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Shrine of Okinawa’s first Christian saved from move

Date Posted: 2004-02-12

Eisho Ishigaki is credited to be the first person in Okinawa to become a Christian, a belief for which he paid for his life when he was burned on stake in 1624. A small shrine in Ishigaki City marks the site today where he supposedly died.

Construction of a new road threatened to force the shrine’s removal, but last week the prefectural officials agreed to alter the course of the new road in order to preserve the shrine. The change in plans was made after descendants of Ishigaki and some local Christian churches appealed to the prefecture, and requesting that the site be designated as an important cultural asset.

According to old archives, Eisho Ishigaki had met a Spanish priest who visited Yaeyama Island and taught him Christianity. In exchange, he gave 10 cows to the priest as a present, but officials at Shuri did not like such gestures. A contingent of Shuri officials and Satsuma samurai landed to Yeayama, confiscated all of Ishigaki’s property and burned him alive in front of all local people who were ordered to watch what happened to those who befriended foreigners.

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