Saturday, December 12, 2009
The Memorial Chapel of Mary is located in Otome Pass in Tsuwano. It was built in 1951 on the site of the torture and martyrdom of 25 Christians, including a 5 year old girl, in the early years of Meiji (1867-).
When Japan "opened" in the 1850's thousands of "hidden christians" mistakenly believed that it was safe to come out of the closet as a Christian Church had been constructed in Nagasaki by the French. Rather than execute them all, which is what the law proscribed, it was decided by the new government to disperse them to "re-education" camps across Japan and "encourage" them to join the new state-created religion of Shinto.
One method used on some of the 153 Christians sent to Tsuwano was imprisonment in tiny cages and left exposed to the elements. These statues show one of the famous martyrs, Yasutaro, who was visited by the Virgin Mary every night during his torture. Otome is the Japanese word for "virgin girl", and the pass was named Otome Pass because of an old, local legend that told of a young girl who was spurned and she wandered into the mountains here and disappeared.
There is a lot more detailed information on the martyrdom of the hidden Christians at this site
The short path leading up to the pass and chapel starts not far from the station in Tsuwano.