It was the first ceremony of its kind ever to be held in Japan.

The 188 Christians included samurai warriors, housewives and children who were crucified and tortured, but refused to renounce their faith. 

Although records show 4,000-5,000 Japanese were killed for refusing to give up their religion, the Japanese Catholic Church says the true number could be much higher.

Christianity was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese Jesuit priest Francis Xavier in 1549 but banned by the government for 250 years.