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Tears at the final Mass

In 1971, following a period of depopulation, the last people left living on Nozaki island migrated together as a group. Nokubi church, built at such cost to the Christian families who had willingly embraced hardship in order to pay for it, was closed.

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Former Nokubi Church Former Nokubi Church
Former Nokubi Church

When Nokubi church was closed, an article appeared in the local paper. The final Mass was on Sunday morning on 28th March 1971. When the bells rang, Nokubi’s Christians, dressed in formal clothing, processed into the church one by one. There were just six families left, with a total of 31 people among them. These ranged from small babies to adults in their sixties, but there was no one present who was in either their 20s or 30s. This was the reality which depopulation had brought. It is said that many of those present were moved to tears once the Mass had started.
Everyone present had the same surname, Shirahama. The first migrant to Nokubi had been called Matsutarou, and it is said that once the ban on Christianity was lifted his family had chosen to name themselves after the beautiful white sandy beach which sits on the island's east coast (Shirahama means "white sandy beach" in Japanese). As this family began to acquire different branches, Nokubi village took shape.
The church's important items were deposited within the Catholic preschool on Ojika island for safe keeping, and after the Mass all of the Christians together walked with the statues of Jesus and Mary as they were carried to the island's tiny harbour. Due to fears that the cemetery would become thickly overgrown, cement was laid there. Leaving the land where they had lived and where their ancestors had been laid to rest must have been very hard. On 160 years of Christian history which had begun with the migration of just two families to Nozaki, the curtain had finally closed.