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[Nagasaki] Nishizaka Park (西坂公園): Unveiling the Tale of Japan’s 26 Martyrs, a Tourist Attraction in Nagasaki

Nishizaka Park

Journey to the 1600s: Unveiling Nagasaki’s 26 Martyrs and Christian Legacy at Nishizaka Park

Nishizaka Park in Nagasaki is where history and culture intertwine to transport you to the gripping era of the 1600s, a time when Christianity was forbidden in Japan. Prepare to be captivated by the remarkable tale that unfolds in this extraordinary destination.

Imagine the scene: It’s February 5, 1597, and a group of brave Japanese Christians and foreign missionaries face an unthinkable fate under the orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler of Japan. Bound by chains of persecution, they became known as the 26 martyrs. Franciscan friars, Japanese Jesuits, and laymen alike, these courageous individuals were torn from their lives in Kyoto and Osaka, embarking on a treacherous journey through snowy landscapes that lasted nearly a month. Their destination? Nagasaki, the heart of Christianity in Japan.

Perched atop Nishizaka Hill, an emblematic vantage point overlooking Nagasaki Bay, their valiant spirits faced a severe test. Nailed to wooden crosses, the martyrs endured unspeakable torment, pierced by merciless spears. In their tragic ends, they became luminous witnesses of unyielding faith, etching their names into history as Japan’s first canonized saints in 1862.

Within this sacred sanctuary, a captivating bronze monument sculpted by Japanese artist Yasutake Funakoshi in 1962 awaits. This artistic masterpiece freezes the martyrs in time, capturing unique poses and expressions. From every angle, their unwavering bravery and unassailable dignity resonate—a testament to the strength of their convictions even in the face of imminent death.

But the park unravels an even more captivating tale. Venture into the 26 Martyrs Museum, a treasure trove of relics, documents, and captivating artworks that illuminate the storied history of Christianity in Japan. Originally opened in 1968, the museum underwent renovations in 1997 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the martyrs’ sacrifice.

Proudly standing within the park is Saint Filippo de Jesus Church, a magnificent Catholic church dedicated to one of the martyrs—a Mexican Franciscan. Immerse yourself in its Gothic-style architecture adorned with breathtaking stained glass windows. As you step inside, a sense of spiritual serenity washes over you.

Nishizaka Park caters to all who seek to unravel the captivating tapestry of Christianity’s history and cultural significance in Japan. As a popular pilgrimage site and a haven for curious tourists, the park offers guided tours, audio guides, and informative pamphlets in various languages to enrich your experience. It also provides ample opportunities for prayer and contemplation, allowing visitors to pay their respects to the martyrs and honor their enduring legacy.

To complete the immersive experience, the park features a charming chapel, a peaceful prayer room, and a delightful souvenir shop stocked with religious items. Take a moment to bask in the awe-inspiring panoramic vistas of Nagasaki Bay and the city skyline—an indelible sight that leaves a lasting impression. During the enchanting cherry blossom season in spring and the breathtaking autumn foliage season in fall, the park transforms into a realm of natural beauty that transcends time.

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