There are over 130 churches scattered throughout Nagasaki Prefecture, and there are also 50 churches in the Goto Islands, approximately 100 kilometers west of Nagasaki City.
After the people who continued to observe their religion by keeping the traditions and faith orally handed down by their ancestors through the 260 years of intense repression, prosecution, and martyrdom under the Christian Ban were freed from the ban during the Meiji Era, they built churches, “Houses of God,” as a testimony of the revival of their faith. The believers’ prayers of the heart go together with the church and can also be seen in their daily lives; casual greetings, meals, and sun-tanned smiling faces. I went to visit their unceremonious but shining, beautiful lifestyles on “The Heart reflected in Pilgrimage” to take photographs that reflect their hearts.
Early in the morning before sunrise the elderly men and women slowly climbed a steep hill to attend mass. The sight of a girl with beautiful jet black eyes praying fervently to God looked just like Mother Mary herself. This church, seemingly always hiding in the forest by itself, was filled with the joy of a once-in-a-century celebration. In the evening as Sunday School started, the happy voices of the Priest and the children filled the chapel. It seemed as even the light from the stained glass blessed them. A hymn could be heard faintly coming from the church draped in the warm orange light from the sunset.
Since registration as World Cultural Heritage in 2018, interest in the “Hidden Christian related heritage of the Nagasaki and Amakusa areas” has been rising and the number of people visiting these areas is increasing. More important than the churches and other buildings are the people who have kept the faith from their ancestors and the prayers of their hearts. It is my hope to communicate this irreplaceable treasure by using “photos of the heart” of the “beautiful lives accompanying faith” of Nagasaki, a place of reconciliation and hope and a holy land of peace to learn from the history of this world heritage.
Corridor Gallery 34 The Heart Reflected in Pilgrimage～The Happiness of Peace in Nagasaki
Date：November 19, 2019 (Tue.) – January 7 (Tue.), 2020
Time：11:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Place：Corridor Gallery 34, Park Hotel Tokyo (34F)
Noriko MATSUDA, Photographer
Noriko Matsuda was born in Kobe, Japan. She learned photography in New York, from Yoshiharu Higa, Koichiro Kurita, and then, at ICP (International Center of Photography), David H. Wells.
She received the Grand Prize for the Month of Photography Tokyo in 2007. As the representative of Japanese female photographers, she attended “Thailand through HER Eyes 2017” as a part of “Women’s Journey Thailand” campaign, which was sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Noriko has visited Nagasaki and Goto Islands for more than a decade to photograph the World Cultural Heritage “Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region” under the theme of “a beautiful life with faith”. To Kyodo News, she wrote serial newspaper photo essays “The Heart Reflected in Pilgrimage – Prayer of Goto Islands” and “The Heart Reflected in Pilgrimage – Light of Happiness in Nagasaki”, which were distributed throughout Japan. Also, in addition to many photo exhibitions featuring these photos, she has organized “Under the Starry Sky Photo Exhibition”, the outdoor art exhibit that is designed to project the images on objects such as buildings, in many places.
Noriko has also published a photo guidebook “Beautiful Churches and Prayers “of the World Cultural Heritage ‘Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region’” from Kodansha in July 2018, and photo book “The Heart Reflected in Pilgrimage – The Happiness of Peace in Nagasaki” in Dec. 2018.