This past Sunday I went on an AMAZING adventure with Shoko's uncle (Hamamura-san). He has the exact same interest in Japanese history as I do and especially the time when Christianity was first introduced to Japan and then the corresponding years that it was driven underground by the Tokugawa regime. I will post links to the places I visited and the people I am talking about if you want to learn more about it.
So we drove from Ogori, Fukuoka to Amakusa, Kumamoto. It is a beautiful drive along the sea. People think that since I'm on an island that I see the ocean and sea everyday. This is not at all the case as I rarely see either to be honest. It was suppose to rain with a 90% chance and most of the stuff we wanted to do was going to be outside aside from going to museums along the way. Hamamura-san is not a Christian though he is very interested in it and so I was excited to have this chance to be used by God possibly to share my faith with him and not just that, but build a solid friendship over a common interest. So I prayed to God for it to not rain and that we could enjoy the trip and sightseeing together rain free so we never had to have the feeling of being rushed or hurried. Guess what it NEVER rained the entire time until the end of the trip just a little as we begin to look for a place for dinner.
We first arrive at Amakusa Christian Museum. We watched two different films one of them was presented in 3D. I kid you not. They have Christians running around dying and screaming in 3D for your viewing pleasure..... After these two videos you can go on your way and learn about the life of Japanese Christians in Amakusa starting in the 1500's through the 1600's. You learn about the many different people that brought Christianity to Amakusa both non-Japanese and Japanese. About how many of the Daimyo converted to Christianity and in the process their familes and their samurai also converted.
After this we headed for Amakusa Collgio Museum. There they have a replica of the Gutenberg Printing Press and they showed us how it was used to print many Christian books and literature in general. It was kind of a let down to be honest everything they had there was fake and the tour was mostly a guy just talking about the press and a few musical interments that were also fake.....lol. The guide did talk a lot about the "Black Ships" the sailed in to the Japanese water carrying the first foreigners and they had replicas of those ships as well. It was a good history lesson. Supposedly Amakusa was the only place outside of Europe that had the Gutenberg Printing Press because it was brought by the missionaries. So that was a cool tidbit of history.
We then went to this little city hall type of place that was not on any tourist info that I had that Hamamura-san knew about. It was not really a popular site, but they had some of the most interesting artifacts from this time period. The had paintings and battle flags. Maps of the time, books, pottery, weapons and even a samurai outfit. It had a little of everything in this oversized room. It was really breathtaking to see all of these real items that were used in secret so that these people could carry on their faith without exposing themselves or loved ones. It was one of the highlights of the trip and it was FREE to look around.
This is around lunch time so we decided get some grub at "Honey" which is like a Japanese version of Denny's. We talk about our trip thus far and then break it down on what we have enjoyed and learned. Then we talked about our next plan of action.
We decided to hit up Amakusa Rosario Hall. Now this place is really cool, but they had ZERO English info. So I had to rely on Hamamura-san for all of the information. They had a TON of artifacts that were used by the Christians in hiding during this time period. They had an exhibit where you could see a hidden room in a Christian's house where they would hide to pray and worship God. It was like something out of Anne Frank. Expect it happen 400 years earlier. They had these Buddhist status that looked like Buddha, but in fact were Mary holding baby Jesus. Also, incense holders for Buddhist/Shinto practices, but had crosses carved in them on their backsides so no one would know that they were offering up their prayers to Jesus. Just a lot of handmade crosses and Christian images that have been found or kept through the years. It was the most interesting place we visited by far.
To close out our wonderful trip we decided to go visit two old churches that reside almost side by side on two different small islands. They both have a lot of history dating back to the start of the early 1900's. The first one we headed to was Sakitsu Cathedral a gothic church that was built by Father Harb in 1934 and looks the same as it did when they first built it. After that we visited Oe Cathedral. This church has a deeper history. The church was first built after the ban on Christianity was lifted. The church that stands there today was built by a French priest named Father Garnier in 1933 with his OWN money. His entire life was doing missionary work and he died here during this work for our Lord. He is buried right next to the church that he served for all those years. The really cool thing about both of these houses of worship is that they have Japanese versions of graveyards. You usually see huge plots of land with these stone markers that are used for Buddhist/Shinto believers when they die and their loved ones put their ashes in these large stone tombs. However, I have never seen a Christian one before let alone spread out all over, but both of these churches had them and not just some little building where they stored the Christian folks that died ashes, but full on graves. It was really a sight to behold. If you come to Japan sometime you will understand my awe and amazement in seeing this with my own eyes. It is SUPER rare. I was greatly moved. The last thought here I wanted to say that these two churches are still being used today. They are still places where people can come and dwell and learn about our shared faith. It is good to see this in a country that has long hated, feared, and despised Christians. There is so much work to be done, but it is good that it can now be done in a safe and powerful way.
After this we headed home, but we had to stop for some famous Kumamoto food. So we went to a local restaurant that specialized in this region of Japan's food. Octopus, sweet paste, lotus root, salted fish, & raw horse. http://wikitravel.org/en/Kumamoto_(prefecture)
It was a really remarkable day for me. It is something I will not forget and I will always cherish. I can't thank Hamamura-san enough for taking me on this journey and I hope that God used me in some small way to show him the truth, life, & love of Jesus Christ.