakusa is a remote beauty waiting to be discovered. It’s made up of two main islands – Kamishima and Shimoshima, along with other small islands of varying sizes. The region is connected by five bridges that showcase amazing scenery of the scattered islands. Despite its distance from the city, Amakusa is a place where people can enjoy the peace and quiet of a fishing village.

    Hidden Christians of Amakusa

    Christianity was first brought to Japan in 1549 by a Jesuit priest named Francis Xavier when trading opened in Kagoshima. Not long after, it spread to neighboring areas such as Nagasaki and Amakusa.

    In 1614, the Tokugawa regime felt threatened by the growth of Christianity out of their fear of colonialism. Persecutions began and the eradication of Christianity started. Missionaries and priests alike were killed, while those who practiced Christianity were given an option to renounce their faith or face death. Some chose to convert to Shintoism and Buddhism in order to hide their Christian faith.

    Fed up with famine and cruel treatment, peasants from Amakusa organized a rebellion to fight against the regime. This resulted in the Shimbara Rebellion, still considered as one of the largest revolts during the Edo period. The Christians lost the rebellion when they got blindsided by an ally.

    Thousands of Japanese who fought for their religious freedom lost their lives during the rebellion. From then on, Christians in Nagasaki, especially those living in Amakusa, started worshiping in the shadows. They kept their faith for centuries despite facing great difficulties such as not having access to a church and Bible. Amakusa was a small group of islands. This made it a good hideout for Christians as it was hard to monitor.

    OE CHURCH. It’s the oldest Catholic Church in Amakusa and one of the first churches built after Japan lifted its ban on practicing Christianity.

    It took 250 years before the anti-Christian ban was lifted and religious freedom was given to the people of Japan. These days, Christianity in Amakusa is in danger of dying out as there are only a few people in Amakusa who practice the faith. If you want to know more, head for the Amakusa Collegio Museum in Shimo Amakusa to know more about the town’s history and its links to Christianity.

    How to get to (Shimo Shima) Amakusa:

    Getting to Amakusa is fairly easy. If you are coming from Tokyo (Narita), you can take a plane to Fukuoka. From there, take a flight with Amakusa Airline (AMX), the only airline offering direct flights to Amakusa. Amakusa Airline is the smallest airline company in Japan. It has planes with48 seats and flies three times every day between Amakusa and Fukuoka.

    Aside from Fukuoka, it also operates regional services between Amakusa and places such as Osaka and Kumamoto. Please be reminded to check their daily schedules. To reserve a ticket, you can book through their website, or any of their affiliated agencies. Flight from Fukuoka to Amakusa only takes 20 to 30 minutes.

    Upon arrival at Amakusa airport, ride a taxi or a shuttle bus to Hondo port or the central part of Amakusa. Travel time will take about 15 minutes and will cost ¥340 one way. To get around Amakusa, there are tour companies in town that will cost you ¥1,000.

    Where to go: a guide map

    JAPAN SPECIAL: Follow the hidden history of Christianity in Japan!
    click the image to enlarge

    Where to Go in Amakusa

    Where to Eat in Amakusa

    Where to Stay in Amakusa

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