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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Ieyasu quickly discerned the man's honesty


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

Subsequent events confirm the accuracy of the above story. Father Jerome was allowed to build the first Christian church in Yedo and to officiate there. Moreover, Ieyasu sent "three embassies in succession to the Philippines, proposing reciprocal freedom of commerce, offering to open ports in the Kwanto, and asking for competent naval architects." These architects never came, and the trade that resulted from the Tokugawa chief's overtures was paltry in comparison with the number of friars that accompanied it to Japan. It has been suggested that Ieyasu designed these Spanish monks to serve as a counterpoise to the influence of the Jesuits. For he must have known that the Franciscans opened their mission in Yedo by "declaiming with violence against the fathers of the Company of Jesus," and he must have understood that the Spanish monks assumed towards the Jesuits in Japan the same intolerent and abusive tone that the Jesuits themselves had previously assumed towards Buddhism.



At about this time a Dutch merchant ship named the Liefde arrived in Japan. In 1598, a squadron of five ships sailed from Holland to exploit the sources of Portuguese commerce in the Orient, and of the five vessels only one, the Liefde, was ever

heard of again. She reached Japan in the spring of 1600, with only four and twenty survivors of her original crew, numbering 110. Towed into the harbour of Funai, she was visited by Jesuits, who, on discovering her nationality, denounced her to the local authorities as a pirate. On board the Liefde, serving in the capacity of pilot major was an Englishman, Will Adams, of Gillingham in Kent. Ieyasu summoned him to Osaka, and between the rough English sailor and the Tokugawa chief there commenced a curiously friendly intercourse which was not interrupted until the death of Adams, twenty years later.

"The Englishman became master-shipbuilder to the Yedo Government; was employed as diplomatic agent when other traders from his own country and from Holland arrived in Japan, received in perpetual gift a substantial estate, and from first to last possessed the implicit confidence of the shogun. Ieyasu quickly discerned the man's honesty; perceived that whatever benefits foreign commerce might confer would be increased by encouraging competition among the foreigners, and realized that English and Dutch trade presented the wholesome feature of complete dissociation from religious propagandism. On the other hand, he showed no intolerance to either Spaniards or Portuguese. He issued (1601) two official patents sanctioning the residence of the fathers in Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagasaki; he employed Father Rodriguez as interpreter at the Court in Yedo, and, in 1603 he gave munificent succour to the Jesuits who were reduced to dire straits owing to the capture of the great ship from Macao by the Dutch and the consequent loss of several years' supplies for the mission in Japan."*

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


From what has been written above it will have been evident that each of Japan's great trio of sixteenth century statesmen--Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu--adopted originally a tolerant demeanour towards Christianity, and an emphatically favourable attitude towards foreign commerce. The causes of Hideyoshi's change of mood are tolerably clear, but it is not possible to analyse the case of Ieyasu with certainty. That the Tokugawa baron strongly patronized Buddhism might be regarded as a sufficient explanation of his ultimate hostility to the foreign faith, but cannot be reconciled with his amicable attitude at the outset. The more credible explanation is that he was guided by intelligence obtained direct from Europe. He sent thither at the end of the sixteenth century an emissary whose instructions were to observe closely the social and political conditions in the home of Christianity. The better to accomplish his purpose this envoy embraced the Christian faith, and was thus enabled to carry on his observations from within as well as from without.

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