According to tradition, Jesus was crucified on the cross in Calvary in Jerusalem. Or at least that’s how the Gospels describe the final moments of Jesus’ life. However, that’s not the only narrative that describes the life and death of Jesus. In the little village of Shingo (新郷) to the southwest of Gonohe, there lies what some believe to be the final resting place of Jesus.
Yes, you read that right. The story of Jesus you thought you knew might not be as true as you might think. According to “accounts” documented in Shingo, Jesus came to Japan at age 21 to study divinity. After completing his studies in Japan, the man returned to Judea to conduct his ministry. I mean, I don’t need to explain to you that that didn’t end well for Jesus. But, before Jesus would meet his maker… or Father, his younger brother Isukiri jumped in to sacrifice himself in place of his older brother. Jesus then left Judea to travel to Japan via Siberia. After his long and arduous escape from persecution, Jesus arrived in the town Shingo where he changed his name to Toraitarou Daitenkuu, married a local woman. Legends say that Jesus lived to the age of 106 and was survived by his three daughters. The tomb of Jesus can be located in a small hill in Shingo. There are two burial mounds present in the area dedicated to Jesus and his younger brother Isukiri.
To this day, this peculiar anomaly of history and religion has baffled many Japanese citizens over the decades. I mean, given that virtually no Christian lives in the village of Shingo, who wouldn't? But alas, anyone hoping to find the Holy Grail in northeastern Japan should not get their hopes up. According to Professor Okamoto Ryousuke, the legend of Christ’s Tomb or kirisuto no haka (キリストの墓) in Japanese, was the product of the plans of the village chief of Shingo and a local painter in the 1930’s to turn the area around Lake Towada into a national park.
But the genius of the former village head of Shingo was probably way ahead of its time. Now however, the site of Christ’s Tomb continues to attract several hundred tourists a year. The village of around two thousand people also hold an annual summer celebration called kiristo matsuri (キリスト祭り) or Christ Festival where kimono clad local women dance and sing around the two graves to the music of Japanese folk songs, while priests, yes, Shinto priests, pray. Now, reading this you might think that this whole story was just clickbait? Probably. But, to the defense of the town of Shingo, fellow Bayombongueños don’t need to look too far to find a replica of a religious Jesus-related site in their backyard; ever heard of Bangan Hill? I thought so.
I digress, the town of Shingo, much like every other village in the Japanese countryside, has been affected by the country’s dramatic population decrease. Not only are there less people in Shingo, they are also older. Bringing in tourism even from something as ridiculous of a premise as having Jesus’ Tomb in your backyard helps to bring in much needed income into the local economy; income that can support local schools, and the needs of the elderly. That being said, wise businessmen don’t put all their eggs in one basket. The village has come to realise that the novelty of their unique tourist spot won’t last long. Currently, the village also promotes its high-quality yogurt and meat products such as sausages and bacon. I mean, Jesus once said: “thou shall feast on yogurt and meat products like sausages and bacon” did he not?
Okamoto, Ryousuke. “Keeping the Faith: Christ's Tomb in Aomori and Japanese Religion.” nippon.com, nippon.com, 20 March 2019, https://www.nippon.com/en/japan-topics/g00658/keeping-the-faith-christ%E2%80%99s-tomb-in-aomori-and-japanese-religion.html. Accessed 27 February 2021.
Shingo residents present their town’s goods: https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fcdn-japantimes.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F01%2Ffv20111225a1f.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.japantimes.co.jp%2Flife%2F2011%2F12%2F25%2Ftravel%2Fbehold-christs-grave-in-shingo-aomori-prefecture%2F&tbnid=HdSl2VREGRP0WM&vet=12ahUKEwiEn8C9kIvvAhWKhK0KHTLdDBwQMygKegUIARC5AQ..i&docid=6_jnwdjEUz2GwM&w=2592&h=1944&q=shingo%20aomori&ved=2ahUKEwiEn8C9kIvvAhWKhK0KHTLdDBwQMygKegUIARC5AQ
Shinto priests perform a prayer at the annual Kiristo Matsuri: https://www.nippon.com/en/ncommon/contents/japan-topics/120920/120920.jpg
Local women perform a folk dance around Christ’s Tomb: https://www.nippon.com/en/ncommon/contents/japan-topics/120920/120920.jpg