This is a camellia tree that will bear white flowers. It's not the season now so it looks pretty ordinary, but I was told that when the tree is in full bloom, it looks really beautiful. The tree was actually brought over as a fully grown tree so that oil could be made from it. It's crushed, steamed and then pressed. The oil was use for cooking and the remains after pressing were used to wash hair.
Back when oil was precious, they would cut off all the buds before it bloomed, but the island no longer makes oil, so the flowers are left in peace.
This tree is an Akou (アコウ) tree and the roots grow down. It's normally placed south of houses to help block the wind and almost every house has planted one. When the Christians were hiding here, they couldn't live closely together like the Buddhists. Instead, they had to live far away, and to try to hide themselves and protect themselves from the wind, they would plant trees like this.
I also learnt that the Christians here considered themselves 潜伏キリシタン (senpuku christians). It's slightly different from the more well-known word 隠れキリシタン (kakure christians). The Kakure Christians continued on Christian rites while pretending to appear Buddhist, while the Senpuku Christians were a bit more complete in their cover as Buddhists, holding their faith in their hearts until the day the persecution stopped. At least, that's how I understand it - I did some searching and it seems like a lot of people also use the words interchangeably.
Our next stop was a monument called 信仰復活の地 (shinkou fukkatsu no chi).
It was originally called 信仰発祥の地 when it was built in 1956, which basically means "place where the faith started". However, after a few years, everyone decided to change the name to the current one, which means "place where the faith was revived" because the people here have always been Christians, so to called this the "starting point" wasn't so accurate.
So what was the deal with this place?
This used to be where the home of the Deguchi family was. Deguchi and his son were Christians who, having heard that there was a priest in Nagasaki, sailed from Kuroshima to Nagasaki under the cover of darkness to inform of the priest that there were believers. Back then, baptisms were done by senior members of the island, so while the people of Kuroshima considered themselves to be Catholic, they also knew that the baptisms done weren't 'official'. By bringing a priest over, everyone could be rebaptised and join the Catholic Church. In addition, each family was teaching the next generation the prayers, and so the Deguchis also learnt the proper prayers and taught that to the rest of the island. Lastly, the first mass at Kuroshima was also held at the Deguchi home.
Right now, six different families take turns to maintain this memorial. If you look closely, you can see where the words have been chipped off and the new ones added too.
I wanted to finish everything today, but I'm back in Fukuoka and using a pocket wifi (that has a limited data plan) so I better stop now. I'll probably blog about my graduation ceremony since that's happening next, but I'll finish blogging about this trip after that.