2017年 03月 23日
The arrival of Christianity in Japan and its rise and fall in the transition period from Sengoku to Edo
Mihoko Oka ( The University of Tokyo)
The enterprise undertaken by Catholic missionaries, especially by the Society of Jesus and the Japanese reaction to it in the 16th and 17th centuries, was studied mainly from one perspective: the so-called European expansion and indigenous response. Framing the innumerous phenomena born from this matter in this limited perspective prevented people from recognizing facts about Japanese society during the transition period from Sengoku to Edo surrounding those missionaries as well as religious matters in the same period.
Since the author found that Christianity was recognized and accepted as a neo-Buddhism sect by the Japanese (not only by ordinal people but also by political authorities like Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu), the framework for thinking about Christianity in Japan changed completely. The author tries to omit or minimize the Eurocentric vision (or Jesuit centric vision) as much as possible to clarify the real meaning of the rise of Christianity in Japan and the issues that brought persecution by the rulers.
Many historians briefly explained this matter as a “clash of civilizations.” However, the author believes that this is not true in this case. Since the arrival of Francis Xavier in Kagoshima in 1549, most Jesuits practiced cultural adaptation. The most famous and influential person who declared this to be a non-infringing matter on Catholic theology was the Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano. However, many former missionaries already practiced cultural adaptation, almost infringing on the theology.
I may give two examples in Bungo-Oita from around the 1560s. The Lord of Bungo, Otomo Yoshishige, contributed a small but important estate (manor) to a Jesuit in Hakata. This estate included the Buddhist Temple of Hokkeshu, and they could get income from Buddhist monks and live there without fighting each other. This is the earliest example of the manor of the Jesuits that had never been studied. In addition, Otomo Yoshishige demanded that the Jesuit priests bring their sacred objects to the commemorative ceremony of the Buddhists that he held, and they had to obey this demand.
If we focus on the “church,” this cultural adaptation becomes very clear. The Japanese called this sacred house “tera” (寺), although the Jesuit records never used this name. The doctrine that they taught might be different from other Japanese Buddhist sects. However, the most attractive propaganda used by the Jesuits was salvation after death, even if this was not new propaganda for them. In addition, the charitable works that the Jesuits had shown were rarely seen among Buddhist monks at that time. It is comprehensible that the Japanese in the Sengoku Period were attracted by these new monks from Tenjiku.
Considering the religious matters causing political conflicts, it was not only Nobunaga who suffered from the group united by these beliefs. The most menacing religious group was Ikkoshu at that time. Hideyoshi and Ieyasu also wasted their energy and time to suppress the Ikkoshu in their domains. Especially, Ieyasu lost his favorite vassals as his enemies in Mikawa-Ikko-ikki (三河一向一揆) in 1564. This experience must have raised awareness on the united group of their faith in Ieyasu, and the ban against Christianity may also be located along the same lines.
The most obvious example of the similarity and parallelism that the authorities recognized in Ikkoshu and Christianity is the first ban against Christianity issued by Hideyoshi in 1587 (*according to recent studies, we shall use the word “regulation” instead of “ban”). On comparison, Hideyoshi found these two sects to be dangerous and declared Christianity to be worse than the other.
Although I try to minimize the Eurocentric vision, it is also undeniable that Spanish imperialism and the ambition of the newly arriving religious orders, especially of the Franciscans from Manilla, caused the rulers to be more serious cautious. If we compare the background of the two types of bans by Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, we recognize that important diplomatic surroundings had changed from 1590 to 1615; namely, diplomacy with Spanish territories and the arrival of the mendicant orders. This combination was totally different from the group consisting of Portuguese traders from Macao and the Jesuits who had been keeping a position that was inferior to that of the Japanese rulers. In a document written in 1605, Ieyasu declared that the difference between Jesuit and mendicant orders was as great as that of the Portuguese traders from Macao and the Spanish officials from the Philippines.
In this chapter, the author tries to explain the background and the process of each affair mentioned, and finally examines non-Eurocentric Christian history in Japan.