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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Hirado continued to be frequented by Portuguese merchantmen


Meanwhile, the Portuguese traders

did not allow their commerce to be interrupted by any misfortunes which overtook the Jesuits. Hirado continued to be frequented by Portuguese merchantmen, and news of the value of their trade induced Sumitada, feudatory of Omura, to invite the Jesuits in Bungo to his fief, offering them a free port for ten years, an extensive tract of land, a residence for the missionaries, and other privileges. This induced the Hirado feudatory to revoke the edict which he had issued against the Jesuits, and they were preparing to take advantage of his renewed hospitality when a Portuguese merchantman entered Hirado. Its appearance convinced the local chieftain that trade could be had without the accompaniment of religion, towards which he renewed his hostility. When, however, this change of demeanour was communicated to Funai, the Jesuit leader, Torres, hastened thence to Hirado, and induced the master of the merchantman to leave the port on the ground that he could not remain in a country where they maltreated those who professed the same religion as himself. Thereafter, for some years, Hirado remained outside the pale of foreign trade. But ultimately three merchant vessels appeared in the offing and announced their willingness to put in provided that the anti-Christian ban was removed. This remonstrance proved effective. A parallel case occurred a few years later in the island of Amakusa. There a petty baron, avowedly for the purpose of attracting foreign trade, embraced Christianity and required
all his vassals to follow his example. But when no Portuguese ship arrived, he apostatized; ordered his vassals to return to their old faith, and expelled the missionaries.

"In fact, the competition for the patronage of Portuguese traders was so keen that the Hirado feudatory attempted to burn several of their vessels because they frequented the territorial waters of his neighbour and rival, Sumitada. The latter became a most stalwart Christian when his wish was gratified. He set himself to eradicate idolatry throughout his fief with the strong arm, and his fierce intolerance provoked revolts which ended in the destruction of the Christian town at the newly opened free port. Sumitada, however, quickly reasserted his authority, and five years later (1567), he took a step which had far-reaching consequences, namely, the building of a church at Nagasaki, in order that Portuguese commerce might have a centre and the Christians an assured asylum. Nagasaki was then a little fishing village. In five years it grew to be a town of thirty thousand inhabitants, and Sumitada became one of the richest of the Kyushu feudatories."*

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

This baron appears to have been sincere in his adoption of the foreign religion. "When in 1573, successful conflicts with neighbouring fiefs brought him an access of territory, he declared that he owed these victories to the influence of the Christian God, and shortly afterwards he proclaimed banishment for all who would not accept the foreign faith. There were then no Jesuits by his side, but immediately two hastened to join him, and 'these accompanied by a strong guard, but yet not without danger of their lives, went round causing the churches of the Gentiles, with their idols, to be thrown down to the ground, while three Japanese Christians went preaching the law of God everywhere.'" They further record that three fathers who were in the neighbouring fief "all withdrew therefrom to work in this abundant harvest, and in the space of seven months twenty thousand persons were baptized, including the bonzes of about sixty monasteries."* The Jesuit vice-provincial (Francis Cabral), relating these events, speaks with marked satisfaction of the abasement of the Buddhist priests, and adds, "That these should now come to such a humility that they throw themselves on the ground before two ragged members of the Company is one of the miracles worked by the Divine Majesty."


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