Resources provided by:

The Kirishtan Holocaust Memorial Museum

About The Keikyo


In Memoriam

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 Were the Keikyo?

Kirishtan artifact
Kirishtan Artifact

The word "Keikyo" derives from the Chinese expression meaning "The Shining Religion." It is the name given to a group of indigenous Japanese Christians who lived in Japan, possibly as early as 198 A.D.


Tragically, much of the information that would shed light on early details of Keikyo history has been lost as a result of the 280-year persecution of the Kiristan.

Many scholars believe that following the dispersion of the early church, many faithful Christian missionaries took the command of Christ to "go to the ends of the earth" seriously. Evidence exists of Christian missionaries reaching India in 52 A.D., China in 61 A.D., and Japan in 198 or 199 A.D. Early Christians frequently traveled abroad in self-sustaining communities, extending throughout the known world at that time.

Though their progeny are in the minority in India, they still number in the tens of thousands. In China, during the Tang Dynasty, large Keikyo Temples were erected in every province.

The influence of the Keikyo in Japan was profound. It is believed they were involved in the founding of the city of Kyoto, whose Uzumasa area contains the same Chinese characters used in China to refer to the Christian church.

In the Imperial Chronicles of Japan there is reference to a visit of a Keikyo Priest to the Imperial Household in 737 A.D. Many other references in various historical records of the same era hint at the extensive influence of the Keikyo. The Empress Komyo appears to have embraced Christianity, and became known as a great saint who performed miracles of healing. Her great niece entered a Christian convent and experienced a vision of heaven which she depicted in a large work of embroidery. This work of art is still on exhibit in the holy city of Kyoto.

Though it is today rightly thought of as a predominantly Buddhist or secular nation, Japan's Christian history stretched through nearly 18 centuries, thanks to the Keikyo. Their history in Asia demonstrates that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a Western phenomenon. The flame of Christianity has burned long in the East before Columbus ever landed on the shores of America.


For further information, contact:

The Keikyo Institute


© The Keikyo Institute 1998