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Churches of Kamigoto

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

Learn about each of Shinkamigoto's 29 churches.

For background information about the churches and the history of Christianity in Japan and the Goto Islands, please see "Introduction to Christianity in Goto."

Please respect the atmosphere of the churches and keep the following in mind when visiting:

・Take shoes and hat off before entering.

Refrain from talking and using electronic devices.

Do not touch items or belongings in the church other than those on the guest book table.

Do not eat and drink in the churches.

Do not enter closed areas.

Please respect that churches are places of worship and refrain from taking pictures inside of them.

1. Kashiragashima Church

(For information about Kashiragashima Church, please visit:

2. Maruo Church

940 Maruogo (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The descendants of hidden Christians from Sotome lived in Maruo during the late Edo period. Yosuke Tetsukawa was also originally from the Maruo area. As of 1899, there was a gathering hall and in 1928, the initial church building was constructed as a circuit church of Aosagaura Parish. The current church was built in 1972 and Maruo Parish was established three years later. The church sits on a hillside overlooking Arikawa Bay.

3. Aosagaura Church

Important Cultural Property of Japan

1241 Namago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays. The Aosagaura area was settled by Christians who emigrated from the Sotome district of Nagasaki. They endured harsh living conditions and intense persecution, but managed to secretly preserve their faith throughout the prohibition of Christianity. Once the edict banning Christianity was repealed, many private houses called iemido became gathering places for Christian practice. In 1878, Aosagura Church was also a modest gathering place, but followers endeavored to create an establishment that could serve the Kamigoto area. Fr. Yae Osaki, who was in charge of the Kamigoto area, obtained blueprints from abroad and oversaw the design and construction of a new church, which was carried out by the locally renowned architect, Yosuke Tetsukawa. There were only a mere 50 households worth of followers and it is said that they resorted to measures such as skipping meals in order to scrape together funding for construction. Wood was brought in from Hirado Island, stone from Kashiragashima, and brick from Sasebo via eight-man rowboats called yagurabune. The faithful contributed to the construction effort by carrying local Goto stone from the shore to the construction site. Men and women, young and old, heaved the stone that would become a prominent accent in the building uphill on their backs, towing various sizes and weights depending on their strength; men carried 20 bricks—exceptionally strong men carried 30—and women carried about eight bricks each. Aosagaura Church was finally completed in 1910 and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010. On November 14, 2001, it was designated an Important Cultural Property of Japan.

Red brick church building.
Entrance of Aosagaura Church

Aosagaura Church was the second brick church designed and constructed by Yosuke Tetsugawa and is considered to have been at the forefront of design and structure for brick churches in Japan. Inside, the stained glass imbues the atmosphere inside of the church with a hallowed feeling. This stained glass with the camellia design was made in France and was installed as a replacement to

coincide with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Nagasaki on February 25, 1981. Aosagaura Church has 16 depictions of the “Stations of the Cross,” while most churches only have 14. Two additional images were added during the centennial celebration in 2010; the image on the left side of the altar depicts the scene of Christ praying among the olive trees at Gethsemane on the day before his arrest, and the image to the right of the altar portrays his resurrection. At the entrance, a stone arch supported by columns leads the eye to stained glass windows above. From the vantage point on the hill, one can see Nama Bay and appreciate the struggle of those who hauled the stones from its shores to bring the building to completion.

4. Sone Church

1028 Kogushigo (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Believers from the Sone area experienced persecution during the ban on Christianity. Sone Church, which was built in 1881, sits on the saddle between the peaks of Kobandake and Bandake just east of the Akadaki Cliffs. The church was rebuilt in 1899 and again in 1966, with the latter being the current, standing church. This church’s high vantage point affords a view of both the Goto Nada-Sea and the East China Sea.

5. Omizu Church

411 Sonego (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed every second and fourth Sunday of the month. Omizu, which sits on the side of Mt. Bandake, is another village where the descendants of hidden Christians live. While believers in Sone and Ebukuro faced persecution during the Goto Kuzure crackdown, the existence of believers in Omizu went unnoticed. By around 1875, all of the believers of the village had returned to the Catholic Church and a church building was completed in 1913. The current church, built in 1985, has a modern design and is surrounded by lush nature.

6. Kozera Church

1351 Tatekushigo (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed every third and fifth Sunday of the month.

This church is located in an area where only few believers went out of hiding to rejoin the Catholic Church. The present orange-roofed church was built in 1951. Nestled on a hill on the side of the road, it is surrounded by camellia in a lush, forested area.

7. Ebukuro Church

Tangible Cultural Property of Nagasaki Prefecture

195-2 Sonego (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

In Ebukuro, followers from Sotome rejoined the Catholic Church around 1872. Even though the persecution of Christians had come to an end elsewhere, followers here encountered oppression even after the end of the ban on Christianity was lifted 1873. In 1882, a church building was completed with the help of carpenter Kumekichi Kawahara, who built Oura Cathedral. This church, once the oldest wooden church still in use in the prefecture, was destroyed in a fire in 2007 but restored in 2010 thanks to nationwide donations. The reconstructed wooden church is unembellished and has a simple interior. Pillars and other components salvaged from the fire were utilized in its reconstruction. The church sits in the heart of Ebukuro, which is perched on the hillside before the ocean. Take a stroll through the village to get a sense of what life was like in the past. The traditions of stone piling and kankoro making are still very ensconced in the community here. From early April to late July, the area is adorned with plenteous flowers.

8. Akabae Church

1899 Tatekushigo (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed every second and fourth Sunday of the month.

Akabae is a small village, but in the 1870s, it was supposedly the base for missionaries striving to reinstate Catholicism. The initial church was completed in 1884 and the current church was consecrated in 1971. While the interior is sparse in decoration with a simple design, the church has a striking vermilion roof. It sits on the side of a mountain surrounded by a forest of camellia, which serves as a windbreak. One can enjoy the peaceful scenery of the nearby farm village where residents carry out their daily lives.

9. Chuchi Church

991 Tsuwazakigo (Google Maps) Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Chuchi’s residents were originally hidden Christians who came from the pasture land of Sotome. When Fr. Auguste Bourelle MEP was put in charge of Kamigoto in 1881, several church buildings were built in the Chuchi area with Chuchi Church being the first. It was dedicated to St. Joannes, one of the 26 martyrs of Japan. In 1932, Chuchi Church became area's the parish church, which was previously Ebukuro Church. The current building was completed in 1978. The stained glass, painted by Goto fishermen, is emblematic of the local area.

10. Komeyama Church

589-14 Tsuwazakigo (Google Maps) Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

With roots in Sotome, the residents of Komeyama moved in from the villages of Nokubi and Sone around the year 1870. In 1889, the existence of a church dedicated to St. Andreas was recorded in the baptismal register. The initial church was constructed in 1903 and the present church was completed in 1977. This church is located close to the northern tip of Nakadori Island in Tsuwazaki, from which the nearby island of Nozaki is visible. Be sure to see the relief of the Last Supper here.

11. Hiyamizu Church

623-2 Amiagego (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed every second Sunday of the month.

The believers who originally lived in Hiyamizu left during the Goto Kuzure crackdown and did not return; it is understood that new believers moved in and formed a community here. Before Hiyamizu Church was built, local parishioners used a sculling boat to commute to Aosagaura Church on the opposite shore of Nama Bay to attend Sunday Mass. When the water was rough, they traveled by foot on poor roads to go to church. Once Hiyamizu Church was built in 1907, it became a circuit church of Aosagaura Church. After 1975, both churches began to hold Sunday Mass.

Hiyamizu Church was the first church designed and constructed by master carpenter Yosuke Tetsukawa. The 27-year old Tetsukawa worked under the tutelage of Fr. Joseph Marmand of the Paris Foreign Missions Society and Fr. Yae Osaki. Certain architectural elements, such as the pillars and squarish exterior wood siding, reflect Japanese design while the rib-vaulted ceiling reflects western influence. This fusion of Japanese and western architecture was novel for buildings back then. A rising steeple tower is another noteworthy feature. In 2001, the exterior wall was remodeled and the stained glass was replaced; the original stained glass is on display at Yagatame no Eki nearby. Hiyamizu Church’s natural wooden construction and cone-shaped steeple contrasts with the stately red brick Aosagaura Church sitting across the bay.

12. Aokata Church

511-1 Aokatago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

From the 1960s to the 1970s, believers flocked to Aokata, the hub of Kamigoto. A church building was constructed in 1975 and the present building was finished in 2000. It has a commanding presence at this center of Catholicism.

13. Oso Church

Tangible Cultural Property of Nagasaki Prefecture

2151-2 Aokatago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed every first, third and fifth Sunday of the month.

The current residents of this area are descendants of Hidden Christians who migrated from places such as Shitsu in Sotome, Kurosaki, and Ikeshima. In 1879, they constructed a church slightly west of the current church in a location called Urasako. Around the end of the Meiji period, brick churches began to gain popularity and believers from five villages worked together to amass funding to build a brick church. Oso had an established fishing industry and the Catholic followers living there adopted fishing early on to earn revenue. For this reason, it is said that the followers, who paid a large share of taxes, were not persecuted.

The current church was completed in 1916 after a three-year construction period. It was designed and constructed by Yosuke Tetsukawa under the guidance of Fr. Yae Osaki. The building cost a total of 12,000 yen to construct at a time when houses only cost 100 yen to build. The site of the church was acquired free of charge from Buddhists, but because the land was not flat, the believers had to carve a boulder in order to create a foundation. The former Oso Church was relocated to Doinoura where it is preserved and still utilized to this day.

Red brick church with white statue of Jesus Christ in front.

This church features several creative architectural elements, such as an octagonal dome roof on the bell tower, which is said to be Tetsukawa’s style and bricks of various shapes, sizes, and colors set at different depths to produce interesting textures. Inside, the walls are bright with an eye-catching rib-vaulted ceiling that arches over the three aisles below. Engravings on the capitals of the columns are the work of Tetsukawa’s father, Yoshiro. The stained glass with a cherry blossom motif was produced in Germany; this is the only church in which the stained glass remains as it was originally installed. This church was designated an Important Cultural Property of the Prefecture on March 2, 2007.

14. Atotsugi Church

1 Mikanouragō (in the vicinity) (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

In 1879, eight fishermen entered Atotsugi for yellowfin tuna net fishing in Imazato Bay and purchased land there five years later. They were believers from Oso and Maruo. In 1914, they bought half of Aokata Elementary School and built the progenitor of Atotsugi Church. In 1932, the second church was completed using some lumber from the existing building. The current church was finished in 1984. From the hilltop where the church is located, one can look down and see Aokata Port and the Kamigoto Floating Petroleum Storage Base. The view of the sunset is also spectacular.

15. Inoura Church

681 Tsuzukihamanourago (in the vicinity) (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

From around 1910, descendants of hidden Christians from Sotome came to Inoura from Fukumi, Oso, Yakezaki and other areas. In 1947, the first church building was constructed with the second completed in 1989. The church was rebuilt in 1989 due to age-related decline.

16. Yakezaki Church

697 Inosetogo

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

According to a baptismal register from the 1870s, the elders of those living in Yakezaki were not only from Sotome but from Urakami and Hisakajima Island as well. Yakezaki Church was originally founded as a mission school when it was built in 1950 and later took its current form as a church in 1969.

17. Matenoura Church

495-2 Imazatogo (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

In the 1990s, believers from all over Kamigoto moved to the Matenoura area, where they created a community. Around 1910, they prayed the Rosary in the current Oratio Hall. In 1956, a church building was constructed and then rebuilt in 2010 due to aging. This modern-looking Matenoura Church faces out towards Michidoi Bay.

18. Nakanoura Church

999 Shukunourago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

The ancestors of Nakanoura believers are said to have traveled to Goto through Nagata in the Kurosaki district of Sotome. Nakanoura Church was built in 1925 and a tall bell tower—a feature rare in wooden churches—was added in 1966. The red flower cross pattern inside is another noteworthy feature of this church. Nakanoura Church is also called the “Water Mirror Church" because it casts a vivid reflection in the calm water of the adjacent inlet.

19. Wakamatsu-oura Church

715 Shukunourago (in the vicinity) (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Like Nakanoura, ancestors of those in the Oura area came from the Omura territory. Wakamatsu-oura Church was once a private residence that was consecrated in 1926 and converted into a church between the 1940s and 1950s. Without the telltale cross, it is easy to mistake it for an ordinary house. Inside of the church, there is a statue of the Holy Mother which was created by local believers. While most depictions portray the Holy Mother with western features, this statue has a round face like that of a Japanese woman, which feels more familiar to local followers.

20. Obira Church

82 Nishikonourago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Saturdays from 4 p.m. and on Sundays.

On Wakamatsu Island’s eastern side, a meandering road follows the shape of the island and leads to the village of Obira, where descendants of hidden Christians came from Sotome but fled during the Goto Kuzure crackdown. The road leading up to Obira Church emerges from an overgrown forest to reveal the cerulean Wakamatsu-seto Strait with the white brick church standing before it. The original church was built in 1892 and the current version was completed in 1958.

A statue of the Holy Mother stands on the shoreline as if to watch over the boats crossing the strait. While the statue cannot be seen from the entrance of the church, it can be viewed from the breakwater beyond the former Obira Elementary School. It is also possible to observe it at close range from the rocky shoreline when the tide is out.

21. Doinoura Church

849-3 Wakamatsugo (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

In 1915, when Oso Church was rebuilt as a brick church on Nakadori Island, the existing building was reconstructed in Doinoura on Wakamatsu Island. It was consecrated in 1918 and later underwent major renovations in 1939 and in 1998.

The church has a modern-looking exterior although the ribbed vault inside is left over from the Meiji period. Its beautiful, round stained glass window is referred to as bara mado or “rose window.” This church is located on a hill and offers a lovely view of Doinoura Port from above. A peaceful view of the surrounding village and ocean can also be seen from the church’s entrance.

Nearby, there is a reference library about the history of Christians in Japan as well as a monument dedicated to the missionary Calisto Kuemon, a native of Hyuga in Miyazaki Prefecture who was captured and martyred in Wakamatsu Island in 1624.

22. Arifuku Church

580 Arifukugo (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Saturdays from 4 p.m. and on Sundays.

Arifuku Island, the westernmost island in Kamigoto, is home to descendants of hidden Christians who immigrated from Konoura in Sotome to escape persecution during the late Edo period. After the Meiji period began, a segment of the population living in the four hidden Christian settlements on the island became Catholic with the help of missionaries. While there used to be a hidden Christian organization in the area, it has since dissolved and the devotional objects are on display at the Calisto Memorial Hall next to Doinoura Church. Arifuku Church was constructed in 1927 and expanded in 1974. With a horizontal ceiling, layered roof and stucco walls, this wooden church reflects Japanese architectural elements. While small in size, the church has a steeple on the top of its roof.

23. Kiri Church

357-4 Kirifurusatogo (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Kiri is home to descendants of hidden Christians who were sent to Wakamatsu from Sotome with the official migration order of the Goto Domain during the Kansei era (1789 - 1801). Gaspar Yosaku, the first person from the Goto Islands to visit Fr. Petitjean and reveal his faith, was also from this area. In 1897, Kiri Parish was established as the central part of Goto. The current church building was established in 1958.

Next to Kiri Church, there is a monument honoring the religious leaders Gaspar Yosaku; his father, Zensaku Shimomura; and the missionary, Sawajirou Kiyokawa. Zensaku Shimomura was imprisoned during the Goto Kuzure crackdown and passed away after his release. The sangi device commonly used as a method to torture Christians is also shown in this monument.

White with an orange roof, Kiri Church stands out against a backdrop of dark green trees and is visible from from the Wakamatsu Ohashi Bridge and Ryukanzan Lookout. The church sits atop a hill before an inlet that, when viewed from the entrance to the church, appears as a beautiful panorama of emerald green water. Little islands, boats and rafts float on the calm inlet to create a very peaceful, picturesque scene.

Fishing village with white church in background with inlet in foreground.

24. Takaitabi Church

957 Naraogo (in the vicinity) (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Fishermen from the Kii Province moved to Takaitabi during the Keicho era (1596 to 1615). In the Kansei era (1789 - 1801), hidden Christians moved to Takaitabi from Fukumi and from Kurosaki in Sotome. Their descendants became the believers of Fukumi Church. In 1939, residents of Takaitabi were baptized en masse. In 1961, the present Takaitabi Church was completed. About 100 hidden Christians worked together to build it. With a stunning red roof, the church looks down on Takaitabi beach below. Adjacent to the church, a statue of Christ stands with arms wide open.

25. Fukumi Church

29 Iwaseurago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

The history of Fukumi Church began in 1799, when five migrants came to Fukumi from Kurosaki in Sotome. When the Goto Kuzure crackdown on Christianity took place, they escaped Fukumi but returned the following year to recultivate the land. Almost all of the residents of Fukumi are Catholic followers. The original, wooden Fukumi Church was constructed in 1882 and the current red brick church was completed in 1913. The church's noteworthy features are its tall roof is shaped like the bottom of a ship turned upside down and the stained glass on the sides of the building.

26. Hamakushi Church

724 Iwaseurago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays

Hidden Christians moved to Hamakushi from Kashiyama in Sotome when the second collapse of Urakami took place during the Tenpo era (1830-1844). In 1826, a church building called Kujira no Mido (Whale Temple) was constructed. Consecrated in 1899, it is said to have been constructed using the profits from whaling. The church that currently stands was built in 1966. Inside the church, the altar with the dove spreading its wings is an eye-catching feature.

White statue of the Holy Mother with Japanese writing underneath.
Our Lady of Hope

Statue of Our Lady of Hope

On the edge of the cape at the entrance of Hamakushi Port is the statue of the Holy Mother, who watches over vessels going in and out of the port. The statue was constructed in 1954 as a symbol of gratitude and to grant safety and prosperity to the fishermen of the village. It was rebuilt in 1996. Hamakushi was once the base of a deep sea fishing fleet referred to as “Juji Sendan” (Cross Fleet), which was manned by Catholic believers.

27. Funakakushi Church

48-11 Higashikonourago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed every second and fourth Saturday of the month from 4:30 p.m.

In 1883, Fr. Fraineau’s traveling mass was held at a private residence in Funakakushi, where the descendants of believers from Sotome lived. In 1927, the residence was purchased and turned into the first generation of Funakakushi Church, and in 1956, the second, current church building was constructed. The red roof of this church pops against a backdrop of greenery.

28. Sanohara Church

188 Higashikonoura (in the vicinity) (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

At the end of the shogunate, farmers with origins in Sotome who were living in Nakanoura settled in the valley village of Sanohara to cultivate new land. After the war, they earned money through rice planting and purchased land in order to build a church. A provisional church was erected in 1950, and the current church was built in 1963, 100 years after the farmers moved into the village. This church is located deep in the mountains where the ocean cannot be seen—an anomaly for churches in Goto.

29. Tainoura Church (and surrounding area)

326 Tainourago (Google Maps)

Open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Old Tainoura Church

The believers of the Tainoura area are also descended from immigrants who came to this village from Shitsu in Sotome and were oppressed during the Goto Kuzure crackdown. When Fr. Bourelle of the Paris Foreign Missions Society arrived in 1880, it became the central base for missionary work in Kamigoto.

On the year of his arrival, Fr. Auguste Bourelle MEP, the third priest dispatched to the island after Fr. Cousin and Fr. Fraineau, used personal funds to establish a children’s home and built a church the following year per the wishes of the local worshipers. He also built a training school for female missionaries before he was martyred in 1885. In 1903, Fr. Pélieu provided guidance for the construction of a new church, which would become the Old Tainoura Church. During World War II, the building was used by the navy; after the war, parishioners who returned to the space found that it was too cramped and expanded it in 1949. They added a brick bell tower in front of the building which included some bricks from Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, which was destroyed by the atomic bomb. The building degraded over time as heavy winds took a toll on it, and a new church was built in 1979 on the site of an adjacent kindergarten. The old brick church is now a reference library for Christian-related materials.

Tainoura Church

Due to the declining condition of the Old Tainoura Church, parishioners set out to construct a new church. In 1979, in the midst of economic downturn and unrelenting poor fish catches, parishioners contributed an estimated sum of 800,000 yen per household out of pocket to help build the church. It was dedicated on March 14th that same year by Archbishop Satowaki. There is a statue of the Holy Family in front of the church. In the surrounding area, a kindergarten, daycare facility, academy and statues of Our Lady of Lourdes all reveal this area's significance as a former base for Christianity.

Tainoura Lourdes

Believers in Kamigoto yearned for a Lourdes pilgrimage site similar to the one at Imochiura Church in Fukue, which is the oldest Lourdes in Japan. The believers carved a cave into the side of a mountain near Tainoura Church, and a statue of the Holy Mother carved by Tainoura-born artist Hidekazu Nakata was placed there. The site was consecrated in August 1963. Water is collected from this site and brought to the ill.

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