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  

Traveling Japan: McDonald’s in Japan

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I suppose it is fitting to talk about McDonald’s in Japan as it was the last stop before we headed back home Stateside, a sort of transition from Japan to America. I have pretty much removed McDonald’s from my dietary routine, for weigh cutting reasons and now for fair trade and sustainability purposes, but prior to this change, I always found it interesting to visit the local McDonald’s in different countries to see what they have that’s different than the local Los Angeles McDonald’s.

First thing is, they apparently deliver McDonald’s in Japan. Check out the McD’s deliver scooters above.

Next, portion size is different. One of my first memories of Japan’s McDonald’s was waiting on a street corner for one of my mom’s friends to come pick us up on a cold winter morning in Tokyo. We went in to buy hot tea and coffee to stay warm, and I had to ask for more packets of sugar because they were so tiny. So portion size in Japan is smaller compared to U.S. (isn’t everyone’s portions smaller than ours?), even in McDonald’s.

Finally, what’s available on the menu is different too. When I went to Hawaii, they had a eggs, spam, and rice breakfast there along with noodle soup and coconut pies. I wanted to order something in Japan’s McDonald’s I couldn’t get back home–the Ebi Filet-O-Fish Burger. Ebi is Japanese for shrimp.

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Traveling Japan: Kyoto Snowstorm

Before we begin this little journey through a Kyoto winter wonderland, I should start with the disclaimer that I grew up in sunny southern California. I put on a scarf whenever the temp goes under 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When I stayed at dorms in Harvard University at Boston one summer during high school, I asked what the underground tunnels were for, and when they said it was for the snow, I replied, “Oh HELL no.” I did not apply to a single college on the East Coast. I don’t hate snow, though. I have fond childhood memories of our family driving to Big Bear or Palm Springs in the winter time for some toboggan sledding and snowman building. That’s the thing, though, I always drive to snow. I’ve never lived in it. Not long enough to hate it anyways. So you’ll have to forgive my delight when a sunny blue-skied Kyoto morning suddenly turned into a full on snowstorm.

I love the weather in Southern California, and here, we really only have two seasons—-summer and not summer. We spend plenty a Christmas day by sparkling outdoor pools or picnicking at the beach. However, I’ve enjoyed the beauty of seasons in other places, but none have enchanted me more than the way the city of Kyoto wears them. I daresay it’s the only place that may tempt me away from Christmas by the pool.

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The sudden snowstorm we encountered was perfect timing. We had already been around and about Kyoto for a few days, and the snowstorm transformed it into a whole new city for us to explore.

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Traveling Japan: Toei Kyoto Studio Park

It’s quite lovely to experience Kyoto’s preserved machiya neighborhoods and many ancient temples, but equally fun and still historic is the Toei Kyoto Studio Park. Basically, imagine Universal Studios but minus all the big fancy rides and massive studio set experiences and in their place are ancient samurai and ninja backdrops complete with, well, samurais and ninjas. Old Japan period television series are a pretty big thing in Japan, and fans can come see where a lot of those shows are actually made. You can even see some scenes being filmed live.

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For a couple hundred dollars, you can even dress up as a geisha or samurai and prance around taking photographs. I really, really wanted to do like a Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno remake staring myself, but time constraints and the price tag made me decide to save that adventure for another time.

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At first, I was a little taken aback and the almost $200 USD cost of getting all costumed up, thinking it was one of those things where you just throw on some period costumes and run around taking pictures. Then when I finally saw it, I found out that it was a full on get up, personally fitted to you and complete with wig, make-up, and weapons. So the price seemed a lot more understandable. It was like professional stage make-up and everything. When I do come back to have my own Kyoto Inferno, I’m definitely dressing up as a samurai. No way am I going to don a geisha outfit. And if they won’t let women dress as samurai, then no thank you.

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Traveling Japan: New Year’s Festival at Yasaka Shrine

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If you watch a lot of anime, you may have noticed that festivals are a big deal in Japanese culture and story telling. Just like there’s usually a onsen hot spa episode, a beach episode, or a class field trip episode, the festival at the temple is also one of those staple episodes you find in a lot of anime. So having watched a lot of anime over my lifetime, I wanted to experience the temple festival.

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What better time than New Year’s Eve at Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine? If I had to summarize the whole festival in one word, it would have to be “food”.

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Traveling Japan: Shinbashi Dori in Gion

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From various sources, I read that Shinbashi Dori has been called the most beautiful street in Asia. After reading that, I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to hunt this street of beauty down and check it out. So, with a couple guides and my trusty international T-mobile phone with me, I steered my group down to the Gion district where Shimbashi Dori is just a block down from the Yasaka Shrine.

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Did it meet my expectations? Absolutely. My pictures, though nice, really don’t do it justice.

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Traveling Japan: Kyoto’s Ninen Zaka & Sannen Zaka

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While researching places to go in Kyoto, I have to admit, I was trying to live my Rurouni Kenshin years and wanted to see “old Kyoto” where ever it may still exist, while temples and gardens are key destinations in such a search, I realized that I would also have to find *streets*.

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Thanks to the efforts of Kyoto citizens to preserve the historic architecture and vibe of their ancient city, there are certain areas that have preserved traditional machiyas, two-story live-work homes that have shops on the first floor. One of such places, a twin pair of streets that I had to track down were Ninen Zaka (2 Year Road) and Sannen Zaka (3 Year Road). The belief is that if you trip on the Ninen Zaka, you’ll have 2 years of bad luck, and three years if you trip on the Sannen Zaka. (I’m happy to report I didn’t trip at all.) These two roads run up towards the Kiyomizudera, my temple of non-destiny that I missed in my two visits to Kyoto throughout my life. Because this temple has been there for centuries, these two roads have always been there for quite some time as well, and they have been servicing pilgrims to the temple and travelers to Kyoto for hundreds of years.

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Traveling Japan: Kyoto’s Heian Shrine

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The Heian Shrine is one of those major stops in Kyoto. It’s one of the main shinto shrines in the country, and its torii is one of the largest in all of Japan.

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It’s a symbol of revival for Kyoto after the capital was moved away to Tokyo, and they’ve kept the city thriving by becoming modernized while at the same time preserving a lot of the old traditions and cultures.

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Traveling Japan: Arashiyama’s Okochi-Sanso Villa

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The Okochi-Sanso Villa in Arashiyama used to be the home of a famous actor named Denjiro Okochi. As I was researching the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest destination, I saw mention of this, read a little about it, saw some beautiful pictures of the buildings and gardens, and decided I had to stop by–especially because there’s a tea included with the price of about $20 USD ticket. It did not disappoint.

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To get to the Villa, you have to walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. The Villa is a sort of private museum, so you have to buy a ticket to go in. The grounds were contemplative and lovely.

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Traveling Japan: Arashiyama’s Tenryu-ji Temple

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We had come to this area primarily for the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, but we found so much more than we had expected. One of the things about the city of Kyoto is that there’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site around like every corner. We were practically tripping over them. It’s clearly why Harry Truman said no to Kyoto as a target for the nuclear bombings in World War II.

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I had read that the Tenryu-ji temple, the head temple of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, was in this area and thought we would check it out if we had some time, but we ended up having to park our rented bicycles in the Tenryu-ji temple parking lot. So it ended up being the first place we explored on foot in the area.
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Traveling Japan: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

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The Arashiyama area is a “touristy” location, which makes it sound like one of those ugly tourist traps flooded with souvenir shops vomiting cheap goods onto sidewalks. Not so. It does have souvenir tourist shops, but a lot of the stuff is a lot more tasteful than the cheapo “I <3 [insert city here]” fare, with some gorgeous products such as handcrafted chopsticks or beautiful coin purses.

#japan #cat

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It probably helps that it’s been a “tourist” spot for over a thousand years.

Selfie in a bamboo forest? Sure why not. #Arashiyama #bambooforest

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There are a lot of gorgeous sights to see in this area, but let’s start with the bamboo forest itself, which, as you can see, is simply otherworldly.

#kyoto #nihon #arashiyama

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Traveling Japan: Miyajima

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The island of Itsukushima and the Itsukushima Shrine on the island are popularly known as Miyajima. I had no idea this place existed until one of my traveling companions requested to go there on one of our day trips. Staying in Kyoto, we took a shinkansen high speed train down to Hiroshima area and then a Japan Railway ferry to the island, all of this travel conveniently included in our JR Pass with no extra charge.

The ferry ride to the island is quite fun and beautiful.

#miyajima #hiroshima #nihon

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The first thing we saw when we arrived on the island was a deer. And then another deer. And then another, and another, and another. At first, we were charmed by how the deer showed no fear of the humans who were sidling up to them to take close ups or selfies. We quickly took some photos and videos, thinking they would soon be spooked and scurry away. Boy were we naive.

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