Film #487 The Other Christ Child
According to an ancient scroll, Jesus escaped to Japan when he was twenty-one; it was his brother Iskiri that the Romans hung. Far away from danger, this Jesus married, had three children and lived to the ripe old age of 106.
v/o: Millions flock every year to the Holy City in Jerusalem. It's a much lonelier road to Shingo.
v/o: No pilgrims on the path to enlightenment, no hordes of heathens selling fake crowns of thorns. Just a view that may well have remained unchanged for a couple of thousand years.
Colgan at sign
Colgan: The billboard says ‘Shingo Village - Hometown of Christ.' Now if you were raised a Catholic like me, or a Christian of any sort, you might remember being told how Jesus Christ died on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem. Well there's another version of events. One that puts a very different ending on the greatest story ever told.
Colgan walks with Kosaka
Just the man to tell me is local historian, 80 year old, Genji Kosaka. Today he's taking me to meet someone that Bible class didn't cover - a direct descendent of Jesus Christ.
Seventy-six year old garlic farmer, Toyoji Sawaguchi isn't the least Christ-like. He dabbles in the Buddhist and Shinto religions and is ambivalent about his famous bloodline.
Sawaguchi: Well, I can't say yes and I can't say no. You can believe what you like.
Kosaka: He wasn't involved in the all the fuss about Christ - it was his father who was involved right from the start.
Sawaguchi carrying photo
v/o: It was the eyes it seems, that gave it away.
Kosaka: When outsiders looked at the Sawaguchi family they thought his father was a foreigner. His grandfather and grandfather's sister also had blue eyes. Mr. Sawaguchi may not want to say his family has links with foreigners but all the neighbours believe the family has foreign blood.
v/o: And what self-respecting Mediterranean ancestor would forget his odd drop of vino?
Kosaka: According for foreigners, this is for crushing grapes. It's the only one in Shingo village and we have no custom for using this kind of thing in Japan.
Sawaguchi: I feel it's a mystery but I don't really know.
This was found on my ancestors' property so maybe there's a link.
Tomb of Christ sign
v/o: Just when I'm thinking the only ‘holy' thing around here is the story, Mr Kosaka agrees to take me to a hillside on Mr Sawaguchi's property where Jesus Christ is buried.
Colgan and Kosaka
Kosaka: The Sawaguchi family has always guarded this gravesite because they were told it was the grave of a great man.
Kosaka: This is where the grave is, of Jesus Christ. The mound has been here since the old days.
v/o: It's not quite how I imagined Calvary, but there's a greater shock to come.
Colgan: Why are there two graves?
Kosaka: This is the grave of Jesus' brother, Iskiri.
v/o: Sure, not only did Jesus die in Japan, he also had a brother. Like all good mysteries, this one involves an ancient scroll, a copy is now housed in the Christ Museum next to the gravesites.
Kosaka with scroll
Kosaka: This is part of the Takeuchi Document found in 1931. It describes the burial site as Aomori Prefecture. It tells us Jesus Christ's brother Iskiri was crucified at the age of 33 instead of Christ himself.
Video playing in museum
v/o: Well, that's torn it for the Christians. The Romans got his brother by mistake.
Video: Jesus' Japanese name was Torai Taro Daitenku so this is called Torai's grave. The grave on the left is for his brother Iskiri -- it's said to contain his ear, and a lock of the Virgin Mary's hair.
v/o: After leaving his brother to take the rap, Jesus escaped to Japan. It's seems it was his second coming.
Colgan: According to the information on this notice board, Jesus Christ first came to Japan when he was 21 years old, and he studied as an apprentice under a Shinto priest. That's where he got all his ideas from. According to local legend, when he returned, he married a local girl called Miyuko, he fathered three daughters, and when he died at the ripe old age of 106 of natural causes, he was bald.
Shots of Shingo
v/o: It seems extraordinary that a town of non-Christians should be so taken with Christ.
Shingo Local woman
Local: The old document and other things make me believe it's natural to have his grave here.
v/o: But there's a very good reason for Shingo-ites to believe. After all, this sleepy village doesn't have much else going for it. Just the racy go-cart track and the big rock, imaginatively called The Big Rock.
Celebration of Christ
Colgan: So once a year, Christ really is celebrated as a Saviour - of the local tourist business.
All the town fathers gather solemnly and a Shinto - not Christian - ceremony is held.
Colgan: This too, is part of the mystery. While the local women dance, they sing a song which has no meaning in Japanese, but has been passed, religiously, from generation to generation.
Woman: Since the old days it has been sung like this. We've sung this service since I was young. This is our mid-summer dance.
v/o: One might think the mystery would be easily solved with a shovel.
Kosaka: As for digging it up, I've asked Mr. Sawaguchi to do it but he doesn't want it dug up as he believes it's the grave of a great man. So far he hasn't been persuaded otherwise.
Colgan at Ceremony
Colgan: Well, it's not the traditional bread and wine, but I've got my noodles, I've got my Christ's Hometown Sake, and my Christ's Hometown Toffee. And I think I've discovered what Christ's festival really means to the locals. It's a good excuse to get out on a fine day and partake of the noodle and sake together. Itadakemasu!
Reporter JILL COLGAN
Camera GEOFFREY LYE
Sound JUN MATSUZONO
Research YAYOI EGUCHI
Editor GEOFFREY LYE
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