Thursday, June 20, 2013


During the week, I went up to Sasebo to visit a friend before heading out to Ikitsuki the next day, traveling on Kyushu's highway bus system, which is pretty extensive and also reasonably priced. (I used the SUNQ pass last winter to bus-hop around Kyushu - would definitely recommend for anyone who wants to travel through here!) I had been recommended by multiple professors to see the Ikitsuki museum director, who published a lot on the Kirishitan himself and had connections to multiple Kirishitan communities. He said he would see me twice, first to get a handle on what I wanted to research (and to test my Japanese...) and the second time, he would introduce me to a Kirishitan who might be good to interview based on my research topic

To get to Ikitsuki, I had to take an additional two buses, one to Hirado and then transfer to another one that would take me across the Ikitsuki bridge to the island. Looking out the window, there were tons of terraced fields filled with standing rainwater - amazing considering this is a pretty rocky island with a scarcity of flat land. I missed my bus stop though and had to walk back a ways to get to the museum, glimpsing the Ikituski Daikannon statue along the way.

Bridge connecting Hirado and Ikitsuki

When I got to the museum, the director wasn't there yet, so I walked around the exhibits, which included the history of Ikitsuki's whaling industry and of course, a Kakure Kirishitan exhibit with rosarios, orashios, hanging paintings, among other things. The coolest thing was an imitation of a Kirishitan house with a shrine of a 納戸神 ("closet god"), which the Kirishitan worshipped in secret in the underground period. In the dim light with a recording of the orashio being chanted in the background, it was a very surreal, even haunting, atmosphere.

The 納戸神 (room in the back)

マリア観音 (Maria Kannon)

I came back down and was soon launched into a very thorough PowerPoint presentation by the museum director. Surprisingly, I could follow along most of it, even though I haven't read half of the Japanese research on Kirishitan as I should have. He caught me off guard a couple times, asking me what I thought about certain academic interpretations of the Kirishitan, but I somehow came up with a reply (whether he was satisfied or not, I don't know). Then he asked me if I wanted to interview a Kirishitan right then and there. Once again, I wasn't 100% prepared, but I was able to have a 40ish-minute interview with a 39-year-old daughter of a Kirishitan family, who no longer had a community to practice with but certainly valued her own Kirishitan faith. (This time, I got a tape recording whoot!) The professor at Nanzan told me I should have direction in my questions and make a special effort to ask follow-up questions if I really wanted the information I wanted. Overall, I think I did okay with probing around, although I hesitated on some questions because they could have been offensive (mostly to do with the current Catholic church...). Hearing her personal experience was pretty moving - when she was talking about the rituals not being practiced anymore, her eyes turned red and watery, and I thought she was about to cry. Respect for ancestors is certainly key to explaining why people continue the Kirishitan faith, but to me, this faith provides them with something spiritual as well, even today.

I guess that interview was a test because afterwards, the director met with me to discuss who I would want to interview and said he would also ask my most recent interviewee about the content of my questions. In my interactions with the director, I think he expected me to be more assertive/descriptive about my research, but again, he was a pretty nice guy.

Farm country

Afterwards, I did a little sightseeing around Ikitsuki, and made my way up the neighborhood roads to Yamada Church, apparently the last church to be associated with an organized group of Kirishitan. But it was closed when I got there, darn. Well, anyway, I saw a lot of terraced farms along the way. Then I went back to the Daikannon and took pictures - this was my first time seeing a sitting Kannon statue. Then headed back to a bus stop, only to find the next bus wasn't for another hour. Well, that's island buses for you. I'm surprised they even have buses at all, but then again, the extent of Japan's transportation has definitely impressed me on more than one occasion, even in the countryside. But I have to admit, wandering around islands alone always scares me a little because I have a paranoia of missing the last bus and being stranded on the island. Bus came on time though and I was soon on my way back to Sasebo. Shame I didn't have more time in Hirado, especially since it's also full of Kirishitan sites, but I promised myself I'd look around more next week on my second trip to Ikitsuki.

生月大魚籃観音 (Ikitsuki Kannon0

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