SILENCE

SILENCE A FILM BY MARTIN SCORSESE based on a novel set in Nagasaki

Check out the official trailer of the film.

Learn more about the history of Christianity in Nagasaki.

THE STORY BEHIND THE MOVIE

SILENCE A FILM BY MARTIN SCORSESE
SILENCE A FILM BY MARTIN SCORSESE
「沈黙-サイレンス-」Silence 2017年全国ロードショー 2017 Japan Roadshow 配給:KADOKAWA Photo Credit: Kerry Brown

Silence (2016) is the much anticipated film by director Martin Scorsese, based on a novel Chinmoku (1966) by celebrated Japanese author Endo Shusaku; it is also available in English - Silence (1969).

Against the backdrop of true historical events that happened in Nagasaki, Silence depicts the hardships faced by Nagasaki's largely Christian population during the prohibition period of Christianity that drove them underground. In spite of harsh persecution, Christianity did not die out in Nagasaki. Instead, Nagasaki's Christians started practicing their faith secretly, becoming what is known as Hidden Christians.

This piece of history is one-of-a-kind in the world and has recently attracted international attention. Several sites around the Prefecture have been nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List under the title "Hidden Christian Sites in the Nagasaki Region" Nagasaki today is a popular pilgrimage site.

Martin Scorsese and Silence

Academy Award Winning Director Martin Scorsese is famously known for his work such as The Departed (2006), Shutter Island (2010), and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Scorsese, fuelled by his interest in spirituality, had wanted to adapt the thought-invoking novel into film ever since his first encounter with it 28 years ago. In 2009, the director and his crew came to Nagasaki Prefecture to visit some of the original sites in Sotome, Nagasaki City, and Unzen that the novel was set in. They also spoke with local experts on Nagasaki's history and descendants of the Hidden Christians who in defiance of orders, protected their faith and survived persecution.

Scorsese and crew in Nagasaki

Scorsese and crew at the Endo Shusaku Literary Museum (Sotome)
Endo Shusaku Literary Museum

This museum is dedicated to the author of Silence and has a collection of important articles related to the novel. Scorsese and crew met with experts on Silence (the novel) to learn more about its background.

Scorsese and crew at the 26 Martyrs Monument and Museum (Nagasaki City)
26 Martyrs Monument

The martyrdom of 26 Catholics in Nagasaki was a momentous event in Nagasaki's Christian history. The director visited Nishizaka Hill which features a monument, museum, and church dedicated to the martyrs.

Scorsese and crew at the Nagasaki Museum of History & Culture (Nagasaki City)
Nagasaki Museum of History & Culture

The screenplay draws its information from various sources and locations including this museum, the 26 Martyrs Museum, and many more. During the tour, they also consulted with experts on the local dialect.

Scorsese and crew in Unzen (Shimabara Peninsula)
Unzen Jigoku (Unzen Hell)

Famously known as Unzen Hell, this spot is one of the sites of martyrdom in the novel.

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THE AUTHOR

"As a novelist, to chance upon a place like
this is the greatest fortune of my life."

Omura SushiPhoto courtesy of the Endo Shusaku Literary Museum

About Endo Shusaku (1923-1996)

Born in 1923 in Tokyo, Endo Shusaku is a celebrated Japanese writer. Since his baptism as a Catholic at the age of 12, he had been interested in Christianity and what it meant to the Japanese people. This led him to Sotome, a small town tucked away behind the mountains of Nagasaki, steeped in Christian history. Throughout his literary career, Endo visited Sotome often to conduct research for his writing projects. He published several Christian works such as The Final Martyrs, Silence, and A Woman's Life. Endo loved Sotome and considered it his second home, going as far as to say that "God chose this place for [him]." After his passing, a museum commemorating Endo's literary achievements was commissioned. Four years later, following the wishes of his family, Sotome became the home of the Endo Shusaku Literary Museum.

Endo Shusaku in Sotome

Visiting a Kakure Kirishitan (hidden Christian)

"I came out of the church into the rain and stepped into the village's single grocery store. I had learnt from the priest of Mr. Murakami who is a Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christian), so I bought a bottle of sake and paid him a visit." (Essay: Jakusha no sukui – Kakure Kirishitan no muramura)

Exploring the hiding place of missionaries

Endo met the then priest incumbent of Kurosaki Church, Kawaguchi in one of his visits. Through him, he was introduced to a member of the church, M. According to his son, M showed Endo around the Karematsu Shrine area. They also made their way to the back of the mountain to look at the hiding places missionaries used during the ban on Christianity.

Works based in Nagasaki

The following three works depict the historical events that took place in Nagasaki from the 17th century to the aftermath of the atomic bombing through three gripping narratives of fictional characters living in their respective eras.

Timeline of historical events in Nagasaki(fictionalised events from the novels are in blue)
1550
St. Francis Xavier, S.J. begins missionary work in Hirado.
1563
Lord Omura Sumitada receives baptism and becomes the first Christian Daimyo (Lord).
1580
Sumitada cedes Nagasaki and Mogi to the Society of Jesus.
1587
Toyotomi Hideyoshi issues an order to deport all missionaries from Japan.
1597
Martyrdom of St. Paul Miki and 25 Companions on Nishizaka Hill.
1609
Cristóvão Ferreira arrives in Japan.
1614
The Tokugawa Shogunate enforces a nation-wide ban on Christianity.
1627
Unzen Hell becomes a site of Christian persecution.
1630
Enforcement of Fumie.
1633
Communications from Ferreira halts.
1637
Shimabara and Amakusa revolts (Shimabara-Amakusa Rebellion).
Rodrigues and companions make preparations for Japan.
1638
Rodrigues and Garrpe arrive in Goa.
1639
The Shogunate bars all Portuguese vessels from entering Japan. Sakoku (national seclusion) begins.Rodrigues and Garrpe arrive in Japan.
1644
Martyrdom of the last priest in Japan.
1858
Japan signs the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, commencing trade with five countries.
1863
Fr. Bernard-Thadée Petitjean M.E.P. arrives in Japan.
1865
Consecration of Oura Cathedral. Hidden Christians from Urakami confess at Oura Cathedral. Kiku goes to Nagasaki City.
1867
The fourth Urakami Crackdown begins - a severe persecution event that also affects other Hidden Christian settlements (in Sotome and the Goto Islands)
1868
The Meiji Era begins. Christianity continues to be banned for Japanese people. Deportation of Urakami Catholics. Fr. Marc Marie de Rotz M.E.P. arrives in Japan.
1871
Kiku dies.
1873
The Meiji government lifts the ban on Christianity. Urakami Catholics return home.
1914
Construction of Urakami Church completes.
1930
St. Maximilian Kolbe, O.F.M. arrives in Japan.
1931
The Manchurian Incident occurs and Japan enters the war.
1933
Sachiko befriends Jim Walker.
1936
St. Kolbe returns to Europe.
1939
The Walker family returns to America.
1941
St. Kolbe dies in Auschwitz.
1942
Shuhei enrolls in Keio University.
1943
Shuhei and Sachiko go hiking. Shuhei is conscripted.
1945
Shuhei is assigned to the Special Attack Unit, a suicide squad. The atomic bomb falls on Nagasaki. Japan surrenders.
1959
Reconstruction of Urakami Church completes.
1962
Urakami Church replaces Oura Cathedral as the Cathedral of the Nagasaki Archdiocese.
Silence沈黙 Chinmoku
17th Century Japan: A tumultuous period for Christianity

Silence (Shincho Bunko) is considered the pinnacle of post-war Japanese Literature. The story is set in 17th century Nagasaki – a domain in Japan that was largely Christian at the time – during a nationwide ban on Christianity. In this novel, Endo explored difficult questions of faith and the choices Christians faced as they toiled under harsh conditions.

Three Portuguese missionaries, Rodrigues, Garrpe, and Marta set out for Nagasaki in search of their mentor Christovao Ferreira who to the disbelief of the Church of Rome had reportedly apostatised. The narrative follows Rodrigues as he arrives in Tomogi, a destitute Hidden Christian village. Confronted by the best and worst of humanity, and repeatedly put through tests of his faith, the priest witnesses and experiences the horrors of persecution.

Kiku's Prayer女の一生一部・キクの場合 Onna no Issho 1 Kiku no baai
The road to revival

Recently translated into English, Kiku's Prayer (2012) follows the story of a young woman, Kiku, living in Urakami at the dawn of the Meiji Era. Two centuries have passed since the harrowing events in Silence and Japan has reopened its doors to the world, welcoming even missionaries to build churches for the foreign settlements. At the newly constructed Oura Church, a brave group of Hidden Christians from Urakami came forward to confess their faith. Tragically, their hopes of returning to the church were dashed when the government launched another wave of ruthless persecution against them. The story of the hardships Kiku faced as a non-Catholic (she later converted) living in Urakami examines how religious persecution affects us all.

A Woman's Life Part 2 (The Case of Sachiko)*女の一生二部・サチ子の場合 Onna no Issho 2 Sachiko no baai
Tragedy and new beginnings

This is the second part of Endo's novel A Woman's Life, following the life of Sachiko and her love interest Shuhei. It is set during World War II through the aftermath of the atomic bomb, delving into the moral dilemma of wartime atrocities that go against religion, weaving together themes of war, love, and ultimately, enduring faith.
*not available in English at the time of writing.

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SILENCE: A HERITAGE TOUR

"Humanity is so sad, Lord, and the ocean so blue."

Area 1Tomogi Village (Sotome)

「沈黙-サイレンス-」Silence 2017年全国ロードショー 2017 Japan Roadshow 配給:KADOKAWA Photo Credit: Kerry Brown Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) hears Kichijiro's (Kubozuka Yosuke) confession.

In 1614, an edict was passed banning Christianity in Japan. Residents of Sotome, who were mostly Christian at that time, went underground and continued practicing their faith in secret. Silence the novel is set in the fictional Tomogi Village which was modelled after Sotome. The author Endo Shusaku frequented Sotome in the writing of the novel.

Scorsese was here!
Endo Shusaku Literary Museum
(Higashi Shitsu)
Endo Shusaku Literary Museum (Higashi Shitsu)

The Endo Shusaku Literary Museum is located in Sotome district, which is also known as the homeland of Christians in Japan. The museum overlooks the Goto-nada sea and at dusk, is blessed with a breath-taking view of the sunset. The wide expanse of ocean that can be seen from here inspired the water punishment scene in the novel. While not originally from Nagasaki, Endo felt a strong bond with Sotome, calling it his second home. The Museum chronicles Endo's life and study and has a collection of over 30,000 articles including handwritten manuscripts, books on Silence, as well as his other writings.

> Endo Shusaku Literary Museum
The Production Crew was here!
Silence Monument (Nishi Shitsu)
Silence Monument  (Nishi Shitsu)

Erected in 1987, a quote from novelist Endo Shusaku translating to “Humanity is so sad, Lord, and the ocean so blue” is inscribed on it. Endo himself agreed that there was no better place for the monument’s location. This spot offers a view of Shitsu - Sotome’s World Heritage Site contending town - with Kurosaki behind the hill, and a glimpse of the water punishment scene that took place in Tomogi.

Scorsese was here!
Bastian's Hut (Shin-makino)
Bastian's Hut (Shin-makino)

A Japanese priest, baptised as Bastian, was said to have stayed in the Sotome area, secretly conducting religious activities for the hidden Christians after all other priests had been deported and exiled. To evade his pursuers, he moved from place to place, living in secluded huts before he was caught and martyred. The current site which features a rebuilt hut is said to have been one of the places Bastian had stayed in. In the novel, Rodrigues and Garrpe laid low in a charcoal hut likely modelled after this hut.

Silence Monument  (Nishi Shitsu) Villagers from Tomogi tell the priests of the persecution
The Production Crew was here!
Karematsu Shrine (Shimo-kurosaki)
Karematsu Shrine (Shimo-kurosaki)

Karematsu Shrine was built in the Meiji period to honour San Juan, a foreign missionary who was a teacher to Bastian. His remains are believed to have been buried in the area. Near the shrine is a huge slab of rock, also called the Prayer Rock. During the ban on Christianity, Hidden Christians from Kurosaki gathered here on the eve of Easter every year to sing orasho - prayers that they passed down orally to the younger generation. The surroundings of Father Rodrigues' safe house resemble this area.

> Karematsu Shrine
Shitsu Church and Former Shitsu Aid Centre Buildings
Shitsu Church  and Former Shitsu Aid Centre Buildings Shitsu Village - World Heritage Site Tentative List

After discovering the first hidden Christians, Fr. Petitjean assigned Fr. de Rotz to the district of Sotome. The latter devoted his life to the residents who were living in poor conditions. At his own expense, Fr. de Rotz built Shitsu Church and also set up social welfare centres for the people of Sotome. He imparted not just the knowledge and skills needed to build a self-sustaining community, but also the spirit of love and giving that residents of Sotome continue to keep alive to this day.

> Shitsu Church
Kurosaki Church (Kurosaki)
Kurosaki Church (Kurosaki)

Endo visited this church to gather material for his novel. The surrounding district was home to many hidden Christians who dwelled here during the ban on Christianity. When the ban was lifted, Fr. de Rotz directed the construction of this church. Its foundation was laid in 1897, and building plans were drawn in 1899 before the church was completed in 1920. The attached bell tower was established to pray for the return of Hidden Christians to the Catholic Church.

Ono Church
Shitsu Church  and Former Shitsu Aid Centre Buildings World Heritage Site Tentative List

Located in Ono Valley, this church is a distance away from Shitsu. It was built by the Koteda family who had fled their hometown due to persecution. Its most distinctive features are its walls built using the "Father de Rotz method" of bonding locally sourced stone with plaster. The walls are still in excellent condition today.

> Ono Church
The Production Crew was here!
Sotome Museum of History and Folklore
Kurosaki Church (Kurosaki)

At this museum, artefacts relating to Christianity in the region, notably the relics left behind by hidden Christians are on display. The history of Tomogi Village, which was modelled after Sotome, can be seen at this museum.

> Sotome Museum of History and Folklore

Embark on a tour of the Sotome Area. View the suggested itinerary here.

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Area 2Nagasaki City

Fleeing from pursuers, Rodrigues and Garrpe left Tomogi Village and parted ways. While wandering through the mountains, Rodrigues once again meets Kichijiro who promptly betrays him to the authorities, leading to his capture. As he was escorted through the city centre to the magistrate's office, he was allowed to meet with his mentor Ferreira, now an apostate going by the name of Sawano Chuan.

「沈黙-サイレンス-」Silence 2017年全国ロードショー 2017 Japan Roadshow 配給:KADOKAWA Photo Credit: Kerry Brown
「沈黙-サイレンス-」Silence 2017年全国ロードショー 2017 Japan Roadshow 配給:KADOKAWA Photo Credit: Kerry Brown
Scorsese was here!
Nishizaka Hill
Memorial to the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan

Looming in the background of Silence is the historical event of the martyrdom of 26 Catholics on Nishizaka Hill. Many more lives were lost thereafter as Japan spiralled into a dark period of harsh Christian persecution. This hill that has seen countless martyrdoms is now Japan's one and only National Sanctuary. A memorial depicting the 26 Saints in prayer stands on the very hill they were martyred. There is also a museum and a church dedicated to the martyrs behind the monument.

Memorial to the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of JapanThe 26 Martyrs Museum has out of its collection of valuable items, a precious scroll of the Yuki no Santa Maria (St. Mary of the Snows) meticulously protected by faithful Hidden Christians. Scorsese presented a copy of this scroll as well as a picture of the 1622 Grand Martyrdom of Genna Era (both courtesy of the museum) to Pope Francis.

> Memorial to the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints of Japan
The Production Crew was here!
Saishoji
Saishoji

Rodrigues reunited with his mentor Ferreira at this temple. The latter is based on Cristóvão Ferreira (Sawano Chuan), a priest who had apostatised under torture. A precious artefact – the Kirishitan Korobi Shomon scroll* (record of Christians who have renounced their faith) – stored at this temple contains a list of names which includes Ferreira's. Scrolls like these were customarily sent to the magistrate's office, but this particular one contained an error and was thus left behind.
*This scroll is not publicly displayed.

The Production Crew was here!
Kotaiji
Kotaiji

One temple out of the many along Nagasaki's Temple Street stood out to Endo Shusaku. The quiet tranquility of Kotaiji's surroundings appealed greatly to him and was the place he chose for Ferreira's residence in his later years.

>Temple Street
Scorsese was here!
Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture
Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture

Nagasaki Magistrate's OfficeParaded through the city after his capture, Rodrigues was brought to the magistrate's office where he was made to renounce his faith by committing fumie. The reconstructed Nagasaki Magistrate's Office is open for exhibition within the compounds of the museum. An adjoining relocated restaurant, Ginrei, was a favourite of Endo's during his visits. He made many friends at the shop and it can be said that the reason he felt so at home in Nagasaki was due to the warm hospitality of the people he met here.

Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture > Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture
Oura Cathedral
Oura Cathedral World Heritage Site Tentative List

This former cathedral was the church that saw the first hidden Christians profess their faith after two centuries of hiding. Oura Church has since been rebuilt and stands next to the former Cathedral. The Cathedral itself, is still open to the public and houses a small museum on Nagasaki's hidden Christian heritage. Its historical value has been recognized by the Vatican as a Minor Basilica.

> Oura Cathedral
Peace Hill
Peace Hill

Urakami CathedralLocated just 500 metres away from the hypocentre of the atomic bombing, the original church was completely destroyed. Today, relics that have survived the bombing such as headless statues of saints, a damaged bell tower, and a wooden Virgin Mary are on display here.

> Urakami Cathedral

Nagasaki Hypocentre ParkThis is the hypocentre of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It was said that no life would grow on this site for the next 70 years. But today, exemplifying the power of revival, the park teems with activity; most especially in spring, it bursts to life in a myriad of colours and is a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing. Remains from the bombing are preserved here - the most notable of which is a part of the former Urakami Church.

> Nagasaki Hypocentre Park
Museum for the Former Site of Santo Domingo Church
Museum for the Former Site of Santo Domingo Church

This was the former site of Santo Domingo Church built in 1609. Unfortunately, just five years after its completion, the church was torn down due to the ban on Christianity and became the residence of the Magistrate of Nagasaki, the Suetsugu clan; and later, the Takagi clan. A museum has been set up on the site, displaying relics of the church and residences uncovered during demolition and reconstruction works.

> Museum for the Former Site of Santo Domingo Church
St. Kolbe Memorial Centre
St. Kolbe Memorial Centre

Along the slope up to Oura Church, visitors will come across the St. Kolbe Memorial Centre which used to be a printing press for St. Kolbe's works. The printing press was destroyed by a fire but the current building retains the original brick fireplace.

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Area 3Shimabara Peninsula

Scorsese was here!
Unzen Jigoku (Unzen Hell)
Unzen Hot Spring (Unzen Hell)

At the beginning of the novel, a letter from Ferreira recounts an incident at Unzen in which five priests and two women were tortured with the boiling hot waters of the hot spring. A beautiful hot spring town today with over 30 blowholes emitting hot white vapour, Unzen Jigoku was in reality used as described in the novel during the persecution period. A memorial dedicated to the martyrs on Unzen can be found at this site.

Unzen Hot Spring (Unzen Hell) > Unzen Hot Spring (Unzen Hell)
Arima Christian Heritage Museum
Arima Christian Heritage Museum

Arima's Christian Heritage Museum tells the story of Christian history in Nagasaki, ending with the Shimabara-Amakusa revolt (mentioned in the novel) that happened in the region. With the banning of Christianity, many residents of Shimabara were executed. The situation worsened when the unsympathetic new lord imposed even harsher taxes on the already suffering peasants struggling with drought and poor harvests. The peasants banded together resulting in the Shimabara-Amakusa rebellion.

> Arima Christian Heritage Museum
Remains of Hara Castle
Hara Castle Remains of Hara Castle-World Heritage Site Tentative List

This was the castle held by participants in the Shimabara-Amakusa revolt. Seen as a Christian rebellion by the shogunate, they spared no expenses in the suppression of the uprising. 37,000 people, including women and children were slaughtered by an army of 120,000 soldiers by the end of the rebellion.

> Hara Castle
Remains of Hinoe Castle
Remains of Hinoe Castle

Hinoe Castle was occupied by a Christian lord in 1597. Excavations of the site revealing that the stone steps of the castle originated from tombstones in Buddhists graveyards captures the conflict between religions in that era. This castle was attacked during the Shimabara-Amakusa revolt but was not occupied,

> Remains of Hinoe Castle

For more information about the Christian Heritage of Nagasaki, check out our special page (under construction).

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Area 4Hirado

The Production Crew was here!
St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church (Hirado)
Shima no Yakata: Museum of Ikitsuki (Hirado)

This church, commemorating St. Francis Xavier who first brought Christianity to Japan, rises above the temples and beautiful traditional structures in the serene town of Hirado. The unique juxtaposition is a spectacular sight to behold.

> St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church
The Production Crew was here!
Shima no Yakata: Museum of Ikitsuki (Hirado)
Hara Castle

Hidden Christian populations still exist in Japan today. One such settlement lies in Ikitsuki, an island of Hirado's. At the Shima no Yakata Museum of Ikitsuki, visitors can learn about the practices of Hidden Christians and the lives of residents in Ikitsuki.

Shima no Yakata: Museum of Ikitsuki

Area 5Goto Islands

The Production Crew was here!
Goto Islands
Christian cave Christian cave in Shinkamigoto where Hidden Christians hid during the Meiji Era. This site is only accessible by boat.

Braving the sea and risking capture, two Christians from the Goto Islands travelled to Tomogi in search of the priests they heard had arrived in Japan. Rodrigues, moved by their sincerity, journeyed to the islands to meet with the eager Hidden Christian population. The Goto Islands are an archipelago to the west of Nagasaki and can be seen on a clear day from Sotome. The islands are home to more than 50 Catholic churches and Christianity related sites in Nagasaki, some of which are on the World Heritage Site Tentative List. Endo Shusaku visited the islands to write about Rodrigues' journey.

> Christian cave > Goto Islands

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