Did Jesus Die in Ancient Japan?

Twenty thousand people every year visit Shingō Village in the Aomori Prefecture (referred to as: Kirisuto no Sato or “Hometown of Christ” by locals) that claims that Jesus visited Japan during his lost years and then returned after escaping crucifixion by having his brother take his place on the cross, making his way to Shingō where he became a garlic farmer, married a local woman, and had three children.

Today, in Shingō, you can visit Jesus’ alleged grave site and museum. Next to Jesus’ mound is another mound where Jesus’ brother’s ear is buried along with a lock of hair from Mary—both of which, according to the legend, he carried with him when he fled execution.

Just in case that’s hard to read:

When Jesus Christ was 21 years old, he came to Japan and pursued knowledge of divinity for 12 years. He went back to Judea at age 33 and engaged in his mission. However, at that time, people in Judea would not accept Christ’s preaching. Instead, they arrested him and tried to crucify him on a cross. His younger brother, Isukiri casually took Christ’s place and ended his life on the cross.

Christ, who escaped the crucifixion, went through the ups and downs of travel, and again came to Japan. He settled right here in what is now called Herai Village, and died at the age of 106.

On this holy ground, there is dedicated a burial mound on the right to deify Christ, and a grave on the left to deify Isukiri.

The above description was given in a testament by Jesus Christ.

Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. Especially when you consider the fact that only one percent of people in Japan identify as Christian. But let’s pretend for a moment that there is something actually to this whole thing. How do people know Jesus visited Japan and then later died there? According to the legend, in 1935, Jesus’ last will and testament was found, which proved that he had not only been in Japan but died there. The document was “coincidentally” burned during World War II, but “luckily” someone had made copies.

What’s the proof that Jesus was actually in Shingō? Here is the “evidence” that is often cited:

It has been pointed out that some of the traditional clothing of the region included toga-like robes worn by men that were unlike other Japanese clothing, as well as veils worn by women, all of which seem more like something from biblical Palestine than Japan. In addition, some of the ancient traditions of the area included other things that are considered to be decidedly non-Japanese, such as carrying babies in woven baskets, wrapping them in robes embroidered with something akin to the Star of David, and marking their foreheads with crosses of charcoal. Even the regional dialect is said to have connections to the Holy Land, with some words resembling Hebrew more than Japanese. Even the name of the village itself was once Herai, which is remarkably similar to the Japanese word for Hebrew, Heburai. On top of all of this, it was once said that many of the villagers had decidedly foreign looking facial features and even blue eyes- let’s ignore that Jesus most certainly did not have blue eyes- that were seen to be a sign that they were descended from someone of non-Japanese origin. (Source)

My favorite part of the myth is Jesus’ supposed decedents have not let the fact that they are related to arguably the most important person to ever walk our planet get to their heads. In fact, a reporter asked one of them if they were going to do anything for Christmas and this was their answer:

“I’m not really planning anything at all for the 25th as it doesn’t really matter to us,” said 52-year-old Mr Sawaguchi. “I know I am descended from Jesus but as a Buddhist it’s just not all that important.” (Source)

Thankfully, it appears that most people in the village don’t actually believe any of this. They seem to mostly want to play along because it brings tourists—from I imagine all over the world—to a small village no one would visit otherwise and spend money at the museum gift shop.

“We’re not saying that the story is true or what is written in the Bible is wrong,” a village official told the BBC. “All we are saying is that this is a very interesting old legend. It’s up to the people who come here to decide how they interpret it.” (Source)

Are you interested in visiting Kirisuto no Sato? It’s apparently quite a commute from Tokyo. For specifics, check out CNN’s Travel article.

What do you think? Any chance Jesus didn’t die on the cross and ended up in Japan as a garlic farmer instead?

Follow me at @ksakai1  

8Questions: Interview with an Old 8A Friend, Author of ‘Holistic Tarot’ and ‘The Tao of Craft’

2016.08.30 8Asians Joz and Akrypti

Our very own Akrypti has been quite busy since she went on a hiatus from covering APA social politics for 8Asians. She’s taken the tarot world by storm with her first book Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth back in 2015. Since its publication, Holistic Tarot became a bestseller in its category and has gone on to win four prominent book awards.

Now Akrypti—I mean Benebell—is coming out with her second book, one that circles back to her heritage and roots. The Tao of Craft: Fu Talismans and Casting Sigils in the Eastern Esoteric Tradition covers the history and cultural practice of Fu talismans, a form of sigil spell-casting, from its shamanic roots during the Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties (roughly 2100 BC to 256 BC) and through its peaks in practice to the suppression and castigation of it during the Qing. More importantly, The Tao of Craft is arguably one of the first books published in the English language to cover the practical and instructional aspects of crafting Fu talismans and East Asian metaphysics, sorcery, and witchcraft.

2016.08.30 8Asians Holistic Tarot and Tao of Craft

At 600 pages, The Tao of Craft is a tome of a book. I sat down with my old friend Akrypti—again, I mean Benebell Wen—to talk about her second publication. The book will be out in stores September 27, but you can pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House, or through your favorite bookstore.

The Tao of Craft

JOZ: So we’ve been good friends and have known each other through 8Asians for over a decade. Yet it was only a few years ago that I learned you were into metaphysical practices. Can you tell me more about that?

BELL: I’ve been into that kind of thing as early as I can remember and read books on these topics as soon as I gained literacy. Prior to the publication of Holistic Tarot, you’re right, I didn’t talk about these interests with others, and post-publication of the tarot book, I was thrust out of the shadows and put in a situation where I had to talk about it to promote my new book. That happened before I was actually ready for it, so it was interesting.

The Tao of Craft, I feel, is relevant to the Asian American community, which is why I think I’m okay with the Akrypti and Benebell link now. It’s relevant not just because I cover esoteric Taoism from a Chinese historic and cultural perspective, but for another funny little reason. You don’t see many Asian Americans writing prominently about esoteric Taoism. By and large publications on this topic are by white men (or native Chinese people who co-author with, you guessed it, white men). Ceremonial magic generally, whether you’re referring to Western mystery traditions or Eastern, is dominated by white men. That in part motivated me to speak up and attempt to have my voice heard in such an arena. I’m also hoping The Tao of Craft will appeal to Asian Americans.

JOZ: Why do you think The Tao of Craft is important for the Asian American community?

BELL: I can only tell you why this book was important for me. It brought me closer to my ethnic and cultural roots. I gained an appreciation for the depth and breadth of Chinese spiritual history. In so many ways, understanding all that I’ve come to understand through the research and writing of The Tao of Craft, I’m even prouder now of my heritage than I was before. For me, there’s something activist about reclaiming long-neglected spiritual traditions. The book is a resource for Asian Americans who want to reconnect with those roots.

To get a taste of the book, check out this appendix, which is a summary of the history of Taoism that I touch upon in The Tao of Craft. You can read more excerpts from the book here.

JOZ: Why do you think Asian Americans, most of whom I presume are not practitioners of Taoist magic, would be interested in this book?

BELL: The bulk of the book is research. It’s about history. We start with Neolithic shamans and archeological findings of oracle bones in northern China and how that became integrated into the talismanic practices of Taoist priests. We touch upon the political activism of Taoist ceremonial magicians during the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Many of the Eight Immortals were historically documented figures that later became mythologized. The legends we grow up with about how the Chinese civilization was founded by the Yellow Emperor involve magical battles and spell-crafting. Magic and esotericism are intertwined with military strategy.

We look at several well-known Taoist magical lineages or mystery traditions and how they influenced Chinese history. Why are Buddhist and Taoist practices often intertwined? What are the origins of the Chinese lunar calendar? To me, the Chinese metaphysical principles of Qi, yin and yang, the Wu Xing, Ba Gua, He Tu and Lo Shu are provocative. As a Chinese/Taiwanese American, The Tao of Craft pays homage to where I come from. To realize that in the nucleus of who I am is this incredible history feels empowering. If for nothing else, this book should be interesting to Asian Americans for the research aspect.

JOZ: Are you afraid that linking your past work under Akrypti with what you’re trying to do now under Benebell Wen will somehow discredit one another? Do you think Asian Americans who resonate with your race politics militancy will be put off by your dabblings in the metaphysical world and fans of your metaphysical work will be put off by your race politics?

BELL: Yes, of course. And it’s bound to happen. The only thing that comforts me, even though it doesn’t really comfort me, is everything I’ve written, whether it was under Akrypti here at 8Asians or now through my books, is authentic and sincere to who I am. Also, those who decide one discredits the other aren’t being rational; they’re being emotional.

JOZ: So are you a full-time writer now?

BELL: No, I am still working as a lawyer full-time, though I’m at work on a third book already and will continue to research and write books on the side. I’m living out that tiger mom’s dream and also my own.

The Tao of Craft

 The Tao of Craft will be released September 27, 2016. You can pre-order now via Amazon.

The publisher is currently running a contest and you can win a free copy of the book before its release date. To enter, check out the details here. Deadline for the contest is September 16.

8 Questions for Ken Fong of “The Ken Fong Project”

photo (1)I was fortunate enough to meet Ken Fong of the Ken Fong Project this year during the V3con digital media conference in Los Angeles on June 20-21, 2014. Ken was part of the panel titled “Secrets Online: Topics that are Taboo in Real Life”, where the panelists tackled the issue of writing about things one would not normally talk about in general conversation. Ken passed along an interesting piece of advice, to beware, that if you’re willing to talk about a taboo topic online, you may become the go to person and spokesperson for that issue.

Ken Fong is a moderate Baptist pastor and subject of the documentary “The Ken Fong Project”. The documentary covers his journey as he reconciles his beliefs with the way gays and lesbians are being treated by his community. He has compared the way gays and lesbians are treated with the way Jesus was treated by the hyper-religious Jews in biblical times.

Additional information about the documentary is relayed in the video below:

The initial round of funding for the documentary was completed through Indiegogo, but the documentary team will be looking for additional funding in the near future to help with costs of completing the film.

Ken was gracious enough to agree to an 8Questions interview on 8Asians, and the result is after the jump.

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Book Summary: Making Paper Cranes

Kim-Kort cover

One of our own has recently published a book. Mihee Kim-Kort published Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology.

Some might call it cliche because it’s a little Joy Luck Club meets Mulan. An Asian mother teaching her Asian daughter to do origami. But maybe it sounds “cliche” because it seems familiar… I read a bit and it sounds like I could have written the story about making paper cranes with my own mother:

My mother taught me to make paper cranes when I was young. We sat at the kitchen table and took regular, white copy paper, folded the paper over in a triangle so it made a perfect square and creased the bottom so that we could carefully tear it off and discard it. After that it was “fold here, open here, bend here, fold again…”  Before long, a perfect paper crane materialized in front of us. For the longest time, this picture of my mother and me connecting over such a simple but almost magical object has stayed with me. I can hear her voice, as she tells me, almost wistfully, “if you make a thousand of these little creatures and put them in a box, you can make a wish that will come true…”

Or was it, “get long life of good health”?

Or maybe, “find a lot of luck”?

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APA Faith Matters: Patrick Cheng, Theologian and Author of ‘Radical Love’

APA Faith Matters is a periodic interview of Asian Pacific American (APA) leaders in various religious contexts. It highlights those leaders who are passionate about social justice issues that matter to APA communities and work from within their religious contexts.

Patrick S. Cheng is the Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, and also writes for the religion and gay voices sections of the Huffington Post. He is one of the few voices that courageously speaks out for a group that continues to be marginalized, particularly in the Christian church.

What is your religious background? 

I was raised in a Roman Catholic household.  I was received into the Episcopal Church over thirteen years ago, and I have worked for the Episcopal Church for over a decade both as a lawyer and as a seminary professor.  I have served as an ordained minister with the Metropolitan Community Churches, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) affirming denomination that is open to all, since 2001.
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APA Faith Matters: Bruce Reyes-Chow, 218th Moderator of General Assembly, Presbyterian Church

APA Faith Matters is a periodic interview of Asian Pacific American (APA) leaders in various religious contexts. It highlights those leaders who are passionate about social justice issues that matter to APA communities and work from within their religious contexts

Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow is a native Northern Californian and third generation Chinese/Filipino who from 2000-2011 was the founding pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, a church of 20/30-somethings in San Francisco and from 2008-2010 was Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is currently working as a consultant – writing, speaking, and teaching. Bruce also serves on the Boards of The Public Religion Research Institute and CA Faith for Equality.

What is your religious background?

I am Presbyterian which is one of many Christian denominations in the United States.

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APA Faith Matters: Rita Nakashima Brock, Faith Voices for the Common Good

APA Faith Matters is a periodic interview of Asian Pacific American (APA) leaders in various religious contexts. It highlights those leaders who are passionate about social justice issues that matter to APA communities and work from within their religious contexts.

Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock, PhD, is the director of Faith Voices for the Common Good, a non-profit organization that works on innovative, creative strategies for social change. The group brings diverse religious leaders and organizations together to work for the common good. Dr. Brock has a compelling spiritual journey – one that began in Japan as she writes in her book, Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us, “in daily Buddhist and Shinto rituals in my grandparents’ house and in frequent village festivals,” and continues on in a Protestant context today, as she is a licensed minister by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Northern California and Nevada. She is vocal about a wide range of social justice issues including interreligious dialogue, reproductive choice for women, and environmental conscientiousness – a compelling voice.

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