yCATHOLIC CHURCHES IN AMAMI z
* Christianity was first brought to Japan by Francisco Xavier who arrived in Kagoshima in 1549. Nobunaga, the most powerful feudal lord of the day, supported the Christian missionary work. However, Hideyoshi, his successor, eventually banned the propagation. In 1597, he executed lots of propagators and the faithful. Twenty-six of the martyrs were canonized and 205 were beautified in the 19th and 20th century.
* There were a good many martyrs, young and old, also in the early Edo period, under the severe persecution by Tokugawa shogunate. One hundred and eighty-eight martyrs of the day were beautified as the blessed by the Vatican in Nagasaki last November. Nagasaki is a district where many clandestine Catholic retained their faith all through the feudal Edo period.
* It is said that Catholic missionary activities started in Amami in 1891 . So Catholicism is 118 years old here. Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are not very conspicuous in Amami, but you can find many Catholic churches in towns and villages. They are part of Amamian landscape now. For instance, there are seven churches in Kasari-cho, also seven churches in Tatsugo-cho and 11 churches in the Naze area, Amami-city. No martyrdom is reported here, but the faithful were oppressed under rampant Japanese militarism during World War II.
Picture 1 Mikokoro (Sacred Heart) Church in Naze.
Picture 2 Sedome Church in Tatsugo-cho celebrates its 100 anniversary this December.
Picture 3 Ohgasari Church in Kasari-cho.
Picture 4 A churchyard at Ohgasari.