Just as ordinary as everyone else: hidden Christians in Japan
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/12/2100
Sandvig, Kirk Christian
This thesis looks at the communal identity within particular Hidden Christian groups in the Nagasaki prefecture, specifically in Ikitsuki and the Goto Islands. Identity within these particular groups can seem multivalent to the ‘outsider’, especially when religious rituals and practices are examined, where Christian, Buddhist, and Shinto elements can be found, and an altogether new religious identity formed. This amalgamation of multiple religious identities is not uncommon within the context of Japan, but the fact that they have incorporated Christianity, typically thought of as an exclusivist religion, has made Hidden Christians stand out. For them, however, their religious identity is simply an extension of ancestral filial piety through the preservation of their religious practices. In the case of Hidden Christians in Japan, the function of identity has been of key importance, not only for its role in establishing who they were, but also in maintaining their communal integrity under centuries of ‘hidden’ existence from the early 17th century to today. Identity, it seems, has been the unifying factor keeping the Hidden Christian communities of Goto and Ikitsuki together, and its recent deterioration, or transformation, has led to some of these groups deciding to disband. It is important, therefore, to look into possible reasons behind this apparent development within the communal identity of these particular groups of Hidden Christians. To do this, however, this thesis will go beyond the issues of religious identity, and also look at the ways modernity and an increasing globalisation have influenced the communal identity of these remote groups, affecting the education, economy, and communal framework that have kept these groups together for centuries. For those who have disbanded or are deciding to disband, this study examines the ways in which these groups are dealing with the filial piety associated with keeping both the traditions and rituals of the Hidden Christians alive, and how it affects their communal identity as a whole.