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Christians in search of a new life

As the Sotome region’s Catholics increased in number, some chose, under the guidance of foreign missionaries, to leave the villages where they had been living and go in search of a new life.

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Tabira Church Tabira Church
Tabira Church

Tabira village owes its existence to two French missionary priests, Father Raguet (who had, at the time, been assigned to Kuroshima) and Father de Rotz (who had been assigned to Shitsu). As the Sotome region’s Catholics increased in number, population pressure lead both priests to seek to acquire new land where some of those affected could begin a new life. In 1886, they each bought a plot of mountainous land ripe for cultivation, and shortly after had three families from Kuroshima and four from Shitsu move there. Both priests went on to acquire mountainous woodland in the area, and by 1893 a further 12 families had migrated there.
After a while, a great number of people from across the Nagasaki region (including Kuroshima and the Goto islands, as well as Kurosaki and Shitsu in Sotome) chose to migrate to Tabira and begin a new life. Records suggest that between the Taishō era and the first year of the Shōwa era around 97 families migrated to the area.
The long ban on Christianity in Japan had finally been lifted in the early years of the Meiji period, and those who migrated to Tabira were eager to place their Catholic faith at the very centre of their lives. This led not only to the formation of a whole new village, but also to the construction of a beautiful church.