The Churches of Nagasaki: Prayers through the Ages *RERUN
Nagasaki Prefecture is often referred to as the "home of Christianity" in Japan. The Christian faith first came to Japan in the mid-16th century. As Nagasaki was one of the ports for overseas trade at the time, many became believers. But what followed was a long and painful era for Japanese Christians. The Shogunate banned their faith and oppressed the believers for over 250 years. However, in many parts of Nagasaki, people secretly kept their faith, which has been passed down to their descendants to this day.

The Island of "Christians in Hiding"

There were a group of Christians who once continued their faith, hiding from the shogunate. They are known as "Kakure Kirishitan" or "Christians in hiding." Their ancestors have kept the Christian faith by outwardly pretending as Buddhists. On Ikitsuki Island, there are about 300 of them even today. Although they no longer need to hide their religion, they have upheld their traditional style of faith. What they offer to God is sashimi and consecrated sake, a replacement of the bread and wine that Catholics use at Mass.

A Reunion with the Virgin Mary

Oura Church was built in 1864, when Japan's shogunate government was coming to an end. The construction of churches was permitted to foreigners only, within the vicinity of their settlements. One month after completion of Oura Church, some people from a nearby village came to visit. They turned out to be Christians, who were thought to no longer exist in Japan. Eight years after this "discovery of believers," the government of Japan eventually allowed the freedom of religion.

O Holy Night

The Urakami Cathedral is one of the largest church buildings in Japan. The people of Nagasaki give special thought to the Angelus Bell in the Cathedral during Christmas. During World War II, the sound of the bell was not heard. And then, on the 9th of August, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped only 500 meters away from the Cathedral. But the Angelus Bell was unearthed from the rubble almost intact. It was Christmas Eve of the same year that the bell rang for the first time after a long absence.