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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

When another visit was made to the same city by Vilela


at that time, also, a fortunate incident occurred. It had become the custom for a large vessel from Macao to visit Japan every year, and the advent of this ship had great importance from a commercial point of view. It chanced that she made the port of Kuchinotsu her place of call in 1578, and her presence suggested such a pleasing outcome that the feudatory embraced Christianity and allowed his vassals to do the same. By this "great ship from Macao" the Jesuit vice-general, Valegnani was a passenger. A statesman as well as a preacher, this astute politician made such a clever use of the opportunity that, in 1580, "all the city was made Christian, and the people burned their idols and destroyed forty temples, reserving some materials to build churches."


The record achieved by the Christian propagandists up to this time was distinctly satisfactory. In the Annual Letter of 1582 we find it stated that, at the close of 1581, that is to say, thirty-two years after Xavier's landing in Japan there were about 150,000 converts. Of these some 125,000 were in Kyushu; the remainder in Yamaguchi, Kyoto, and the vicinity of the latter city. As for the Jesuits in Japan, they then numbered seventy-five, but down to the year 1563 there had never been more than nine. "The harvest was certainly great in proportion to the number of sowers. But it was a harvest mainly of artificial

growth, forced by despotic insistence of feudal chiefs who possessed the power of life and death over their vassals, and were influenced by a desire to attract foreign trade."


"To the Buddhist priests this movement of Christian propagandism had brought an experience hitherto almost unknown in Japan--persecution solely on account of creed. They had suffered for interfering in politics, but the cruel vehemence of the Christian fanatic may be said to have now become known for the first time to men themselves usually conspicuous for tolerance of heresy and for receptivity of instruction. They had had little previous experience of humanity in the garb of an Otomo of Bungo, who, in the words of Crasset, Svent to the chase of the bonzes as to that of wild beasts, and made it his singular pleasure to exterminate them from his states.'"*

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


Another important result of the coming of Valegnani to Japan was that, in 1582, an embassy sailed from Nagasaki for Europe. It consisted of four young men, representing the fiefs of Arima, Omura, and Bungo, and it is related that at Lisbon, Madrid, and Rome they were received with an elaborate show of dazzling magnificence, so that they carried back to their island home a vivid impression of the might and wealth of Western countries.


It has already been shown that the visit to Kyoto by Xavier and Fernandez was wholly unsuccessful. Such was not the case, however, when another visit was made to the same city by Vilela, in the year 1559. This eminent missionary had been invited to Kyoto by the abbot of the celebrated Buddhist monastery of Hiei-zan, who desired to investigate the Christian doctrine. It is to be noted that, at this time, Christian propagandism in Kyushu had not yet begun to be disfigured by acts of violence. Vilela carried letters of introduction from the Bungo feudatory, but before he reached the capital the Buddhist abbot of Hiei-zan had died, and his successor did not show the same liberal spirit of inquiry. Still, Vilela was permitted to expound his doctrines in the presence of a gathering of priests in the great monastery, and afterwards the good offices of one of these bonzes, supplemented by the letter of the Bungo feudatory, procured for the Jesuit father the honour of being received by the shogun, Yoshiteru, who treated him with much consideration and assigned a house for his residence.

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