The history of Nagasaki’s most significant shrine tells the story of the tumultuous culture clashes which came to define the city’s history for centuries. Founded in 1619, the shrine had some fierce political symbolism surrounding its construction. Just a few decades before, the predominantly Christian population of Nagasaki had succeeded in dismantling the majority of Shinto sites around the city.
The clampdown on this foreign faith began to build up steam towards the end of the 16th century, but it wasn’t until the year of Suwa Jinja’s construction that the shogun really began to invest time and money into its eradication. Despite consistent sabotage, a large amount of money was poured into the development of the shrine and asserting the dominance of Japan’s native religion.
It became mandatory for residents of the city to register here, and Suwa Jinja was established as the center of the city’s biggest festival — the Nagasaki Kunchi Matsuri. This still runs every year from the 7th to the 9th of August, with groups from various areas of the city taking part in a grand procession to the shrine alongside giant floats telling the story of the city and its history of international exchange.