Shingo, Aomori: The Sacred Land You Never Knew Existed

Shingo is a small village in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, which would not be on the map for most tourists had it not been for the bold claims boasted by residents.

Let me tell you the story of Jesus Christ. No, not the one from the Bible. This is a very different story: one little known to the West. This is the true story, where Jesus’ brother was crucified while Jesus fled to Japan and lived to the ripe age of 106 and was buried in a tiny village. At least, this is the true story as told by the people of Shingo. 

Shingo is a small village in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, which would not be on the map for most tourists had it not been for the bold claims boasted by residents. The overall story reads more like a prophetic comic book than reality. And with a host of characters involved in the manifestation of such a tale–including the writer of the documents, Wado Kosaka, best known for his attempt to contact aliens on live TV–it’s no wonder this little village in rural Japan has garnered international attention. 

Shingo’s legend of Jesus’ tomb goes something like this: During the time not covered by the New Testament beginning at the age of 21, Jesus traveled to Japan and learned the language and culture during his travels. Upon his return, Jesus told Judea all about the sacred land he had visited. 

As the Romans pursued him for his crimes, Jesus fled. He escaped persecution, making his way back to Japan and settling in the rural village of Shingo. Meanwhile his brother, Isukiri–whose name sounds suspiciously Japanese–took the fall and was persecuted and crucified in his place. But, not before removing his ear and giving it to Jesus to bring with him as a keepsake. 

Jesus fell in love with the daughter of a rice farmer and bore three children as he too farmed rice and lived out his days in the countryside until the age of 106. Upon his death, he was left atop a hill for four years before he was buried with Isukiri’s ear and a lock of his mother’s hair. 


The story is far-fetched, to say the least, and in a village where Christianity is virtually nonexistent (even the supposed descendants of Jesus’ family are not Christian), it’s difficult to understand exactly how this story came to be. But regardless of where this story came from, it has become an integral part of the culture of Shingo. There is a museum, the grave mound, and the Sawaguchi family, who are the supposed descendants of Jesus Christ. There is even a plaque that claims it is a gift from the city of Jerusalem to honor the friendship between the Holy Land and Shingo. 

Regardless of whether or not you believe in the narrative of Jesus’ grave in Japan, it is a remarkable story that offers an alternative tale of Jesus’ travels and life. Regardless of your own beliefs, visit the museum, see the grave mound, and celebrate the life and death of Jesus with the people of this little remote village. The best time to visit is in June, when you can participate in the festival which occurs annually to celebrate Jesus. Music, dance, and chanting fill the air.

If you are planning a trip to Japan and have the time to spare, visit this controversial village and learn more about this bizarre legend from the locals.


Picture of K. Straub-Kuo

K. Straub-Kuo

K has been writing since she was in middle school. She has always loved telling stories and loves to do research on topics that fascinate her even more. K developed an interest in cultures at an early age, but it wasn't until high school that she became fascinated with East Asia's rich cultural heritage that blends seamlessly with the rapid advancements that cause their cities to thrive. Her interest only grew more when she met her Taiwanese-Native husband, whose expansive travel experiences have encouraged her wanderlust. She takes every opportunity presented to her to try something new and is always thrilled to share her experiences with her readers.
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11 Day Back roads of Japan Tour with Project Expedition

***Note: meals are largely excluded on this tour and are the responsibility of tour members***

Days 1-2: Tokyo

There is no itinerary upon arrival until the welcome meeting which will take place in the evening. The first day will consist of learning more about your tour and meeting your guides. Day two is a walking tour of the fashion district of Harajuku. This eclectic district is popular for its eccentric fashion and youth culture. In the afternoon you will get a chance to visit Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, and the surrounding attractions. 

Day 3: Nagano

You will take Japan’s famed bullet train to Nagano before checking into your accommodations. The highlight of this trip is the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you will get to observe Japan’s bathing snow monkeys enjoying a bath in the natural hot springs.

Day 4: Matsumoto/Nagano

Enjoy a day trip to visit one of Japan’s most beloved castles: Matsumoto Castle. Afterwards, return to Nagano to venture off to Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan’s last standing pilgrimage sties. 

Day 5: Ōtsu 

Travel in the morning to Ōtsu for some stunning views of Japan’s largest lake: Lake Biwa. Top off the night with a delicious ramen dinner. 

Day 6-7: Hagi

Enjoy a quick breakfast before an extended drive to Hagi. You will then check into your local homestay. Pack for two nights as your remaining luggage will be sent to the next destination by your tour company. Make sure you pack comfortably for outdoor activities. This is a chance to experience life like a local as you meet your host family and take part in a welcome ceremony and dinner. 

Day two is an active day as you take a guided cycle tour around Hagi Castle. Afterward, you will have time to participate in seasonal activities with the locals. You will enjoy a homecooked dinner with your host family.

Day 8-9: Tottori

After breakfast with your host family, take a scenic trip by train on your way to Mihomisumi. There, enjoy learning the art of Washi paper making before hopping on another train to Tottori. 

In the morning, explore the unusual Tottori Sand Dunes along the Sea of Japan’s coastline. After that, make your way to the local fish market for some fantastic seafood lunch options. End the day with a trip to Kyoto to check in to your accommodations. 

Days 10-11: Kyoto

Take a morning trip to the well-known Fushimi Inari-Taisha, one of Kyoto’s many beautiful local shrines. This is where you will find the mystical  trail of torii gates along its trails. After this, you will have free time to explore what Kyoto has to offer. Recommended sites include a walk through the geisha district of Gion, exploration of Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion, and a visit to Kiyomizu Temple. 

The next day marks the end of the tour. Public transit is available to the airport, or you can speak to your guide to help find accommodations if you wish to extend your stay. 

Sample of an 11-Day Intrepid Tour

Days 1-2: Taipei City

Take the first day to relax and unwind after your travels before joining your group for dinner. After a good night’s sleep, enjoy learning about Taiwan’s love of sweet potatoes at Sweet Potato Mama for some spud-filled activities. Check out Shilin Night Market to enjoy Taipei’s variable food culture.

Days 2-3: Hualien

Enjoy nature at Danong Dafu Forest Park before spending the evening enjoying even more street food at the local night markets (you may have noticed a trend). Visit Qingshui cliff before venturing off to the famous Taroko Gorge.

Day 5: Yilan

Visit one of Yilan’s well-known onion farms to learn about the agriculture behind them before learning to make a Taiwanese favorite: scallion pancakes!

Day 6: Turtle Island and Jiufen

Set out on a 3-hour cruise around Turtle Island before travelling off to Jiufen, famed by Hayao Miyazaki as the inspiration for Spirited Away. You will be able to explore Old Street on your own. My suggestion: Eat everything ,try lots of samples, and make time for tea at the famous Teahouse.

Days 7-8: Sun Moon Lake

You’ll get to hike from the base of the mountainous area through the trails that snake up the mountain. You can then climb the Pagoda which marks the end of your trek for some incredible views. The next day you will get to explore the Chung Tai Chan Monastery for a unique, cross-cultural experience.

Day 9: Taichung

Visit Taiwan’s “Breadbasket”, where you can go oyster picking, bird watching, and exploring the water-life of the area. Try some incredible seafood and maybe even go out after returning to you accommodations near — Oh look, it’s near another night market!

Days 10-11: Taipei

Visit the Rainbow Village before heading back to the city you started in. You’ll get to see the massive collection of traditional art and artifacts contained within the National Palace Museum before taking the evening for yourself. After breakfast in the morning,  Your tour will end.