Landscape in Hirado revealing the secrets of Hidden Christians’ life-world: National and global policies in cultural heritage protection

  • Tinka Delakorda Kawashima
Keywords: cultural heritage protection, religious coexistence, Hidden Christians, Kakure Kirishitan, Senpuku Kirishitan, cultural landscape


The landscape in Hirado on the northwestern tip of Nagasaki Prefecture was recently designated as one of Japan’s “important cultural landscapes”. Its significance is in the environment that has preserved the remnants of the earliest Catholic mission in the 16th century through the lifeways and beliefs of the hidden Christian communities. Their villages and sacred sites that speak of the coexistence of Christianity with Shintō and Buddhism were by the national and local authorities nominated for the inclusion on the UNESCO Tentative List. Based on extensive fieldwork in the Hirado area between 2008 and 2016, I will discuss how, in the process of heritization, new representations of the Hidden Christians through “cultural landscape” have changed the perception of the Christian heritage in Japan. I argue that the designation of the Hidden Christians’ religious tradition as an “important cultural landscape” provided a wider framework for the people living in Hirado to (re)embrace this “multi-religious tradition” as their own heritage.