History of Kuroshima

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Before the Kamakura shogunate government was established (1192), this area (present Sasebo city, Hirado city and Imari city) including Kuroshima was controlled by strong families and pirates.

Kuroshima became the Matsuura family’s territory in the process of their unifying this area including the Kitamatsuura peninsula and islands from the late Muromachi period to the early Warring States period.
Then, Kuroshima was given to Nishi Joemon, a major retainer of the Matsuura family, as a reward for the suppression of pirates and he started to control the island directly.

When it comes to the Edo era, Kuroshima is Hiradoshima to (current Hirado) to put the castle Hirado clan territory.
In those days, Kuroshima was not fit for rice growing, but was known for its granite stone production and pasture as well as farm and marine products.
During the late Edo period, many hidden Christians of the Omura Domain migrated to Kuroshma to avoid the religious oppression by the lord.

A few months after the ‘discovery of Christians’ at Oura Cathedral in 1865, the representatives of the Kuroshima hidden Christians went to the Cathedral to see Fr. Petitjean and confess their faith.
During the Meiji period, they returned to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1902, the current church was built and still 80% of the islanders are Catholics.

In 1954, Kuroshima was incorporated into Sasebo city and became Kuroshima cho from Kuroshima village.

 

Through the harsh repression, the miracle was "resurrected"

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"Kuroshima and Christianity."

It is said that Christianity was first introduced to Kuroshima more than 300 years ago.

Christianity was introduced to Japan in 1549 by Francis Xavier and it spread throughout Japan very rapidly.
However, some parts of Christian teachings were inconvenient for feudal lords to control their domains, so the Tokugawa shogunate issued the order banning Christianity in 1612.
The religious suppression continued until 1873 when the Meiji government officially lifted the ban on Christianity. During the suppression period, hidden Christians had to spend a hard time to decide whether to die with the faith or live without the faith.
The suppression was getting severe also in the Hirado Domain which Kuroshima belonged to.

Yamaguchi Jizaemon, a chief retainer of the Hirado Domain, is said to be the first Christian on Kuroshima island.
During the reign of Matsuura Shigenobu (1568-1600), He left the Hirado Domain to escape from persecution and moved to Kuroshima via the Omura Domain where many Christians lived.

Many hidden Christians dreamt of a place where they could observe their faith in peace and migrated to undeveloped distant islands like Goto and Kuroshima.
The 600 Kuroshima hidden Christians were keeping their faith in secret under the leadership of Deguchi Daikichi.
Deguchi engaged in such religious activities as attending masses at Dejima in Nagasaki (The Dutch trading house was located), learning the catechism and how to baptize, visiting other islands as a missionary.

The Kuroshima Christians endured the government harsh suppression and handed down their faith until the time of the ‘discovery of Christians’.

 

Island of chronology and events of Japan

Name of an eraAgeKuroshima Timeline Nation-Wide Events
Kamakura Period1192The name of Kuroshima is seen in the territory list of Minegoro Hiraku, Minamoto no Yoritomo the founder of the Hirado Matsuura family.
Hiraku was given Kuroshima as territory by the Kamakura Shogunate. (First seen in a history record) Kuroshima was used as a pasture those days.
Minamoto no Yoritomo, established the Kamakura shogunate.
(1192)
1300This area was haunted by a gang of pirates and Kuroshima was used as temporary port.
1429Kuroshima and Tsuyoshi of Hirado became the territory of the powerful Family Nishi Hitachinokami.
1467A territorial dispute occurred between local strong families and the Matsuura family. The Matsuura family won and Kuroshima became its territory. The Onin Civil War occurred.
(1467)
1550Francis Xavier proselytized on the island of Hirado.Francis Xavier introduced Christianity to Japan. (1549)
Azuchi-Momoyama PeriodA Buddhist called Honshoku moved to Muranaka of the Honmura area from Hirado.
1580Kuroshima was given to Nishi Joemon (a descendant of Hitachinokami) By the Matsuura family as a reward for the suppression of pirates.
He built a house called Nishi Yashiki and lived on Kuroshima.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued the order banning Christianity.
(1587)
1599Yamaguchi Zizaemon, the Christian chief retainer of the Hirado Domain, moved to Kuroshima via the Omura Domain to escape From persecution.
He is said to be the first Christian settler.
(Later, he converted to Buddhism and lived in Hirado with a different name)
A decree of purging Christians was issued in the Hirado Domain.
(1599)
Edo Period1604A record says the total rice production was about 7 tons. Quite a few people seem to have lived.The Battle of Sekigahara.
(1600)
Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa Shogunate.
(1603)
1612Kuroshima became a Shogun’s demesne and the order Banning Christianity was issued.
Christians were persecuted and moved to other places.
The Shimabara Rebellion, occur.
(1637)
1780A record says 27 households existed.
1789The Buddhist Soto Sect temple Kozenji was built as a branch temple of Chosenji Temple in Maetsuyoshi of Hirado.
The name of the first location still remains as Terayama (temple mountain).
1797The Goto Domain asked the Omura Domain for peasants for a massive land reclamation.
The Omura Domain was overpopulated and moved many peasants from the Sotome area to the Goto islands.
1803The pasture on the island was abolished by the Hirado Domain lord.
A letter allowing anyone to live freely was issued.
Ino Tadataka started the nation-wide survey to make a map.
(1800)
1812Feb 8, Ino Tadataka arrived at Honmura of Kuroshima after measuring Ishima island and Konokojima island.
Climbing up Mt. Bandake and measured the latitude and the longitude of Kuroshima.
Feb 10, returned to Tsuyoshi of Hirado.
1815The hidden Christians of Hario, Ikitsuki and Sotome migrated to Kuroshima. A record says 106 households existed.
1865The Discovery of Christians.
Soon after Oura Cathedral was built in Nagasaki, Mr. Deguchi and his son went there by boat and told Fr. Petitjean that there were 600 hidden Christians on Kuroshima.
Oura Cathedral was built in Nagasaki.
(1864)
Meiji Era1878The Kuroshima’s hidden Christians returned to the Roman Catholic Church.
Fr. Pelloux built a wooden church in the Nakiri area.
※ Meiji 11 year.
The ban on Christianity was officially lifted.
(1873 year ※ Meiji 6 year)
1900Fr. Marman started building the current church.
※ Meiji 33 year.
Sasebo Village became Sasebo City.
(1902 year ※ Meiji 35 years 4 month)
1902Meiji 35 year, the church was completed.
Construction cost about 15,000 yen at the time of the money (in the ceiling cost 3,000 circle)

About the Nishi Family:

One of the chief retainers of the Hirado Domain and participated in Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion to Korea.
He received more than 22 tons of rice as annual stipend. The 15th heir was the president of Jujo Paper Co. (1949)