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St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church: Built in Honor of the First Missionary in Japan

St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church, Hirado

Emerald green with some daisy white. This church can drop the jaw of the wide-eyed with its numerous pinnacles and the sheer presence of the majestic structure. 

And if you are in the service to defend your country from aggressors, the matching colors of green and white of the sleek pinnacles would remind you of your state's warheads. 

Erected in Hirado, a city in the Nagasaki Prefecture, this church is one of the religious structures in Japan named after St. Francis Xavier - a Basque Spaniard missionary who introduced Christianity in Japan during the Senguko period.

This period was marked by civil wars from the 15th century to the 16th.

This church, as well as the other churches in Nagasaki, was built following the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

The practice of Christianity was forbidden by the Tokugawa shogunate. This forced Christians to abandon their faith. Some carried on with the faith in secret spanning two centuries. These few were called Hidden Christians. 

The Tokugawa shogunate was Japan's military government during the Edo time from 1603 to 1868.

However this restriction was lifted in 1873, granting full liberty of worship as promised by the Meiji Constitution of 1889.

The Hidden Christians returned to the fold of Christianity as a result. 

In 1913, this church was constructed. It was originally named the Hirado Catholic Church. 

More churches were built due to the guarantee of the Meiji Constitution. 

In 1931, the Japanese moved this church to its present location for reconstruction - a hill overlooking a harbor in the prefecture. 

In 1971, a statue of Francis, who set foot in Hirado in 1551, was built. 

Today, the church is referred to as St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church. 

The construction has Gothic influences. 

A large and taller steeple at the center is topped with a cross. 

The large steeple is surrounded by spires. 

Another steeple - a smaller one - was built on the left side of the church. 

The flying buttresses are evident on the sides. 

The top of the windows and doors are pointed arches. 

With its emerald green walls, the church is regarded as one of the most photographed religious icons in Hirado for its mesmerizing exterior. 

The Lonely Planet, an Australian travel guidebook publisher, spoke of this church as "one of the most photogenic vantage points of all of Kyushu."

Kyushu is one of the four main islands of Japan known for its striking mountains, beaches, hot springs, and tonkotsu ramen. 

Japanese temples and bamboo groves coalesce around this church as though guarding its safety and admiring its presence. 

Francis set foot in Kagoshima, a prefecture in the southwestern tip of Kyushu, in 1549 before travelling to Hirado. 

He spread the faith in Japan for more than two years. 

It is believed that Francis converted around 100 Japanese in Kagoshima, a prefecture at the southwestern tip of Kyushu. 

He travelled to Hirado with two missionaries - Fr. Cosme de Torres, and Juan Fernandez - in 1550.

The mission in Kagoshima was carried on by Ajiro (later known as Paulo de Santa Fe), the first Japanese convert. 

Francis converted more in Hirado than in Kagoshima. 

The first church in Japan was built in Hirado in 1551, a year after Francis arrived in Japan. The ruins of the first church is located in Sakigata Park. 

In Yamaguchi, a prefecture in Chugoku region, he preached at a neglected Buddhist temple. Another church was built in Yamaguchi after Francis' name. 

Francis also converted the Kimura family. One of the Japanese martyrs was Sebastian Kimura, who was the first Japanese Catholic priest.

Sebastian was a grandson of Antonio Kimura, one of the first 100 converts in Hirado. 

Maria Osen was the first Japanese martyr. She was executed after she defied the demand of her husband to not worship the Christian God. 

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