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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Kyushu campaign took place in 1587


*Encyclopaedia

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

How are we to account for this seemingly rapid change of mood on Hideyoshi's part? A comparison of dates furnishes some assistance in replying to that question. The Kyushu campaign took place in 1587, and it was in 1586 that Hideyoshi commenced the construction of the colossal image of Buddha in Kyoto. The Taiko was by no means a religious man. That is amply shown by the stories told in the previous pages. But his political sagacity taught him that to continue Nobunaga's crusade against Buddhism would not be wise statesmanship, and that if the bonzes could be disarmed and diverted from military pursuits, they would become useful agents of intellectual and moral progress. His idea of setting up a gigantic idol in the capital marked his final substitution of a conciliatory programme for the fiercely destructive methods of Nobunaga. Of necessity he had, then, to reconsider his demeanour towards Christianity, and it is on record that before leaving Osaka for Kyushu he publicly stated, "I fear much that all the virtue of the European priests is merely a mask of hypocrisy and serves only to conceal pernicious designs against the empire." Then, in Kyushu, two things influenced him strongly. One was that he now saw with his own eyes what militant Christianity really meant--ruined temples, overthrown idols, and coerced converts. Such excesses had not disgraced Christian propagandism in Kyoto or in

the metropolitan provinces, but in Kyushu the unsightly story was forced upon Hideyoshi's attention. The second special feature of the situation in Kyushu was that relations of an altogether exceptional character were established between Hideyoshi and Kennyo, abbot of the Shin sect. By the contrivance of that prelate, Hideyoshi's troops were enabled to follow a secret road to the stronghold of the Satsuma baron, and in return for such valuable services Hideyoshi may well have been persuaded to proscribe Christianity.

Some importance, though probably of a less degree, attaches also to the last of the five questions propounded by Hideyoshi to the vice-provincial--why the priests allowed merchants of their nation to buy Japanese subjects and carry them into slavery in the Indies. It was in Kyushu only that these abuses were perpetrated. With respect to this matter the following passage appears in the archives of the Academy of History at Madrid: "Even the Lascars and scullions of the Portuguese purchase and carry slaves away. Hence it happens that many of them die on the voyage, because they are heaped up one upon the other, and if their master fall sick (these masters are sometimes Kaffirs and the negroes of the Portuguese), the slaves are not cared for. It even often happens that the Kaffirs cannot procure the necessary food for them. I here omit the excesses committed in the lands of pagans where the Portuguese spread themselves to recruit youth and girls, and where they live in such a fashion that the pagans themselves are stupefied at it." Nevertheless, the fact that the Taiko specially exempted the Portuguese merchants from his decree of banishment indicates that he did not attach cardinal importance to their evil doings in the matter of slaves. It seems rather to have been against the Jesuits that his resentment was directed, for he did not fail to perceive that, whereas they could and did exact the utmost deference from their country's sailors and traders when the ends of Christian propagandism were served thereby, they professed themselves powerless to dissuade these same traders and sailors from outrages which would have disgraced any religion. He cannot but have concluded that if these Portuguese merchants and seamen were to be regarded as specimens of the products of Christianity, then, indeed, that creed had not much to recommend it. All these things seem amply sufficient to account for the change that manifested itself in Hideyoshi's attitude towards Christianity at the close of the Kyushu campaign.


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