Christianity in Japan

Some people believe “that Nestorian missionaries arrived in Japan via India, China and Korea in 199 AD and by 400 AD had planted the first churches in Japan” (OMF Christianity in Japan).  The more accepted belief is that Christianity began with the arrival of Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries who arrived in Kyushu in 1542, but more importantly Jesuit priest Francis Xavier(1506 – 1552) in 1549 in Kyoto.  “Despite Buddhist opposition, most of the Western warlords welcomed Christianity because they were keen in trade with overseas nations mainly for military reasons” (Japanese History: Muromachi Period 1333-1573).


Oda Nobunaga from Hyouge Mono

Oda Nobunaga (1534 – 1582) accepted Christianity and Western technology, such as the musket, which he used “as a tool…to suppress Buddhist forces” (Wikipedia’s Tokugawa shogunate “Shogun and Christianity“).

“In 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537 – 1598)  issued an edict expelling Christian missionaries. Nevertheless, Franciscans were able to enter the country in 1593, and the Jesuits remained active in Western Japan. In 1597 Hideyoshi intensified the persecution of Christian missionaries, forbade further conversions, and executed 26 Franciscans (Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan) as a warning . Foreign traders and missionaries had acted aggressively and intolerant towards native Japanese institutions in an era when their fellow countrymen were conquering and colonizing other parts of the world in the name of Christianity” (Japanese History: Azuchi-Momoyama Period 1573-1603).

Ieyasu Tokugawa from Sengoku Basara

“Though Christianity was allowed to grow until the 1610s, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616) soon began to see it as a growing threat to the stability of the Shogunate. As Ogosho (“Cloistered Shogun”), he influenced the implementing of laws that banned the practice of Christianity. His successors followed suit, compounding upon Ieyasu’s laws. The ban of Christianity is often linked with the creation of the Seclusion laws, or Sakoku, in the 1630s” (Wikipedia’s Tokugawa shogunate “Shogun and Christianity“).

Amakusa Shiro in Ninja Resurrection

For 250 years, a small group of Japanese Christians called Kakure Kirishitan (“hidden Christians”) continued to practice secretly  (Wikipedia’s Christmas Worldwide: Japan).  They went into hiding after the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638), which was led by the Christian Amakusa Shiro who is portrayed “as a tragic villain in Japanese popular culture” (Wikipedia’s Amakusa Shiro).  The Kakure Kishitan disguised Christian statues  as Buddhas while prayers were disguised as Buddhist chants; the Bible was passed on orally. (There is a documentary on the Kakure Kirishitan called “Otaiya: Japan’s Hidden Christians” (1997) by Christal Whelan).

Rurouni Kenshin, Lady Madgalena, Shogo Amakusa

The first Protestant missionaries arrived in Japan in 1859 after Commodore Matthew C. Perry (1794-1858) of the US Navy forced the end of Japan’s isolation in 1853 (OMF Christianity in Japan).

“In 1873 after the Meiji restoration, freedom of religion was promulgated, and especially since World War II the number of Japanese Christians has been slowly increasing again” (Christianity in Japan).

“Does God Love the Japanese?,” a Global Post article by David Nakamura, reported in 2009 “an estimated 1 percent of the 126 million Japanese identify themselves as Christian. By contract, in nearby South Korea, more than 25 percent of residents are said to be Protestant or Catholic.” (“Does God Love the Japanese?” Updated: 30 May 2010).

Jeanne d'arc from Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne

Japanese Christian Trope

Animes with Christianity:


Catholic School Settings:

Priests/Nun Characters:


Rosette from Chrono Crusades


5 Responses to “Christianity in Japan”

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