Catholic Culture of the Month: Japanese

I JUST SAW THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please read! Very very true!

Oh yes, there are Japanese Catholics. They not only exist, but they thrive considering what they’ve been through in the past.

Since I have been to Japan, and lived there a while, and because of the horrible earthquake (s) and tsunami that have happened, I want to dedicate my first Catholic Culture Of the Month to the Japanese Catholics. They have been through a lot, and I know that the Japanese in general will make it through this disaster.

In case anyone was wondering why the English get to be the bad guys in a lot of movies, maybe its because of tidbits of history where some English jerk decides to let loose some good old anti-Catholic conspiracy theories in the Shogun’s ear. Of course, he being an opportunistic git, Mr. Adams saw that he could totally screw over the Portuguese Catholics by whispering that the Jesuits were coming to take over Japan. He personally betrayed fellow Christians, simply because they were Catholic, often telling where he had heard of a priest hiding.

Yeah, I know. Jesuits have always been kinda crazy, whether they’re sticking to the Church or toeing the line of heresy, but still- what an ass.

Because of this little insinuation, hundreds of thousands of Japanese Christians ended up martyred, especially after the Shimabara Rebellion in the years of 1700 or so. Thanks, you English git. Way to go, dragging in Japan on your stupid conflict.

Entire families were martyred:

After having served in the military, the Japanese Catholic nobleman Simon Kiyota Bokusai became a catechist, founding a school for this purpose. After learning of the catechetical school, the pagan Japanese emperor ordered Simon to close it. When in turn Simon refused to comply with this order, the emperor condemned Simon and his wife Magdalena to be put to death by crucifixion together with another Catholicfamily living under their roof. The latter family consisted of Thomas Gengoro, his wife Mary, and their very young son, James Bunzo. Shortly before his execution, Simon confided to a religious in a letter, “I hope that, if my sins offer no obstacle, I may go in a few hours to enjoy eternal happiness. I entreat you to obtain for me perseverance.” The next day, before setting out for the place of their crucifixion in Kokura, Simon, Magdalena, Thomas, Mary, and James all knelt down before a crucifix to prepare themselves. When later the five reached the execution site, they individually prostrated themselves before the respective crosses on which they were to die.

There’s also the martyrs of Nagasaki, which I’m personally convinced is why Satan might have influenced where the bombs fell (Nagasaki and Hiroshima were traditionally more Christian than other parts of Japan) and the many many many families who died. You can find a short history on it here, as well as a list of some of the martyrs of Japan here. The majority of Saints from Japan are martyrs.

Although historians say that the official persecution of Christians ended in the Meiji era, this isn’t very truthful in that it leads you to believe that the persecution by the state actually stopped. It didn’t, especially in the case of Catholic Christians. Protestant Christians had more luck, because they are not as united under one faith, and are therefore less of a threat.

Even so, I met members of the Church in Japan, and the older ones told me of how they had hidden their faith until after WWII. Especially as Shinto was the state religion, and appearing to be partial to “foreign” religions was seen as being a traitor, people were very careful to hide themselves, or at least keep it relatively discreet. It is still rather difficult to be a practicing Catholic in Japan, although that just has a lot to do with the work hours and the different values for family time. Don’t get me wrong- Japanese people are very open to anything, and I rarely saw anything even slightly ugly in their attitudes towards religion. The most attitude I got was a comment of “They’re a little odd…” which is understandable. Christians ARE odd.

Great picture, not from the best blog. Warning: heresy alert from the OP of the other blog.

I was shown how Christians made little shrines in the back of their Bhuddist ones, and of how a pagan statue of mother and child was deliberately used to conceal the real meaning. Often there would be little scratches of crosses, only visible upon close inspection.

When I first went to my church in Hikone, Saint Joseph Catholic Church, I noticed all of the little “spirit houses” in the yard of the church. I was getting that sinking feeling that heresy brings until I read some of the information about the history of the Church in Japan. After that, I went out to look closer at the spirit houses- sure enough, there were Christian symbols hidden on the inside! I still wonder if these particular ones were old ones collected from the persecution times, of if they are merely replicas. It sure opened my eyes to a different way to view Catholic culture!


They get much more elaborate. I saw one that if I had had the bazillion yen required, I'd have bought it.


If you wanted to survive, you had to trample this fumie or another like it.

Even now, Catholicism is seen as a foreign thing in Japan. There’s still some stigma attached, and its connected to immigrants, especially the Brazilians and the Filipinos, who are not always treated with respect.

In any case, Japanese Catholics are very cool people, and they do a lot to help out, which does earn them a good name. The biggest problem I saw in Japan, however, were a great many foreign priests (Americans) who seem to want to take the Church in Japan into an age of heresy, I guess because we’re sick of it here. I learned very quickly to go to the Japanese language only Mass if I wanted to avoid sitting there wondering if my Mass had crossed from illicit into invalid, or if I wanted to hear any music that made me think of something other than liturgical silliness.

One heartening thing though- Japanese Catholic women love them some mantillas, especially during the big Masses like at Easter. Nothing is cooler than seeing a little old lady (or in some cases young ladies) all dolled up in a kimono with a veil adorning it all, coming up for communion at Easter. I guess that is more common in Kyoto than Tokyo though.

Although this ends on a sad note, I mentioned the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and how I wouldn’t be surprised if the Devil particularly pointed out these cities for such a horrible destruction. Doing a random search, I stumbled upon a poem written by a Japanese Catholic, who survived the bomb in Hiroshima.

Please pray for the souls that died in those bombs and in the war, and please pray for the conversion of the Japanese people. They are so incredibly strong!

“How Could I Ever Forget That Flash,” by Mitsuyoshi Toge

How could I ever forget that flash of light!
In a moment, thirty thousand people ceased to be,
The cries of fifty thousand killed
At the bottom of crushing darkness;

Through yellow smoke whirling into light,
Buildings split, bridges collapsed,
Crowded trams burnt as they rolled about
Hiroshima, all full of boundless heaps of embers.
Soon after, skin dangling like rags;
With hands on breasts;
Treading upon the broken brains;
Wearing shreds of burn cloth round their loins;
There came numberless lines of the naked,
all crying.
Bodies on the parade ground, scattered like
jumbled stone images of Jizo;
Crowds in piles by the river banks,
loaded upon rafts fastened to the shore,
Turned by and by into corpses
under the scorching sun;
in the midst of flame
tossing against the evening sky,
Round about the street where mother and
brother were trapped alive under the fallen house
The fire-flood shifted on.
On beds of filth along the Armory floor,
Heaps, and God knew who they were …
Heaps of schoolgirls lying in refuse
Pot-bellied, one-eyed, with half their skin peeled
off bald.
The sun shone, and nothing moved
But the buzzing flies in the metal basins
Reeking with stagnant ordure.
How can I forget that stillness
Prevailing over the city of three hundred thousands?
Amidst that calm,
How can I forget the entreaties
Of departed wife and child
Through their orbs of eyes,
Cutting through our minds and souls?

—Mitsuyoshi Toge


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