Explore Amakusa's Churches & The Origins of Japanese Christianity
Amakusa can be found on the western edge of Kyushu in Kumamoto Prefecture, it's a large area that is comprised of around 120 islands of many shapes and sizes. All of the main islands within this region are connected via bridges. Amakusa is well known as a Christian island. Containing the world heritage site Sakitsu Church, there are many Kakure Kirishitan-related spots to see and explore here. Let's take a trip to an island filled with history and culture!
What is a Kakure Kirishitan?
Amakusa has been a large part of the Christian faith since the 16th century, however, since then a lot of the people who live here have become what's known as a Kakure Kirishitan. These people worship in private and continue their faith. Even now, if you turn over the door next to the Buddhist altar you'll find the Christian cross displayed in some houses.
1. Sakitsu Church
Sakitsu Church stands in a fishing village overlooking Yokaku Bay. It is often called "The Church of the Sea" with the fishing village being chosen as one of the top "Cultural Landscapes of Japan". After the Persecution of Christians in Japan in 1638, it has been protected by Kakure Kirishitans even while being under strict oppression.
Sakitsu Church was originally designed by the Japanese architect Yosuke Tetsukawa as a gothic-style church, being built in 1934 at the time of Father Halbout. This is one of the few cross-topped churches in Japan that is tatami-matted.
From within the grounds and buildings that were built, through a strong will of Father Halbout, the ruins of the housing for the village leader were chosen due to it being where the "Fumi-e" was performed. It is said that an altar now stands where this strict practice took place.
※Fumi-e（踏み絵）: The Japanese government used Fumi-e to reveal practicing Catholics and sympathizers. People reluctant to step on the pictures were identified as Catholics and were sent to Nagasaki.
- Location Name：Sakitsu Church
- Address：539 Kawauramachi Sakitsu, Amakusa, Kumamoto 863-1404
- Access：2 hours 40 mins via car from Kumamoto City / 1-minute walk from the "Church Entrance" bus stop
- Open Hours：9：00-17：00 ※It's preferred for you to make reservations prior to worshipping at the church
2. Statue of Mary on the Ocean
Close to the Sakitsu Church, you'll find the "Statue of Mary on the Ocean" which looks out to sea and is known as the symbol of faith for Christian fishermen. It is said to watch over the coming and going of ships, and guide your path within the sea. Through taking a cruise along the water, you're able to see the statue up close. It is also said that the sunset which occurs behind the statue is one of the best sights in Amakusa.
- Location Name：Statue of Mary on the Ocean
- Address：Sakitsu, Kawauramachi Kawaura, Amakusa, Kumamoto
- Access：2 hours 50 mins via car from Kumamoto City / 10-minute walk from the Sakitsu Church
3. Oe Tenshudo Church
A Romanesque church standing tall on a hill. This was the first church to be built after the restrictions regarding Christianity were lifted on Amakusa. The current building was built in 1933 with the help of the French missionary Father Garnier who dedicated his life to missionary work. On sunny days, the bright white building contrasts the blue sky making an almost painting-like scene. Don't forget to check out the beautiful stained glass within the building! However, please remember it's forbidden to take videos or pictures of the inside of the church.
From the hill where the church stands, you're able to look down onto the settlement. It's almost as if the church is protecting those it looks over.
- Location Name：Oe Tenshudo Church
- Address：Kumamoto, Amakusa, Amakusamachi Oe 1782
- Access：2 hours 50 mins via car from Kumamoto City / 10-minute drive from Sakitsu Church / 10-minute walk from "Oe Tenshudo Entrance" Bus Stop
- Open Hours：9：00～17：00 ※Unable to enter during masses/wedding ceremonies.
4. Hondo Catholic Church
This Catholic church was built in 1951. Within the grounds, you'll find a miraculous spring which is said to originate from Lourdes that can be found at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains in Southern France, there is also the Catholic mass which takes place in October of every year to console the spirits of those lost during the Shimabara Rebellion (1637-1638).
- Location Name：Hondo Catholic Church
- Address：3-28 Ōhamamachi, Amakusa, Kumamoto
- Access：10-minute walk from Hondo Bus Center
- Mass Timings：Sun 10：00, Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat 06:30, Tue 18：00
【Museums Relating to Kakure Kirishitans】
Amakusa Rosario Museum
This museum has gathered many materials and documents important and relevant to the underground Christian movement. You can experience what it was like to pray in a "secret room" through a recreation within the museum and even be introduced so some of the Christian's history and culture through 3D film.
- Location Name：Amakusa Rosario Museum
- Address：1749 Amakusamachi Ōe, Amakusa, Kumamoto
- Access：2 hours 40 mins from Kumamoto City / 1-minute walk from "Oe Tenshudo Church Entrance" bus stop
- Open Hours: 8:30-17:00（Final Entry 16:30）※Closed on Wednesdays (The following weekday in the event that Wednesday is a public holiday), and from 12/30 to 1/1
- Fee：General 300 JPY, Highschool Student 200 JPY, Elementary School Student 150 JPY（Includes the Amakusa Toy Museum）
Amakusa Christian Museum
At this museum, you're able to experience the culture of Amakusa's Christian community. It's split into 4 different zones, making it very easy to understand and navigate. There are over 200 exhibitions to see here as well as DVD showings which have various films regarding the history of the Amakusa Christian community.
- Location Name：Amakusa Christian Museum
- Address：19-52 Funenoomachi, Amakusa, Kumamoto（Within Junkyo Park）
- Access：2 hours via car from Kumamoto City / 20-minute walk from the Hondo Bus Center
- Open Hours：8:30-17:00（Final Entry 16:30）※Closed on Tuesdays (The following weekday in the event that Tuesday is a public holiday), and from 12/30 to 1/1
- Fee：General 300 JPY, Highschool Student 200 JPY, Elementary School Student 150 JPY
Amakusa Shirō Museum
This museum commemorates the 16-year-old appointed leader of the battle of Shimabara, Amakusa Shirō. You're able to see why the battle took place, and how it fought for freedom and peace through dioramas and films.
- Location Name：Amakusa Shirō Museum
- Address：977-1 Ōyanomachinaka, Kamiamakusa, Kumamoto
- Access：1 hour 20 mins via car from Kumamoto City / 3-minute walk from "Sunpearl" bus station
- Open Hours：9：00-17：00（Last Entry 16：20）
- Holidays: 12/29～1/1、Jan+June's Second Wednesday
- Fee：Adult 600JPY, Middle school Student and below 300 JPY, Infants enter free
Amakusa Free-Ride Ticket! Experience Everything Amakusa has to Offer with just 1 Ticket! Perfect for Sightseeing!
- Fee：Express Amakusa Round-Ticket + Amakusa Island Bus (Free-Ride) 2-day Ticket 4,280 JPY 3-day Ticket 5,400 JPY
- Possible use lines
- Amakusa's Island Line
- Kamiamakusa SUN Marin Bus
- Amakusa Hondo Intercity Bus "Nottemyuka"
- Amakusa Airport ⇔ Amakusa Intercity Shuttlebus
- Kumamoto ⇔ Amakusa (Hondo) Express Amakusa-go
- Other institution, product, and ticket offers available
- Ticket Sales：Kumamoto Transport Center, In front of Kumamoto Station / Bus Information Stand（1）Departure
- Contact Us：Sanko Bus 096-325-0100