Monday, 10 September 2012

Oura Church, Nagasaki
Boarding a tram i then came to the very attractive Oura Church, also dedicated to the 26 Martyrs. The celebrated interior was inaccessible at the hour when i arrived, but the exterior merited a few photos all the same, with its statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the front, commemorating the astonishing reunion of Kakure Kirishitan with the mainstream Church in the mid 19th century. I then had a very pleasant evening stroll to the hostel, via a Chinatown that in theory at least has a stronger claim to authenticity than those of other Japanese cities. Under the rigidly isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate from the 1630s to 1850s, Nagasaki was unique in being a place where Chinese and a few other overseas trading concerns, notably from the Netherlands, were allowed to operate. I stopped for a delicious supper in a restaurant there, including authentic Chinese noodle/seafood soup, champon.
Chinatown, Nagasaki
   On 25th July, St James’s day, and also St Christopher’s day, i was away quite early to catch the bus to Fukuoka. In late morning i met up with my pilgrim confrere, wielding the sleeping bag i’d lumbered him with a week before. Out of a feeling of solidarity with my peregrinations he insisted on taking me for coffee, followed by a great lunch. It turned out he’d spent time as a student of English in London in 2003-4, and was very knowledgable about English football, having been to a number of Chelsea matches. He also once had his photograph taken with Arsene Wenger, who was manager of the Japanese national team before moving to Woolwich Arsenal. I had a prayer card of Our Lady of Guadalupe to give to him, before realising that in addition i could provide a more practical pilgrimage present - the ‘Dazer’ dog deterrent that had been such a boon in the earlier stages of my expedition. St James, patron saint of pilgrims – please pray for us!

   With my flight to Mexico due to leave from Osaka early on Wednesday, i took an overnight coach from Fukuoka to Kyoto, arriving on Tuesday 26th July, the feast of SS Joachim and Anne, parents of Our Lady[1]. While making arrangements to reach Osaka airport, a Dutch woman came up to me, faced with exactly the same grief as i had had, over cash machines; i suggested the Post Office. Kyoto really did seem to be like an ATM Bermuda Triangle. After visiting the cathedral i ensconced myself in a café with my least favourite type of jazz tinkling in the background, but managed to draft The Way of 26 Crosses for the blog. I spent the Hour of Mercy[2] at prayer in the cathedral, then passed some time in an internet café before Mass in the crypt at 6.30pm. When i finally came to the bus stop, after losing my bearings in the evening, i spied a suspect package that needed to be handed in, then enjoyed the hour or so ride through prosperous urban scenery to the airport.

   Wednesday 27th July, dedicated to Blessed Robert Nutter[3], turned out to be easily the longest day of my life. My internal body clock, thankfully, was sufficient to wake me after a lie-down in the main hall at Osaka airport, in time to catch the flight to Tokyo Narita, conveying us somewhere over Mount Fuji, and Shizuoka, scene of England’s 2:1 exit to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup, and Ronaldinho’s spectacular, goalie-bamboozling free-kick. I was able to write a few postcards in the Tokyo departure lounge, and wondered how much you’d have to pay for the wares in Duty Free when they are taxed, before boarding my flight for Mexico.

[1] The name of Stanwell, in Surrey, is said to be a corruption of St Anne’s Well, so-named when England was a Christian country.
[2] 3-4pm. Tradition holds that Our Lord breathed His last at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. In St Faustina Kowalska's book ‘Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul’, the following statement is attributed to Jesus; “As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it, invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners, for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul.”
[3] Born at Burnley, Lancashire, in about 1557. After ordination at Soissons in 1581 he undertook several highly dangerous missions to the Catholic communities in England, was arrested more than once, underwent torture, made his profession as a Dominican friar while imprisoned at Wisbech castle in Cambridgeshire, and was then hanged, drawn and quartered at Lancaster on 26th July 1600, to join his fellow martyrs SS Paul Miki and companions. The actions of Guy Fawkes, five years later, were catastrophic for the cause of Catholicism in Britain, but it is sometimes useful to look at the historical context. Besides which, Oliver Cromwell succeeded where Guy Fawkes failed.