Muslim Wire

Looking for reasons to tour Japan?

Posted in Politics, Society by muslimwire on October 26, 2009

By Lars Nicolaysen

Shingo, Japan – A blue-and-white signpost on a snowy village street points the way. After a long journey, the “Tomb of Jesus” is close by. But this is not the Middle East, but Shingo, a small village in Aomori prefecture, northern Japan.

The 3 000-inhabitant village, about seven hours by road north of Tokyo, attracts visitors not only with local delicacies such as garlic-flavoured ice cream, but also a mind boggling legend.

According to Shingo local lore, Jesus of Nazareth, worshipped by Christians as the son and incarnation of God and by Muslims as a prophet, did not die after being crucified on Calvary near Jerusalem, but 10 000 kilometres further east, in Japan.

And this is how these amazing events came to pass: “At age 21, Jesus came to Japan,” says village official Norihide Nagano. This information was found on a scroll found in 1935 in far-away Ibaraki province, together with Jesus’ “last will and testament,” which says that he spent 12 years in Japan pursuing religious studies and also learning the language.

Aged 33, Jesus returned to Judea, where he was to be crucified because of his teaching. Instead, his brother Isukiri took his place on the cross while Jesus fled. Carrying one of Isukiri’s ears, a lock of hair from the Virgin Mary and accompanied several of his disciples, he returned to Japan via Siberia and Alaska.

“And in the end he returned to this village, married a Japanese woman named Miyuko, had three daughters and lived to the age of 106 years,” Nagano says, pointing out two earth mounds topped by large wooden crosses.

One of them was Jesus’ grave, the other was dedicated to his brother, he explains. But the tombs have never been investigated, he says.

Anyway, that would not be possible without the approval of Mr Sawaguchi from next door. As one of Jesus’ descendants, he owns the graves.

While Sawaguchi declines to show himself to the doubting visitor, villagers say that his grandfather had been taller than the average Japanese. His nose had also been longer and he even had blue eyes.

Also, isn’t it astounding that locals used to paint a cross on the forehead of newborns, long before villagers were told in 1935 about the documents concerning Jesus’ tomb? The evidence mounts.

At the same time something equally exciting was found near the village -pyramids, older than the ones in Egypt. It is just a little disappointing that none of the stones found today looks even remotely like a pyramid; they all collapsed in the 19th century, locals say.

Historic farmer’s clothing in the region also reminds one of biblical shepherds, Nagano says.

Back then, Shingo was still called Herai – which also sounds a bit Hebrew, Nagono says while showing off a small museum near the tombs, which are part of a public park these days.

“I don’t know myself if I should believe that this is Jesus’ tomb,” Nagano admits, but at least it was possible that an important person was buried there.

Nobody insists on the factual truth of the local legend. The original Jesus testament was allegedly lost during World War II. The museum displays only a contemporary copy.

The crosses casting their shadows on the tombs were erected only in the 1960s by the village’s tourism bureau. Since then Shingo celebrates the annual Kirisuto Matsuri, or Christ festival, which has little to do with Christianity, but is based on Japan’s indigenous religion, Shinto.

Only 1 per cent of Japanese are believers in the Christian faith. In Shingo, there is not one single adherent.

Mariko Samejima of Israel’s embassy to Japan discounts the story that Jesus was buried in Shingo, but talk of the tombs is not regarded as blasphemy.

Instead, they are an example of Japan’s ability to imitate and adapt foreign concepts and shape them to suit their own culture, like turning Christmas into a kitschy shopping event.

No matter who really found their final resting place in Shingo’s tombs and whether the piles of rocks ever were pyramids, the fantastic legend attract more than 30 000 tourists to the village annually, willing to spend freely on Jesus souvenirs and garlic-flavoured ice cream. – Sapa-dpa

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