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A stone figure belonging to centuries old Christians found in a Japanese town


Stone figure

A stone figure made by ancient Japanese Christians discovered inside a tree trunk.

In keeping with details, in a Japanese town, Hokkaido a stone figure has been found inside a clear-cut tree trunk however there was no entry hole. This stone figure has a cross symbol carved on its base.

Because of this cross carving, it has been speculated that this figure belonged to Christians who were fleeing from the face of persecution, centuries ago. This stone figure is about size of a palm. Hideo Okano, a Japanese, was cutting down a 10-meter-high yew tree, which was in his backyard. While he was cutting the tree, he found that the trunk was empty; because the old tree was decayed. Inside the tree trunk was the stone carving, which is about 13 cm tall.

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Masayuki Miyamoto, the curator on Imakane’s board of education, said “We would like to display the figure as town residents want to pass it down to future generations. But we cannot designate it as a cultural heritage of the town because we cannot accurately evaluate it. We badly want new researchers to examine it in detail.”

The stone figure is incomplete, as it seems that a local stone was chiselled out to form this figure. Beneath the base, a cross was carved which has led some to believe that it belonged to centuries old “hidden Christians” from a time when Christianity was targeted in Japan and being a Christian was prohibited.

According to historical records, more than 100 Christians wee executed in this area in 1639, even though there is no substantial evidence that hidden Christians were living in Imakane. However, some experts say that this figure was probably brought by gold miners during the development of Hokkaido in the Meiji Era.