Nagasaki, a port city that first had contact with European explorers in the 1500s, is the center of Catholic life in Japan, although the observant population in the country has fallen to just over 450,000, a tiny minority in a nation of 126 million people. The vast majority of religious Japanese are either Buddhist or Shinto, with many practicing elements of both.

Catholics have a history of being ostracized for their faith in Japan, and 26 Christians who were executed in the late 16th century under orders from the warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi are commemorated in a monument in Nagasaki.

When American pilots dropped…



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