The first Christian came to Japan as early as A.D. 199. Some speculate that these first believers came from the early church. However, Christianity did not flourish in Japan until after Roman Catholic missionaries led by Francis Xavier, arrived in 1549. In 50 years Christianity became the largest single organized religious community in the nation.
Mr. Bruce wrote that by 1600, Buddhists became intimidated when believers totaled as many as three million in Japan’s population of 12 million. On November 23, 1596 persecution began when twenty-six Kirishtan (Christians) were arrested and later put to death on crude wooden crosses.
“Twelve year old Ibaragi Kun,” continued Mr. Bruce, “asked which cross was his and ran to kneel before it. Moments later the 26 were crucified and stabbed to death with long swords as they sang Psalm 122, historians recorded.” In 1637 another hero, 15 year old Shiro Amakusa, urged fellow believers to repent for bowing to officials’ demands to renounce their Christian beliefs by stepping on a board with an engraving of Jesus. This teenager became one of the 37,000 Christians slaughtered by government troops during an uprising of Christian peasants.
Other believers suffered horrible deaths during the purge. Some researchers claim as many as 1 million Kirishtan died, another 1 million fled Japan and 1 million went into hiding. An unrelenting period of persecution persisted for two hundred and fifty years, lasting until 1853.
Source: Billy Bruce, "Japan’s Forgotten Holocaust," Charisma Magazine.