This post is the 2nd part of a 2 part series about my summer 2022 trip to Kyushu. (First part of Hidden Christian trip) The highlights were visiting the Sasebo SDA Church, seeing more Hidden Christian history at Shimabara castle, sleeping on a bench, and getting re-acquainted with Hiroshima.
I took the bus in a light rain back to Sasebo, then went to the shopping mall at the port and after buying some nearly-expired bread and a big rice ball, I found a nice patio table and ate overlooking the port. I had walked past a small hotel the first night I came to Sasebo, but since the sign said the front desk closed at 10pm, I walked on by as it was already closed. But today when I walk in, a loud chime rings, and an old, bent woman comes out from somewhere. She looks up at me, and after I ask in Japanese if there are any vacancies, she breaks into a broad smile and creakingly leads me up the stairs to a 3,800yen room.
Yes, I wondered if I should pay to stay on the Sabbath, but I considered it would be better to do that than to lay out in the park and go to church the next day all sleepy and grimy, as that wouldn’t give a good witness. I walked out to the naval museum, but it had just closed when I got there. It was interesting to walk by the American naval base there tho.
There are a lot of Americans walking around Sasebo. I was surprised to see how many of them had tattoos, and how many of them looked like teenage persons of color. There are so many Americans in fact, that this McDonalds, along with a few other shops, even accept American currency!
Going to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sasebo
This was one of the 3 main reasons for this trip – to go to the Sasebo SDA Church. I knew the recently installed pastor was a Brazilian man (whose grandfather was Japanese) that I had met and stayed with for a couple of days in Saitama at a self-supporting Portuguese school in 2009. At that time, he had just quit his FX trading job, and was still very much into the rise and fall of pips. We had some good talks, and I tried to show him to get completely out of that worldly mindset, and work wholly for Jesus. Well, I hadn’t had any contact with him for these 13 years, but knew that he later went to AIIAS in the Philippines to study theology, and had just recently been ordained as a pastor in Japan.
Only around 20 people attended the day I was there, but there were 3 kids and several young (under 40) couples, and 2 people who are not yet Adventists. Since this was “Bon holidays” when most everybody in Japan believes their dead ancestors return, so they go back to their hometown for about a week, the pastor’s “sermon” was on the State of the Dead – excellent timing! Why do I put sermon in quotes? Because he had extracted many Bible verses showing the true state of the dead, printed them out on paper, and then had each person in the congregation read one of the texts, then he would comment on it, then they would pass the paper and microphone to the next person, until everybody in church had a chance to read one. It was really good! The Sabbath School was good too, as he actually encouraged discussion, something that is almost never done in Japan. About 5 of us in the congregation are native English speakers, and since his English is better than Japanese, he would speak in English, then his wife would translate into Japanese.
After the sermon we had potluck, then a good time of more study and online conference in the afternoon. It was a wonderful time, so much so that I really wish I could quit all my work here in Osaka, and move to Sasebo to help them. That’s not going to happen tho… Oh yes! There was one 50+ man in the congregation who asked some good questions in the Sabbath School. He is not Christian yet. I asked later how he started coming to church, and the pastor said that he was cleaning the church one Sunday afternoon, and ths man just walked in, saying that he was trying to find a church. Wow! I told the pastor that if all our churches were open 24/7 like convenience stores, we would no doubt have many more souls coming in, looking for help and eternal life in Jesus.
That evening I spent in the park again, in the same place I was on my first night in Sasebo. A email from one lady at church really encouraged me, and helped me ignore the mosquito bites. I prayed that God would bless the Sasebo SDA Church.
Going to Shimabara
I took a pic of this Catholic church walking to Sasebo station. I know it looks very common for a European, but in Japan, scenes like this are very rare. The one-car train to Shimabara took us by this station, which has been featured on TV many times as the closest station to the sea in Japan. As you can tell, there is no fence or anything to keep one from falling in, something I cannot even imagine coming from Osaka – ha!
Shimabaa is famous for its rebellion against the Tokugawa government. I will copy and paste what Wikipedia says about it:
Shimabara Rebellion is often portrayed as a Christian rebellion against violent suppression by Matsukura Katsuie. However the main academic understanding is that the rebellion was mainly against Matsukura’s misgovernance by peasants, with Christians later joining the rebellion.
The Shimabara Rebellion was the largest civil conflict in Japan during the Edo period, and was one of only a handful of instances of serious unrest during the relatively peaceful period of the Tokugawa shogunate’s rule.
That’s exactly right. I was surprised too, as everything I had heard about this rebellion, was that it was about Christians fighting for their freedom to worship peacefully, when actually the root cause was because people didn’t like the high taxes, started a rebellion, and many Christians joined them. hmmmm.
Why in the world would a Tennessee state flag be flying in the shopping arcade in Shimabara? First time I’ve ever seen that in Japan! You can tell from the picture that there are hardly any people. The free, hot foot bath sure felt good! And then I could get on a ferry and cruise about one hour. That was nice, and useful, as it landed me in Kumamoto. The free little van to take passengers to Kumamoto train station were all reserved, but there were some empty ones, so the driver kindly let me ride too – sweet! There are vending machines for just about everything in Japan, but this is the first one I’d seen for FISH!
In the afternoon I had to change trains, and saw this sign for “Usa”. That reminded me of something I had back when I was a kid, how a Japanese company had marked its clothing “Made in Usa”. So many Americans happily purchased it, thinking they were supporting an American company. For me, as a kid, it symbolized how sometimes people can say what is true to the listener/reader, but what is actually false in purpose. It was quite a big lesson in my life, so to see this sign was very interesting.
Bench press and Hiroshima ending
Around the Fukuoka and Kokura areas of Kyushu, there were lots of people, and even some young people, making me feel almost like I was back in Osaka. I got off at Shin-Yamaguchi, walked around about 1/2 an hour, and found this secluded bench in a park right by some hgh-rise apartments. When sleeping outside, I never want to be too remote, as sometimes gangs or just a group of drunk young people might come up and do things they normally wouldn’t. But I don’t enjoy being too noticeable either, so to be a bit secluded, near people is the best. 🙂 I put the mosquito repellant all over my skin, but they decided to bite me thru my shirt and pants anyway, so finally I put on two layers of everything to finally get some sleep. As you can imagine tho, it was quite hot, so it’s hard to call it “sleep”. It’s more like dozing for a while, sleeping for a few minutes, waking up, and doing that all over again. Just before 5:00 I woke up with a fluttering sound in my ears. Big mosquitoes? No, little bats. They were really cute, and their acrobatic skills were amazing! It was cool too, to see a bunch of little flying insects come down to my level every time a bat passed about 3 feet overhead.
This was my 7th time, I think to spend at least a few hours in Hiroshima. The day I went was exactly the 77th anniversary of the end of WWII. I could get my bearings quickly, and walked over to the castle, which, for some strange reason, I had never been to before. Here’s a pic of a eucalyptus tree there that was 740meters from the atomic blast, and you can still see burn marks on one side of it. It was funny/infuriating to see signs in Hiroshima saying how they were just helpless sufferers from this terrible atomic bomb, then see small signs here and there how this was a military installation, housing for officers, air-warnng location etc. When I first went to Hiroshima on vacation in 1988, the A-bomb museum was very small and junky and honest. Just a few years later they made a big, modern museum that decries how all these innocent people suddenly lost their lives in a blinding flash. (I will never enter it again) Of course they don’t explain well how the American planes dropped leaflets for days in the town telling people to get out, that somethng terrible was going to happen, and to stop the war. Actually, the military got agitated because of those leaflets, and ordered anyone finding one to bring it to them for burning. One more very unusual thing before I leave this topic is that there is some scientific evidence that those who survived the radiation, actually live longer on average! Some say it is because they get more health treatment and checkups, which may be true, but some say that a bit of radiation is actually effective in preventing some diseases. Who knows?
Lunch was in Okonomimura, a place that used to have a bunch of little okonomiyaki stands, but had only one open the day I went. Okonomiyaki is flour, water, egg, bean sprouts, noodles, and usually some kind of main ingredient like meat, but I got mine with rice cakes and corn – delicious!!! But at 1,200 yen, it was by far the most expensive meal of my trip. I made it last until the next mornng. 🙂
So ended my excellent adventure. After 3 years of not really being able to take a long trip because of corona, I was very happy to get out and see something new. I fulfilled my dream of seeing the Hidden Christian history, got some new information regarding them, saw my friend from 13 years ago and enjoyed his church tremendously, and got to see the sea and even ride on it a bit. Altogether my one week trip cost only 34,000yen, being totally worth that and much more. I hope you’ve enjoyed experiencing this with me!