In Search of Japan's Hidden Christians: A Story of Suppression, Secrecy and Survival

In Search of Japan's Hidden Christians: A Story of Suppression, Secrecy and Survival

by John Dougill


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The story of Japan's hidden Christians is the subject of a major motion picture by director Martin Scorsese, based on Shusaku Endo's famous novel, Silence.

From the time the first Christian missionary arrived in Japan in 1549 to when a nationwide ban was issued in 1614, over 300,000 Japanese were converted to Christianity. A vicious campaign of persecution forced the faithful to go underground. For seven generations, Hidden Christians—or Kirishitan—preserved a faith that was strictly forbidden on pain of death. Illiterate peasants handed down the Catholicism that had been taught to their ancestors despite having no Bible or contact with the outside world.

Just as remarkably, descendants of the Hidden Christians continue to this day to practice their own religion, refusing to rejoin the Catholic Church. Why? And what is it about Christianity that is so antagonistic to Japanese culture? In Search of Japan's Hidden Christians is an attempt to answer these questions. A journey in both space and time, In Search of Japan's Hidden Christians recounts a clash of civilizations—of East and West—that resonates to this day and offers insights about the tenacity of belief and unchanging aspects of Japanese culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9784805313565
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

John Dougill has lived in Japan for over twenty years and is professor at a Buddhist university in the heart of Kyoto. He is an associate editor for Japanese Religions and co-author of a guide to Shinto Shrines. Educated at Leeds and Oxford Universities, he taught for three years in the Middle East before spending ten months traveling around the world. As well as following the path of early Christians around Kyushu, he has journeyed from Lake Baikal to Lake Biwa in search of Japan's shamanistic roots and traversed the country researching Japan's World Heritage Sites. Amongst his hobbies are chess, the GreenShinto blog, and bird-spotting on the Kamogawa River.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction xi

Acknowledgments xv

Timeline xvii

Japanese Eras xxi

Prelude (Tanegashima) 3

1 Genesis (Kagoshima) 11

2 The Word (Yamaguchi) 29

3 Good News (Azuchi) 43

4 Commandments (Hakata) 55

5 Crucifixion (Nagasaki) 75

6 Persecution (Omura) 87

7 Apocalypse (Shimabara) 109

8 Post-Apocalypse (Amakusa Islands) 123

9 Silence (Sotome) 139

10 Sanctuary (Goto Islands) 159

11 Revelation (Urakami) 177

12 Last Rites (Hirado) 197

Notes 227

Bibliography 233

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