Blessed Michael Nagashima

Blessed Michael Nagashima

Michael Nagashima


  • Death: 12/25/1628
  • Nationality (place of birth): Japan

Michael Nagashima (1583-1628) lived as a devout layman for many years before becoming a Jesuit brother. He offered hospitality to two Jesuits after Christianity was prohibited and he brought people to his home for sacraments and counseling. When authorities finally apprehended him, he suffered dreadful tortures but remained steadfast in his faith. Nagashima was born of non-Christian parents, but was baptized at age 11 by Father John Baptist de Baeza. Later on he took a private vow of chastity and lived a devout life of prayer and penance.

When the decree against foreign missionaries made Jesuit communities untenable, Nagashima invited Father de Baeza to live in his house. The Jesuit remained there for 12 years; and on his death, Nagashima offered another Jesuit shelter. At night he would bring Christians to see the priests and receive sacraments. Sometime in 1627 he was received into the Society. Authorities were suspicious of him, and placed him under house arrest for one year, but he continued to live his devout life with serenity.

The calm ended when he refused to provide firewood for an execution that was to take place, as was the custom in Nagasaki. He told the wood collector who called at his house on Sept. 3, 1628, that he wanted no part in the unjust killing of a minister of God. The remark was passed on to the governor who had Brother Nagashima arrested and sent to prison, and all his property confiscated. The Jesuit brother then endured an appalling series of tortures designed to make him renounce his faith. First he was stripped and beaten with clubs. Then prison guards used the water torture: they gagged him and used funnels to pour gallons of water into his nostrils; then the guards jumped on his swollen stomach. After the torture was repeated several times, Nagashima was taken to the sulphurous waters at Unzen, where an extinct volcano had left pools of scalding water in the craters. First he was subjected to the water torture again, then he was placed in three different pools, each one deeper than the last until the super-heated water was up to his neck. When he was pulled out, he could not stand and his body was one open sore, with bones exposed in some places. They left him out in the cold December night air, and returned early the next morning. Since he could no longer walk, they carried the hot water to where he lie and poured the water over him. He endured the torment for two hours without saying anything except for the names of Jesus and Mary, until he finally died on the day the Christian world commemorated the birth of the savior he refused to deny.

Martyres in Japan

Originally Collected and edited by: Tom Rochford, SJ