Skip to main content
Blog Posts

Nagasaki: Hidden Christians in Japan

Discover the devotion of Japanese Christians through relics of the past.

Sakitsu Church in Amakusa, Japan
Photo by kanonsky -

In sixteenth-century Japan, Christianity was introduced to the Japanese people through Francisco Xavier and other Jesuit missionaries. Christianity spread as many accepted its teachings, resulting in an influx of missionaries who continued to share the Christian message across Japan.

However, the Tokugawa shogunate banned the religion and expelled the Jesuit missionaries when they suspected that Spain was using Christianity as a ploy to expand its territories. By outlawing Christianity, the shogunate forced the believing Christians into secrecy, creating a group of Japanese called the Hidden Christians (Kakure Kirishitans). Today in Nagasaki and the surrounding regions, visitors can see relics of Christianity from Japan’s past.

Ikitsuki Island

Located in western Japan, Ikitsuki Island was a refuge for Hidden Christians who incorporated Christian teachings into Buddhist ceremonies and practices, creating a hybrid community during a time of heavy repression. The Shima no Yakata Museum in Hirado City features exhibits about the history of the island and the Hidden Christians. To learn more about the martyrdom and repression of Japanese Christians, visit Ikitsuki and its historic museum.

Oura Cathedral

After the shogunate ended the Christianity prohibition and re-opened Japan to foreign trade, a group of Christians came out of hiding to practice openly. In 1864, they built Oura Cathedral in the heart of Nagasaki. Oura Cathedral is the oldest standing church in Japan and the location of the Miracle of the Orient and the Discovery of Hidden Christians. This relic of the Japanese Christian experience is a worthwhile stop on your tour of Nagasaki and Japan.

Oura Cathedral
Photo by M・H –

Nokubi Church

A symbol of Christian devotion, Nokubi Church was originally constructed out of wood in 1882. Later, 17 families living on Ojika Island replaced the church with a brick version designed by Tetsukawa Yosuke. When the church was completed in October 1908, the Hidden Christians of Ojika finally had a proper place to worship. The church became a testament of their undying faith and devotion. Visit Nokubi Church and celebrate the faith of hundreds of Japanese Christians as well as the beauty of Ojika Island.

A tragic and faith-filled history is captured in the hearts of the people and the relics found across Nagasaki and the surrounding areas. Despite the persecution that these Japanese Christians suffered, they left a legacy of faith. Discover their story of devotion; make Nagasaki your next travel destination.