Christian Martyrs 0f 1619 in Kyoto, Japan!

Japanese artist, unknown - 16th-17th century Japanese painting, reproduction in Arnold Toynbee, "A study of history".

Japanese artist, unknown – 16th-17th century Japanese painting, reproduction in Arnold Toynbee, “A study of history”.

Christian Martyrs 0f 1619 in Kyoto!

Christian Martyrs 0f 1619 in Kyoto, an article based on a report by Mr.Paul S. Satoh, a Catholic layman, from Osaka. I would like to start with an apology to my readers, it’s been a while that I have posted a new segment of the Otis Cary book. I will do my best to continue where I left off. Thank you for your interest in this subject! Hugo for JCH.
A good friend of mine, Mr.Paul S. Satoh, a Catholic layman, attended the Beatification Ceremony of Peter Kibe and 187 Martyrs on November 24, 2008 in Nagasaki. He wrote an article about the martyrdom of 52 Christian martyrs in Kyoto in 1619 and has given me permission to publish his article on my blog.

Beatification Ceremony of Peter Kibe:

I attended the Beatification Ceremony of Peter Kibe and 187 Martyrs on November 24, 2008 in Nagasaki. I am pleased to issue and distribute the booklet about the martyrdom of 52 Christian martyrs in Kyoto in 1619.
With this booklet I sincerely hope that the readers will fully understand what had happened in Kyoto in 1619 – so-called “A Great Martyrdom in Kyoto”. So may our Lord bless you, dear readers and you will also be blessed by newly beatified martyr-saints with your prayers. Thank you for your interest in learning a historical fact of the Great Martyrdom in Kyoto in 1619. Peace be with you, dear readers,
Paul S. Satoh, a Catholic layman and an active tour guide in Kyoto.

The Kamo River in Kyoto:

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The Kamo River flows and has been flowing for more than 1000 years in Kyoto. The river might flow with glory, tragedy, joy and misery people suffer from. However, it may happen to stop for a while. A bond to tie from man to man becomes like a river of life. A grey of St. Francis Xavier (7 April 1506 – 3 December 1552) became a foundation of the church in Kyoto. The successor knew well a regret of the pioneer. They were Cosme de Torres (1510 – October 2, 1570), Luís Fróis (1532 – 8 July 1597) and Gnecchi-Soldo Organtino (1530–1609) and other missionaries.
In 1576 the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary was dedicated by Rev. Father Organtino in Kyoto. The church was slowly developed as if a spring gushed out in a noisy atmosphere.

A painting of St. Francis Xavier, held in the Kobe City Museum.

A painting of St. Francis Xavier, held in the Kobe City Museum.

The Nuns of Miyako:

Under guidance of Rev. Fathers Morehon and Gnecchi-Soldo Organtino, “Nuns of Miyako (or Capital)” was established in Kyoto as the first Society of Sisters in Japan. However, in 1614 the missionaries and nuns or sisters were expelled to Manila and Macao, while Japanese caretakers of Christians were also expelled to Tsugaru. Some low-ranked Samurai commoners and local poor Christians remained in Kyoto. Since then, Bento Fernandes and Diego Yuki became a leader for the remaining Christians. Christians knew well each other. They lived together with each other by poverty and faith. The community of Christians was called “Daius” or “Deus Town”.

The last Christmas of 1618:

In 1618 the last Christmas was celebrated in this community. In the beginning of 1619 Hidetada Tokugawa, Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate persecuted Christians very hard. Katsushige Itakura, a Magistrate in Kyoto who pretended to be only indifferent from Christianity obliged to arrest most Christians and imprisoned them.
The life of imprisonment was cruel together with ordinary prisoners and several prisoners died.
Hidetada Tokugawa who stayed in Fushimi, Kyoto was angry against several Christians who were still imprisoned and at once he ordered to execute all of the prisoners.
He instructed how to execute Christians regardless of male or female, children or old people and several local war lords stayed in Kyoto recognised a real policy of the Shogunate against Christians. On October 6, 52 Christians were dragged on the streets in Kyoto and were also taken to Mashomen Area near the Kamo River. There stood 27 pieces of the crosses. The martyrs were 26 males, 26 females including 11 less than 15 year old children.

John Tahyoe Hashimoto and family Burn at the Stake:

The execution officials put John Tahyoe Hashimoto on the first cross from south side. They knew that John H. Hashimoto was a leading supporter of other Christians.
In the centre there was the pregnant wife of John H. Hashimoto and her 5 children. Thecula embraced tightly 3 year old Luisa, and 12 year old Thomas and 8 year old Francis, who were bound together with their mother. On the next cross, 13 year old Catharina and 6 year old Peter were put together on one cross.

The monument of Twenty-six Martyrs in Nagasaki.

The monument of Twenty-six Martyrs in Nagasaki.

When the sun set and reflected on the Kamo River, a fire was set on the crosses. Daughter Catharina cried aloud among the flames and smoke and said, “My dear mother, I cannot see anything any longer.”
Then their mother encouraged her children, saying, “It’s all right. All of you can see clearly everything sooner and we all will meet each other very soon.” All of them were finally killed, shouting “Jesus and Mary.” Their mother especially embraced tightly Luisa even after she collapsed.
People mentioned that they observed 52 Christians who did not abandon Christianity executed when they were in Kyoto. The mother also cried aloud saying, “Please accept these souls of my children, oh, our Lord, Jesus.”
Richard Cox, Director of a British Firm in Hirado observed the scene of the parents and their children who stood before the crosses. Bento Ferdinandes and Diego Yuki buried their ashes and became martyrs by themselves. The human life is not a material block but it implies the past and future in continuation. The dedication of the parents and their children indeed becomes a river of life.

The 55 Christian Martyrs of Kyoto:

Richard Cox, Director of the British Trade House in Hirado mentioned in his memoir as follows: “When I was in Kyoto in 1619, I saw by myself that 55 Christians were martyred because they did not give up their faith. Among them were several little children in the arms of their mothers. Their mothers cried and prayed, “Please accept these souls of our children, oh, Jesus, Our Lord”.”

Luís Fróis (1532 – 8 July 1597) was a Portuguese missionary.

Luís Fróis (1532 – 8 July 1597) was a Portuguese missionary.

A cherished Sunday, October 6, 1619 had dawned. Early in the morning the police officers started to bind the hands of the prisoners behind them at the prison in Kyoto.

The bound prisoners were taken outside the prison. Among them some prisoners dressed up by other Christian friends, while the other prisoners dressed up in their white robes for death. Especially, they had a great joy as it was Sunday, Day of Our Lord. They all expected resurrection more than their death only. All of them were 52 Christians, namely 26 males, 26 females and among them there were 11 children who were younger than 15 years. Then, they were dragged riding on the cart around Miyako Great Street in Kyoto where the 26 Japanese Martyr-Saints had passed 22 years ago.
Here and there along Miyako Great Street, the police officers announced aloud that these Christian men and women would be executed to death, because they were Christians who disobeyed the order of Shogun.
Whenever Christians heard this announcement, all of them confirmed not to give up their Christian faith and keep their faith firmly each other.
Sometimes they prayed together, singing the hymns, specially, “Laudate Dominus” of the Psalm aloud.

Ruphina, mother of Maltha who became blind knelt down, praying hard. Her attitude was deeply moved by spectators. A Christian woman approached to the cart to bid a farewell to all Christians riding on the cart, coming out from the spectators. Although a guardian attempted to arrest her, the police officers told him to let her be free at her disposal. Otherwise, probably, so many other Christians would like to join this group of bound Christians.

All of them arrived at the venue of martyrdom at Roku-jo Riverbed when it was around noontime.
Many Christians were waiting for arrival of arrested Christians. Among them there was Brother Migel Soan who was sent by Rev. Fr. Ferdinandes. He helped the arrested Christians even if he was very dangerous to be arrested at such a situation.
Agatha called him to ask him to pardon her negligence in Christian faith before getting off from the cart. Monica told him and her to leave them apart because he would be dangerous and might get into trouble.
However, she explained clearly that she had already prepared to receive God’s mercy and might die only for Christ very soon. After she got off from the cart, she declared to the crowd that she would like to die for her Christian faith and for Christ, our Lord.
All of them were overjoyed looking at the crosses and the firewood. Rino Rihyoe told an executioner, smiling, “This is a light punishment. Is there more heavy torment for me?”, and then he asked him, “Where is my Cross?”.

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The spectators were astonished at the joy and brilliant behaviours of the arrested Christians when they got off from the cart.
Above all, the attitude of pregnant Thecula Hashimoto was deeply impressed. She took off her pure white dress and gave it to a police officer and got off with her 5 children from the cart. As soon as all of them got off together and were tied on the Crosses.
Someone was tied with another man, the other was bound with 2 friends on the Cross. The woman embraced a little child while the man was tied alone on the Cross.

From north the eldest Jochin Ogawa and Gabriel were bound on the 1st Cross, while to south Joan Hashimoto was tied on the last Cross towards Fushimi.
Although some little children hung on the neck of their mother, the hands of their mothers were free to move. These mothers were as follows, Magdalena, wife of Joan Kyusaku and her 2 year old daughter, Regina, Micia, a widow of Mathias Kizaemon who died in the prison and her daughter, Lucia, Maria, a widow of the husband who gave up his faith and her 4 year old daughter, Monica, then Ruphiana and her 7 year old blind Maltha, and Thecula Hashimoto and her 3 children. She embraced tightly 4 year old Lucia on her left side and her 9 year old Francisco to her right side.
To the next Cross 2 more children of the Hashimoto Family and 13 year old Catharina and 6 year old Pedro.
All Christians were crucified and the executioners started to pile up the firewood at the foot of the Crosses.
Magistrate Itakura commanded the executioners to pile up more firewood nearby the Crosses in order to avoid a long torment before their death.
The space between the Crosses were also shortened. In this way there were 27 Crosses standing on a small hill of firewood and 52 Christians bound on the Crosses.
In doing this preparation it took a long time, so several people helped to give water to the crucified Christians and bidding a farewell to them.

Ōmura Sumitada Japanese daimyo lord of the Sengoku period. He achieved fame throughout the country for being the first of the daimyo to convert to Christianity following the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries in the mid-16th century. Wikipedia

Ōmura Sumitada Japanese daimyo lord of the Sengoku period. He achieved fame throughout the country for being the first of the daimyo to convert to Christianity following the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries in the mid-16th century. Wikipedia

At sunset (at the time of Vesper), the executioners set a fire to the firewood at a time according to Rev. Father Rodriges. As children started to cry when the flame and smoke rose up high, their mothers made efforts to console their children, petting their heads.
At this moment Thecula Hashimoto deeply impressed the spectators.
As her daughter, Catharina cried as she could not see her mother clearly, so Thecula Hashimoto answered her that she should not mind. Both repeated their prayers, saying “Jesus, Mary have mercy on us.” Then they all finally died.
However, Thecula Hashimoto embraced tightly little Lucia in her arms.
A large flame of martyrdom was illuminated for a while at the sunset in Kyoto and seemed to spread gradually all over Provinces. There were quite many people who crowded and watched this flame of martyrdom.

According to Rev. Father Rodriges, the crowd of spectators was almost the same one as the number of Samurai warriors in the siege of Osaka Castle in 1615.
People who watched the scene of the flame of martyrdom in Kyoto were people who came here in Kyoto from faraway local provinces. So they spread out the news of this terrible martyrdom all over their provinces.
They announced and spread about a strict policy of Shogun against Christians and a heroic attitude of Christians.

According to the Japanese Historical Record Book, it is written that on August 29, 1619 (the fifth year of the Genna Era), 55 Christian Martyrs in Daius Town were burned down on the Crosses. The crowd watched the scene together with male, female and children.

For Christians this martyrdom became a new and strong inspiration. According to Rev. Father Rodriges, non-Christians had 2 opinions: some people recognised the power of faith for martyrdom, while the other people thought that Christians were stubborn and died for nothing. However, these people did not doubt that these martyrs had a heroic spirit for martyrdom.

To mention the martyrdom in Kyoto, Rev. Father Joan Baptista de Baesa summarised as follows: “In spite of such a great persecution and martyrdom, Christians were not despaired and encouraged each other, then, even some non-Christians wet baptise din such a situation. After all, I personally obtained a sort of consolation from this martyrdom in Kyoto.”

A Brief Profile of Mr. Satoh:

Mr. Paul Shizuya Satoh, at age 84 still active as a tour guide in Kansai!

Mr. Paul Shizuya Satoh, at age 84 still active as a tour guide in Kansai!

Paul Shizuya Satoh was born at Saidaiji District, Okayama City, West Japan in 1930. He was brought up there till the end of the World War II in 1945.
Then he had been living and studying at the Jesuit Mission Society which conducts a well-known Sophia (Jochi) University in Tokyo till 1960.
After leaving this academic college, he has been working with the Swiss Chemical Industry Company (Chiba-Geigy) and the Swiss Textile Machinery Sales Company (Sulzer Brothers) as a translator and communication correspondent for nearly 30 years.
Since he had majored in the Comparative Study in Culture and Religion, at Sophia University, he had been intensively and keenly interested in introducing Japanese culture to foreigners as well as in absorbing the western culture from them by means of acting as a guide-interpreter, whenever he has some spare time like weekends for the past 40 years.
In addition to a qualified guide-interpreter, he has experience in teaching English and guide business at the Specialists College in Osaka (Senmon Gakko) after he retired from the Swiss Company. Since he retired completely from actual work and teaching, he is now doing something good for international exchange as a guide-interpreter volunteer in Kyoto and around Kansai Region.
He has been baptised by a Jesuit priest at Sophia (Jochi) University in Tokyo in 1950. At the same time he was also christened as “Paul”.


  1. Hi

    I am organizing a Catholic youth pilgrimage in November over the Thanksgiving holiday and would like a guide or directions to visit some of these sites and to learn of the mission of St Francis Xavier.

    If you or some you know is able to assist, please let me know. We are also working with Father S.

    Christ Is Risen!

    • Thank you for your interest, I do know someone who could help you. I’ll get back to you

    • I met with mr. Satoh and he can help you with you’re endeavor. Will you be staying in Kyoto? How long? What will your mode of transportation be? Will you rent a bus to travel around? Give me some more details.

  2. Hello, thanks for sharing the info!
    I’m visiting with my family, we would like to pray and do some reflections at these sites too. Do you have the address of the various events?

    • Ok, I’ll get back to you, need to do this from my computer. Which places do you want to see?

      • Thanks agreeing to help. Don’t think we’ll have time to visit them this trip but for the sake of others, I think it’d be really useful if we had the addresses or google map links to the locations where martyrdom took place.
        As of now, it seems only the Nagasaki memorial is obvious.

        Others, such as the commemorative stone for 1619 martyrs seems impossible to locate.

        Thanks for honouring these brave inspiring souls!

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