Japan - Hidden Christians - 12 min 05 sec [18 February 2008]




Japan – Hidden Christians

12’ 05”


Nagasaki bombing

Music

00:00


MCLEOD: In Nagasaki all hell broke loose on that fateful August morning sixty two years ago.

00:15

Cathedral ruins

Music

00:22


MCLEOD: The Urakami Catholic cathedral at the epicentre of the blast was blown apart.

00:27


Music

00:32


MCLEOD: It wasn’t the first time Japan’s Christians had suffered a mortal blow.

00:36

Stained glass window

In the mid-1500s Christianity was introduced by Spanish missionaries. For fifty years it flourished, until its popularity posed such a threat to Japan’s rulers, it was outlawed.

00:42

Ikitsuki island

Chanting

01:04

Kawasaki praying


01:14


MCLEOD: Those who continued to practice their faith became hidden Christians. Breaking a long standing family tradition of secrecy is Ikitsuki islander Masaichi Kawasaki.

01:20


KAWASAKI: I’ve been instructed by my parents to have the utmost respect

01:34

Kawasaki

because it’s a God that has been enshrined from generation to generation by my ancestors.

01:40

Hot springs

Music

01:48


MCLEOD: Earlier generations of Christians who failed to hide their religious beliefs suffered torture and brutality.

01:51


This is Unzen Jigoku -- the name literally means hell. Today, the hot springs here are a tourist attraction. More than 300 years ago close to forty thousand Japanese Christians died excruciating deaths here. They were boiled alive or beheaded. Their deaths were a savage lesson to Japan’s Christians that their faith would no longer be tolerated.

02:05

Buddhist temple ceremony

Chanting

02:33


MCLEOD: Religion plays an important role in the lives of most Japanese.

02:42


Today on Ikitsuki island, this Buddhist ceremony is calling for a bountiful harvest for the island’s fishing fleet.

02:50


Chanting

02:58


MCLEOD: The local Buddhist priest Zuisho Matsuno knows there’s ‘hidden Christians’ in his congregation.

03:07


MATSUNO: These are serving as supporters of the Buddhist temple without discriminating against us. They co-operate with us. We don’t expel them or tell them to quit their faith.

03:18


MCLEOD: For some here their Buddhist bows are just for show -- they’re leading double lives. They’re the descendents of Christian families long since forced to publicly renounce their faith.

03:39


MATSUNO: When I was a child everybody called it the “closet God” and I knew it was enshrined at every Christian home.

03:57

Japanese Virgin Marys

MCLEOD: What began as Christianity has become something quite different. A peculiar feature of the hidden Christians is the novelty of not one but two Virgin Marys. They take their place alongside Shinto and Buddhist shrines. More a cult of ancestry than a religion, generations of hidden Christians have furtively honoured the memory of their forebears.

04:10

Kawasaki

KAWASAKI: My parents told me that if I didn’t cherish God and my ancestors my life would be ruined.

04:38

Boat travelling to Goto island

Music

04:51

Kawasaki in boat

MCLEOD: To preserve their faith and escape the wrath of authority, the ancestors of today’s Christians fled to remote islands off Nagasaki. This cross and statue on Goto island has recently been erected to pay homage to hidden Christian families.

05:02

Kakimori on rocks by Christian statue

Even here on this rough and inhospitable coastline they lived in peril. Fisherman Yoshiyuki Maekawa recounts the local folklore.

05:25

Maekawa

MAEKAWA: They were in the cave and started a fire to cook their meal. Then smoke came out, the smoke was seen by a boat out at sea and in the end they were captured and tortured by the shogunate.

05:39

Kakimori on rocks by Christian statue

MCLEOD: Kazutoshi Kakimori is a seventh generation Christian from Nagasaki. A local historian, he quit his job with the city government to embark on a personal mission.

05:56


KAKIMORI: I can appreciate that there was an event in Goto that sends out an important message to all mankind.

06:12

Kakimori

I think we can view this place as one of the pages of the history of Christianity.

06:22

Kakimori on boat

MCLEOD: With the formal backing of the Vatican, sixty year old Kazutoshi Kakimori – now a Catholic -- is on a pilgrimage to win World Heritage status for various hidden Christian sites.

06:37

Kakimori walks with McLeod to cemetery

Nestled in thick forest on the side of the mountain, a martyrs’ cemetery -- the final resting place for Hisaki island’s hidden Christians.

06:57


KAKIMORI: I consider this place is a heritage we should continue passing on, as one memory from the history of Christianity.

07:10

Catholic church


07:24


MCLEOD: Like many in his congregation, local Catholic priest Sakae Kojima is descended from a family of hidden Christians. This is a parish that shares a shocking past.

07:36


KOJIMA: For 250 years we were hidden and kept our belief. Suddenly one day the hunting of Hidden Christians started.

07:49

Kojima

About 40 people were killed. My great grandfather was about 15 or 17 years old and he survived because he was a young man with physical strength.

08:08

Minagawa in radio studio

MCLEOD: Tatsuo Minagawa is a well known Tokyo broadcaster. He’s also a renaissance music detective.

08:32


Singing

08:47


MCLEOD: Searching for the long lost meaning of hidden Christian chants he scoured the libraries and museums of Europe before finally cracking the code.

08:56


MINAGAWA: It was like a miracle –

09:11

Minagawa

after seven years I found the sacred song called ‘O Glorious Domina’ which praised the Virgin Mary in the hymnal from the 16th century at a library in Spain.

09:20

Ocean

MCLEOD: Tatsuo Minagawa had at long last solved the mystery.

09:41

Minagawa

MINAGAWA: My hands shivered. It meant a local priest from that area came to Japan 400 years ago and taught farmers and fishermen.

09:50


Music

10:05

Ikitsuki island cemetery

MCLEOD: On Ikitsuki island Buddhists and hidden Christians are buried side by side.

10:11

Masaichi and Nobu tend grave

This is the grave of Masaichi Kawasaki’s father. His widow Nobu recalls the deceptive, the disingenuous nature of her husband’s funeral.

10:20


NOBU: They did it in Buddhist and Hidden Christian style.

10:36

Nobu

The Buddhist priest did the ceremony but after the Buddhist priest finished they did another ritual, saying it was all false.

10:43

Matsuno

MATSUNO: When we go to a Hidden Christian’s home for a funeral and give them a requiem they say that was all a lie.

11:00

Masaichi and Nobu at cemetery

I once said “Hey if you’re going to do such a thing I’m not giving a requiem.” Then they kept saying “Please if we don’t do this, we’ll be cursed.”

11:11


MCLEOD: The curse for Japan’s hidden Christians no longer exists -- members of this obscure sect are dying out.

11:27


Music



MCLEOD: An arcane religion kept alive through centuries now faces an uncertain future. No longer persecuted, nor hidden. Challenged instead by the indifference of the modern world.

11:40

Credits:

Reporter: Shane Mcleod

Camera: Jun Matsuzono

Research: Yumiko Asada

Editor: Bryan Milliss

Producer: Ian Altschwager

12:03




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