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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

When these things were reported to Ieyasu


incident, too complicated to describe in detail, may be summed up by saying that some Japanese Christians were discovered to have conspired for the overthrow of the Tokugawa Government by the aid of foreign troops. It was not an extensive plot, but it helped to demonstrate that the sympathy of the priests and their converts was plainly with the enemies of Tokugawa's supremacy. Ieyasu, however, abstained from extreme measures in the case of any of the foreign priests, and he might have been equally tolerant towards native Christians, also, had not the Tokugawa authority been openly defied in Yedo itself by a Franciscan father--the Sotelo mentioned above. "Then (1613) the first execution of Japanese converts took place, though the monk himself was released after a short incarceration. At that time... insignificant differences of custom sometimes induced serious misconceptions. A Christian who had violated a secular law was crucified in Nagasaki. Many of his fellow-believers kneeled around his cross and prayed for the peace of his soul. A party of converts were afterwards burnt to death in the same place for refusing to apostatize, and their Christian friends crowded to carry off portions of their bodies as holy relics. When these things were reported to Ieyasu, he said, 'Without doubt that must be a diabolic faith which persuades people not only to worship criminals condemned to death for their crimes, but also to honour those who have been burned or cut to pieces by the order of
their lord.'"*

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


The first prohibition of Christianity was issued by Ieyasu in September, 1612, and was followed by another in April, 1613; but both bore the character of warnings rather than of punitive regulations. It was on the 27th of January, 1614--that is to say, fifty-four years and five months after the landing of Xavier at Kagoshima--that an edict appeared ordering that all the foreign priests should be collected in Nagasaki preparatory to removal from Japan; that all churches should be pulled down, and that all converts should be compelled to abjure Christianity. There were then in Japan 156 ministers of Christianity, namely, 122 Jesuits, 14 Franciscans, 9 Dominicans, 4 Augustinians, and 7 secular priests. It is virtually certain that if these men had obeyed the orders of the Japanese Government by leaving the country finally, not so much as one foreigner would have suffered for his faith in Japan, except the six Franciscans executed on the "Martyrs' Mount" at Nagasaki by Hideyoshi's order, in 1597. But the missionaries did not obey. Suffering or even death counted for nothing with these men as against the possibility of saving souls. "Forty-seven of them evaded the edict, some by concealing themselves at the time of its issue, the rest by leaving their ships when the latter had passed out of sight of the shore of Japan, and returning by boats to the scene of their former labours. Moreover, in a few months, those that had actually crossed the sea re-crossed it in various disguises."* The Japanese Government had then to consider whether it would suffer its authority to be thus defied by foreign visitors or whether it would resort to extreme measures.

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


Throughout a period of two years immediately following the issue of the anti-Christian edict of 1614, the attention of Ieyasu, and indeed of the whole Japanese nation, was concentrated on the struggle which took place between the adherents of the Tokugawa and the supporters of Hideyori. That struggle culminated in an assault on the castle of Osaka, and fresh fuel was added to the fire of anti-Christian resentment inasmuch as many Christian converts espoused Hideyori's cause, and in one part of the field the troops of Ieyasu had to fight against a foe whose banners were emblazoned with a cross and with images of Christ and of St. James, the patron saint of Spain. Nevertheless, the Christian converts possessed the sympathy of so many of the feudal chiefs that much reluctance was shown to inflict the extreme penalty of the law on men and women whose only crime was the adoption of an alien religion. Some of the feudal chiefs, even at the risk of losing their estates, gave asylum to the converts; others falsely reported a complete absence of Christians in their dominions, and some endeavoured earnestly to protect the fanatics; while, as to the people at large, their liberal spirit is shown in the fact that five priests who were in Osaka Castle at the time of its capture were able to make their way to distant refuges without any risk of betrayal.

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