A Brief History of Nagasaki: The Emergence of Christianity and its Role

  • Like many other modern cities, Nagasaki too started as a small fishing village. How it developed from an unknown place into today’s famous city will be detailed in this article.

    Nagasaki was founded just before 1500 as a village for fishermen. Its inhabitants, who most likely were the first Japanese, came into contact with some Europeans who landed on the Tanegashima coast by ship. For the help they received, the visitors left rifles behind, which thus began the era of firearms in Japan.

    Only a short time after that the missionary Francisco Xavier arrived in the south of Kyushu. The possibility to take part in international trading with Portugal made many of the villagers rich and Nagasaki grew quickly as a lot of settlers came there. Later the Jesuits constructed churches and eventually took over the government of the town.

    During the 17th century an intense and cruel persecutions of Christians began. This resulted in thousands of dead and tortured, the eviction of every missionary and the closing of every international trading post. This continued until 1853 when Commodore Matthew Perry came to Japan and when the Shogun government crumbled. Then Christianity started to grow again and Nagasaki was economically successful, becoming an important location for the Royal Navy and for the industry itself.

    On the 9th of August 1945 Nagasaki was hit by an atomic bomb, dropped by an American bomber plane. Three days earlier Hiroshima already was destroyed by a bomb. Half of the city got destroyed and 36.000 inhabitants died instantly. Until today more than 140,000 died afterwards due to radiation sickness. Both of the attacks led to the surrender of Japan in the 2nd World War.

    Nagasaki was built anew in a different style than before. Many temples and churches were constructed. Today the city has the highest amount of Christian inhabitants and is a must-see for every tourist in Japan.

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