Stepping on a Christian image
(Fumi-e, ebumi 踏絵 絵踏)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Early Spring
***** Category: Humanity


Fumie 踏絵, 踏み絵
from Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan
Literally, "pictures to step on".

Pictures of Christian figures used during the Edo period (1600-1868) to identify adherents of Christianity, proscribed in 1613. Suspects were ordered to trample these Christian images underfoot on the assumption that those who refused or hesitated revealed themselves as Christians.
The practice was first used in Nagasaki in 1629 0r 1626. It later was known as ebumi. Initially, fumie were simply crosses or religious pictures, but later bass crucifixes were cast at Nagasaki and issued to daimyo of adjoining domains especially for examining suspects. Official use of fumie as an instument of control continued until 1858.


© Gakushuin University Museum of History


forced trampling of Christian images,
..... fumi-e, fumie 踏み絵, 踏絵
..... ebumi, 絵踏み, 絵踏
document of proof from the temple, tera-uke shoomon 寺請証文
document to show you are not a Christian, to test a Christian
..... kirisuto-shiki kenshi リトマス試験紙

The official yearly custom of making all inhabitants of the Nagasaki area, especially from Hizen, the Goto Islands, Tsushima and Hirado step on these pictures or icons started on January 4 of the old lunar calendar. Everyone had to come to the magistrate's office and step on an effigy of Christianity, either a depiction of Maria with the Child or Christ on the Cross. This was the plan of the Nagasaki Magistrate (Nagasaki bugyoo) of that time, to prove to this superiours that there were no Christians in his disctrict. All who would not step on the icons where killed in a rather cruel way. Some execution took place at Nagasaki's Mount Unzen where many were simply dumped into the volcano.

(Some say that even if you were a believing Christian and still steppen on the icon to save your live, Christ himself in his great compassion would forgive you.)

These effigies and icons were first made simply of paper, later from stone, wood or cast in copper. Many are now quite worn out be the many feet that stepped on it. In some areas it took until the end of March until everyone had fulfilled his duty.

In Nagasaki, the last day of the event was January 8th, where all the courtesans from the Maruyama district had to step forth. They came clad in colorful kimonos and the whole action was rather like a big festival for the people. This check for hidden Christians lasted from 1628 till 1858 (other sources quote April 13, 1856), when it was abolished.

Since we can not now participate at this kind of stepping on a picture any more, the haiku can only be written out of historical memory, so to speak.

The famous novel Silence by Endo Shusaku describes this custom in all its cruelling details.

Gabi Greve

forbidding the Christian faith in Japan
kirishitan kinrei 切支丹禁令

Look at some more illustrations



Detailed description about this activity.
Fumi-E, Ebumi. By Mujoo-An
(In Japanese, use Encode: Japanese EUC.)

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

The Dream of Christian Nagasaki
World Trade and the Clash of Cultures, 1560–1640

Reinier H. Hesselink

Nagasaki, on the west coast of the Japanese island of Kyushu, is known in the West for having been the target of an atomic bomb attack on August 9, 1945. Less well known is that the city was founded by Europeans, Jesuit missionaries who arrived in the area in the second half of the 16th century. The Jesuits had come to convert the Japanese. After baptizing a Japanese lord or daimyo of the area, they established Nagasaki in 1571 to provide the Portuguese a safe harbor in his domain. Profits for the daimyo and the Japanese who converted to Christianity soon followed.
This book
is the first comprehensive history in any language of the rise and fall of Christian Nagasaki (1560–1640). The author provides a narrative of the city’s early years from both the European and Japanese perspectives.
source : mcfarlandbooks.com


Christianity in Japan
quoted from the Wikipedia
Japan's first contacts with the West in the 16th and 17th centuries were with either traders or missionaries. The first form of Christianity which arrived was Roman Catholicism, spread by Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch missionaries, usually Jesuits. Thousands of Japanese converted from Shinto/Buddhism to Catholic Christianity.

On August 15th, 1549, Francisco Xavier (a Catholic Saint), Cosme de Tores (a Jesuit priest), and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima from Spain with hopes to bring Christianity and Catholicism to Japan. On September 29th, Xavier visited Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of producing a trade relationship with Europe. During his stay in Japan, Xavier ordered all missionaries to study the Japanese language and an early form of Romaji was developed as a result. He also succeeded in baptizing and fully converting 100 people to Catholicism - a surprising feat, seeing that he spoke very little Japanese.

The shogunate and imperial government at first supported the Christian movement and the missionaries, thinking that they would reduce the power of the powerful Buddhist monks, but soon the shogunate saw what the Spanish did in the Philippines and what other colonial powers did elsewhere, such as convert the population and then take power. Christianity threatened to destabilize and overthrow their government until the 17th century, when Christianity was banned and those who refused to abandon their new faith were brutally killed, like Paul Miki. The shogun defeated the Christian daimyos at the battle of Satsuma.

European missionaries who did not leave the country were also killed, and they are known to the Catholic Church as martyrs. Many Christians fled to Europe or the Spanish Philippines. Suspected Christians were forced to burn crosses and tread on fumie, something considered sacrilegious for a real Christian. In the next two centuries, Japan remained in a state of complete isolation from the outside world. Dutch traders were limited to the island of Dejima, were forbidden to proselitize and were forced to tread on Christian images.

In secluded areas, the hidden Christians (kakure kirishitan) continued to practice a corrupted Catholicism, actually a cult of their Christian ancestors with misremembered Latin and Portuguese prayers. When Meiji modernization allowed freedom of religion, several of these hidden Christians turned to Roman Catholicism while others maintained their traditions.

© Wikipedia

Kirishitan (吉利支丹, 切支丹) - wikipedia

Pure Land Buddhism. 浄土宗, Jōdoshū, Joodo Shuu - wikipedia


More photos from the Amakusa Church, Nagasaki Pref.
Maria Kannon and a Kannon with Wings like an Angle, a pot to hide the scriptures

. Karematsu Jinja 枯松神社 and hidden Christians .


Temple Jodo-Ji, Joodo no tera, Jodoji
Nr. 49 on the Shikoku Pilgrims Route in Matsuyama.
Jodo-Ji Temple in Matsuyama

Since Shiki was born in Matsuyama, it may well be he is writing the haiku below about this temple. It was famous for its peony.


「十悪の 我身を棄てず そのままに、浄土の寺へ まいりこそすれ」

Pilgrim Temple Nr. 49

Temple Hall as Important National Treasure, Temple Nr. 49

Peonies at the Temple Joodo-ji 「浄土寺の牡丹」


World Kigo Database : Pilgrimage (henro)


The following haiku has two cultural references and is rather difficult to translate.
Joodo no tera is one of them, see above. Ebumi the next, which was explored in detail here..

Jôdo no tera
botan saku Joodo no tera no ebumi kana

Peonies bloom :
at the Buddhist temple,
copper picture trampling.

Masaoka Shiki

Tr. Hugh Bygott. Read his comments on the translation

xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx

while peonies bloom
at the Jôdo temple
they trample Christ


peoni' floras --
oni tretas Kriston ĉe
la Ĝodo-templo

Norman Darlington

xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx

peonies bloom
at the Temple Jodoji -
stepping on a Christian icon


Peonien blühen
im Tempel Jodoji <>
auf christliche Ikonen treten

. Gabi Greve .

xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx

Pfingstrosen blühen
im Tempel Jodoji --
auf christliche Ikonen treten

(Pentecost roses bloom
in the Jodoji temple --
step on / trample on Christian icons)

Isabelle Prondzynski


naeshiro no doroashi hakobu ebumi kana

with muddy feet
from planting rice seedlings -
stepping on the Christ

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Masaoka Shiki

stepping on the Christian icon could be an alternative for L3.


ashi yori mo omoki kokoro no ebumi kana

the heart is heavier
than his feet -
stepping on the Christ
(Tr. Gabi Greve)     

猿 男 Saru Otoko


jinchoo ya ebumi no arishi machi no ame

fragrant daphne -
rain in the town where they
stepped on the Christ
(Tr. Gabi Greve)

木村てる代 Kimura Teruyo


batsu yori mo tsumi osoroshiki ebumi kana

fearing the sin
more than the punishment -
stepping on the Christ

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Nomiyama 野見山朱鳥


A Japanese page with many haiku about EBUMI

雨だれの音ひびきをる絵踏かな 蒼穹

のけぞれば宙ひろすぎる絵踏かな 未貴

見守れる母を頼りの絵踏かな 樽金

錦繍の帯と衣と踏絵板 早香

絵踏かな南蛮渡来てふ小皿 中ちゃん

絵踏せし天草の海荒れにけり キチロウ

QLD句会] KUKAI 平成16年2月15日

Related words

***** Stepping on Sacred Sand, Sunafumi
砂踏み,O-sunafumi, osunafumi of the pilgrimage from Shikoku


Kannon with wings like an angel
翼をもつ観音 Maria Kannon


Maria Kannon マリア観音

CLICK for more photos

Maria Kannon statues were commonly made of white porcelain.
Maria Kannon マリア観音
Details from Mark Schumacher


Sei Sabieru no hi 聖ザビエルの日 (せいざびえるのひ)
December 3. Memorial day for
. Xavier, Saint Francis Xavier  

Further Reading
. Christian Celebrations in Japanese Kigo

. kaoo, kaō 花押 Kao official signature .




Unknown said...



Gabi Greve said...

- Japan Times -

Items taken from persecuted Christians return to Nagasaki in rare exhibition
by Shinichi Koike

More than 500 items confiscated from Japanese Christians during their brutal persecution in the 19th century from the late Edo Period to the early Meiji Era are back in Nagasaki for the first time in about 150 years.

Some 550 items are on display in the special exhibition “Miracles Protected by the Virgin Mary — Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki,” which runs at the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture until April 15. They include 212 important cultural properties loaned by the Tokyo National Museum, which rarely loans so many important objects at one time.

“We made a special decision to loan them because this is a well-planned exhibition,” said Toyonobu Tani, chief curator of the Tokyo museum, which received an application for the Nagasaki Prefectural Government last June.

The exhibition is taking place because the central government has recommended that churches and other Christian locations in Nagasaki be listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. It shows the history of Christianity in Japan from the introduction of the faith by Francis Xavier in 1549, to the birth of the “hidden Christians” caused by brutal crackdowns and the confession of their beliefs to a foreign priest by a small group of Japanese in 1865.