Persecution of Christians on Goto

In the Meiji period, Christians on Goto were persecuted for their faith. Hisaka island is where these persecutions began. After the Japanese government was strongly criticised for this by foreign countries, it opted to formally lift its long ban on Christianity.

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Candidates for a world heritage

Former Gorin Church Former Gorin Church
Former Gorin Church

The "Goto kuzure" began on Hisaka island. This expression literally means “the falling of Goto”, and it refers to the large-scale exposing of underground groups which Hidden Christians had formed in order to help them hand down their faith in secret during the ban on Christianity. Although by the time the Meiji period started Japan had already begun allowing foreign ships to enter the country again after a long period of national isolation, the ban on Christianity still remained in force. The Discovery of the Hidden Christians at Oura Cathedral had, however, emboldened those on Goto and soon many of them decided to confess their faith. Upon learning of this, the Meiji government took action and began oppressing Christians.
At the start of the Goto kuzure, approximately 200 Christians were kept in a small room of roughly six tsubo (around 20m²) called rouya no sako. It was located on Hisaka and faced out onto a quiet bay. When Father Petitjean informed people in Europe of this tragedy, many nations criticised Japan and before long the Japanese government decided to lift its prohibition on Christianity.
The names of the 43 people who died in rouya no sako have been recorded on tombstones in the spot where this sad event occurred. Many of those who died were either elderly or small children.