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The Tomb Of Jesus…In Japan

Christianity has endured a tumultuous history in Japan, as you may have guessed if you have seen Scorsese’s 30-year recent passion project, “Silence,” or spent any time whatsoever around Nagasaki. But hints of the religion pop up all over the country, from the dramatic institutions such as Sophia University or Tokyo International University, to the writings of Niobe Inazo and Uchimura Kanzo… all familiar names if you’re interested in the spread of religion in this complex country.

It also takes up root in the form of local legends.

For example, the Sawaguchi family, who insist that Jesus was a relative.

According to the Sawaguchi family’s claims, Jesus Christ did not die on the cross at Golgotha. Instead his brother, Isukiri, took his place on the cross. (This name being strange mutation of the word “Jesus Christ” in Japanese. No, there is no such name in Hebrew or Greek.)

Jesus fled across Siberia to northern Japan. Once in Japan, he changed his name to “Daitenku Taro Jura,” (because, like a lot of gaijin here he got sick of the katakana), he then became a rice farmer (because that is what carpenters do, you know), married to a chick named Miyuko (because, why have faith when you could have boobs), and raised a family with three daughters near Shingo. While in Japan, he spent time traveling and studying (not sermon-ing), and eventually died at the age of 106. His body was exposed on a hilltop for four years, which was normal then. Jesus’ bones were then collected, bundled, and buried in the mound purported to be the grave of Jesus Christ.

Another mound near the alleged grave of Jesus is said to contain an ear of the brother of Jesus and a lock of hair from Mary, the mother of Jesus, the only relics of his family Jesus could carry when he fled Judaea.

The claims started in 1933 after the discovery of supposed “ancient Hebrew documents detailing Jesus’ life and death in Japan,” called the Takenouchi Documents, that was supposedly the testament of Jesus. These documents were allegedly seized by the Japanese authorities and taken to Tokyo shortly before World War II and have not been seen since. Naturally.

Strangely enough, though the town’s only claim to fame is this tomb of the holy lamb, there is only one Christian resident and no church in site. There is a souvenir shop, however, looking somewhat like a Christian bookstore in the midwest. There is also a festival in the spring, in which yukaja-wearing girls dance around the grave and chant in a language which is neither Japanese nor any other language, but works for creating atmosphere well enough.

The villagers point to interesting variations in language and the occasional blue-eyed local for proof of Jesus’s historic integration with the community, because we all know Jesus was a white dude. For instance, the name of the village was previously Herai, which some say is derived from the word Hebrai, meaning Hebrew in Japanese. Babies are kept in woven baskets, kinda like Moses, and their foreheads are marked with the sign of the cross, which is silly, because if Jesus didn’t die on the cross, what point would that have? And… wasn’t that done by Catholics, which made their debut a great deal later than Jesus died for our sins?

While it could just be a crazy white dude who thought he was Jesus moved in and claimed divinity to successfully pick up chicks, it still remains that the residents of the village insist he was the real deal. And what is Christianity, if not faith? Merry Christmas, no matter who and where it was that started the tradition.


Address: 33-1 Ooaza Herai-ji Nozuki,

Sannohe District, Aomori Prefecture


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By - grape Japan editorial staff.