A small village in northern Japan attracts thousands of visitors each year claiming to be the site of the true tomb of Jesus Christ. Local legend has it that he visited Japan during his lost years , received Buddhist spiritual training, and then returned to Israel. After his persecution at the hands of the Romans, his younger brother took the fall, which allowed Jesus to return to his beloved Japan, via Russia and Siberia, and resettling as a rice farmer, marrying and dying at the age of 106. Luckily he left behind a scroll with his last will and testament, in which he refers to himself as Christ, Father of Christmas.
So, there you have it. Not only was it his little brother Isukiri who was crucified, but Jesus took his brothers ear and a lock of his mother’s hair as a keepsake. At the Japanese Tomb of Jesus in Shingo, his remains are supposedly interred under one mound, while his familial mementos are buried under the another. Each is topped off with a large wooden cross. Curious visitors sometimes even get the chance to meet his direct descendants, the Sawaguchi’s, who own the land where Jesus’ tomb stands today.
Road sign pointing the way to reach the Tomb of Christ in Shingo, northern Japan. (jasohill/ CC BY-NC-SAS 2.0 )
The commonly told Christian story of Jesus is that over 2,000 years ago he was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and was crucified at Calvary outside of the walls of Jerusalem by order of the Roman governor. After being entombed, God resurrected Jesus three days after his crucifixion, a fundamental moment within Christianity and a sign of the power of God. The Japanese Jesus tomb pretty much turns the story, and foundation of Christianity, on its head.
On hearing such a fabulous yarn, one wonders where it originated. In the 1930s, a Shinto priest “found” the controversial Takenouchi Documents . Dating back thousands of years, they were allegedly written by Jesus himself, and described his escape from Israel to Japan. While the originals conveniently disappeared during WWII, the Legend of Jesus Museum includes reproductions of the ancient texts and a gift shop selling Hometown of Christ sake. Shingo also celebrates a festival every June where pilgrims enjoy locals dancing around the graves singing in an unknown language they claim descends from ancient Hebrew.
Before you scoff at such a far-fetched Japanese legend , it’s important to remember that much of the Bible is filled with pretty implausible stories. Even though wars have been fought in the name of Jesus Christ , besides the New Testament stories, historians know surprisingly little about him. “There is no definitive physical or archaeological evidence of the existence of Jesus,” explains History.
Ever since medieval times, the world has been fascinated with all kinds of relics, whose authenticity is questionable to say the least. From the Shroud of Turin , Jesus’ Crown of Thorns and even the many holy foreskins circulating throughout history, the forgery of relics and fabricated history has been, and still is, big business. For this particular Japanese village, the tomb of Jesus is the only internationally recognized tourist attraction in the area. According to BBC News , “perhaps it shows that people are looking to make a connection with Jesus in some way.”
Top image: The Tomb of Jesus in Shingo, northern Japan. Source: smoke / Adobe Stock
By Cecilia Bogaard