A Church on the Bay - Sakitsu Catholic Church and Town

A Church on the Bay - Sakitsu Catholic Church and Town
Sakitsu Catholic Church: A Gothic church located about 28 km southwest of Hondo district.

It is in the small fishing village, and was built in 1934. The scenery that there is a noble church in the rustic Japanese fishing village is very unique.

(By route bus, get off at Kyokai-iriguchi stop.)

Kakure Kirishitan (Japanese for "Hidden Christian") is a modern term for a member of the Japanese Catholic Church during the Edo-era that went underground after the Shimabara Rebellion in the 1630s. After the start of the Sakoku period in 1639, it was officially prohibited from teaching the European Catholic religion. Sakitsu was a one of areas where Kakure Kirishitan were living.

Kakure Kirishitans are called the "hidden" Christians because they continued to practice Christianity in secret. They worshipped in secret rooms in private homes. As time went on, the figures of the saints and the Virgin Mary were transformed into figurines that looked like the traditional statues of the Buddha and bodhisattvas. The prayers were adapted to sound like Buddhist chant, yet retained many untranslated words from Latin, Portuguese and Spanish. The Bible and other parts of the liturgy were passed down orally, because printed works could be confiscated by authorities. Because of the official expulsion of the Catholic clergy in the 17th century, the Kakure Christian community relied on lay leaders to lead the services.

In some cases, the communities drifted away from Christian teachings. They lost the meaning of the prayers and their religion became a version of the cult of ancestors, in which the ancestors happened to be their Christian martyrs.

Approximately 30,000 secret Christians, some of whom had adopted these new ways of practicing Christianity, came out of hiding when religious freedom was re-established in the mid-19th century after the Meiji Restoration. The Kakure Kirishitan became known as Mukashi Kirishitan, or "ancient" Christians, and emerged not only from traditional Christian areas in Kyushu, but also from other rural areas of Japan.

The majority of Kakure Kirishitan rejoined the Catholic Church after renouncing unorthodox, syncretic practices. Some Kakure Kirishitan did not rejoin the Catholic Church, and became known as the Hanare Kirishitan (separated Christians). Hanare Kirishitan are now primarily found in Urakami and on the Goto Islands.