FishEaters Traditional Catholic Forums

Full Version: The Christian samurai thread
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
I'm currently reading about the Nanban period, which started when the Portuguese arrived in feudal Japan and brought Christianity and guns. If you know anything about the era, please contribute!

Of special interest are two famous Christian samurai:

-Dom Justo Takayama (1552-1615). His father was a daimyo (a lord) who converted to Christianity. The two were baptized when Justo was 12. Justo succeeded his father as daimyo, but when the government began pushing out missionaries and outlawing Christianity, Justo gave up his castles and titles rather than his faith. Eventually he had to leave Japan entirely. He moved to the Philippines, where the Spanish government gave him a warm welcome. The Spanish offered him a place in a future invasion of Japan to secure it for Christendom, but Justo declined. He died shortly afterward, and was given a burial with full military honors equal to a Spanish don.

[Image: TakayamaUkon.jpg]


-Hasekura Tsunenaga (1571-1622), also called Francisco Faxicura. He was a retainer to the daimyo Date Masamune, and headed a diplomatic mission to Rome on behalf of Japan. When he was in Madrid, he met with King Felipe III and was baptized by the king's chaplain. He went on to meet Pope Paul III in Rome and was made an honorary Roman citizen. Unfortunately, most of his work for securing trade and missionaries to Japan was undone by the Tokugawa shogunate, which clamped down on Christianity.

[Image: 478px-HasekuraPrayer.jpg]


This is a picture of a set of Christian samurai armor, though somehow it's from the late Edo period (1830's).
So was this before St Francis Xavier went to Japan?  Honestly, I know very little about Christianity in Japan, but that's some pretty spiffy armour there.
(06-22-2011, 10:25 PM)Pheo Wrote: [ -> ]So was this before St Francis Xavier went to Japan?  Honestly, I know very little about Christianity in Japan, but that's some pretty spiffy armour there.

Saint Francis Xavier arrived in Japan in 1549. He had previously baptized the first Japanese Christian ever (as far as we know), a guy named Anjiro, who was living in exile in Malaysia for murder. Xavier was the very first Jesuit in Japan. I think he was the first missionary, period.
Catholicism in Japan is a topic that does not receive enough attention.  The history is vivid, tragic, and filled with heroic virtue of Catholics half a world a way from Christendom's capital.

From some very limited reading I have done, it seems as though Japan was relatively close to being converted.  Had Protestantism been defeated by the early 17th Century, it is something to wonder if missionary activitiy in the Far East would have had more resources thereby securing success.

This is one reason that Christianity in Japan is not often mentioned: honest assessment of the Protestant revolt shows it was a direct hurdle to remote conversions (and often was a friend to Muslims).  Another reason is that the Buddhist authorities who persectuted Japanese Catholics don't fit with the modern day pop-narrative of what Buddhism is.

If anyone has primary sources, please post.  I still think Japan is among the most deserving of attention for conversion efforts (probably moreso than the United States.)
One major reason may be because of the Dutch. The Dutch were more interested in profit than missionary work, so they were willing to trade with the shogunate without bringing religion into the equation. They were also Protestant, of course, and along with the British, actively discouraged the Japanese from working with the Spanish and Portuguese by playing up fear of an invasion a la the Philippines. To be fair, that might have been a justified fear as I mentioned earlier. But the Dutch participated in the Shimabara Rebellion (a peasant revolt made up mostly of Catholics), on the side of the shogunate. Dutch ships bombarded the rebel fortress. That's pretty effed up.

Also, the Tokugawa shogunate was pretty xenophobic. Pretty hard to work around that.
I have nothing to contribute to the discussion but this is certainly an interesting topic.

The pictures are beautiful too, nice find's.
Japanese history and culture has always been a point of interest to me. I've taken Kendo and Iaido and I have a fairly good knowledge of Japanese arms and armor. The periods of the Toyotomi and Tokugawa Shogunates saw a state-wide / sanctioned persecution of Catholicism.

Many samurai expressed their faith (internally) by the inclusion of Catholic symbolism on the Koshirae (sword fittings / ornaments) of their swords. The Tsuba (handguard) was always the medium for much of the artistic flair of Japanese swords. On top of the Tsuba were placed Seppa (spacers - similar to metal washers). Here is an example of a Tsuba that has Catholic imagery cleverly placed in the portion that would be covered by the Seppa:

(Click to zoom)
[Image: th_tsuba201120copy.jpg]

As HK already stated, the famous Shimabara Rebellion was largely comprised of Catholic Japanese. Here is a statue of one its Samurai leaders, Amakusa Tokisada (note the European ruffed collar and Crucifix around his neck):

(Click to zoom)
[Image: th_3058593682_c0cb38bc69_b.jpg]

I've seen Takayama's monument, and although I don't have enough information on him at the moment, I can say this about the area he lived in. Don Justo Takayama lived in an area of Manila that was traditionally called Dilao; in the late 18th century, it was renamed San Fernando de Dilao, presumably because it needed a patron saint (in this case San Fernando El Rey). The word "dilao" is the Tagalog word for yellow, which referred to the skin of the Japanese. Originally, they numbered only 300, but in the succeeding centuries that number started to grow. Anyway, for some reason, San Fernando de Dilao was renamed "Paco" in the 19th century and was placed under the patronage of St. Francis (although the natives of the place regard the Santo Sepulcro as their most powerful and esteemed patron). The Jesuits were quite close to Don Justo from what I gather, especially since Paco is quite near Santa Ana, the traditional Jesuit enclave in Manila. I'll have to ask the Jesuits again, I know a few who've done research on Takayama before. Also, Shusaku Endo's book Silence is always worth a read; it describes the trials of the Japanese Catholics during the Tokugawa era.
(06-23-2011, 01:31 AM)Matamoros Wrote: [ -> ]Also, Shusaku Endo's book Silence is always worth a read; it describes the trials of the Japanese Catholics during the Tokugawa era.

It's being made into a movie directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Benicio Del Toro and Daniel Day-Lewis. Currently it's slated for release in 2013.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0490215/
(06-22-2011, 11:03 PM)The_Harlequin_King Wrote: [ -> ]One major reason may be because of the Dutch. The Dutch were more interested in profit than missionary work, so they were willing to trade with the shogunate without bringing religion into the equation. They were also Protestant, of course, and along with the British, actively discouraged the Japanese from working with the Spanish and Portuguese by playing up fear of an invasion a la the Philippines. To be fair, that might have been a justified fear as I mentioned earlier. But the Dutch participated in the Shimabara Rebellion (a peasant revolt made up mostly of Catholics), on the side of the shogunate. Dutch ships bombarded the rebel fortress. That's pretty effed up.

Also, the Tokugawa shogunate was pretty xenophobic. Pretty hard to work around that.

Can you blame them? This is actually what probably saved Japan and kept their culture somewhat intact for the next couple of hundred of years and prevented aggressive European colonialism from taking root on the Japanese Isles like it eventually did in China, India and Southeast Asia. How many times did the Crown or some other European interlopers breach an Asian culture with religious under the guise of "converting"the native populace just to get a foothold on the soil so their Kings and Queens can start sending envoys to eventually open up shop and do "business" and start exploiting the lands resources.

I'm not implying that this was every Catholic missionaries agenda, since, theoretically Catholic clergy is supposed to be loyal to Rome and her interests first, but this scenario was played out time and again outside of Europe and the Japanese who are fervently steeped in tradition and culture weren't going for it. They are also very keen and perceptive business wise and have an Imperialist streak in themselves as well. They weren't about to be exploited since they seen through the game and figured out quickly the white man's scheme and outdid him theirselves to become the dominant economic,trading and of course military power in the Far  East.

This is at least how I see it, the Japanese were very wary of barbarian "infiltrators" and their suspicions were validated in many ways.
Pages: 1 2