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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

For a sub feudatory of the Hirado chief


SECOND

PERIOD OF PROPAGANDISM

Torres and Fernandez remained in Japan after Xavier's departure and were there joined soon afterwards by three others. The new-comers landed at Kagoshima and found that the Satsuma baron was as keen as ever in welcoming foreign trade, although his attitude towards the alien religion continued antipathetic. Bungo now became the headquarters of the Jesuits in Japan. Local disturbances had compelled them to leave Yamaguchi, where their disputes with Buddhist priests had become so violent that an official proscription of the Western religion was pronounced. In Funai, the capital of the province of Bungo, they built their first church in Japan and also a hospital. From that place, too, they began to send yearly reports known as the Annual Letters to their generals in Rome, and these Letters give an interesting insight into the conditions then existing in Japan. The writers "describe a state of abject poverty among the lower orders--poverty so cruel that the destruction of children by their famishing parents was an every-day occurrence." This terrible state of affairs was due to the civil wars which had entered their most violent phase in the Onin era (1467-1468), and had continued without intermission ever since. The trade carried on by the Portuguese did not, however, suffer any interruption. Their vessels repaired to Hirado as well as to Funai, and the masters and seamen of the ships appear to have treated the missionaries

with such scrupulous respect that the Japanese formed an almost exaggerated conception of the civil influence wielded by the religionists. It further appears that in those early days the Portuguese seamen refrained from the riotous excesses which had already won for them a most unenviable reputation in China.

In fact, their good conduct constituted an object lesson in the interests of Christianity. We learn, incidentally that, in 1557, two of the fathers, visiting Hirado at the instance of some Portuguese sailors who felt in want of religious ministrations, organized a kind of propagandism which anticipated the methods of the Salvation Army. They "sent brothers to parade the streets, ringing bells, and chaunting litanies; they organized bands of boys for the same purpose; they caused the converts, and even children, to flagellate themselves at a model of Mount Calvary, and they worked miracles, healing the sick by contact with scourges or with a booklet in which Xavier had written litanies and prayers. It may well be imagined that such doings attracted surprised attention in Japan. They were supplemented by even more striking practices. For a sub-feudatory of the Hirado chief, having been converted, showed his zeal by destroying Buddhist temples and throwing down the idols, thus inaugurating a campaign of violence destined to mark the progress of Christianity throughout the greater part of its history in Japan. There followed the overthrowing of a cross in the Christian cemetery, the burning of a temple in the town of Hirado, and a street riot, the sequel being that the Jesuit fathers were compelled to return once more to Bungo."*

*Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition; article "Japan," by Brinkley.

All this conveys an idea of the guise under which Christianity was presented originally to the Japanese.


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