Shunkōin Temple houses a stone lantern, whose leg is in a shape of a cross and has a statue of Virgin Mary. This type of stone lanterns is called kirishitan dōrō, or Christian lantern. We do not know how we got this Hidden Christian icon in this temple. However, we know that this is very important object, which tells you about the early history of Christianity in Japan
Christianity was introduced to Japan by St. Francis Xavier on August 15, 1549. After its introduction, Christianity was accepted by many feudal lords and farmers in western Japan.
However, Christianity was view as a serious threat to Japan by the Tokugawa shogunate, or Edo Bakufu, and banned in 1614. And the law against Christianity was completed in 1643. The government continuously and systematically eliminated Christian followers and icons in Japan through the Edo period(between the 17th century and 19th century). In 1858, the ban was finally lifted by the newly-born Meiji government.
The Edo period was the dark age of Japanese Christians. However, some Christians kept their faith and hid their religious identity. They were called kakure-kirishitan, or hidden Christians. Those hidden Christians made their crosses and graves cleverly to resemble the Buddhist statues, pagodas, and stone lanterns. Shunkōinfs hidden Christian lantern is one of those religious objects.