A religious painting believed to have been made by a Japanese Christian about 400 years ago has been discovered near Tokyo.
The painting was found at a memorial museum in Oiso Town in Kanagawa Prefecture. The facility is known for its collection of historical items related to Japanese Christians.
Officials of a history museum and experts examined the painting. They say it was done with China ink on a hand scroll measuring 22 centimeters wide by 3 meters long and made of Japanese "washi" paper.
The work depicts 15 scenes relating to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, including the Annunciation and the Pentecost.
The painting also bears some writing. An analysis shows it is Latin prayers that someone transcribed from a verbal form.
The words "the year of 1592" appear at the end of the scroll. Experts say it is highly likely that the painting was made in that year, as their analysis of the paper shows that it was made between the late 16th and the early 17th centuries.
Christianity came to Japan 40 years before that year. The experts say they believe that Japanese Christians of the time reproduced Western religious paintings for use in their prayers.
The experts say this is the first discovery of a religious painting done in the Japanese traditional style.
The deputy director of the history museum that analyzed the painting, Osamu Inoue, said the work is considered to be one of the oldest paintings made by a Japanese Christian.
He also said he believes that this is the first one to be found to include prayers. He said this is a significant discovery that tells about the religious faith of ordinary people at the time.