Urakami Yoban Kuzure (the fourth persecution of Urakami Christians) (浦上四番崩れ)

"Urakami yoban kuzure," which means the fourth suppression campaign against crypto-Christians in Urakami area, refers to a large-scale crackdown on Christians which took place in Nagasaki Prefecture from the end of Edo period to the early Meiji period.

In 1867, many people of Urakami village who had kept their faith as crypto-Christians expressed their Christianity and captured and tortured by order of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). The Meiji Government followed the Edo bakufu's policy to ban Christianity and banished the villagers, which provoked strong criticism from foreign countries. After the Iwakura Mission, sent to Europe and America, were surprised to find that crackdown on Christians was impeding the revision of a treaty and sent a telegram to Japan, the policy to ban Christianity was abolished in 1873 and Christianity was officially approved in Japan for the first time in 259 years since 1614.

By the way, "Urakami ichiban kuzure" is interrogations of Christians starting in 1790, "Urakami niban kuzure" is an incident in 1839 where Christians were betrayed and captured, and "Urakami sanban kuzure" is an incident in 1856 where leading worshipers were betrayed, captured, and tortured. Prior to these incidents, the mid-Edo period saw 'Amakusa kuzure,' 'Omura kuzure,' and other incidents in which Christians were found and executed around the country.

Under the national policy of banning Christianity, the Edo bakufu tried to capture Christian missionaries and believers across the country without fail, force them to convert to Buddhism, and execute those who refused to change their faith. With the Ban on Christianity imposed, many Christians living in Nagasaki which had established ties to the Catholic Church had to keep their religious faith behind closed doors as crypto-Christians to transmit it to the next generation. The crypto-Christians in Nagasaki had transmitted a prophecy of Bastien, a preacher who was captured and martyred by the bakufu in the early Tokugawa period.
The prophecy said 'a padre (priest) will come from Rome again after seven generations of hardship.'

In 1864, in accordance with the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between France and Japan, Oura Catholic Church (Oura tenshudo) was built for French residents in the Minamiyamate foreign settlement in Nagasaki. Father Bernard PETITJEAN, the dean from La Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris, privately believed there could well be followers in hiding. Then, on March 17, 1865, some Urakami villagers came to visit him. Among them was then 52-year-old Yuri (later using Sugimoto as the surname), or Isabelina in the baptismal name, who came close and whispered in Father Petitjean's ear, 'we believe in the same religion as you' (we are Christians). The priest was stunned. This is what is called "discovery of Christians in Nagasaki." They were glad to find a statue of Virgin Mary and offered prayers to it. They told they had observed 'kanashimisetsu' (the Lent) based on the orally transmitted ordo, which surprised the priest once again. Thereafter, leaders of Christians living in Sotome, Goto, Amakusa and Imamura in Chikugo as well as Urakami came to the priest one after another, asking for teachings. After receiving secret lessons from the priest, they returned to their home villages and promulgated the priest's teachings.

Two years later in 1867, however, Christians of Urakami village refused the Buddhist funeral, thereby bringing them to light. The village headman reported this fact to the Nagasaki magistrate. Summoned to appear before the magistrate on behalf of the Christians, Senemon TAKAGI and others expressed their Christianity, which embarrassed the Nagasaki magistrate even more and he allowed their tentative return to the village. Then, in response to the report from the Nagasaki magistrate, the bakufu ordered spies to investigate the Christian group of Urakami. At midnight on July 14, 1867, bakuri (shogunate officials) first conducted a raid on a secret church, and captured Senemon TAKAGI and 67 other Christians all at once. Christians thus captured were terribly tortured.

As soon as knowing of this affair on the following day, Prussian, Portuguese and American ministers and French consul protested against the Nagasaki magistrate, saying his behavior was inhuman. A French minister, Léon ROCHES, lodged an official protest and met with Shogun Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA to discuss the affair in Osaka-jo Castle on August 24.

After the collapse of the Edo bakufu, Nobuyoshi SAWA who had served as sanyo (a councilor) was appointed to double as the Governor of the Nagasaki Court on March 7, 1868, and came to Nagasaki together with a newly assigned officer in charge of foreign affairs, Kaoru INOUE. After 'Gobo no Keiji' (five edict boards) was issued on April 7, 1868 with Article three stipulating once again the ban on Christianity, Sawa and Inoue summoned the Christians of Urakami in question and urged them to change their faith, but ended up finding that they would never obey. Following a proposal of severe punishment of 'execution for leading figures and deportation for other general Christians' made by Sawa and Inoue, the government held a conference in the presence of the emperor in Osaka on May 17 to discuss the proposed punishment.
Tatewaki KOMATSU, who was responsible for diplomacy, called for the consideration of protests by foreign ministers that the government was currently facing, and the conference adopted 'deportation of Christians.'
Negotiations with foreign ministers on the following day saw more fierce protests against the decision of the conference, with the discussion on the Urakami Christian problem between the British minister, Harry PARKES, and others and government representatives, including Shigenobu OKUMA, lasting more than six hours.
("Kumako Kanwa" [Small Talks about Sir OKUMA])

Dajokan tasshi (proclamation by the Grand Council of State) was issued on June 7, 1868 to provide for deportation for the captured Christians. On July 9, Takayoshi KIDO visited Nagasaki to discuss how to punish them and decided to transport 114 leading Christians to Tsuwano, Hagi, and Fukuyama. Thereafter, until 1870, Christians in Nagasaki were captured and sentenced to deportation one after another. At the place of exile, they were continued to be subjected to torture and lynching over and over, such as torture by water, snow, ice, fire, and starvation, locking in a box, crucifixion, and torture of children before their parents' eyes, which was more terrible, gruesome and brutal than in the old Shogunate period.

Ministers from various countries made repeated protests against the Japanese government while reporting what was going on to their countries. Furthermore, in the following year, the Iwakura Mission, led by Tomomi IWAKURA, was strongly criticized at each destination by the U.S. President Ulysses S. GRANT, Queen of England Victoria, and Danish King Christian IX for the anti-Christian policy, which made the Mission members realize that the Meiji Government's crackdown on Christianity was the biggest obstacle to the revision of unequal treaties. In the U.S. and European countries the newspapers all criticized the villainous outrage and public opinion also grew stronger, so the then Japanese charge d'affaires to the U.S., Arinori MORI, wrote "Religious Freedom in Japan" stating that it was difficult to hold on to the anti-Christian policy, which was followed by some people including Mokurai SHIMAJI, a Buddhist monk of West Hongan-ji Temple.
Conservatives in the government, however, were once advocates for the revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians movement, and strongly opposed the abolishment of the Ban on Christianity without hiding their hostility to Christianity, saying that 'Shinto is the state religion (to establish Shinto as a state religion), so the religion from other countries should be removed' and that 'Europe and the U.S. are unlikely to immediately agree to revise treaties after lifting the ban on Christianly.'
In addition, common people who had long believed that Christianity was "Jasumon" (Heresy) also raised a voice of protest against the lifting of the ban out of fear of Christianity, and due to these circumstances the Japanese government was not willing to remove the ban at all. Because of the worsening relations with Shinto and the Meiji Government which had protected Shinto due to the anti-Buddhist movement at the beginning of the Meiji period, the Buddhist world showed some moves to improve such relations by taking advantage of hostility toward Christianity, or "the common enemy."

On February 24, 1873, the Japanese government removed the bulletin board banning Christianity and released the Christians. 3394 people were exiled, out of which 662 people lost their lives. The surviving Christians strengthened their religious faith while calling their suffering during deportation "journey," and built a church (Urakami Cathedral) in Urakami with which they had been associated in 1879.

[Original Japanese]