'secret Christians' (senpuku Kirishitan). They included the practice of rewarding those who denounced Christians, in conjunction with the gonin-gumi system, that is, the five-family neighbourhood groups who were mutually responsible forthebehaviour oftheir members. The ceremony ofefumi or 'picture treading' (stepping on images representing Christ or the Virgin Mary), held annually at the beginning of the year, was likewise introduced by the Inquisition as a method for eradicating the foreign religion. Finally, the supervision of religious matters and the investigation of subversive sects were entrusted to Buddhist monks. Every family had to register at a Buddhist temple and obtain a temple certificate. The combination of these measures proved effective, resulting in several wholesale arrests and punishment, called kuzure ('crumblings'), in the mid-seventeenth century. These institutions to eradicate Christianity remained in place until the end of the bakufu government in the second half of the nineteenth century.
In spite ofintense government investigations, underground Christians managed to survive in a fewplaces, principally in the Nagasaki area and some nearby smaller islands. In the absence of priests, the various religious sodalities and confraternities that foreign priests had created amongst local converts before sakoku now 'constituted the religious core of the community'.20 Since the Christian communities could not openly employ images of their faith, they adopted Buddhist images like that of a Goddess of Mercy holding a child in her arms (Koyasu Kannon) or of a Goddess of Motherly Love (Jibo Kannon) instead of an image of Mary (Mariya Kannon). Thus, gradually the faith of the underground Christians tended to move away from a God who was a strict father and judge, and focus on Mary as the forgiving mother of infinite tenderness.
This trend can also be observed in the only surviving doctrinal text compiled by the underground Christians themselves, namely the Tenchi Hajimari no Koto ('Concerning the Creation ofHeaven and Earth'), whose topics are the creation of heaven and earth, the angels and the fall of humankind, Mary, the life of Christ, and the end of the world. The text is 'a blend of Christian catechetical materials and prayers with a rich mixture of native tradition and belief, and appears as a classic example of acculturation, whereby the Christian message has taken Japanese roots, and flowered as an exotic bloom'.21
A few foreign missionaries did attempt to enter Japan after 1640, but they were unsuccessful. When the Italian priest Giovanni Battista Sidotti was dropped by a ship on an island off Kyushu in 1708, he was almost immediately captured and transferred to Edo, where he was imprisoned in the Kirishitan yashiki and interrogated by the famous Confucian scholar Arai Hakuseki. In his report of 8 January 1710, Arai noted: 'When the people of those [Christian]
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