Amakusa is designated as Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region along with Nagasaki. I interviewed one of Monuments, ‘Sakitsu Village’ in Amakusa.
Sakitsu Village is a small settlement surrounded by the Ariake Sea and mountains. This area was close to Hirado, where trade with Portugal was thriving. Missionaries visited here many times and their religion spread. It is said that about 10,000 islanders were converted by the spirit of Christian philanthropy.
When Ieyasu ban on Christianity in 1612, Local supervisors, Matsukura Katsuie, have forced Christians to convert with water torture, solar attack, and mealless torture. Those who continue to worship have been submerged in the sea or slain by burning fire. Katsuie broke the church and expelled the Christian missionaries.
Repressed Christians began a revolt, called 'Shimabara Rebellion'. And they organized with farmers who suffered heavy taxes by Katsuie. The leader of the rebels was a young man named Shiro Amakusa. 37,000 rebels fought over 125,000 government troops. The rebels had no armor and fought for religion.
You can find out about Shimabara rebellion at the 'Amakusa Christian Museum’, but Homepage is in Japanese. So you will find an overview on this page. But the rebellion failed, and 37,000 rebels were executed by beheading. It breaks my heart just thinking about it. 😥
After this incident, Ieyasu felt a sense of crisis in Christianity, completely isolated Japan, and banned Christianity thoroughly. The dark era has begun for Japanese Catholics.
Christians who did not participate in the rebellion were tested of loyalty by 'fumie’ and were forced to convert. 'Fumie’ was a tablet with the image of Christ. People were ordered to tread on it to prove themselves non-Christians.
However, even after the missionaries disappeared, the believers continued their Christian religion, destined to be hidden Christians. They camouflaged the decorations for the Japanese-style New Year celebration. Christians of Sakitsu Village formed a cross with a pestle, and dedicated the rice hidden under the mortar to Mary.
In this way, they quietly celebrated Christmas at home.
After the Edo period, the government changed, Christianity was finally allowed. And the church was rebuilt. The church of Sakizu Village was built in a location where it tested of loyalty during the Edo period, at the request of the Father Halbout.
All villagers can now celebrate Christmas at the church. 🙂