In what year was Christianity introduced to Japan?
Christianity in Japan is a religious minority, which constitutes about 1 million to 3 million persons. Nearly all known traditional denominations of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity are represented in the country today.
Christianity was introduced to Japan by Roman Catholic Jesuit missionaries who arrived in Kagoshima in 1549, led by Francis Xavier. By 1579, six regional war lords and approximately 100,000 of their subjects had converted to Christianity. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, Franciscan missionaries arrived in Kyoto. The number of Christians had reached about 300,000 when the Tokugawa shogunate prohibited Christianity and expelled all foreigners in 1638. Many renounced their faith and others went underground.
After Japan opened its doors to the West in 1853, many Christian clergymen were sent to Japan from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches. When religious freedom was restored after the Meiji Restoration in 1871, approximately 30,000 underground Christians came forward. Christian missionaries in Japan did not win large numbers of converts, but did influence education and the trade union movement as Japan modernized its economy.