aka: Christianity In Japan
Christianity is rare enough in Japan that a character being explicitly labeled as such is rather unusual.
This was not always the case. During the first decades of the Kingdom of Portugal
's trade with the Japanese islands, there developed a fairly substantial Christian base. The first Jesuit mission to Japan started evangelising the region in 1548, and by 1589 there were about 200,000 Japanese Christians (amongst a total population of no more than twenty-four million). This was probably the largest overseas Christian community (yes, even more than China or the Castilian Americas, despite the substantially higher monetary investment and slight head-start in the latter region) and was unique in that it was mostly staffed and run by ethnic-Japanese.
This was partly because of pre-Tridentine Catholic practice, which was lax and didn't care much for orthodoxy (the priority was on conversion), and Japan's cultural-religious tradition. Like Dao-ism or Hinduism, Shinto is a poly-theistic system of belief without set doctrines or leadership, and is home to several different schools of both. Buddhism, for instance, was almost seamlessly integrated into Shinto within just a century or two of its arrival in the Japanese Isles (at least partly because Orthodox [Chinese-style] Buddhism was regarded with suspicion and semi-exterminated). Today, many Buddhist temples co-exist with Shinto shrines, and many Japanese practice both Shinto and Buddhist rituals. The phenomenon of Japanese 'martial' Shinto-Buddhism
is quite notable in comparison to the pacifistic Indo-Chinese strains of Buddhism. The former arguably — fused with a twisted form of neo-Bushido doctrine — saw something of an apotheosis in the Tokubetsu Kogeki/"Special Attack
" units of the final, desperate months of the military's period in power
Christianity, however, was increasingly seen as a threat to the existing social order.
Christians were harshly persecuted during the Tokugawa era (early 1600s) and driven underground out of fear that Japanese peasants and samurai would feel more loyal to a foreign Pope than their own lord. This was exacerbated by the Protestant Dutch, who hoped to undermine their trade rivals by spreading rumors of Portugal's previous conquests. The fact that the King of Portugal actually asked the priests about the feasibility of an invasion of Japan probably didn't help. Neither did their numerous military activities and destruction of Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples. What followed was a bloodbath, with all priests (Portuguese or otherwise) being expelled or crucified (and yes, they did do that on purpose). Converts were hunted (one practice being that soldiers would go to villages and demand they stomp on a picture of Jesus or Mary-any which showed hesitation were branded Christians) and sent to Nagasaki to be tortured. If they refused to recant, they were also crucified.
The surviving underground religion became greatly influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and Shinto.
In modern days with the advent of globalization and the reopening of Japan, it's no surprise that most major Christian sects have a presence (if small) in Japan.
This page is for actual Christianity and its followers in Japan. No Fantasy Counterpart Culture
, no Crystal Dragon Jesus
. For the sake of Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement
, Mormons count as Christians on this page.
Here's The Other Wiki
- Anime Catholicism — The fact that Christianity is both unfamiliar and exotic in Japan means that Japanese portrayals of the Roman Catholic Church (and, rarely, other churches; see "Christianity Is Catholic" below) often contain reflections of Japan's own native religions or otherwise distort aspects of Christian beliefs and practices in ways that Western cultures wouldn't.
- Christmas in Japan — Almost always secular (except when this trope comes into play), and with some different traditions.
- One of which is that Christmas is considered a couples' holiday, the family holiday being New Year's.
- Christianity Is Catholic — Since Roman Catholicism was the only denomination to ever seriously take root in Japan, it makes sense that most of their portrayals of Christianity as a whole would be influenced to some degree by Roman Catholic practice.
- Church Militant — These get their own page, so don't list them here unless they have something more to contribute.
- Faux Symbolism — Christian symbols simply being used for their exotic factor, much like Eastern religious symbols being used in the West for that purpose.
- Creepy Cool Crosses are just worn or depicted because they're cool... or because they're supernatural, or both.
- Nuns Are Mikos
- Weddings in Japan — Conspicuous by being done in the Christian style. Whatever religion they follow, most Japanese aren't strict enough to mind doing another faith's tradition, and Christian weddings are comparably inexpensive and pretty.
- The usual adage about the Japanese's tendency to mash up religious practices is: "Born Shinto, marry Christian, die Buddhist".
's page on the matter. See also the Sengoku Period
Anime And Manga
- Sakamichi No Apollon is interestingly accurate in its portrayal of Christians. Both Sentaro and Ritsuko are explicitly shown as practicing Christians, probably Catholic, and they are seen in church together, Ritsuko with her head covered, while singing the hymn "Jesus Paid It All" in Japanese. Sentaro wears a rosary around his neck, which is acknowledged to not be a correct use of a rosary but according to Ritsuko their priest allows him to do so as an exception - we see in a flashback that when Sentaro first received it he didn't know the purpose of a rosary and assumed it was a necklace. Ritsuko also owns a rosary, and uses it in the traditional manner.
- A Certain Magical Index: Kaori uses how Christianity in Japan had to go underground and blend with the dominant religions in Japan as justification for why she (a Christian) is able to fight an archangel.
- One of the stories in the Lone Wolf and Cub manga deals with the persecution and martyrdom of Christians during the Tokugawa era.
- In the manga Midnight Secretary Japanese vampires are specifically said to be weak against the piety of Christians. Luckily for him Japan is pretty secular, even on Christmas, but at one point Kyouhei is at a business dinner held by a Japanese family who were devout Christians and it made Kyouhei very sick.
- In Lucky Star, Kagami and Tsukasa sing in a Church at Christmas time and play "Joy to the World" on their recorders. Their comment is that they were taught to be respectful to all gods. (Shinto is about animism. Why not!) Although, they and their two older sister' wonder whether it's all right for them to marry in a Western wedding dress.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, one of Kenshin Himura's strongest opponents was Shougo Mutou aka Amakusa, a Christian Religious Bruiser trying to end the persecution of his fellow believers by helping a "holy man" overthrow the Japanese government, and basically an expy of real life Christian leader Shiro Amakusa. Kenshin essentially ended up fighting Samurai Jesus. And winning.
- Not only that, but Shougo and his younger sister Sayo were the leaders of a small Japanese Christian colony hiding in Shimabara, a rural area near to Nagasaki. And several years before, they barely managed to survive a major massacre in the same Shimabara area, in which their parents and everyone in their Doomed Hometown were killed for their beliefs.
- In 20th Century Boys, Father Nitani helps out La Résistance from his Church in Kabuki. He's also a close personal friend of The Pope.
- Amon Kotarou from Tokyo Ghoul was raised in a Catholic Orphanage, and continues to wear a crucifix as a Tragic Keepsake. Whether he's remained religious or not is never addressed, though his memories of his childhood show him to have been very devout.
- Inori "Buki" Yamabuki from Fresh Pretty Cure! goes into a Christian private middle school which apparently has its own chapel.
- Kaitou Saint Tail has many Catholics, and for many we mean every single character, including one-shot ones. The only characters who may be non-Christians are one-shot characters who come from out of town (even if one of them, being American, is most probably a Protestant Christian). The series, being from a Catholic author, is mostly accurate, aside for assuming some things about nuns that are only true of miko (the author found out late in the series and admitted it).
- It appears that most of the Maria-sama ga Miteru cast are Catholic.
- The subject of the actual faith of the characters is only brought up a few times, surprisingly. One character ( Shiori) wants to become a nun, and another is revealed to be both Christian and belongs to a Buddhist family (Shimako). Also, many of the characters can be seen praying before the Virgin Mary statue. There's also the school trip to Rome, where the characters visit the Vatican. Finally, most of the students are seen in Church, praying and singing. Although, it's mentioned outright at one point that one does not have to be a Christian to attend Lillian. There's only one character so far that is mentioned to not be Christian.
- In Ouran High School Host Club, a few characters are seen wearing crosses (in the manga, anyway). While it's doubtful they are Christian, there's a possibility that Tamaki is: he was born and raised in France until he was fourteen before being shipped off to Japan. Chances are his French mother Anne-Sophie is Christian, but it's not really relevant to the story and therefore never brought up.
- In Weiß Kreuz, Ken was Raised Catholic, even spending a period of time in a Church orphanage, and it shows. In later canon, Aya also shows interest in the faith - it's arguable whether or not he actually practices it, and in any case he doesn't hold with its doctrine of forgiveness, but a conversation with a nun in Fight Fire With Fire reveals that he's worn out a Bible reading it every night before he sleeps.
- At the start of Tokyo Godfathers, Gin and Hana attend a Christian church service just so they can get a free handout of some food.
- Hana at least seems to actually be a believer, to some degree, at least enough so that she muses about how, if God could impregnate a virgin woman, He could almost certainly get a transsexual such as herself with child.
- In Wandering Son, Saori Chiba converts to Christianity. Whether she does this out of true conviction or out of some misplaced feeling of guilt is not quite clear. In any case, she's not very diligent in attending Church.
- She met a boy, Fumiya, at Church. He seems rather casual about being Christian though, even smoking in church (he seemed around eleven to thirteen too).
- Zakuro Fujiwara from Tokyo Mew Mew is a practicing Christian in the original anime, going to church regularly and using a cross as the handle for her Weapon of Choice. (Unusually for a Japanese Christian, she appears to be a Protestant.) This was Bowdlerised in the dub; all crosses were changed to sticks without sides, leading to the fandom joke that Renee venerates toothpicks.
- Welcome to the N.H.K.: Misaki's aunt is one and forces Misaki to attend church groups as a condition of taking her in.
- Saya's teacher in the animated movie Blood The Last Vampire is a Christian and wears a cross necklace, which pisses off Saya because crosses and references to Jesus are either her weakness or they draw in the bigger, more beastly-looking vampires she's trying to fight.
- The persecution of Christians is part of the background in Samurai Champloo, which is touched upon in the episode showing the Dutch East India Company as well as one revolving around a supposed descendant of Francis Xavier, who manipulates Japanese Christians. Japanese Christians ultimately are part of a reveal at the end of the series namely that Fuu's Disappeared Dad (the "Samurai who smells from Sunflowers") was one, and he left the family to not involve them in the persecutions.
- Karen Kasumi of X/1999. Her mother converted both of them to it, though it seems that it was only to hide from cults who wanted to use Karen's fire powers for their own ends.
- In Descendants of Darkness, we're introduced to Muraki in Nagasaki's famous Oura Catholic church (which Tsuzuki ran into while chasing a vampire). Later, while dragging Tsuzuki around town after kidnapping Tsuzuki's partner, Hisoka, Muraki mentions ways the persecuted Japanese Christians would disguise their worship (i.e using statues of Kannon to represent the Virgin Mary). This has lead to the idea of Muraki being Raised Catholic becoming minor fanon.
- Miu Sakurai and Shion Amamiya from Akuma na Eros attend a Catholic school and are Japanese Christians. The manga starts with Miu praying in the school chapel, and then Amamiya walks in and talks to her. There's a major subversion, though: Amamiya is actually an angel under the disguise of a Christian boy.
- The first zombie we see getting killed by Zombie Loan is a nun at the school that Shito, Chika and Michiru attend, and they all wear crosses somewhere on their uniforms.
- Superbook is about a Japanese family who travel to important Biblical moments.
- In Mai Hime, Fuka Academy has its own small church, staffed by a priest with a Western name and a Japanese nun. Like just about everything about the school, both are not what they seem.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the character Kyouko Sakura is one, given that her father was a preacher. (Likely a Protestant minister, for obvious reasons.) On the other hand she no longer seems to be practicing the religion in any fashion. It's appropriate, since the story has numerous references to Faust...and Kyouko made a Deal with the Devil that went very wrong and finished in a Pater Familicide.
- Additionally, the witch Elsa Maria has a bit of Christian symbolism to her. She might have been a Japanese Christian when she was human.. Some fans speculate that she either was Kyoko's little sister Momo or a member of the Sakura family's cult.
- Homura mentioned having gone to a Catholic school prior to transferring.
- The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service: the protagonist is a student at a Buddhist university, but one of his friends catches him absentmindedly making the sign of the cross when making a Shinto prayer. Then again, given that the premise of the series is fulfilling the unspoken last wishes of the recently dead, they may have a broader approach to religion.
- Yuuki from Sword Art Online is heavily implied to be a Christian. Her ALO avatar may be darkness-aligned, but she has a cheerful personality. She is also a terminally-ill AIDS patient spending her final years.
- A fairly surprising amount of fanon in the Ranma One Half fanfic community grew from one single (non-story) image of Kasumi Tendo wearing a cross on a chain. However this probably reflects nothing more than Takahashi's habit of creating promotional images depicting her characters wearing whatever happened to be fashionable at the time.
- In Michiyo Akaishi's Amakusa 1637, Action Girl Natsuki Hayami, her boyfriend Masaki Miyamoto and their friends are students from a Catholic school who get Trapped in the Past... and arrive to the Nagasaki of few before the tragic rebellion by Shiro Amakusa. Natsuki, being a bifauxnen and Amakusa's genderflipped Identical Stranger, sets out alongside her friends to change history and avert the massacre. They sort-of succeed.
- Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune from Sailor Moon might be examples. They're searching for the Messiah, and Uranus even sports a cross at times. There is certainly a lot of Catholic imagery in the S season. Michiru telling the story of Adam and Eve and referring to them as the first man and woman drives the point home.
- Rei (Sailor Mars) is another candidate. She can be seen wearing a cross, she attends a Catholic school (modeled after a very high-class Real Life Catholic school), and in the live-action adaptation her mother Risa is buried in a Catholic cemetery. She's also a Miko at a Shinto shrine, which could just be an example of how the Japanese don't mind mixing religions.
- There is a half-Portuguese underground Christian character, Isaku Yasonokami, in Blade of the Immortal.
- There's a bit of fanon about Choutarou Ohtori from The Prince of Tennis being a Japanese Christian or at least Raised Catholic, based on his silvery cross pendant. In canon, Ohtori says that he sometimes sneaks into a local chapel since he feels at peace there, but is not exactly a believer.
- Hyoga, the Cygnus Saint in Saint Seiya. He inherited it from his mother Natasha (and only parent he got to know), who was Russian; he owned a rosary as a Tragic Keepsake from his Missing Mom which saved his life at some point, and in one of the movies his friends asked him about Christianity in itself since they're dealing with Lucifer. Specially weird in that, like all characters in the story, he acknowledges Athena, and the other Greek gods, and even follows her as a Warrior Monk of sorts. Maybe another example of how the Japanese are fine with mixing religions, this time with two foreign ones?
- Suzunagi and her parents in Ronin Warriors. And that's why they were killed.
- Joe Shimamura is raised in an orphanage run by a priest, in the 2001 anime adaptation of Cyborg 009. It never is specified if Joe himself identifies as Christian, although the priest himself would fit.
- Sensei-chan Megu-nee from School-Live! is heavily implied to be Christian. In the manga there was a minor background character during Miki's backstory who was a Christian senior. In the anime she received a slightly bigger role as Taroumaru's owner and Megu-nee's aunt.
- The Feudal-era secret Christians who heroically sacrificed their lives for a single crucifix in Usagi Yojimbo.
- The main character (played by Japanese AV model Sora Aoi) of Big Tits Zombie is heavily implied to be a Christian. She prays to "the Lord" a few times, crosses herself while standing over the body of one of her friends, and when it came time to make a grave for said friend, she placed a cross over it. She lived in Mexico for a number of years, which could be the explanation.
- Love Exposure focuses on a very Dysfunctional Family of Japanese Christians.
- Know Your Enemy: Japan gives an overview of how the Bushido warlords reacted to Christian missionaries and emerging Christian churches in Japan.
- Much of Shogun discusses this trope in great detail, with the Protestant protagonist out to destroy Jesuit influence in feudal Japan.
- The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn deals with underground Christians a lot.
- The hero of Tales of the Otori grew up in a hidden Christian village (which gets destroyed at the beginning of the first book).
- Gabriel Goto of Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle is a Catholic ronin in a rare example by a non-Japanese author. His descendant Goto Dengo in Cryptonomicon converts to Christianity at the end of World War II.
- The Dresden Files has an interesting example in Knight of the Cross Shiro, who was born and raised in Japan, and was accidentally baptised while attending an Elvis Presley concert (some Baptists in the audience asked if he wanted to meet "The King," and Shiro's faulty-at-the-time grasp of English made him think they meant Elvis). Even though his conversion was by accident, he made an effort to be as good a Christian as he could.
- Considering he was good enough (both in the moral/ethical sense and the skill sense of the word) to become a Knight of the Cross and stay one long enough to grow old, it's safe to say he succeeded.
- after the quake. All god's children can dance. Yoshiyo is a Japanese Christian (this is why he told his girlfriend that he couldn't marry her; that he was a son of god and couldn't ever marry). His mentor and his mother, as well.
- Plays a major part in Clavel's Shogun where a major source of conflicts are Protestant Blackthorne's influence, and with several of the major players not trusting Christianized daimyo, fearing the influence the Jesuit have over them.
- There have been several important Japanese Christian writers whose work show clear influence from their faith. Of these, the most important is probably Endo Shusaku. He wrote several novels about many subjects, but the most famous is Silence (Chinmoku in Japanese) about a 17th-century Portuguese missionary in Japan who has to shepherd his flock through the initial Tokugawa persecution. Said novel is also getting adapted into a film by Martin Scorsese.
- He also wrote numerous short stories and various other novels on the topic, including A Life of Jesus. And, of course, Deep River, a.k.a. Japanese Christianity: The Book. It served as a very personal account of what it means to be a Christian in a country that's 99% atheist/Buddhist/Shinto and extremely suspicious of outside influences.
- Award winning author Ayako Miura wrote several books that elaborate on her trip from Nihilism to Protestantism as well as several novels that have several Christian themes such as "Shiokari Pass" and the better-known "Hyoten", the latter being adapted as a television drama series
- In Total War: Shogun 2, Christianity might play a serious role in the game. Being a Japanese Christian clan means you can access European guns and cannons, plus your Christian citizens will put up serious resistance against non-Christian clans who occupy their cities. Of course, since embracing Christianity means the rest of Japan will hate you, it's best taken by clans which are not based on the main island.
- The Messian Church (or you can spell it Mesian, whatever) in Shin Megami Tensei I is the "endtimes-crazy" type of Christian flanderized to such an extreme that they are willing to launch nukes to bring about their "Thousand Year Kingdom". Though the one that did said action was American (or claimed to be), the majority of Messians you encounter are Japanese.
- They represent the Law Faction - the one representing archetypes as justice, charity, and unity. Also, brainwashing, totalitarianism, and intolerance. The other side's not so hot, either. Crapsack World, gentlemen.
- Doki, as per this image where she can be mistaken as a nun (but isn't, that's just what she's wearing.) and it been noted that she does pray to God there is a crisis as in this story.
- Getting a bit meta here, but manga creator Yamahana Noriyuki is a proud Christian. He tends to discuss his faith in the author's notes at the end of his manga volumes. In this (excellent) series, Orange Yane no Chiisana Ie , the scanlators were kind enough to translate these notes. Also, the maternal grandmother of the girls imparts Christian lessons to the children from time to time. Yamahana's faith does not prevent him from indulging in Fanservice, though; he's still a manga-ka, after all.
- Yasuhiro Nightow, creator of Trigun, is a Christian convert, and lots of intentional symbolism can be found in his work (Nicholas Wolfwood, anyone?).
- Voice actor Kuwata Kong (who is known to voice characters in the SNK franchise - more prominently Geese Howard - as well as Large Ham Kikuchiyo from Samurai 7), is a Japanese Christian (his profile from Anime News Network also lists him as a "gospel singer").
- Between 1885 and the start of 2012, there have been 58 unique Prime Ministers of Japan. Seven were Christians (three Catholic, four Protestant), a disproportionately high ratio compared to Japan's general population.
- Toshio Furukawa, voice of Piccolo in Dragon Ball and Kai Shiden in Mobile Suit Gundam, is a practicing Christian.
- Eiji Tsuburaya, creator of Ultraman and partly of Godzilla, was a Catholic, as are the Tsuburaya family since then. By the way, the Crucified Hero Shot in Ultra Seven? Author Appeal. Seriously.
- Mitsuo Fuchida, also known as "God's Samurai", the lead pilot at Pearl Harbor, became a Christian after the war and even was a Protestant minister.
- A Real Life example is Toshiro Mifune, who was a famous Japanese actor and professed the Methodist faith.
- Singers KOKIA and Chihiro Onitsuka are two of the more well known Real Life Japanese Christians.
- Bells of Nagasaki (Nagasaki no kane) is the account of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki from the Japanese Christian perspective, written by Dr. Takashi Nagai, one of the survivors who also helped treat other survivors in the immediate aftermath of the bombing (for which he has been declared "Servant of God" by the Vatican). The bells in the title are those of the Catholic Cathedral of Nagasaki, which was at the epicenter (which was also the site where Japanese Christians were tortured and executed during the Bakufu Era). While the Cathedral was destroyed utterly, the bells survived, and now hang in the bell tower of the rebuilt cathedral. Dr. Nagai, however, died of radiation-related illness in 1951.
- Another real life example is the diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who helped Jewish (and other) refugees escape Nazi-occupied Europe through his posting in Lithuania between 1939 and 1940. Somewhat surprisingly, he was a devout believer in Eastern Orthodoxy, having converted when he was briefly married to a Russian woman early on in his diplomatic career. The marriage ended quickly, but his faith did not, and he recounted later how his actions were motivated by his Christian faith.
- St. Nicholas of Japan, Orthodox missioner from Russia, in 19th century started his mission from a chapel in Russian embassy and founded a diocese, converting thousands of natives. His position during Russo-Japanese War (not praying[note]by himself, while encouraging to do so Japanese believers[/note] for the defeat of his native country while being the bishop of Japan) is still somewhat disputed. Even so, Nicholas is remembered with respect by even non-Christian Japanese.
- The Christian Samurai, Dom Justo Takayama Ukon, once a respected Samurai in the Sengoku Period, but when his lord decreed that Christianity is to be banned, he preferred to be stripped of everything from fiefs to his status, until eventually he's exiled to Manila.