The temple was built to convert Christians in the aftermath of the Shimabara Rebellion in 1637
Myotoku-ji is a Zen temple built in 1645 to convert a large number of Christians in Amakusa Area. It has a historical background.
In the past, Christians in Japan were tossed about by changing political conditions. Sometimes they were tolerated and sometimes persecuted. Persecution intensified after the Shimabara Rebellion, which was a rebellion of Christians and peasants against the force of their feudal lord (from December 1637 to April 1638.) There were a large number of Christians in the Shimabara Islands, where the rebellion started. A variety of measures were taken to eradicate Christians from the place and construction of Myotokuji was one of the measures.
Look carefully and you will find small crosses carved in stone steps of the temple. People had to step on the crosses to enter the temple. On each side of Sanmon gate you see plaques inscribed "excellent master spreads the noble teaching of Buddha" and "Remove erroneous teaching of Christ" respectively, which tells us today the cruelty of the suppression of Christians at the time. Though it is difficult to imagine this in Japan today where religious freedom is recognized, we can learn an important part of the history.
Among tens of thousands of people killed in the Shimabara Rebellion, Amakusha Shiro, a 16-year-old leader of Christians, enjoys high popularity and many travelers take interest in Myotoku-ji for its historical meaning.
Address: 1148 Hondo-machi Hontobaba, Amakusa City, Kumamoto
Phone: 0969-22-3203; 0969-23-1111(Amakusa City Div. of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism)
Admission Fee: free admission to the grounds
Directions: Train: 2 hours and 18 minutes by Kyushusanko Bus Amakusa-go from Kyushu Shinkansen Kumamoto station (40 minutes from Hakata) to Honto Bus Center, 6 minutes by bus via Teno for Tomioka to Baba and a short walk