It’s one of the often-missed chapters of the bible, but one of the most important; the story of how Jesus Christ fled from Jerusalem to northern Japan, where he settled in Shingo, Aomori Prefecture, raised a family while working as a rice farmer, and died at the age of 114. No? Not buying it? Well, the majority of Christians around the world wouldn’t either, dismissing the thought as ridiculous. But the BBC has discovered that there is a hint of belief behind the tale.
The legend says that in the 1930s, a Shinto priest discovered ancient documents that told of Jesus’ travels across Russia and Siberia, only to settle in Shingo, Japan. While these documents have long disappeared, they were said to have pointed to two tombs, one where Jesus was buried, and the other, which supposedly contains the ears of Jesus’ brother and a lock of hair belonging to The Blessed Virgin Mary. They have never been opened, however.
The small village that hosts the Kirisuto no Hakka or “Grave of Christ” monument is open to the many curious who visit from around the world. Some locals say that 80 year old Sajiro Sawaguchi, whose family owns the land that the monument and museum lie on, is somehow a long descendent of Jesus. But his grandson, Junichiro Sawaguchi, admits that the family is actually buddhist, and none of them claim to be the living descendants of Christ. Masaoki Sato, a village official, explains that they make no claims of contrasting what’s in the bible, or that their legend is the real truth. He says that that’s exactly what it is, an interesting Japanese legend that leaves it up to visitors to decide how they want to interpret it.