'The Beginning of Heaven and Earth': The Biblical Story as told by the 'Hidden Christians'

The ‘hidden Christians’ (kakure Kirishitan) are the descendants of Japanese Catholics who went underground when Christianity was outlawed in Japan during the 17th century. Facing persecution from the authorities, these ‘hidden Christians’ continued to practice their faith in secret and passed prayers and teachings (containing a lot of loanwords from Latin, Spanish and Portuguese - the language of the missionaries) down orally - more a matter of necessity since most of the ‘hidden Christians’ were illiterate peasants.

What is interesting though is that in that two hundred year period the ‘hidden Christians’ was underground, the version of Catholicism many of them practiced slowly drifted away from what you might call ‘orthodox’ Christianity and became distinctly Japanese in flavor. They lost the meaning of the prayers - which became pretty much like Buddhist mantras: something that only needed to be pronounced correctly without regard for the actual meaning of the words - and their religion generally became a sort of ancestor cult (the ancestors in this case being the martyrs), with a heavy influence from Buddhism and Shinto (the native religion of Japan). Due to the lack of actual priests, lay leaders began to lead the services; these lay leaders, in turn, became more or less the unofficial ‘priests’ of the hidden Christians, with their ‘priesthood’ becoming a hereditary position passed down from father to son. The absence of priests also meant that the hidden Christians only preserved one sacrament: baptism.

The only written ‘Hidden Christian’ document to survive was a thirty-page document from the early 19th century known as Tenchi Hajimari-no-Koto (天地始之事 Of the Beginning of Heaven and Earth). The document comprises of familiar biblical stories (the creation, the flood, the life of Jesus) mixed in with apocryphal material and strung with Japanese elements. Some people might be shocked at just how the stories have become ‘distorted’ and ‘corrupted’ (from an orthodox point of view) - sometimes almost veering into borderline heresy - but the work is really valuable in understanding the religious attitude of the Japanese. How the stories were altered during the process of transmission gives a window to the thoughts and sentiments of the people who made them.

(There’s an English translation of the Tenchi by anthropologist Christal Whelan: The Beginning of Heaven and Earth: The Sacred Book of Japan’s Hidden Christians. Quotes from the Tenchi are from her work.)

In the beginning Deusu [Portuguese: *Deus ‘God’] was worshiped as Lord of Heaven and Earth, and Parent of humankind and all creation. Deusu has two hundred ranks and forty-two forms, and divided the light that was originally one, and made the Sun Heaven, and twelve other heavens. The names of these heavens are Benbo [Limbo?] or Hell, Manbo mundo ‘world’?], Oribeten oliveto ‘Mount of Olives’?], Shidai [the [URL=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_matter”]‘four great’ states of matter], Godai [the [URL=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_elements_(Japanese_philosophy)”]‘five great’ Buddhist elements], Pappa papa ‘pope’], Oroha coroa ‘crown’/‘chaplet’], Konsutanchi, Hora = Constantinople], Koroteru hortelo ‘garden’], and a hundred thousand Paraiso ‘paradise’] and Gokuraku [the Japanese Buddhist equivalent of ‘paradise’].

Deusu then created the sun, the moon, the stars, and called into being tens of thousands of anjo [angels] just by thinking of them. One of them, Jusuheru [Lucifer], the head of seven anjo, has a hundred ranks and thirty-two forms. Deusu is the one who made all things: earth, water, fire, wind, salt, oil, and put in his own flesh and bones. Without pause Deusu worked on the Shikuda, Terusha, Kuwaruta, Kinta, Sesuta, and Sabata [Monday to Saturday in Portuguese: *segunda-feira, terça-feira, quarta-feira, quinta-feira, sexta-feira, sábado]. Then on the seventh day Deusu blew breath into this being and named him Domeigosu-no-Adan [Sunday-Adam], who possessed thirty-three forms. So this is the usual number of forms for a human being. For this reason the seventh day of one cycle is observed as a feast day. Deusu then made a woman and called her Domeigosu-no-Ewa [Sunday-Eve], had the man and woman marry, and gave them the realm called Koroteru. There they bore a son and daughter, Chikoro and Tanho, and went every day to Paraiso to worship Deusu.

The Japanese did not have the concept of a creator god; in Japanese mythology, the beginning of the world is described as being more or less a kind of spontaneous generation. It is thus difficult for the Japanese to imagine a creator God who has a persona. Plus the early missionaries struggled with the best to use when describing the Christian God. The native word kami was too ambiguous for their liking (the word is too broad in the traditional sense, not to that Japanese does not distinguish much between singular and plural; kami can thus either mean, depending on context, ‘a god’ or ‘gods’).

St. Francis Xavier once attempted to use the Buddhist term Dainichi (the name of the buddha Vairocana) for the Christian God, under influence of Yajiro, the Japanese refugee who served as his interpreter. Yajiro originally belonged to the esoteric Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, where Vairocana/Dainichi is a central figure. Not to mention that the choice was understandable, since there are a lot of superficial similarities between that form of Buddhism and Catholicism (smells and bells, priests in funny hats, chanting, monasteries, etc. ;)) But after many misunderstandings (usually from Shingon monks who taught that the missionaries were preaching a foreign kind of Buddhism), Xavier and the missionaries finally settled on the Latin/Portuguese term Deus for the Christian God.

The hidden Christians at least retained the monotheistic idea of God as creator and Lord, but the second sentence already shows a Buddhist influence: Deus is said to have forty-two special marks - more than the Buddha, who is traditionally described as having thirty-two distinct physical characteristics. By saying that Deus had 42 phases or forms, the Japanese Christians wanted to show his superiority. Even Adam (Adan) is shown to have one more extra physical mark than the Buddha!

The text then goes on to say that Deus “divided the light that was originally one” (apparently implying that God divided Himself), creating the sun in the process. It might have been difficult for the Japanese to imagine God creating the sun (after all, the sun - in the form of the goddess Amaterasu - is the highest divinity in Japanese mythology and traditionally considered to be the ancestor of the emperor), so they simply imagined that God and the sun were originally one. Deus then created twelve heavens (the influence of Japanese Buddhism) - seemingly named after random Portuguese words - the moon, stars, and the anjo (angels), one of whom was Jusuheru (Lucifer), “the head of seven anjo” (= the seven archangels).


Deus is mentioned as creating earth, water, fire, wind, (the four elements) in addition to salt (considered to be symbolic of purity in Shinto and used widely in Japanese ritual; Catholics also have the idea of blessed salt, don’t we?) and oil (another Catholic influence - holy oil and chrism). In the space of seven days, He creates and breathes life to Adam - who here is brought into being on Sunday, the seventh day (Domeigosu, from Spanish/Portuguese domingo), instead of the sixth day, as in Genesis. The creation of Adam is given as the reason why Sunday is considered to be ‘a feast day’. Deus then creates a woman, calling her Ewa (Eve). Here it seems that Eve is created separately instead of coming from Adam’s rib/side; perhaps the Japanese thought that that version overemphasized the male principle.

As I mentioned, the Japanese did not have the concept of a creator god and so had difficulty understanding the idea. The missionaries thus had to rely on natural science to explain this concept of God. Natural science was completely unknown back then in Japan, and the people were awed by the experiments conducted by the missionaries and the technology and scientific principles they imparted. Using the scientific rules of cause and effect, the missionaries attempted to explain the idea of the ‘first cause’ (prima causa) - that God is the ultimate cause of all things. This was a new idea to the Japanese, and at the time Christianity was praised because it was considered to be more rational and logical compared to the more mystical Eastern religions. Xavier was aware of this and specifically instructed the Jesuits to “Teach mathematics but not astrology to the Japanese.” Because of this, they were able to succeed.

The Japanese also found the concept of original sin to be complicated, and so greatly oversimplified the story of the fall of Man. This is how it goes. Ewa and Adan (Ewa is always named first in the stories) have a son and daughter - as opposed to Genesis’ Cain and Abel - and live in one of the twelve heavens Deus had created, Koroteru (perhaps from the Portuguese word for ‘garden’, hortelo). Koroteru is a distinct locale from Paraiso (Paradise), where Deus dwelt, but it was easy to access - easy enough for the couple to go there and worship Deus everyday.

One day while Deusu was away, Jusuheru seized the opportunity to deceive the anjo and said, “As I’m also like Deusu, worship me from now on.” Hearing this, the anjo worshiped him saying, “Ah, behold, behold!” Ewa and Adan then asked, “Isn’t Deusu here?” But Jusuheru replied swiftly saying, “The Lord is in heaven, but because I am like Deusu, tens of thousands of anjo revere me. Therefore, Ewa and Adan, you too worship me – Jusuheru!” Ewa and Adan listened and discussed the matter between themselves scrupling, “But we are supposed to worship Deusu.”

Just at that moment Deusu, descending from on high, came to that very spot where they were discussing the issue. The anjo who had worshiped Jusuheru, and Ewa and Adan, were all startled by Deusu’s sudden apparition. They clasped their hands and bowed their heads until they touched the ground. In acknowledgement of their error they demonstrated their remorse by offering the Konchirisan Contrição, the Act of Contrition]. Deusu then spoke, saying, “Even if you should worship Jusuheru, don’t ever eat the fruit of the masan maçã, apple].”

The legend of Lucifer’s pride is conflated here with the story of Adam and Eve: Jusuheru tries to convince the other anjo, as well as the visiting Ewa and Adan, that he is equal to Deus and thus, worthy of worship. Deus catches them red-handed, though, and those who worshiped Jusuheru try to repent by reciting the Konchirisan, the Act of Contrition (which is a very important prayer to the ‘hidden Christians’). A noticeable element is that in the Tenchi, God is very merciful - sometimes apparently even more so than in the Bible. Here, in response to Jusuheru trying to hog all the glory to himself, Deus simply gives off a warning to the repentant Ewa and Adan: never eat of the apple (masan). The idea of forgiveness is very important to the hidden Christians - I’ll explain this later.

Interesting! I want to read more of this. When mainstream Christianity returned to Japan, did the hidden Christians know what it was and return to the church?

Thank you for posting. Will come back to read more.

Pax Christi!

This is cool… I’m going to come back to this later.

Thanks for sharing.

God bless.

I had no idea! MORE! MORE! :thumbsup:

Some of them did, but there were also those who did not. There were about 50,000 to 60,000 ‘hidden Christians’ in the late 19th century; about half of that number rejoined the Church. (There’s the old story about the French priest Fr. Bernard Petitjean being approached by such a group of Christians.) The rest simply felt that much had changed since the 17th century (in their view, it is not them that changed, but the Church in general) and kept preserving their ‘hidden Christianity’.

I’ll continue.

Despite Deus’ warning, however, Jusuheru (just like the serpent in the biblical account) manages to trick Ewa and Adan to eat of the masan fruit.

And turning to Ewa and Adan, [Deusu said,] “If you bring your children to me, I will give them auspicious names.” Having heard Deusu’s most merciful words, every one returned home together. But Jusuheru, after he heard all this, rushed ahead to Koroteru with the sole intention of deceiving Ewa and Adan. Along the way, he got hold of the fruit of the forbidden masan, and went to Ewa and Adan’s home. “Where’s Adan?” he asked, and Ewa answered, “He’s out just now guarding the gate of Paraiso.” Jusuheru continued, “I am Deusu’s messenger. Because it is Deusu’s will to bestow lucky names on your children, hurry and send them to Deusu.” Ewa listened and believed. “Thank you for taking the trouble to come all this way to tell me that,” she said, and paused fascinated. “And by the way, what is that medicine you are holding?”

“Oh, this,” said Jusuheru. “It’s the fruit of the masan.” Ewa was surprised and said, “But I hear that fruit is against out law here in Paraiso. Is it permissible to eat of it?” Jusuheru, answering with a patent lie, said, “The fruit of the masan is something that belongs to Deusu and to me, Jusuheru.” He then added, “It is forbidden because whoever eats it will then obtain the same rank as Deusu.” Ewa listened and asked, “Is that really true?” Then Jusuheru, triumphing over Ewa’s doubts, handed her the fruit of the masan. “Eat this if you please, my good woman,” he said encouraging her, “and obtain the same rank as I, Jusuheru.” Ewa felt glad as she took the fruit in her hands. With both hands she raised the masan above her head in a sign of deference, drew it close to her, and then ate of it.

“You should have Adan eat some, too,” Jusuheru said, and reminding her of his mission added, “And take your children to Deusu soon.” Pretending to be a messenger on his way back to Deusu, Jusuheru hid himself in order to watch what would happen next. When Adan came home, Ewa told him the story and showed him the fruit she had set aside for him. When she handed it to Adan, he had some doubts but took it in his hands anyway and ate it. At that moment, how eerie it was, for a voice as if from nowhere spoke out: “Adan … whhhy? That is the evil fruit.” It was the voice of Deusu, and Adan, shaken, stood transfixed in amazement, but no matter how hard he tried to vomit up the fruit it remained lodged deep in his throat.

What a pitiful sight it was, for Ewa and Adan too lost the glory of heaven and were transformed on the spot. They offered the Salve Regina, cried out to heaven, and bowed to the ground. Tears of blood flowed from their eyes, and although they had a thousand regrets it was no use. This incident is the origin of the Contrition orassho.

You can notice the very Japanese gesture Ewa makes when receiving the apple from Jusuheru: raising it above her head in deference (a gesture traditionally made when receiving a gift or reading a sacred text or handing a religious statue).

The European apple was unknown in Japan at the time; the native apples, such as zumi (malus toringo) and ezo-no-koringo ([malus baccata](“Malus baccata”), Siberian crabapple) were quite small. The unfamiliarity of the fruit to the Japanese made the former Christian convert and Jesuit turned apostate Fabian Fucan, in his anti-Christian work Ha Daiusu (‘Deus Destroyed’) to describe the masan as “a fruit somewhat like a persimmon.”

The Tenchi makes a reference to the Western folk legend that a piece of the forbidden fruit became stuck in Adam’s throat, which in turn became the adam’s apple. Also note the way Ewa and Adan offer repentance. Their bowing on the ground and reciting the Salve Regina (!) is pointed out as the origin of the prayer (orassho) of Contrition.


Let me go on a bit about the Hidden Christians before we go on.

The so-called Hidden Christians thrived in isolated areas in the Kyushu region in western Japan, for instance in remote villages or far-flung islands. Some of the areas where Hidden Christianity thrived include Hirado, Ikitsuki, Sotome, Gotō, and Urakami, all in Nagasaki Prefecture, as well as the hamlets of Oe and Sakitsu, currently part of the city of Amakusa in Kumamoto Prefecture. The Amakusa islands (where the city is located), along with Shimabara Peninsula, were the sites of the disastrous 1637-8 Shimabara Rebellion which involved Catholic peasants trying to lead an armed rebellion against the government and was the instrumental element in the enacting of the policy of sakoku (in which Japan closed itself from most of the outside world - mainly Western countries, with the sole exception of Protestant Holland, and East Asian countries like China and Korea) and the enforcement of the then-existing ban against Christianity. Now to be precise, there wasn’t one, single community of Hidden Christians. What you had instead was different communities who practiced Christianity in secret. These communities (sometimes including neighboring villages) had little, if any, contact with one another, and so religious practice evolved differently in different areas.

The missionaries emphasized breadth over depth, so while there was a huge influx of converts, most of these converts barely understood the complexities of their faith. In addition, there was also a serious shortage of priests: in 1614, the ratio of priests to believers had been 1 to 3,061 - and even then, that was lesser than it had been in 1579 (1 priest for every 5,652 believers). An Italian Jesuit named Fr. Organtino (1533-1609) - the most popular of the early Jesuit missionaries - is even recorded in 1589 as hearing 3,500 confessions in a single year - which amounts to ten confessions per day, and that’s on top of his daily duties and the time necessary for travelling.

The lack of enough priests meant that believers had to operate on their own, through self-help organizations such as confraternities or prayer groups. So even before the era of persecution, lay groups had to perform many of the church’s functions. On the other hand, it also meant that the teachings behind them were not always absorbed fully, but transmitted in a half-understood, syncretized manner. So when the Hidden Christian communities were formed, they had to rely on rather shaky, hazy information, because much of the people who actually knew something about Christianity usually had on the average just seven to ten days of religious instruction, and there were no priests nor any Bible to tell them the ‘correct’ way or form of belief. (Only a part of Matthew’s gospel were then translated into Japanese; hence their biblical knowledge were mainly derived from the oral teachings of the missionaries and from bits and pieces found in religious literature.)


The communities usually divided important functions between members (officeholders were restricted to men). These offices trace themselves to the period when priests (the padres; adopted in Japanese as bateren) and friars (iruman, from irmão) were assisted by catechists and trained lay leaders such as the dojuku and the kanbo (both terms taken from Buddhist monastic positions), who were authorized to perform baptisms, to conduct prayer meetings, and to assist the sick and the dying - in other words, to act as lay substitutes for priests when none was available.

In the case of Nagasaki, there were two main versions of how a Hidden Christian community might be organized. In the south (the Sotome/Goto area), for instance, the important position was that of the chokata (there are different names for the positions depending on the community - I’m giving just one version), who was very much the ‘leader’ of the community. The chokata took charge of the records as well as organized and led community meetings. Since the preservation of the Church calendar was of prime importance among the communities in the south, it was also the chokata’s job to memorize a version of said calendar and inform the community about oncoming feast-days and rest days (sawari no hi, ‘bad days’ on which no work could be done) on a weekly basis. Because the absence of priests meant that baptism was the only sacrament the Hidden Christians could legitimately perform, the ‘baptizer’ or mizukata - every community had one or more mizukata - also occupied an important status among the community second only to the chokata. Other officials include the catechists/teachers (the oshiekata) and the announcers (kikikata). The way the hierarchy works, the chokata is the head of the largest geographical unit; under him are the mizukata, who are responsible for a smaller unit called a kori, with the oshiekata and the kikikata, having the responsibility for a smaller number of homes.

Among the communities in northern Nagasaki (in the islands of Hirado and Ikitsuki) more focus is made on the preservation of so-called nandogami (the ‘closet/storeroom gods’; a secret altar in which Christian religious images and articles were kept) the communities are organized slightly differently. At the top was the the ukeyake/sazukeyaku (the ‘contractor’), whose job is roughly similar to that of the chokata and the mizukata in the south. Under his jurisdiction are the tsumoto, houses which contained the nandogami, the community’s innermost secret; the head of the tsumoto who was responsible for the nandogami is the gobanyake/gobanyaku, or sometimes other names if there were more than one tsumoto in a given community. Finally, each tsumoto had an associated network of households known as kompania (Portuguese companhia) or kumi; each kompania were headed by a ‘disciple’ or mi-deshi.

For the meetings, the Hidden Christians met in random locations such as a private house (sometimes even in secret rooms within the house), or even in caves or in forests. By necessity, the gatherings were usually small in number (in some areas, for instance, not all of the community attends the Sunday meeting, but only chosen representatives). Worship centered around prayers or orashio (from Latin oratio / Portuguese oração), usually in Latin or Spanish/Portuguese (with some Japanese thrown in), which were memorized and handed down orally from generation to generation, often in a distorted form.

The Hidden Christians used some ingenious tricks to disguise their practice. One of the most famous examples is the so-called Maria Kannon, where images of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (aka Kannon, Guanyin in Chinese) were identified as being that of Mary.

A Maria Kannon

Notice the cross vaguely visible on the back of the Buddhist statue.

The Annunciation - one example of a nandogami (aka gozensama) from Ikitsuki.

A reconstruction of how a hidden altar might have looked like.

Just ordered myself a copy Patrick. Arigato gozaimasu…

After some time had passed, Ewa and Adan turned to Deusu and implored, “Please let us taste again the glory of heaven.” Deusu listened and answered them, “If that is your wish, you must repent for more than four hundred years. Then I will invite you to Paraiso. But you, Ewa, will become a dog in Middle Heaven.” Ewa was then kicked and disappeared to who knows where. “As for you, children of Ewa, you must live on the earth, eat beasts, and worship the moon and the stars, and repent. At some later time I will show you the way to heaven.”

On the earth there is a stone called gojaku, Deusu told them. If you discover its whereabouts and live in that spot, something miraculous is sure to happen. The place Deusu was referring to is the very place where we are living.

Again, you can notice the overall mercy of Deus. Despite punishing them for their sin (with Ewa being turned into a dog - shades of the Buddhist idea of reincarnation here - and cast into the Limbo-like Chuuten, the ‘Middle Heaven’, where Jusuheru and his anjo will also be sent), Deus specifically mentions that Ewa and Adan will be forgiven if they perform penance for four hundred years.

“As for you, children of Ewa, you must live on the earth (the word used here is the Buddhist term gekai ‘the lower world’), eat beasts, and worship the moon and the stars, and repent.” Some have seen here a shade of the Hidden Christian mentality. Somewhat oddly, Deus seems to order Ewa’s children to do the unthinkable: worship the moon and the stars and eat animal flesh (consumption of meat was banned during certain periods of Japanese history under influence of Buddhism, and many Japanese rarely, if at all, ate meat). But then He also gives them the command to repent and promises to forgive them.

The Hidden Christians considered themselves to constantly live a life of sin, something they perpetually tried to atone for. Some people might have heard of the fumie, a likeness of Jesus or Mary people were required to trample yearly in a formal ceremony in order to prove that they were not Christians. While at first, Christians refused to step on the image and were tortured and martyred as a result, as time went on the Hidden Christians realized that they would die out if they continued to refuse. So they did the unthinkable: they began to step on the fumie, had themselves registered to local Buddhist temples (as per government policy), made written assurances of conversion to Buddhism, and even held Buddhist funerals. An outsider would have no way of knowing that they were secret Christians.

At the same time though the Hidden Christians were racked with guilt for committing these sins (out of necessity). If God did not consent to their outward denial of their faith, they could not live. Plus they did not have an access to a priest they could confess their sins to, so they needed to have an image of a merciful Deus, who allows - even orders - them to commit sin. Because there were no priests, the Christians had to rely on their prayers and rituals which became very important. The Hidden Christians’ lives revolved around a cycle repeated year after year, starting from the committing of sin (denying they were Christians by trodding on the fumie) and then spending the following months repenting for that sin by the recitation of prayers and the performance of rituals in everyday life.


Trodding on a fumie

Paper fumie from Amakusa, dated 1673

The Hidden Christians managed to pass down some devotional literature from the time of the missionaries. One was the so-called Dochirina Kirishitan (1592, 1600) - one of the books the printing press in the Jesuit college at Amakusa had published in the twenty years of its existence (1591-1611). Another was a treatise on contrition, Konchirisan no R(i)yaku (A Summary of Contrition / The Merits of Contrition, 1603). The latter work was so important to the Hidden Christians that it was transmitted orally, with handwritten copies also being made.

Their focus on trying to atone for their sin is the reason why the Konchirisan (the Act of Contrition) occupies a pride of place among hidden Christians, and why the treatise on contrition was highly popular. The pamphlet became a vital means of self-help since it contained instruction in how a Christian might achieve forgiveness of sins through sincere repentance without the presence of a priest. In this way, it basically functioned as their substitute for confession and extreme unction.

Now Jusuheru, who had hidden himself from Adan and Ewa earlier, was a dreadful sight to behold for his nose had grown long and his mouth wide. His arms and legs had sprouted scales, and horns jutted up out of his head. He bowed before Deusu and said, “It is all because of my evil heart that I have become like this. When I consider my destiny I become frightened.” He then begged Deusu, “Please, let me have the glory of Paraiso again.”

But Deusu answered, “Oh, malignant one. You will never be the stuff for heaven, and because Ewa’s children are doing penance on the earth, it is not possible for you to stay there either. Therefore, you will become the god of thunder.” Jusuheru then earned the rank of ten forms and was allowed to reside in Middle Heaven. But, alas, all the anjo who had worshiped Jusuheru, every last one of them, was transformed into a tengu and sank down to Middle Heaven.

Deusu thought that the fruit of the masan was an evil thing for both heaven and earth, so he sent it to the tengu residing in Middle Heaven.

We come to the Hidden Christian’s version of the fall of Lucifer. Rather interestingly, Jusuheru is said here to be transformed into the god of thunder, greatly diminished in rank (ten forms, a tenth of his original) and banished to the Middle Heaven - the same place Ewa as a dog was sent to. In Japanese art, the thunder god is often portrayed as a fierce, hrned demonic-looking being - doubtless the Japanese might have associated this iconography with the traditional Western depictions of the Devil. The Tenchi also mentions that the angels who worshipped Jusuheru became the tengu, birdlike humanoids who figure prominently in Japanese folk religion and myth.

The thunder god

A tengu. Tengu are portrayed either as bird-headed men with wings or as winged humanoids with red faces and long noses (which are popularly held as their trademark attribute).

In Japanese folklore, the thunder god (or should I say, the thunder gods - there were a number of folk deities associated with thunder and lightning which are sometimes conflated with each other) is an ambiguous figure: on the one hand, the thunder deity/deities are worshipped as patron(s) of rain and agriculture. But on the other hand, they are also considered as fierce tatarigami (a ‘curse god’, a type of violent deity who do harm to humans), something to be feared and placated. A common superstition advises children to hide their belly buttons during a thunderstorm, since the thunder god supposedly eats exposed belly buttons. Thunder, itself, is proverbially considered to be one of the four most terrifying things in this world (the other three being fires, earthquakes, and fathers. ;))

There is a Japanese belief that wronged or neglected spirits of the dead (the onryo and the goryo - the latter denoting the ‘honorable spirits’ of wronged aristocrats) can return, seeking vengeance and wreaking havoc. In particular cases, ‘malevolent’ deities who preside over natural disasters and other nasty stuff can be identified as being manifestations of such spirits themselves. One famous case is the famous poet-scholar-politician Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), who died in exile after being calumnied by his rivals at the imperial court. After his death, the imperial capital (in modern Kyoto) experienced a series of floods and thunderstorms - lightning repeatedly struck the imperial palace - while reports of plague and drought abounded. Michizane’s rivals at court and their families also mysteriously died one after another, leading people to believe that his ghost - which had become a god of thunder! - was seeking revenge. In order to placate his spirit, the emperor posthumously deified Michizane, granting to him the title of Tenjin (the ‘god of heaven/the sky’) and ordering any records of his exile be burnt and destroyed.

Sugawara no Michizane’s vengeful spirit (goryo) as a thunder god bringing lightning on the imperial palace

Like the thunder god, the tengu also have an ambiguous status in Japanese legend. they are both considered to be mischievous tricksters, or worse, malevolent demons and/or the ghosts of arrogant/vain people - thereby explaining why tengu are traditionally considered to be conceited, boastful beings (the expression tengu ni naru ‘to become a tengu’ means ‘to be puffed up with pride’) - on the one hand, and as protective deities who guard mountains and forests on the other hand. Perhaps the identification of the fallen angels with tengu is informed by negative connotations about them, along with depictions of them having wings.

Deus sends Jusuheru-as-thunder-god, the anjo-as-tengu, and the masan fruit (deemed to be too harmful to heaven and earth be left alone) to the Middle Heaven, where all things undesirable dwell. By reigning in between the Earth and Heaven, Jusuheru and the tengu are in a position where they can interfere with and cause trouble to humans below.


Ewa’s children departed and met in the vicinity where they had discovered a lode of gojaku. Then straight from heaven a naked sword came hurling down. It flew to earth piercing the ground in that very spot where the two had gathered. This was the miraculous deed that Deusu had foretold, and both Chikoro and Tanho stood silent in great awe.
The woman, Tanho, without thinking hurled a needle that pierced the chest of the man and blood gushed out. Then the man in turn hurled a comb at the woman, and brother and sister thus broke their blood tie, and became man and wife. From then on woman became submissive to man, and the couple took a vow of fidelity. Seeing that all things foretold came to pass, they coupled and had many children.

The gojaku (aka 温石/雲石 onjaku) referred to here is a sort of serpentine or mica schist occurring naturally and in quantity on the Nishisonogi peninsula northwest of Nagasaki where several ‘Hidden Christian’ communities still live today (the town of Sotome is located in Nishisonogi). This stone was important because of its durability and softness and was used to make pots, tombstones, or paving stones. Since it maintained heat for extended periods it was even used as cooking stones or hand warmers (hence the name onjaku 温石 ‘warming stone’).

Because of the gojaku’s local importance, the stone gets a special mention in the Hidden Christian mythos. It is said that when Hidden Christians emigrated to the Goto islands from Sotome, they brought this useful stone with them (geologically speaking, there are no gojaku in Goto - so any serpentine that can be found there would have come from Nishisonogi). In a way, the presence of the stone and the rightful homeland of the Hidden Christians are joined.

Onjaku piled atop a well (Goto)


Since that time the number of humans increased at a steady pace so that food was in short supply. Turning their faces to heaven, the people prayed, “Please, give us food.” While they were praying, Deusu appeared in the open sky and gave them rice seeds. They planted these seeds in the fallen snow and in the sixth month of the following year, they reaped a bumper harvest: eight ears of rice produced eight koku of rice. The secondary crop produced nine. This is the origin of the Sowers’ Song, “Eight Koku for Eight Ears.”

While documentation for the planting song hachi-ho de hachi-koku (八穂で八石) doesn’t survive in Goto or Sotome, a song with similar elements is found in nearby Fukuoka, where it is associated with the rice planting festival of Kanemura Shrine in Itoda, Tagawa District. In fact, the same phrase or similar ones are attested in different folk planting songs all across Japan, where it apparently symbolizes a very bountiful harvest. The number ‘eight’ in Japanese culture is traditionally considered to be a lucky, even holy number signifying large numbers: for example, the Japanese traditionally reckoned that kami (‘gods’/spirits) number ‘eight myriads’ (八百 yaoyorozu). That doesn’t mean that are literally just eight million ‘gods’, but it is a figurative expression signifying that there are many kami, more than one could count.

Any questions before we get to Noah?

None from me, but this thread is awesome.

I should add that the Noah figure is called Pappa Maruji in the Tenchi. It perhaps comes from ‘pope’ and ‘martyr’, which Pappa Maruji is anything but. :wink:

Here’s a little extra for those who do know Japanese: the text of the Confiteor from the Dochirina. Allow me to enter my language geek mode here. :smiley:

Now there are really four versions of the Dochirina published during the late 16th century.

The first of these is the Dochiriina Kirishitan (どちりいな・きりしたん); its publication date and exactly where it was printed is unknown, though it is likely that it was published in 1591 (Tenshō 19) in Kazusa, Shimabara. The second was published in Amakusa in 1592 (Bunroku 1) and was in transliterated Japanese with the full title Nippon no Iesus no Companhia no Superior yori Christan ni sǒtǒ no cotouari uo tagaino mondǒ no gotoqu xidai uo vacachi tamǒ Doctrina “A Doctrine composed by the Superior of the Society of Jesus in Japan in which matters important to a Christian are arranged in form of questions and answers” - we’ll call it the “Bunroku Doctrina” for short. (You can BTW here.Doctrina) The third and the fourth ones - in Japanese (どちりな・きりしたん Dochirina Kirishitan) and in Romanized Japanese (the Keichō Doctrina Christam) - were both published in Nagasaki in 1600 (Keichō 5).

(From the 1591 Dochiriina)


萬事叶ひ玉ふ でうすを初め奉り いつもびるぜんのさんたまりやさんみげる あるかんじよさんじゆあんばうちした貴き あほうすとろのさんへとろさん はうろ 諸のべあと又御身はてれに科をあらはし奉る 心ことば しはざを以ておほくの科をおかせる事我があやまり也 我があやまり也 我が深きあやまり也 是によて頼み奉る いつもびるぜんの さんたまりやさんみげるあるかんじよさんじゆあんばうちした貴きあほすとろの さんへとろさんはうろ 諸のべあと又御身はてれ我が爲に我等が 御主でうすを 頼みたまへ あめん

(From the 1600 Dochirina)


万事かなひ玉ふでうすをはじめ奉り いつもびるぜんのさんたまりや さんみげるあるかんじよ さんじよあんばうちすた たつときあぽすとろのさんぺいとろ さんぱうろ もろもろのべあと 又御身ぱあてれに こころ、ことば、しはざをもて おほくのとがををかせる事をあらはし奉る これわがあやまりなり これわがあやまりなり わがふかきあやまりなり これによてたのみ奉る いつもびるぜんの さんたまりや さんみげるあるかんじよ さんじよあんばうちすた たつときあぽすとろのさんぺいとろ さんぱうろ もろもろのべあと 又御身ぱあてれ わがためにわれらが御あるじでうすをたのみ玉へ。あめん。


(Transliteration in modern Japanese)

Ayamari no orashiyo.

Banji kanai tamō Deusu wo hajime tatematsuri, itsumo Biruzen no Santa Mariya, San Migeru Arukanjo, San Jo’an Bauchisuta, tattoki Aposutoro no San Peitoro, San Pauro, moromoro no Be’ato, mata on-mi Pātere ni, kokoro, kotoba, shiwaza wo motte ōku no toga wo okaseru koto wo arawashi tatematsuru. Kore waga ayamari nari, kore waga ayamari nari, waga fukaki ayamari nari. [1591: mata on-mi *Pātere ni toga wo arawashi tatematsuru: kokoro, kotoba, shiwaza wo motte ōku no toga wo okaseru koto, waga ayamari nari, waga ayamari nari, waga fukaki ayamari nari.] Kore ni yo(t)te tanomi tatematsuru, itsumo Biruzen no Santa Mariya, San Migeru Arukanjo, San Jo’an Bauchisuta, tattoki Aposutoro no San Peitoro, San Pauro, moromoro no Be’ato, mata on-mi Pātere, waga tameni warera ga on-aruji Deusu wo tanomi tamae. Amen.


(Transliteration from the Bunroku Doctrina, p. 99)

Ayamari no Oratio.

¶ Banji canai tamǒ De’ uo fajime tatematcuri, itçumo Virgem no Sancta Maria, San Miguel Archanjo, Sā Ioan Baptista, tattoqi Apostolo no S. Pedro, S. Paulo moromoro no Beato, mata von mi Padre ni toga uo arauaxi tatematçuru. Cocoro, cotoba xiuaza vomotte vouoqu no toga uo vocaxeru coto, vaga ayamari nari, vaga ayamari nari, vaga fucaqi ayamari nari. Coreniyotte tanomi tatematçuru, itçumo Virgem no Sancta Maria, San Miguel Archanjo, S. Ioan Baptista, tattoqi Apostolo no S. Pedro, S. Paulo, moromoro no Beato, mata vonmi Padre, vaga tame ni varera ga von aruji Deus uo tanomi tamaye. Amen.

The Bunroku Doctrina has a glossary of difficult Japanese words at the back of the book, with definitions in Japanese and then in Portuguese. Now what’s interesting is the entry for the word gufin (狗賓 guhin, a certain type of tengu), where both it and tengu are equated with the Portuguese word demonio (‘demon’, ‘devil’). In fact, the main text of the Dochirina equates demons with tengu in the same way the Tenchi does.

Gufin. Tengu. Demonio.

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