Kakure Kirishitan

Japan’s “Hid­den Chris­tians,” con­vert­ed through the mis­sion­ary activ­i­ty of St Fran­cis Xavier (AD 1549) and sep­a­rat­ed com­plete­ly from the main­line Catholic Church, hid­den, sub­ject to active per­se­cu­tion, car­ry­ing on in clan­des­tine secre­cy for gen­er­a­tions — over three hun­dred years.


Their history has war­rant­ed an entry in the Catholic Ency­clo­pe­dia.

And a Wikipedia entry.


Short sum­ma­ry with image of vin­tage plac­ard

At ini­tial con­ver­sion there were 150,000.

The KK remained hid­den, oper­at­ing in secret rooms, until 1865 when a group of Chris­tians announced their faith in pub­lic.


Perversions in doctrine


The KK remained faith­ful but as they became fur­ther removed, through gen­er­a­tions, there were changes to their faith. It has been writ­ten that in time the mean­ing of the orig­i­nal prayers (in Latin) became for­got­ten so that they were just sound-recita­tions, incan­ta­tions … and the cen­tral rite of the KK became a ser­vice involv­ing cup­ping a a small, cup­like dish of rice. The was a ques­tion of cler­gy — there were priests among the first group. Did they have bish­ops among them to ordain future priests? What was their role in the hid­den com­mu­ni­ty?

Reunion in the Nineteenth Century

Catholic priests were admit­ted to Japan hun­dreds of years lat­er, in the 1860s.

Some KK rec­og­nized it as the Church (after grilling the vis­it­ing priest on his doc­trine!) and, thus sat­is­fied, will­ing­ly joined their sep­a­rat­ed brethren, shed­ding all of the doc­tri­nal errors that these years of iso­la­tion brought. On March 17, 1865, Father Bernard Petit­jean was approached by the KK, who until then were unknown to the world.

Oth­er KK did not rec­og­nize it and remained in secret. Some may exist today.

KK Today

Mr. Taniya­ma is the head of a KK house­hold who has decid­ed not to pass the faith down to his chil­dren; Mr. Fuku­moto’s par­ents and fam­i­ly were KK but joined the pub­lic Church [tolaf.edu/depts/asian-studies/projects/kakurekirishitan/ikitsukipics.html”>story with photos (scroll down)]

News story, “Young Japan­ese on a pil­grim­age to find the roots of the nation’s Catholi­cism” (2006)

Sub­ject of a paper, “Kirishi­tan and Today” [pdf] by Shusaku Endo. [to-find.html”>more]

Fr. Peter Mil­ward (b. 1925), Shake­speare­an expert, Jesuit schol­ar, has resided in Japan and writ­ten on the Kakure [more]



Some exist at the Ikit­su­ki muse­um, Island of Ikit­su­ki, Japan. [tolaf.edu/depts/asian-studies/projects/kakurekirishitan/ikitsukipics.html”>photos and tour]



[amazonify]1873410700::text::::The Kakure Kirishi­tan of Japan: A Study of Their Devel­op­ment, Beliefs and Rit­u­als to the Present Day[/amazonify] by Stephen Turn­bull (Rout­ledge­Cur­zon 1998) is the first major ill­lus­trat­ed work to doc­u­ment and describe the KK

Christal Whe­lan, The Begin­ning of Heav­en and Earth: The Sacred Book of Japan’s Hid­den Chris­tians (Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai’i Press, 1996)
[[amazonify]0824818245::text::::avail­able on sale for cheap on ama­zon[/amazonify]]

Modern documentaries

Sev­er­al doc­u­men­taries exist.

Brendan Eagan’s Web Photo-documentary

tolaf.edu/depts/asian-studies/projects/kakurekirishitan/index.html”>Photo-Doc­u­men­tary of Chris­t­ian history in Japan with Con­cen­tra­tion on Hid­den Chris­tians by Bren­dan Eagan (2006) con­tains an eight-minute pre­view video, hun­dreds of photograh­ps, and long tran­scrip­tions. Worth view­ing


New doc­u­men­tary film on the KK by Christal Whe­lan: Otaiya: Japan’s Hid­den Chris­tians (34 min)


For further reference

[amazonify]1873410700[/amazonify] [amazonify]0824818245[/amazonify]

First published on January 12th, 2009 at 8:40 pm (EST) and last modified on March 6th, 2009 at 1:32 pm (EST).

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