Religion: Japan's Crypto-Christians

Persecuted by the shogun, they still worship a "closetgod"

On the picturesque Japanese island of Ikitsuki, where the ways of farmers and fishermen die hard, two old men squat before a home altar and chant prayers carefully entrusted to them by their ancestors. The ritual is intense and moving. But something is askew. The rite is partly Buddhist, partly Christian. The language sounds odd, a sort of pidgin Latin. And what do the ancient prayers mean? One of the worshipers admits, "I don't understand a word of this."

Neither does anyone else. The men at prayer are among 10,000 surviving Kakure Kirishitan (crypto-Christians)—members...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!