Many Samurai Had Swords With Secret Crucifixes And Hidden Christian Symbols To Avoid Persecution

During the feudal era in Japan, also known as the Age of the Warrior, Christians were persecuted.

Christianity was banned in Japan, but some kept their deep faith despite persecution. Hundreds of Japanese Samurai warriors were Christians and they hid religious codes in their sword hilts. Several Samurai swords with secret crucifixes and hidden Christian symbols have been found.

The feudal era lasted from 1185 CE to 1868 CE. It was a time when the Emperor and the Shogun were the highest ranking nobles.

The collapse of aristocratic rule ushered in a new age of chaos — appropriately called the Warring States period (c.1400-1600) — in which military might dictated who governed and who followed.

During this period, Bushido, which literally means “way of the warrior,” a code of chivalry was developed by the warriors as the samurai.In 1549, Roman Catholic Jesuit missionaries led by Francis Xavier introduced Christianity to the East. Catholic missionaries originally brought the religion to the East around the mid-1500s.

However, it did not take long before Christianity was banned. Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1596), Japanese warrior commander who later became and undisputed military dictator banned practice of Christianity and expelled all foreigners in 1638.

At the time there were about 300,000 in Japan. Many renounced their faith and others went underground. Several Christians were also tortured and killed.

Catholics who hid underground continued to practice their religion. They disguised images of Jesus and Mary to look like Buddhas, and changed their prayers to sound like Buddhist chants.

At the Sawada Miki Kinenkan museum there are several Japanese feudal era sword guards on display. These ancient swords offer evidence Japanese Samurai warriors were Christians.

Forty-eight swords were identified to have belonged to Christians, and more than 10 of these could have been created somewhere between 1467 and 1568 during the Sengoku period. The sword guards, having been among the Samurai’s most the important ornaments for their swords, are believed to have been designed with hidden crosses to prove their Christianity, albeit in secret.

“A characteristic of sword guards made after anti-Christian measures were taken is that Christians carefully hid crosses in their designs.

We concluded the designs show the faith of hidden Christians, “Yuhiko Nakanishi, chairman of nonprofit group Nihon Token Hozon Kai , a Japanese sword preservation association said.

Today, Christianity in Japan is a religious minority, which constitutes about 1 million to 3 million people.

Written by – A. Sutherland Staff Writer

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