The Keikyo
February 5, 1997

Resources provided by:

The Kirishtan Holocaust Memorial Museum

In Memoriam to the Kiristan Christians The


to the nearly one million indigenous Japanese Christians who were martyred for their faith in the Kirishtan Holocaust over a 250-year period beginning February 5, 1597.

Who Are the Kirishtan?

RIGHT: Kirishtan artifactKirishtan Artifact
The Kirishtan are indigenous Japanese Christians. They are the descendants of an earlier group of indigenous Christians known as the Keikyo, who had come to Japan through China and Korea, from the Middle East.

The Kirishtan were discovered in 1549 A.D. when Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary, arrived in the island nation. He had apparently heard of these early Christians in Japan. He suspected that they had probably lost the fundamentals of faith, having been separated from the remainder of the Church for hundreds of years.

One of Xavier's first acts was to preach the Gospel to these descendants of the Keikyo. Many eagerly returned to the faith of their forefathers. Within a year, nearly 10,000 had experienced a revival so dramatic that, by 1600 A.D., the Christian Kirishtan comprised the single largest organized religious community in Japan.

The influence of the revival of the Kiristan was profound. Three out of every four Daimyo, or area military rulers, converted. Three million Japanese, out of a population of 10 million, were estimated to have become a part of the Kirishtan movement. In Japan, the time was dubbed "The Christian Century."

Kirishtan ArtifactThe influence of the Kirishtan revolutionized Japanese society. They built hospitals and leprosariums. Many social service agencies were founded by the Kirishtan.

In general, they won the hearts of their fellow citizens. 

LEFT: Kirishtan artifact.

But in 1596 things turned ominous. A devastating earthquake struck on September 5. In the chaos that followed, a military dictator seized power and initiated a program of persecution which by 1650 had led to the virtual destruction of the organized Christian church in Japan.

For further information, contact:

The Keikyo Institute

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