The introduction of Christianity into Japan in the sixteenth century, first by the Jesuits under Francis Xavier, and then by the Franciscans, has left exciting records of heroism and self-sacrifice in the annals of Christian missionary endeavor. It has been estimated that by the end of that century there were about 300,000 baptized believers in Japan.
Unfortunately, these initial successes were compromised by rivalries among the religious orders; and the interplay of colonial politics, both within Japan and between Japan and the Spanish and Portuguese, aroused suspicion about western intentions of conquest. After a half century of ambiguous support by some of the powerful Tokugawa shoguns, the Christian enterprise suffered cruel persecution and suppression.
The first victims were six Franciscan friars and twenty of their converts who were crucified at Nagasaki, February 5, 1597. By 1630, what was left of Christianity in Japan was driven underground. Yet it is remarkable that two hundred and fifty years later there were found many men and women, without priests, who had preserved through the generations a vestige of Christian faith.*
*Church Publishing. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (Kindle Locations 3240-3249). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.