Japan’s Secret Christians

マリア観音 – Maria Kannon

In 1637 an uprising comprised of mainly Japanese peasant Catholics was brutally crushed by the Tokugawa Shogunate, with almost 37,000 rebels and supporters beheaded and buried in the ruins of their castle stronghold.

The shogunate, accusing Portugeuse settlers, implemented the Sakoku (鎖国 – Locked country) policy, limiting foreign influence and forbidding Japanese citizens from leaving. Catholic missionaries and priest were expelled and converts either killed or tortured.

This started the sect of the Kakure Kirishitan (隠れキリシタン – hidden Christian). Worshiping in secret rooms they adapted prayers learnt from memory to sound like Buddhist chants and idols of the Virgin Mary and crucifixes were built in Buddhist styles. Eucharist was performed with rice and Sake.

17th Century crucifix

Over time the original meanings of the prayers were lost and the Kakure Kirishitans beliefs became more ancestor worship based, with Christian martyrs taking the place of actual blood relations.

When religious sanctions were lifted in the mid 19th century many of the Kakure returned to the Catholic church. Only a handful remained.

In 1991, anthropologist Christal Whelan traveled the Goto Islands, southern Japan to speak with the few surviving Kakure Kirishitans. A preview of her documentary Otaiya; Japan’s Hidden Christians can be seen on Youtube.


Night of the Living Dollers

When Masahiro Mori (the famed japanese robot technician) coined the phrase the uncanny valley, a term which describes the feeling of revulsion humans experience when facing a robot or android that looks too human, he was describing Dollers . 

Dollers are an extreme niche of the cosplay world. The great majority are men in their late teens to early twenties and they look a little like this.

The wide, dead stare, the flawless plastic skin and the silent smile of a killer.
Recently Madonna used dollers in her music video for “Give Me All Your Luvin'” (they were the second most plastic thing in it).

Animegao employs full body suits and full head masks made of plastic, fibreglass and clay. The can be bought online (how could you go into a shop for it?) for about 80,000 yen ($1000). Many “dollers” choose to customise their own, gluing on wigs and painting in their own eyes. If you are looking for an art project check out Nukopan’s online shop.

Discover more with an interview with a doller here.

The strange world of the Lolita


The word Lolita immediately conjures up images of overly sexualized
tweens and clammy handed old men; On the streets of Harajuku it the
complete antithesis.
Showing less skin than Queen Victoria’s prude aunt, Lolitas inhabit
the streets of Tokyo’s most famous district, Harajuku.

The cultures origins are unclear but it reached a peak in the 1990s
when visual-kei bands (androgynous man-boys wearing make up, elaborate
hair styles and Tim Burtonesque outfits) and brands such as Baby, The
Stars Shine Bright and Metamorphose temps de fille became mainstream.

The craze is almost always portrayed in a sexual way. Japan’s infamous
obsession with all things young means the term Lolita is also shared
with the far creepier and disturbing, Lolicon (google at own
One Lolita follower talked about this with Publishers Weekly

“We certainly do not do this for the attention of men. Frequently,
female sexuality is portrayed in a way that is palatable and
accessible to men, and anything outside of that is intimidating.
Something so unabashedly female is ultimately kind of scary, in fact,
I consider it to be pretty confrontational. Dressing this way takes a certain kind of ownership of one’s own sexuality that wearing expected
or regular things just does not. It doesn’t take a lot of moxie to put
on a pencil skirt and flats.”

Although the culture was at its most popular in the late 90s early
2000s, many still truss themselves up in bloomers, corsets, mounds of
petticoats and a nunnery’s worth of lace (even in the blistering heat
of a Tokyo summer).

There are also sub cultures within the Lolita movement (sub-sub
Gore Lolita; incorporating fake blood and bandages.
Wa-loli; traditional Japanese clothes modified to fit the Lolita aesthetic.
Oji-Lolita (Oji meaning Prince); embracing Victorian era boy styles like knickerbockers, boating hats, blouses
and knee-high ribboned socks

The cutesy concept of Lolita fashion is a staple in Japan with flowery
girly brands such as Liz Lisa and Cath Kidson catering to the
pigeon-toed girly girl masses who flock to Shibuya and Harajuku.