Despite having studied the Japanese language and culture for over ten years now, and the Catholic faith for perhaps five, I have to confess that I have a very bare-bones grasp of the history of the Faith in Japan. In my early high-school days of Japanese my Belgian-born, lapsed Russian Orthodox teacher would occasionally tell us about the torture methods employed against the converts and missionaries of Japan. Beyond this, however, I remain for the large part unforgivably ignorant.
With this in mind it was a little surprising for me to learn (perhaps a year ago) when first discovering the CBCJ site that five hundred years of persecution was never completely successful in extinguishing the Faith on those shores, despite going for over a hundred years without a single priest. Over the course of my trip I will be actively searching out histories of the missionary encounters and presence in Japan, though the exercise may well stretch my linguistic abilities. The first Jesuit missionaries were Portuguese, as well as the Ordinaries under whose jurisdiction the entire Eastern mission territory fell. The causes for canonisation of these missionaries were probably in Portuguese and Latin (with which I’d do a little better), while the later sancti (especially the 187 martyrs beatified last November) would be recorded mostly in Japanese. Nonetheless, here are two timelines I discovered through a quick search.
The first source is a very bare-bones timeline (easy to skim and still informative) while the second is more of a wall of text. The last part of the CBCJ series “The Catholic Church in Japan today” may be distressingly familiar to some readers (particularly advocates of the Reform of the Reform), but I pray earnestly that the same signs of hope we have here in Australia the UK and the US may also be found in the Orient.
As I collect more resources I will add them to the “resources” page in the right sidebar, which is already decently populated with a seminal list of useful sites.