Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2019

Department 1

East Asian Studies


The Christian figure of the Virgin Mary, first introduced as Jesus’ mother in the Bible, has since been repeatedly reinterpreted in various roles and imagery through her incorporation into different cultures. This project analyses the historical adoption and adaptation of Mary among Christian converts in Japan, from the arrival of Jesuit missionaries in 1549 to the end of the Tokugawa era in the nineteenth century. An examination of doctrinal prayers, the rosary, and Marian iconography within Japan illustrates Mary’s role as the Mother of God and compassionate intercessor for early Japanese Christians. Moreover, their affinity for Mary enabled Christianity to endure centuries of religious oppression under the Tokugawa shogunate as the hidden believers accommodated Mary within preexisting Buddhist traditions and Japanese customs. In studying the primacy of Mary and her roles within Japanese Christianity, this research explains a main reason behind the religion’s survival in early modern Japan.


Written for EAS 460: East Asian Studies Capstone.