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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

With two fellow countrymen and Anjiro


ENGRAVING:

SIGNATURE OF TOKUGAWA IEYASU

ENGRAVING: MOUNTAIN "KAGO"

CHAPTER XXXVII

CHRISTIANITY IN JAPAN

DISCOVERY OF JAPAN BY EUROPEANS

THE Portuguese discovered Japan in 1542 or 1543--the precise date is not known. Three of them, travelling by junk from Spain to Macao, were driven from their course and landed at Tanegashima, a small island off the south of Kyushu. The strangers were hospitably received by the Japanese, and great interest was excited by their arquebuses, the first firearms ever seen in Japan. It was, of course, out of the question to hold any oral direct conversation, but a Chinese member of the junk's crew, by tracing ideographs upon the sand, explained the circumstances of the case. Ultimately, the junk was piloted to a convenient port, and very soon the armourers of the local feudatory were busily engaged manufacturing arquebuses. News of the discovery of Japan circulated quickly, and several expeditions were fitted out by Portuguese settlements in the Orient to exploit the new market. All steered for Kyushu, and thus the Island of the Nine Provinces became the principal stage for European intercourse during the second half of the sixteenth century.

THE JESUITS

There were, at that time, not a

few Jesuits at Macao, Goa, and other outposts of Western commerce in the Far East. But not until 1549 was any attempt made to proselytize Japan. On August 15th of that year, Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest, landed at Kagoshima. Before his coming, the Portuguese traders had penetrated as far as Kyoto, which they reported to be a city of some ninety-six thousand houses, and their experience of the people had been very favourable, especially with regard to receptivity of instruction. Xavier was weary of attempting to convert the Indians, whom he had found "barbarous, vicious, and without inclination to virtue," and his mind had been turned towards Japan by a message from a Japanese daimyo (whose identity and reasons for inviting him have never been explained), and by a personal appeal from a Japanese, whose name appears in Portuguese annals as "Anjiro," and who, having committed a serious crime in Japan, had taken refuge in a Portuguese vessel, whose master advised him to repair to Malacca and confess his sins to Xavier.

This man, Anjiro, already possessed some knowledge of the Portuguese language, and he soon became sufficiently proficient in it to act as interpreter, thus constituting a valuable aid to the Portuguese propagandists. Xavier, with two fellow countrymen and Anjiro, repaired to Kagoshima, where the Satsuma baron gave them unqualified permission to preach their doctrine. Not that he had any sympathy with Christianity, about which he knew nothing, but solely because he wished to secure a share in the oversea commerce which had brought so much wealth to his fellow barons on the main island. He thought, in short, that the Jesuits would be followed by merchant ships, and when Portuguese trading vessels did actually appear in the Satsuma waters, but, instead of making any stay there, passed on to the comparatively petty principality of Hirado, Xavier and his comrades were quickly ordered to leave Kagoshima. It seems, also, that Xavier's zeal had outrun his discretion. The Buddhist priests in Kagoshima were ready at first to listen respectfully to his doctrines, but were quickly alienated by his aggressive intolerance. They urged upon the Satsuma baron the dangers that attended such propagandism, and he, already smarting from commercial disappointment, issued an edict, in 1550, declaring it a capital offence to embrace Christianity. The edict was not retrospective. About one hundred and fifty converts whom Xavier, aided by Anjiro, had won during his two years' sojourn, were not molested, but Xavier himself passed on to the island of Hirado, where he was received by salvos of artillery from Portuguese vessels lying in harbour. Matsuura, the Hirado baron, had already been captivated by the commerce of the newcomers, and seeing the marked reverence extended by them to Xavier, the baron issued orders that respectful attention should be paid to the teaching of the foreign propagandist. Doubtless owing in large part to these orders, one hundred converts were made during the first ten days of Xavier's residence in Hirado.


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