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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

When the son of the Bungo feudatory


*Encyclopaedia

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

In Funai things were by no means so satisfactory. The Jesuits, as stated above, had a hospital there, which had been built at the charges of a devout Portuguese. But Francis Cabral, writing from Bungo, in 1576, said: "Down to this hour the Christians have been so abject and vile that they have shown no desire to acknowledge themselves, partly from being few in the midst of so many Gentiles, partly because the said Christianity began in the hospital where we cure the people of low condition and those suffering from contagious diseases, like the French evil and such others. Whence the Gospel came to be of such little reputation that no man of position would dare to accept it (although it seemed good and true to him) merely lest he should be confounded with this rabble (con quella plebe). And although we gave much edification with such works, the thing nevertheless was a great obstacle to the spread of the holy faith. And thus, during the twenty years we have had a residence in Funai, one gentleman became a Christian, and this after having been cured of the said evil in his house; but as soon as he was cured he afterwards thought it shame to acknowledge his Christianity in the presence of others."

This most disheartening record underwent a complete change in 1576, when the son of the Bungo feudatory, a youth of some sixteen years, and, two years later, the

feudatory himself, Otomo, embraced the Christian faith. In the first Annual Letter sent to Rome after these events a striking admission is made: "It is Otomo, next to God, whom the Jesuits have to thank for their success in Japan." This appreciation looks somewhat exaggerated when placed side by side with the incidents that occurred in Sumitada's fief, as related above. Nevertheless, Otomo certainly did render powerful aid, not within his own fief alone but also through his influence elsewhere. Thus, he did not hesitate to have recourse to arms in order to obtain for the Jesuits access to the island of Amakusa, where one of the local barons, tempted originally by tradal prospects and afterwards urged by his wife, called upon his vassals to choose between conversion or exile, and issued an order that any Buddhist priests refusing to accept Christianity would have their property confiscated and their persons banished.

Practically the whole population became converts under the pressure of these edicts, and it is thus seen that Christianity owed much of its success in Kyushu to methods which recall Islam and the Inquisition. Another illustration of this is furnished by the Arima fief, which adjoined that of Omura where Sumitada ruled. The heads of these two fiefs were brothers, and thus when Sumitada embraced Christianity the Jesuits received an invitation to visit Arima at the ports of Kuchinotsu and Shimabara, where from that time Portuguese ships repaired frequently. In 1576, the Arima baron, seeing the prosperity and power which had followed the conversion of his brother Sumitada, accepted baptism and became the "Prince Andrew" of missionary records. In those records we read that "the first thing Prince Andrew did after his baptism was to convert the chief temple of his capital into a church, its revenues being assigned for the maintenance of the building and the support of the missionaries. He then took measures to have the same thing done in the other towns of his fief, and he seconded the preachers of the Gospel so well in everything else that he could flatter himself that he soon would not have one single idolater in his states." This fanatical "Prince Andrew" survived his baptism by two years only, but during that time twenty thousand converts were made in Arima. His successor, however, was a believer in Buddhism. He caused the Christian churches to be destroyed and the crosses to be thrown down; he ordered the Jesuits to quit his dominions, and he required the converts to return to Buddhism. Under this pressure about one-half of the converts apostatized, but the rest threatened to leave Kuchinotsu en masse. However this would have meant the loss of foreign trade, and as a result of this circumstance the anti-Christian edicts were radically modified.


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