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Nakae no shima

Nakae no shima is a tiny, uninhabited island where Christians were once martyred. It came to acquire profound significance for local Hidden Christians, who crossed raging waves in order to collect the water which seeps out from its rocks.

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Candidates for a world heritage

Nakae no shima Nakae no shima
Nakae no shima

An island known as “San Juan-sama”

Nakae no shima is a deserted island that surfaces to the east of Ikitsuki island. Local Hidden Christians prayed on this island for the healing of the sick, and their dead were buried with their faces turned towards it. They called this island “San Juan-sama”, after the Portuguese reading of St. John (the reference in this case is to St. John the Baptist).

After the Tokugawa government had issued its prohibition on Christianity in 1614, some faithful from Ikitsuki and Hirado who had helped a priest proselytise in secret were sent to this island for execution. This happened in 1622. They became martyrs - decapitated on rocks sprayed with the white foam of waves, their heads stuffed into sacks and tossed into the sea. Their fellow Christians, facing the island to send them off, passed down the tragic story of their martyrdom, and Nakae no shima came to be regarded as the holiest place in the entire region by local Hidden Christians.

A unique “water-drawing ceremony”

Kakure Kirishitan from Ikitsuki still perform omizutori (a water-drawing ceremony) on this island today. There is no port on the island, so they must ride a small boat out to it and come ashore. Once on land, they kneel facing a crack in the rocks and begin chanting prayers (known as orasho). It is said that on doing this, water will seep out of the rock face. They fill bottles with this water, which they regard as holy. This water was used in the past for baptisms, to purify homes, and to treat illness.

(Please be aware that landing on the island is forbidden).