During the end of December 2016, hubby and I had been on a sightseeing trip to Aomori prefecture. We visited several places like the Tomb of Jesus Christ in Shingo village, Sannai Maruyama archaeological site and a related museum in Aomori City, and an exhibition of Tom and Jerry products also in Aomori City. In this blog post, I will write about the Tomb of Jesus, and will consecutively write about the other places in the following posts.
Let me briefly introduce the Tomb of Jesus Christ. The purported tomb is located in Shingo village of Aomori prefecture. According to the local folklore, Jesus came to Japan when he was 21 years old, during a 12 year gap in the New Testament known as his lost years. It is said that he came to study theology, and that he made his first landing at a port called Amanohashidate on the west coast of Japan. Upon his arrival, Jesus is said to have studied with a great master of theology near Mount Fuji, where he learned about Japanese religion, philosophy, language, and culture. This study continued until he was 33 years of age, after which he took the long voyage back to Judea, where he told about his exotic adventures in the far away mysterious eastern sacred land. People in Judea did not like or accept his preachings, and Jesus was arrested and sentenced to his crucifixion. The folklore further states that Jesus did not die on the cross at Calvary (Golgotha) and he was able to escape when his brother called Isukiri secretly traded places with him. In the folklore, it was Isukiri rather than Jesus who was crucified on the cross, while Jesus himself fled back to Japan carrying a lock of the Virgin Mary’s hair and a single severed ear of his brother. After an arduous journey across the frozen Siberia, Jesus arrived in the town of Hachinohe in Aomori prefecture, before traveling on to the nearby village of Shingo. In Shingo, Jesus is said to have taken up a simple life growing garlic and helping the needy. He married a local farmer’s daughter and had three children with her. The folklore story says that Jesus lived a long and happy life in the mountain village of Shingo, and lived to be 106 years old. When he died, his body was subjected to the burial customs of the time. The body was laid out exposed on a hilltop for four years, after which his bones were bundled up and interred in a grave, which can still be found in the village. The ear of Jesus’ brother Isukiri and the lock of the Virgin Mary’s hair were also purportedly buried in an adjacent grave. To this day, the living descendants of Jesus are said to live in the village, the most well known of which being the Sawaguchi family. This local folklore claim started after a collection of apocryphal religious writings known as the Takenouchi Documents were supposedly transcribed from a scroll that was found in the area in 1933 and dated to the time of Jesus. Within the scroll were texts that outlined the last will and testament of Jesus, as well as musings on his life in Japan. The documents are said to have been transcribed around 1500 years ago from even older documents and scrolls. These documents were allegedly seized by the Japanese authorities and taken to Tokyo shortly before World War II and have since disappeared. But the copies of the documents are available at a museum located near the Tomb of Jesus. Whether this folklore is real history or entertainment, the local people certainly do not mean any disrespect for the religion.
On 22nd December 2016, hubby and I left our home in Yurihonjo City at about 10 am for our sightseeing trip to Aomori prefecture. That day we visited the Tomb of Jesus Christ in Shingo village. Shingo village is located about 270 kilometers northeast of our home, and it took us about 6.5 hours of car ride to reach the tomb area. We reached Shingo village at about 4.30 pm and it was already pitch dark that time. We saw a beautiful colorful illumination in the village to celebrate and commemorate the Christmas season. We got out of our car for some time to enjoy the wonderful illumination. After another 10 minutes of car ride, we reached the tomb area. After parking our car at a parking lot, we walked along a paved pathway leading to the Tomb of Jesus Christ located on a hilltop. While walking, we saw an information board with interesting folklore details about the Tomb of Jesus. Further along the pathway, to our left side we saw a small grave-site with many Buddhist graves. It is actually the burial area for the Sawaguchi family, and the Tomb of Jesus is located adjacent to this grave-site. In fact, right across these Buddhist graves, we saw a small hill with two protruding wooden crosses. We climbed up a few steps and reached the top of the hill. Sitting atop this hill, to our right side, we saw the Tomb of Jesus Christ which is known as Kurisuto no Haka in Japanese. The village people claim it to be the final resting place of Jesus who is said to be deified there. The tomb is an unassuming circular burial mound of raw earth marked with an unpainted prominent wooden cross. In front of the tomb sat a basket of coins where pilgrims leave coins in thanks for answered prayers. There was also a vase holding a fresh bouquet of flowers. Adjacent to the Tomb of Jesus, to our left side atop the hill, we saw another nearly identical circular burial mound with an unpainted wooden cross. This grave is said to hold a single ear of Jesus’ brother Isukiri who took his place on the cross during crucifixion at Calvary. This grave is said to also contain a lock of hair of the Virgin Mary. In front of this grave also sat a basket of coins and a vase holding flowers. We prayed in front of the Tomb of Jesus and his brother’s grave and felt so peaceful. In addition, we saw a rather big yellow colored stone, inscribed with poetry in Hebrew letters, laid on the ground in between the two graves at the hilltop. This stone is from the outer-wall of Jerusalem and was gifted to the village by the Ambassador of Israel to Japan, Eli Cohen, in 2004 as a sign of friendship and goodwill, and not as a sign of endorsement of the folklore tale. We loved looking at the Tomb of Jesus and the surroundings. It was pitch dark and hubby reminded me that it was a grave-site, so we left the area after about 20 minutes or so.
I am standing in front of the Christmas illumination in Shingo village
We almost reached the site of the Tomb of Jesus Christ. A board indicating that the tomb is located about 220 meters further up the hill adjacent to a Buddhist grave-site.
Hubby standing next to a map of the tomb area
I am standing next to an information board with folklore details about the Tomb of Jesus
The Tomb of Jesus Christ located on the hilltop is a circular burial mound of raw earth marked with a prominent wooden cross
Hubby standing in front of the Tomb of Jesus
A grave which is said to hold a single ear of Isukiri and the Virgin Mary’s lock of hair located adjacent to the Tomb of Jesus
I am standing in front of the grave that holds Isukiri’s ear and the Virgin Mary’s lock of hair
A stone located on the ground in between the two graves is from the outer-wall of Jerusalem
Afterwards, we continued on our journey to Aomori City. Aomori City is located about 90 kilometers northwest of Shingo village, and it took us another 2 hours of car ride to reach Aomori City where we stayed at a hotel that night. The next day, on 23rd December, we visited Sannai Maruyama archaeological site and a related museum in the city, as well as an exhibition of Tom and Jerry products held in city itself. That night also we stayed at the same hotel. On 24th morning, we checked out of the hotel and started on our return trip to home. When we reached around Shingo village, we took a detour and again visited the Tomb of Jesus Christ. This is because we had ample time that day and we wished to see the place in the daylight also.
As we neared the site of the Tomb of Jesus Christ, we saw an indicator board along the road with the sign ‘Tomb of Christ’ written on it. On reaching the tomb site, we noted that although the weather was fine that time, it had snowed heavily the previous day and everything was covered in snow. There was snow all around us and the place looked white and so beautiful. After parking our car at a parking lot located near the tomb area, we walked along a paved pathway leading to the Tomb of Jesus located on a hilltop adjacent to the Buddhist grave-site area. The pathway was fully covered in snow and was so slippery but the climb was worth it. Along the way, we again saw the information board with the folklore details about the Tomb of Jesus. Hubby read the information and became very curious to know more details about the folklore.
An indicator board along the road with the sign ‘Tomb of Christ’ written on it
Hubby standing next to a map of the tomb area
I am standing next to a board indicating that the tomb is located about 220 meters further up the hill adjacent to the Buddhist grave-site
Hubby walking up the pathway leading to the grave-site
I am walking up the pathway leading to the grave-site
Hubby standing next to an information board with the folklore details about the Tomb of Jesus
On reaching the Buddhist grave-site area, we were amazed by the sheer beauty of snow all around us. From this Buddhist grave-site area, we saw two protruding snow-covered wooden crosses standing proudly on the top of a small hill located right in front of us. We climbed up a few steps beautifully covered in snow and reached the hilltop. Sitting atop this hill, to our right side, we saw the Tomb of Jesus. The tomb having circular burial mound of raw earth marked with an unpainted wooden cross looked so white and pure fully covered in snow. Adjacent to this Tomb of Jesus atop the hill, to our left side, we saw the grave holding a single ear of Isukiri and a lock of hair of the Virgin Mary. This grave also had circular burial mound with an unpainted wooden cross fully covered in snow that time. We again, though this time in daytime, prayed in front of the Tomb of Jesus and his brother’s grave and felt so peaceful.
A few steps beautifully covered in snow leads to the top of the hill where the Tomb of Jesus Christ is located
I am walking up the steps
An unpainted wooden cross marking the Tomb of Jesus as viewed to our right side from the bottom of the steps
Another unpainted wooden cross marking the grave holding a single ear of Isukiri and a lock of hair of the Virgin Mary as viewed to our left side from the bottom of the steps
The Tomb of Jesus located on the hilltop marked with a prominent wooden cross and fully covered in snow
The wooden cross was decorated with a Christmas wreath for the Christmas season
Hubby standing in front of the Tomb of Jesus
I am standing in front of the Tomb of Jesus
A grave supposedly holding a single ear of Isukiri and a lock of hair of the Virgin Mary is located adjacent to the Tomb of Jesus. This grave was also marked with a prominent wooden cross and was fully covered in snow.
This wooden cross was also decorated with a Christmas wreath for the Christmas season
Hubby standing in front of the grave that holds Isukiri’s ear and a lock of hair of the Virgin Mary
I am standing in front of the grave
Afterwards, we appreciated the area surrounding the Tomb of Jesus. In fact, the grave-site is a forest area, and beyond the hilltop we saw forest trees fully covered in snow. It was pure white all around us. We loved the serene atmosphere so much. We walked around that area a bit and saw a snow covered narrow pathway with many steps leading down to a stream which was frozen at that time. Only hubby went down the steps to have a look at the frozen stream as the steps were too slippery due to the frozen snow, and I am not used to walking on snow.
A few trees in the forest area fully covered in snow as viewed from the hilltop
Hubby and the snowy hilltop
I am standing next to snow covered bushes
A snow covered pathway with many steps that led down to a stream
Next, we saw a museum named The Legend of Christ Museum located adjacent to the Tomb of Jesus Christ. The museum is devoted to the legend of Jesus in Japan. The museum contains the reproduction of Takenouchi Documents, English translations of these documents, and various other relics and memorabilia related to the life of Jesus Christ in Shingo village. Unfortunately the museum is closed during the winter months and we could not enter inside the museum to read about the interesting folklore. Anyway, while walking near the museum building, we saw a snow covered fir tree located right in front of the museum, which got us into the Christmas spirit. We also saw a pyramid constructed near the entrance of the museum building. We enjoyed walking around the museum building surrounded by snow all around.
The Legend of Christ Museum and a snow covered fir tree (left) located in front of the museum
Hubby standing next to the snow covered fir tree
I am standing next to a pyramid located near the entrance of the museum building
It was very cold winter time, but we enjoyed visiting the Tomb of Jesus Christ in Shingo village twice, once in the nighttime on 22nd December and then during the daytime on 24th December 2016. In the next post, I will write about our visit to Sannai Maruyama archaeological site in Aomori City.