On February 5, 1597, 26 Christians (20 Japanese, 6 foreign priests) were crucified and lanced to death on 26 crosses put up on Nishizaka Hill. Their deaths were meant to serve as a warning to burgeoning Christian population of Nagasaki. The early Christian missionaries were welcomed in Japan, as it was thought that they might lessen the influence of the Buddhist monasteries. However, over time, they began to be seen as a threat, as the first step on the way to colonialism. In 1587 a ban was issued against Jesuit missionaries, and by 1620 Christianity itself was also forbidden. It was during this time that the 26 martyrs lost their lives.
Their story became known to the outside world, and they were beatified in 1627, and canonized by the Pope in 1862. A hundred years later, the city erected a monument to these martyrs on the same hill where they were executed. There is a church and a museum nearby, but the monument, which features 26 statues (reliefs?) have the most impact.
It’s really easy to get to, as it is just in front of Nagasaki station, and although the hill is quite steep, it’s not that far a climb. This is a major tourist site in Nagasaki, so it seems like there are always visitors there, but they don’t stay very long.
Monuments: Just a single monument at the top of the hill. It’s cast in bronze.
Grounds: Once up on the hill it’s fairly easy to get around
Visitors: There was a school group when I visited, and a few more people came as I was leaving, but overall it wasn’t busy
Photographer notes: Wide-angle to get everything in, or zoom lenses if you want specific details.
Name: Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument
Established: June 1962
Location: 5-minute walk from Nagasaki Ekimae tram stop. It’s up the hill, behind the NHK building.
Hours: The monument is always free and open to all, but the museum is open from 09:00-17:00 and costs 500 yen.