Edo Martyrs Pilgrimage
By Michael Wakabayashi
We have a place called “Kibe Hall” in the church premises, but do you know after whom it was named? Peter Kibe, one of the members of the Society of Jesus. He was the first Japanese to visit Jerusalem and he became a priest in Rome. Together with other 187 martyrs, he was beatified in Nagasaki, Japan by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.
As the Tokugawa government in Japan imposed an edict banning Christianity in Japan in the early 17th century, many Christians resisted and were arrested. Peter encouraged them not to give up their religion and so finally he was arrested to be burned to death July 4, 1639. Believe it or not, 400 years ago, there were about 2,000 Christian martyrs in Edo (now called Tokyo).
This year is the 10th Anniversary of the Beatification of Peter Kibe and his companions. To commemorate the event, there was an “Edo Martyrs Pilgrimage” held July 1, where more than ninety people participated. Starting from our church, they visited the following places:
- Fudanotsuji (near Tamachi Station) – Jerome de Angelis (Italian priest), Francis Galvez (Spanish priest) and Mondo Hara (a samurai and an official of the Tokugawa government) were burned to death, after 47 other Christians were burned on Dec. 4, 1623. The three martyrs were later beatified by the Pope.
- Takanawa Church – This church has a small museum showing the mass killings held at Fudanotsuji. There is a picture on Fudanotsuji with two priests and Hara riding on horses when they arrived at the place.
- Kodenmacho (near Tokyo station) This was the biggest jail in Japan at that time and Peter Kibe was killed here. The picture shows that this was the place of execution, not only for Christians but also for political and ordinary criminals.
- Asakusa Church – There is an “Asakusa and Torigoe Catholic Martyrs Monument” here.
I strongly recommend that the foreign community join this pilgrimage next year so they will know the history and feel the spirit of the people who were the Catholics, as we are now.
Note: If you want to know more about Peter Kibe and the 187 Martyrs, read the English edition of the book, “Full Sail With the Wind of Grace”, which is available in Don Bosco Bookstore in Yotsuya.