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A “Crossroad” for the Hidden Christians

Those Hidden Christians who migrated to Kuroshima during the Edo period came in search of new land.

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Candidates for a world heritage

Kuroshima Church Kuroshima Church
Kuroshima Church

During the latter part of the Edo period, the ancestors of the Christians who live on Kuroshima today migrated to the island from places such as Sotome, Goto and Ikitsuki in search of a new life. However, there was only a limited amount of land available on the island. When the Meiji period began, there was no longer enough land for younger generations to settle down and have families of their own, and gradually the lives of Kuroshima’s Christians got harder. Upon seeing this situation, Father Raguet (the priest in Kuroshima at the time) purchased some land in Tabira (on the mainland) and had some of Kuroshima’s Christians migrate there. Other Christians on Kuroshima emigrated too, to places such as Hirado, Sasebo and Matsuura, and there they built new churches.
Regarding the island’s name, there was once a theory that the “Kuro” in Kuroshima was a corruption of the word “cross” (“shima” means island in Japanese, so in this case the name Kuroshima would mean “Cross island”). However, there are documents from before the Edo period which refer to the island by its current name, and so this theory seems incorrect. Nevertheless, if one considers how Christians first migrated to Kuroshima in search of new land and how later, during the Meiji period, many left the island for the same reason, it could be said Kuroshima was in its own way a kind of “crossroad”.