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Are you big in Japan?
January 11, 2013 7:23 AM   Subscribe

On the flat top of a steep hill in a distant corner of northern Japan lies the tomb of an itinerant shepherd who, two millennia ago, settled down there to grow garlic. He fell in love with a farmer’s daughter named Miyuko, fathered three kids and died at the ripe old age of 106. In the mountain hamlet of Shingo, he’s remembered by the name Daitenku Taro Jurai. The rest of the world knows him as Jesus Christ. (previously)
posted by Chrysostom (62 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
This fits in nicely with the Gospel of Biff, wherein Jesus travels to the East to learn Kung Fu and magic with his horndog BFF.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:28 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


According to amusing local folklore
How patronizing. Especially with the implication that "He went to Japan" is less believable than "He rose from the dead".
posted by Flunkie at 7:35 AM on January 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


Hmmm. In the occasionally jaw-dropping but generally horrible Hong Kong martial arts film The Legend of the Liquid Sword has a character who gets easily lost. He wanders off at one point and disappears from the story. Later, he saves the day during a fight when he plunges from the sky on a giant cross and shouts "I am Jesus, and I will fight you with my Judas Fist!" Apparently, he got so lost that he ended up in Jerusalem and learned martial arts from Jesus. The Judas Fist style, it turns out, relies heavily on throwing dynamite.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:36 AM on January 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


Every year 20,000 or so pilgrims and pagans visit the site, which is maintained by a nearby yogurt factory.

Sentences like this are a significant reason why I keep reading MetaFilter. I love you guys!
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:38 AM on January 11, 2013 [23 favorites]


Apparently, he got so lost that he ended up in Jerusalem and learned martial arts from Jesus. The Judas Fist style, it turns out, relies heavily on throwing dynamite.

This is the secret to Western martial arts technique - there is no problem that cannot be solved with injudicious application of high explosives. As it is stated by the warrior poet:

Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not.

posted by Slap*Happy at 7:41 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


But how was the yogurt?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:43 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


(As luck would have it, the graves of Adam and Eve were just 15 miles west of town.)

I've googled a bit for more information about this but am only coming up with references to this article. Does anyone know more?
posted by elsietheeel at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2013


That's how it is when you move in a mysterious way.
posted by Segundus at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]




One of my favorite obscure sites on the Net uses various elements of regional folklore and symbolism to suggest that diasporic Israelites Came to Ancient Japan. It's always seemed like fantasy to me, but even so it's a bit closer to plausibility than this Jesus' Japanese Retirement thing.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:58 AM on January 11, 2013


Are we sure this isn't Elvis?
posted by Ideefixe at 8:12 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


How patronizing. Especially with the implication that "He went to Japan" is less believable than "He rose from the dead".

We just had a presidential candidate who believes that he visited America.
posted by empath at 8:13 AM on January 11, 2013 [27 favorites]


And the movie Prometheus was actually a Mormon allegory!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 AM on January 11, 2013


Some of the numerous yet still missing "Tribes of Israel"

Doctrine handed down from the authorities in Salt Lake City held (and holds) that Samoans are one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, and that they, above most others on earth, should be targets for Mormon rescue and reinstruction. This theory is said to be confirmed by six brief passages in The Book of Mormon that refer to "Islands of the Sea," the "West Sea," and "Taking the Course Northwards." These references represent the sum of the Mormons' claim to the people of Samoa.

The community says it is one of the lost 10 tribes of Israel who were exiled when Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom of Israel in the 8th Century BC. According to its oral tradition, the tribe travelled through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China and on to India, where it eventually settled in the north-eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram.

Meanwhile
posted by infini at 8:16 AM on January 11, 2013


After the brutal suppression of Christianity after the first 16th century missions, here's the story of thousands of underground Christians' first encounter with a priest in over 200 years.

(Awesome post title.)
posted by resurrexit at 8:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now I've got "Always look on the bright side of death" stuck in my head...
posted by MtDewd at 8:18 AM on January 11, 2013


For some reason, I really admire this.

Excepting the fate of poor Isukiri, I'd much rather have a religion which teaches that Jesus escaped the authorities and fled to faraway lands to comfortably live out the rest of his life in relative obscurity while continuing to help others. No crosses, no nails, no martyrdom, no dying for our supposed sins--just garlic, good deeds, family, and a long and fulfilling life.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:19 AM on January 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Are we sure this isn't Elvis?

Time Traveling Elvis dies 18,000 years into the future and will/is/has been buried in a shrine tomb on the planet Gallifrey. It's right next to the hot dog stand.
posted by Atreides at 8:19 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I must admit, I LOHELL-ED
posted by Debaser626 at 8:24 AM on January 11, 2013


He could hardly have been planting garlic in Japan when his feet, in ancient time, walked upon Englands mountains green.

Wait, I mean he was known to be hanging with Lamanite Indians over in Utah!

Oooh…maybe he was in both places at the same time! Sneaky bugger!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:25 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Time Traveling Elvis dies 18,000 years into the future and will/is/has been buried in a shrine tomb on the planet Gallifrey. It's right next to the hot dog stand.

It's the least they could do to honor him. Elvis did stop The Wire from taking over the universe by shooting his television set.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:28 AM on January 11, 2013


He could hardly have been planting garlic in Japan when his feet, in ancient time, walked upon Englands mountains green.

Plus carrying all those people around on beaches.
posted by empath at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Zombie Reverse Vampire + Garlic? I don't think so.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


five fresh fish: "He could hardly have been planting garlic in Japan when his feet, in ancient time, walked upon Englands mountains green. "

It's a man's life, in England's mountains green.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2013


Christian evangelists first came to Japan in 1549, but bitter infighting for influence and Japanese converts led to a nationwide ban on the religion in 1614.


Are we sure it wasn't a native suspicion of Western religion and the following Shimabara Rebellion which resulted in the death of nearly 30,000 Christians...which is why Japanese Christians went underground?

Kinda disappointed the Smithsonian website, of all places, glosses over the bloody repression when referring to the rise of the Kakure Kirishitan.

Questionable Jesus in Japan or not, the history of Christianity in Japan is pretty fascinating. The article either forgets to mention or opted not to the fact that Christian missionaries may have arrived in Japan much earlier than the 16th century missionaries. Some argue that missionaries from the "Church of the East" or Nestorian church may have reached Japan sometime well before 1,000 CE by traveling along the Silk Road to China and then crossing over to the island nation.
posted by Atreides at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some argue that missionaries from the "Church of the East" or Nestorian church may have reached Japan sometime well before 1,000 CE by traveling along the Silk Road to China and then crossing over to the island nation.

That's even viable given the material I stumbled over when exploring the stone crosses of Kerala also known as St Thomas Cross

An organised Christian presence in India dates to the arrival of East Syrian settlers and missionaries from Persia, members of the Church of the East or Nestorian Church, in around the 3rd century.[21] Saint Thomas Christians trace the further growth of their community to the arrival of the Nestorian Thomas of Cana from the Middle East, which is said to have occurred sometime between the 4th and 8th century. The subgroup of the Saint Thomas Christians known as the Knanaya or Southists trace their lineage to Thomas of Cana, while the group known as the Northists claim descent from Thomas the Apostle's indigenous converts; some additionally assert ancestry from Thomas of Cana through a second, Indian wife.[20][22]
posted by infini at 8:49 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


More likely Christians were frowned upon by the authorities because of their tendency to interfere with the affairs of state. They weren't persecuted for religious reasons, rather they were persecuted for being a pain in the ass in secular ways.

By the way, does anyone know anything about the Flying Saucer monument on Hokkaido? I visited there once, but I haven't had any luck googling up info about it. The monument itself was a small hill, featuring a huge stone mosaic that showed Ainu priests waving at the Saucer, while the Saucer radiate (sunbeams) down to them. The lady where I got my slippers explained that the Ainu were chosen by (them), and (they) would come back for them (sometime).

I'm sad to say that I didn't know about Jesus' grave. Or Moses', or Adam and Eve's, or I would have paid my respects when I had the chance.
posted by mule98J at 8:50 AM on January 11, 2013


Keep in mind that there were both Hindus and Buddhists in Ancient Greece, well before Christ. People back then traveled more than most people realize.
posted by empath at 8:58 AM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Then we have the 7th century Anglo-Saxon Dream of the Rood in which Christ appears as a great-thewed hero who could have broken the cross with a shrug, but instead embraces crucifixion in order to battle and defeat Death itself.

And don't forget Buddy Jesus.
posted by jamjam at 9:01 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that there were both Hindus and Buddhists in Ancient Greece, well before Christ. People back then traveled more than most people realize.

Japan was the terminus of the Silk Road. There's a burial tumulus (aka "kofun" or keyhole mound) near my "home town" in Japan, on the Japan Sea, that has Turkomen jewelry and other cool stuff. It's thought that a traveler had married into the local aristocracy. This was pretty common.

In fact, Japanese Buddhist sculpture was influenced by Hellenistic culture that took root in central Asia as a result of Alexander's conquests and subsequent migrations - Hellenistic culture would have been transmitted to Japan along the Silk Road.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Someone call Dan Brown: The Priory of Sion is in Hokkaido!
According to amusing local folklore
How patronizing. Especially with the implication that "He went to Japan" is less believable than "He rose from the dead".
It isn't necessarily patronizing. It could be that the locals only entertain the local 'folklore' to the extent that it brings in the tourist dollars. Amusing local folklore can indicate that the locals are cynical exploiters just as much as it can imply they are gullible rubes. Or the Smithsonian could be assholes. Wouldn't be the first time.
Keep in mind that there were both Hindus and Buddhists in Ancient Greece, well before Christ. People back then traveled more than most people realize.
At the moment, I can't make up my mind as to whether Jesus was a historical figure who confused early jhanic states with full enlightenment to his detriment, or was just a localization of a subset of the Buddhist tales for a Mediterranean audience. So there is that.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:07 AM on January 11, 2013


*tamps down overwhelming urge to FPP* but just one more thing.
posted by infini at 9:10 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


You had better be working on your FPP now, after posting a teaser like that.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


empath: "People back then traveled more than most people realize."

Like the Roman legion lost in China.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:19 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are you big in Japan?

No, but I'm a gay icon.
posted by orange swan at 9:26 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


About 15 years ago, a guy named Ed Mazza started free-lancing for something I was editing at the time, Tabloid.net. He wrote for the English-language version of a Tokyo daily, and he sent me this delightful tale of Jesus the Japanese Garlic Farmer. We ran it, and he sold a version of it to the Fortean Times, and then eventually he wound up in New York working for ABCNews.com, where he wrote another version of it (linked in this previous Metafilter post.) Every five years or so, this story re-appears. Nice to see it in a fancy archeology/anthropology publication like the Smithsonian!

I wonder if this is how religious beliefs are formed now?
posted by kenlayne at 9:29 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sad to say that I didn't know about Jesus' grave. Or Moses', or Adam and Eve's, or I would have paid my respects when I had the chance.

I knew about them but only had a chance to visit Moses' grave. Honestly, it's just a large park with a big plaque that tells the story in Japanese and English. When I went, I was the only person there. And it was a bit of a walk from the nearest train station, so I got a lot of stares on my way in.

There's also a hill behind the plaque that has a large stake in the ground indicating that Romulus was buried there. They say that's Moses' son. They also say that Moses traveled there by flying ship, so it's only appropriate that there's also a space ship museum a few stations down the line. (As well as the world's oldest onigiri.)
posted by zerbinetta at 9:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Like the Roman legion lost in China.

But wait, there's more

plays whackamole with erupting fpps because its almost 2am, darn you b1tr0t
posted by infini at 9:34 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


At the moment, I can't make up my mind as to whether Jesus was a historical figure who confused early jhanic states with full enlightenment to his detriment, or was just a localization of a subset of the Buddhist tales for a Mediterranean audience.

Anything in Christianity that wasn't sourced from Jewish thought seems to have more direct Platonist and Cynic roots, from what I understand. Not saying that eastern religions didn't have some influence, but it doesn't seem to be anything like the primary source.
posted by empath at 9:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Hong Kong action movies descriptions alone make this thread a keeper.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:40 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's the old Time article that prompted my trip to visit Moses.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:42 AM on January 11, 2013


But how was the yogurt?

The yogurt was also cursed blessed.
posted by zippy at 9:48 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


tamps down overwhelming urge to FPP* but just one more thing.

That's a great map, and led me to try to figure out why Korea and Japan were left out. Interestingly enough, it seems not a lot of research (in English, anyway) has been done about Korea and Japan's participation in Silk Road trading and exchanges. The Korea Society has actually prepared some informative teaching materials for 9-12 social studies classes about Korea (Silla) and the Silk Road.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:09 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This FPP made me go back to an old blog I used to write because I know that I had this whole "religious tour of Japan" all planned out, but only managed to carry out part if it. Most of the links are now dead, but there's still this 1971 article about the Jesus legend in Japan. It gives a lot more detail than the Smithsonian piece.
Takeuchi told the villagers he had recently found old documents in his home in Isohara in Ibaraki Perfecture, northeast of Tokyo.

He told the villagers that the documents said Jesus Christ had not been crucified in Jerusalem, but had fled and afer a four year journey, had made his way to Shingo. Here Jesus took the name Torai Taro Tenkujin, married a Japanese woman named Miyuko, had three daughters and lived a full life, according to Takeuchi.

He said Jesus had been respected in Shingo as a teacher and prophet and after his death his body had been left on a mountainside near Lake Towada, a dozen miles west, for several years before it was buried here.
It also explains what Jesus did in Japan, what he learned, and how many times he visited before eventually settling in.

I believe this is the website for the shrine in Isohara (Japanese only) that was mentioned in my quote, and these are photos of some of their artifacts. The first one is a rock from Moses (I guess the ten commandments? Some people think the commandments are buried in a mountain in Shikoku), and the two below that are Jesus-related, but my Japanese isn't good enough to tell you what they are.
posted by zerbinetta at 10:38 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah. So "Consider the lilies of the field" meant garlic.
posted by Schmucko at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believe this is the website for the shrine in Isohara (Japanese only) that was mentioned in my quote, and these are photos of some of their artifacts. The first one is a rock from Moses (I guess the ten commandments? Some people think the commandments are buried in a mountain in Shikoku), and the two below that are Jesus-related,

The first image is of a piece of one of the original stone tablets that made up the Ten Commandments.

The second image shows a tract written or inscribed by "Isukiri", Jesus's brother who died on the cross in Jesus' place.

The third image is a key that maps the characters used by Isukiri with the Japanese phonectic kana system.

The fourth image shows the chrysanthemum crest of Isohara shrine.

The fifth image inexplicably shows some ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics kept at the shrine (I would have to pore through the website to puzzle this one out).

The bottom image shows someplace in Toyama City (far from the shrine in Isohara, I think?) where Mohammed resided for a while.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anything in Christianity that wasn't sourced from Jewish thought seems to have more direct Platonist and Cynic roots, from what I understand. Not saying that eastern religions didn't have some influence, but it doesn't seem to be anything like the primary source.

In the recently published, History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Diarmaid MacCulloch, the whole point of that extra millenia in the title is that it encompasses the Greek philosophical background of Christianity (very much in thanks to Paul). Of course, for eastern thought, one really doesn't have to go much further than the "Jesus Prayer."

<<ancient travelers...of foot and sail.

It's very easy and common for people today to think that the world of the past before planes, trains and automobiles was a world where everyone simply was born, lived and died all in the same place (when not going off to kill someone else in their spot of being born, living and very soon to die, same place). Wherein actually, even if not in large migrations, it's remarkable how much travel there was and contacts between cultures and peoples. As KoKuRyu mentioned above, I love it when I hear about Roman beads (for example) popping up in a Japanese grave or a product of China being discovered in a Viking tomb. The world was just so much more interconnected and the more we figure out the more amazing it becomes. The past isn't dead, it's a freakin' blockbuster of a movie.
posted by Atreides at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


The shrine mentioned above is called Kousokoutai Jingu, and is in Isohara, near the Fukushima border, and was damaged during the 3.11 earthquake. Donations appreciated.

Interestingly, the shrine belongs to a quasi-"New Religion" established earlier in the Showa period (early thirties). Kousokoutai-kyou apparently was in turn based on Ontake-kyo, a "sect Shinto" denomination developed in 1882, around the time of State Shinto was created by the chauvinistic reformers who wrested Japan from the Shogunate, and worked hard to create a unique Japanese identity free from foreign corruption.

Anyway, 皇祖皇太神宮 has some interesting results on YouTube. The two main shrines seem to be in Ibaraki and Toyama.

Basically it seems to be a mishmash of different "mikkyou" or esoteric beliefs from different religious traditions in Japan, although the end result is more New Age than syncretic.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:00 PM on January 11, 2013


Elvis did stop The Wire from taking over the universe by shooting his television set.

He also got together with JFK to stop that ancient Egyptian mummy from preying on those nursing home residents.
posted by JHarris at 12:20 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jesus in Japan, adjusting to married life in a foreign land with three kids. This has romantic comedy written all over it. Perhaps the next Mindy Kaling project. Title and cast suggestions welcome.
posted by mikepop at 1:07 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Time Traveling Elvis dies 18,000 years into the future and will/is/has been buried in a shrine tomb on the planet Gallifrey.

I'm digging the whole "Jesus" arriving in a blue box and wearing a bow tie vibe.
posted by empty vessel at 1:50 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


They weren't persecuted for religious reasons, rather they were persecuted for being a pain in the ass in secular ways.

The past 100 years or so in the USA is one of the tiny minority of situations where that distinction makes any sense at all, and I'm not sure it really does here either.
posted by straight at 2:03 PM on January 11, 2013


Jesus in Japan, adjusting to married life in a foreign land with three kids. This has romantic comedy written all over it. Perhaps the next Mindy Kaling project. Title and cast suggestions welcome.

Stigmata is Greek for tattoos. He and His followers are going to have a hard time at the bathhouses.
posted by zippy at 2:23 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


straight: "The past 100 years or so in the USA is one of the tiny minority of situations where that distinction makes any sense at all, and I'm not sure it really does here either."

From my knowledge of Japanese history, this is another of those examples.
posted by Bugbread at 2:24 PM on January 11, 2013


Jesus in Japan, adjusting to married life in a foreign land with three kids.

I may try "Jesus in Japan!" as an exploitive the next time I crack my shin on the coffee table.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:06 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This isn't any weirder, really, than Jesus showing up in the American southwest and preachin' to the Native Americans, you know, the ones who were secretly Israelites. OMG Blazing Saddles was realz
posted by JHarris at 3:23 PM on January 11, 2013


*tamps down overwhelming urge to FPP* but just one more thing.

All roads don't seem to lead to Rome. Suspicious.
posted by ersatz at 4:20 PM on January 11, 2013


Are you big in Japan?

Yes, I am and I have an absolute devil of a time finding clothes that fit. You think American Apparel shirts are small? Try buying an XL and realizing it's the equivalent of a medium back home.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:31 PM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jesus got around. Japan, England, India, Utah...

Of course it helps to be able to walk on water, I suppose.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:07 PM on January 11, 2013


Maybe they mean Jesus Jones? Cos that shit's real real real too.

I'll show myself out now.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:12 PM on January 11, 2013


I wonder what Japanese back then must have looked like. I'm thinking women especially... Hairy? not hairy? did they resemble the Chinese more?
posted by kopchaidee at 8:31 AM on January 12, 2013


Two thousand years ago is not that long ago. The main difference would be that people would be smaller than they are today.

If you're referring to the fact that northeastern Honshu was originally occupied by Ezo (aka Ainu), it's sort of hard to determine what they would have looked like, but it's probably accurate to say that Wa (what we think of as Japanese) and Ezo peoples had been intermarrying for thousands of years, long before recorded history.

BTW, based on what I've seen at hot spring resorts, Japanese folks can be pretty hairy - much more hairy than me :)
posted by KokuRyu at 11:16 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


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