With the introduction of Christianity to Japan, by Saint Francis Xavier in 1549, Japanese citizens that adhered to the Christian faith have, historically, faced persecution and prejudice from their fellow countrymen. The most terrifying example of this was seen with the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki.

In 1587, the ruler of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued a ban on Christianity within Japan, and ordered all missionaries out of the country. Then, in January of 1597, a small Christian congregation of 24 people was discovered in Kyoto. For following the Christian faith, and going against Toyotomi's decree, the 24 Christians were arrested, bound with rope, and had their left ear cut off. Then, to warn other hiding Christians of the punishment that would await them if they were caught, the newly arrested prisoners were paraded through the streets of Kyoto. It was then decided by Toyotomi that these 24 people were to be crucified.

So, for one month Toyotomi led his captives through Japan, from Kyoto, to Nagasaki, where he would make an example out of them. Finally, Toyotomi and the 24 Christians arrived at a hill in Nagasaki, where there were crosses waiting for them. Before the crucifixions began, two Jesuit missionaries came to console the 24 captives, but were caught, and added to the list of prisoners.

Finally, on February 5, 1597, 26 Japanese Christians were attached to their personally sized crosses with rope and metal rings, instead of the more traditional nails. That is, except for one individual, Fr. Peter Bautista, who was to heavy for the rings and rope, and was ultimately attached to his pole with nails. Another individual that proved awkward was Paul Miki, who was too short, so his feet would not reach the lowest ring on his pole. So, he was tied across the chest.

Once all 26 bodies were prepared, each of their crosses were raised. After they were fixed in place, each body was stabbed with two spears, one in each side of their abdomen. Though the pain was undoubtedly intense, none of the accused Christians denounced their faith, or begged for mercy. They were left there for 80 days before they were taken down. Two years after this event took place, the 26 bodies were sent to the Vatican, where Pope Pius IX officially declared them martyrs.

Sources used:
http://www.baobab.or.jp/~stranger/mypage/martyr.htm
http://www.adoremus.org/999-NagHitch.html
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Grove/5819/martyrs.html

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