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In 1864, French Catholic missionary Bernard Thadee Petitjean opened the Oura Catholic Church. After the completion of the Church, some of the underground Christians from Urakami confided in Petitjean by telling him that they were Christian and had been practicing the religion in secret. This was the first confirmation the Church had of remaining Christians in Japan that had stayed underground for 250 despite punishment of torture and death. Petitjean convinced some of the underground Christians from Urakami to openly follow their beliefs. By doing so, the group from Urakami went against Tokugawa religion control policy. 3400 of these Christians were arrested. While some of the Urakami villagers were imprisoned and tortured, many were sent to Tsuwano. In Tsuwano, some of the exiles were tortured and 36 were eventually put to death. Even after the transfer to the Meiji government, it wasn’t until pressure from the West mounted that the exiles were allowed to return home in 1873. In 1889, the Japanese constitution granted religious freedom. Today there is a Church and museum in Tsuwano remembering the martyrs and all of the pains endured by the Christians.
Copyright © 2006 Brendan Eagan