After having served in the military, the Japanese Catholic
nobleman Simon Kiyota Bokusai became a catechist, founding a school for this purpose. After learning of the catechetical school, the pagan
Japanese emperor ordered Simon to close it. When in turn Simon refused to comply with this order, the emperor condemned Simon and his wife Magdalena to be put to death by crucifixion together with another Catholic family
living under their roof. The latter family
consisted of Thomas Gengoro, his wife Mary, and their very young son, James
Bunzo. Shortly before his execution, Simon confided to a religious in a letter, "I hope
that, if my sins offer no obstacle, I may go in a few hours to enjoy eternal happiness. I entreat you to obtain for me perseverance." The next day, before setting out for the place of their crucifixion in Kokura, Simon, Magdalena, Thomas, Mary, and James
all knelt down before a crucifix to prepare themselves. When later the five reached the execution site, they individually prostrated themselves before the respective crosses on which they were to die.