llustration by Jim Kay
What makes a small Northern Japanese Town claim to be the unlikely burial ground of Jesus Christ? EDWARD MAZZA and GLENN KARDY explore one of the village's most precious legends and evaluate its claims for glory
The distant mountains of northern Japan are the last place one would expect to find Jesus Christ. But according to a Japanese legend, that's exactly where He is...
In the remote village of Shingo, once known as Herai, a local belief has it that Christ escaped His fate at the cross in Judea, fled across Siberia, and eventually settled down in what is now part of Aomori Prefecture.
Shingo epitomizes the middle of nowhere. A sprinkling of farmhouses. A lonely general store. Scraggly garlic fields and rice paddies. A bland noodle restaurant and a dingy karaoke pub. There's little to distinguish this village
from a hundred other remote Japanese farming towns.
Except for the crosses. They're everywhere.
Painted on road signs. Positioned on the tops of fruit stands and bus stops. Emblazoned on the Day-Glo windbreakers worn by village employees, and pictured on their business cards. And, of course, marking the purported grave of Christ. The cross is usually accompanied by the phrase "Kirisuto no sato," which roughly translates as "hometown of Christ."
The sign of the cross is the symbol of Shingo, and the cross is why the tourists come, never mind the arduous, day-long journey from the Tokyo megalopolis some 500 km away. Worshipers, skeptics and weirdosseveral thousand of them visit the grave each year, according to village estimates.
Some are curious. Some bring offerings. Others bring interpretations.
Most, however, bring a little hard cash to an area in obvious need of it.
Now, as centuries ago, the locals subsist largely on agriculture. Garlic and apples are two of the products boasted by Shingo, but not even garlic ice cream has brought the town much recognition. The names Shingo and "Tomb of Christ" still puzzle most Japanese.
In the years before World War II, documents pertaining to two small, forgotten graves on the ancestral land of the Sawaguchi family in Shingo turned up in Ibaraki Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. While Sawaguchi family tradition held that the graves should lay undisturbed, no one knew whoor whatwas buried in them. The ancient scrolls were found among the possessions of Koma Takeuchi, a Shinto priest from a long line of Shinto priests. When he realized the secret his family had been guarding for generations, he went to Shingo with Banzan Toya, an artist and a researcher in ancient Japanese history. The two found the graves on May 26th, 1935 in a bamboo grove atop a small hill.
Locals call the documents a testament of Jesus ChristHis last will and testament, to be exact. These papers, written in a Japanese so ancient that most people today cannot understand them, were deciphered by scholars, copied and translated into modern Japanese. They explain that one gravethe one on the rightis that of Christ Himself, while the other marks the final resting place of His brother's ears and a lock of the Virgin Mary's hair. The original scrolls, however, were seized by authorities and brought to Tokyo, where they were lost in the mayhem of the war. But the copies remain to tell the tale.
The papers say Jesus came to Japan for spiritual training during His "lost years," the twelve years before His three-year ministry. The "testament" tells of how He travelled across Asia, at various points visiting Siberia, Alaska and what is now Vladivostok before reaching northern Japan in his quest for enlightenment.
Of course, tales of such travels are nothing new. Some groups claim Jesus passed through India in search of Himself, while others have faith in a Tibetan document that claims the Lord had once been in the Himalayas. Still others claim that Jesus travelled through the Americas, Europe and even aboard some heavenly UFO for destinations across the universe...
More on the amazing Tomb of God in Fortean Times 110, on sale now!
Tomb of Jesus in Herai, Shingo, Japan (Thaioouba site)
How Jesus Came to Japan
Jesus in Japan!
Jesus in Japan (all text)
Jesus Christ Died in Japan (Japan-based site)
News Report: Crosses attacked by vandals (Tabloid.net)