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Garlic Grower

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Odd Japanese Jesus Story

By James Donahue

Because of books and films on the subject, most people by now are aware of the story of a possible link between Mary Magdalene and Jesus in the area of Rennes-le-Chateau, France. But there is another story, told by the people of Shingo, Japan, that strangely links Jesus with that community. The people there not only believe this story, they have a complete legend and even grave markers to indicate that not only Jesus, but his family lived there two thousand years ago.

The Christian story, from the New Testament, claims that Jesus was crucified at Calvary, rose from the dead three days later, and thus became a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of mankind. But the Shingo story is very different. It claims that Jesus escaped the clutches of the Romans and fled to Japan where he lived a life in exile in this northern mountain village. There he married a woman called Miyuko, and they became parents of three daughters. Jesus died at the age of one hundred and six.

Two wooden crosses outside the village mark the graves of Jesus and his brother, Isukuri, and there is even a museum that remembers Jesus as a garlic farmer known to the Japanese as Daitenku Taro Jurai. Isukuri, the people say, was crucified in Jerusalem instead of Jesus. When Jesus came to Shingo he brought with him the severed ear of his brother. Apparently it is only the ear that lies buried in that ancient tomb beside Jesus.

In the local museum is a scroll, said to be a copy of an original document that was the last will and testament of Jesus. The original document, first discovered in the hands of a priest in 1935, was reportedly destroyed during the war. But a copy exists and is contained in a glass case. A sign beside the grave explains that when Jesus was twenty-one, he came to Japan to study the divinity of the masters there. He remained there for twelve years, living somewhere near Mount Fuji, and became fluent in Japanese. When he was thirty-three, Jesus returned to Judea and began his ministry.

The community was called Harai when Jesus arrived. Many locals say it was a Hebrew name. They also claim a song, or mantra, recited by the people for generations, also sounds more Hebrew than something spoken in the Japanese dialect. It goes: "Na-Nee-Ya-Do-Ya-Ra."

A news clip about the community cites villager Yoshiteru Ogasaware as saying that there are other strange and unexplained customs in Shingo that may link the community to some kind of Hebrew origins. For example, there is a strange blessing of the children with a black sign of the cross on their foreheads, even though the people are not Christians. Also many villagers wrapped newborn babies in cloth marked by the Star of David.

"Every now and then a blue-eyed baby is born and some people say that these children are the descendants" of Jesus, Ogasaware said. "Then we heard about these ancient scrolls that said Jesus had come to Japan, and we put everything together. Apparently Jesus grew garlic and gave up his ministry when he arrived in Japan.

Some say that if the real tomb of Jesus is a marked grave in Japan, the story could be proven if the bones could be exhumed. But Japanese tradition forbids this. Thus the Japanese people of Shingo have their legend, complete with graves and a scroll that neither proves nor disproves their story. While Ogasaware says he does not believe the Jesus story, he notes that even before the scroll was found, the ancient tomb was always said to contain someone very important, "although nobody knew who."