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5/30/2024 France (International Christian Concern) The difficult, troubled, yet faithful history of Christianity in Japan is currently on display in a Paris art exhibition titled “From Samurai to Manga, the Christian Epic in Japan.” The exhibit at the Paris Foreign Missions headquarters runs until July 13. It covers the period from 1549 when St. Francis Xavier brought the Christian gospel message to Kagoshima, Japan, through to the small yet vibrant Christian presence in Japan today.

A major element of the show details the persecution and marginalization that Christian foreign missionaries and local converts endured over time, including: 

  • 1587, Shōgun Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered all foreign missionaries to leave Japan. 
  • 1614, the Tokugawa Shōgun issued a ban on the practice of any religion. 
  • From 1619 onward, major martyrdoms of Christians began, often driven by the fumi-e practice where Christian crosses and other religious items were trampled on, and Japanese Christian converts were forced to show their usually hidden Christian faith as their precious crosses and items were desecrated. 

The exhibition also points to the current state of Christianity in Japan, with about 1% to 1.5% of the country claiming to be Christians, and where Christians still face a lot of marginalization and difficulty from mainstream Japanese society. Some overseas Christian mission agencies today consider Japan to be an unreached people group because of the small Christian numbers, the harsh history Christians have had in Japan, and the general apathy among Japanese toward Christianity. 

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