Christian burial methods
Christian burial methods sometimes help to manifest beliefs which lie at the very heart of the Christian faith
There are 112 early Japanese Christian tombstones scattered across Minami-Shimabara, more than anywhere else in Japan. Among these, the tombstone which has been described in detail above particularly catches the eye. This is largely down to the Portuguese epitaph and the cross patterns which have been splendidly inscribed into the sandstone.
In the early days of Christian propagation in Japan, missionaries would select some land for use as a cemetery and mark it out like a fortress. After this, they would erect a big wooden cross there and the plot of land would be blessed. People were then buried around the cross.
This kind of burial method can still be witnessed today. The graveyard next to Tabira church in Hirado has a cross in the middle, and has been divided into four sections. People have been buried according to their age and gender. They have not been buried next to their blood relatives, but according to the order in which they died. This is a manifestation of the belief that Christians are all members of one body, the Church.
In the 1600s, tombstones (such as the one described in detail above) which were inscribed with crosses and so forth and had been laid down on the ground started to appear in Japan. It is possible that such tombstones may have been used as a way to try and convert more people to Christianity at a time when religious orders like the Dominicans and the Franciscans were engaging in missionary work in Japan.