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  

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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North Korea Imprisons Korean American Kenneth Bae, Possibly As Bait

Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook

From AP: “An American detained for nearly six months in North Korea has been sentenced to 15 years of labor for crimes against the state, the North’s state media said Thursday… Analysts say Pyongyang could use Bae as a bargaining chip as it seeks dialogue with Washington.”

It seems really difficult to read into North Korea’s motives right now especially with this latest sentence.

Are they seeking leverage?

Are they trying to construct a certain image on the world stage?

Are they looking to distract us from some other plan?

Only time will tell.

The Oikos University Shooting: Mental Health and Korean American Community

There have been a number of school shootings in the news lately, with the most recent including an elementary school in the Pacific Northwest and a middle school in in Texas in 2012. I can think of few things more heartbreaking, particularly because of my work with youth, I feel deeply invested in the mental and spiritual health of young people.

When it hits close to “home,” for instance, with Korean American Seung-Hui Cho and the massacre at Virginia Tech, I can’t help but feel it cut much deeper. That could have been a brother or a cousin, or someone I knew from church. The most pressing issue to me is the lack of mental health support and resources, and the continued stigma of mental health problems among Asian Americans, and I’d say particularly for Korean Americans.

And now another shooting within the Korean American community by a Korean American has happened this week:

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Vacation Bible School: Faith and APA Stereotypes


I just finished a week of chaos and insanity, which happens every year during the summer. If you walk into pretty much any church, Asian and non-Asian, there will be signs up for the upcoming Vacation Bible School (VBS) with themes on everything from Egypt and heroes to ranches. A lot of Vacation Bible School is painfully cheesy, but the kids seriously love it all. Still, it makes me question what we use to teach kids about faith and spirituality, and of course, I was appalled by the video, Jesus Loves the Little Racist-Puppet Children. It reminds me of the nightmare that was Rickshaw Rally, a VBS program promoted as: “Far-out Far East Rickshaw Rally: Racing to the Son is a VBS race that will have kids dashing through the streets of Tokyo, climbing Mt. Fuji, and diving for pearls!” Oh dear God, that was painful, and sooo messed up. (I didn’t really know anyone that actually ended up using this curriculum.)

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Young Christians Try to Convert Indian Girl on YouTube

When I saw this video off of one of my Facebook feeds, I just had to say… “wow.” While I respect religious beliefs, if this is what we’re teaching our children, then sometimes I just don’t know what to say.  I have to wonder what it is that children are actually being taught, whether  they understand that you can still be friends without having the need to save everyone; it’s like trying to convince a Republican to become a Democrat or vice versa. Beliefs are there for a reason, be it Christianity, Hinduism or whatever, and convincing people to convert is just like what one of my good friends told me once:

“I can beat it into you with a bat, but in the end, I just end up with a bloody bat.”

Personally, there’s some truth in that statement; each person is responsible for finding their own way. But I can tell you that this type of behavior is one of the reasons why Eastern and Western cultures clash: when one side doesn’t view the others’ perspective and instead tries to deduce their reasoning through their own eyes, there’s a serious failure in communication. It’s the same reason why Matteo Ricci was one of the most successful Jesuit priests in China, due to his explanations of Christianity using concepts that stemmed from Confucian beliefs.

Sometimes, it’s a miracle that there are not more bloody bats in this day and age.