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The Kakure Kirishitan of Ikitsuki Island: The End of a Tradition
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, History of Religions.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The organization of the Kakure Kirishitan of Ikitsuki Island remained relatively intact until the end of the 1990s. Today it seems that this tradition is approaching its end. The Kakure Kirishitan have become a rapidly vanishing minority since much of the organized activities on the island have ceased to take place during the last decade. In earlier research, Kakure Kirishitanism has often been described as a form of Japanese Christianity, but the tradition of Ikitsuki Island as it is today has little to do with traditional Christianity. Instead, it shares the characteristics of Japanese folk religiosity as it includes the worship of Shinto-Buddhist deities. In addition to this, one can find elements of Christian origin. Alongside other local deities, the Kakure Kirishitan have also come to venerate the god (kami) of their Christian ancestors. What remains from the early modern mission is a series of Christian-sounding names, old Latin based prayers (orasho) consisting of words that are incomprehensible even for the older members, and the veneration of articles and medallions visually related to familiar Christian symbols, for example, the cross and the Virgin Mary. As underground Kirishitan concealed their religious identity under the guise of Shinto-Buddhism, their use of indigenous symbols came to take precedence over the orthodox Christian meanings. Kirishitanism thus developed in a context of Christianity not being the norm and could thus survive within the framework of approved religiosity. Christian objects have been used as containers for supernatural healing power. With time, the trinitarian Christian God, as well as Christian ancestors or martyrs came to be perceived as kami, able to protect their followers from bad luck, sickness, or other misfortunes. Through their embracing presence, irrespectively their Christian or non-Christian origin, these kami participates in the world of the living, and function as a unifying force among the members of a group. Kakure Kirishitan tradition has thus adjusted to how reality is perceived as a society and culture change over time.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Uppsala universitet, 2013. , 189 p.
Keyword [en]
Acculturation, Christianity, folk religion, gozensama, Ikitsuki, Japan, Kakure, Kakure Kirishitan, Kirishitan, Kirishitanism, Maria-Kannon, Senpuku, syncretism, tradition, tsumoto, underground Christian, Virgin Mary, Xavier.
National Category
History of Religions
Research subject
History of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-209717ISBN: 978-91-506-2380-2OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-209717DiVA: diva2:664700
Public defence
2014-01-31, Geijersalen, Thunbergsvägen 3P, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2014-01-10 Created: 2013-10-24 Last updated: 2014-07-21

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