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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

THE SHIMABARA REVOLTAt the close of 1637



While the above events were in progress, the disputes between the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the Spaniards went on without cessation. In 1636, the Dutch discovered in a captured Portuguese vessel a report written by the governor of Macao, describing a festival which had just been held there in honour of Vieyra, who had been martyred in Japan. The Dutch transmitted this document to the Japanese "in order that his Majesty may see more clearly what great honour the Portuguese pay to those he had forbidden his realm as traitors to the State and to his crown." It does not appear that this accusation added much to the resentment and distrust against the Portuguese. At any rate, the Bakufu in Yedo took no step distinctly hostile to Portuguese laymen until the following year (1637), when an edict was issued forbidding "any foreigners to travel in the empire lest Portuguese with passports bearing Dutch names might enter."


At the close of 1637, there occurred a rebellion, historically known as the "Christian Revolt of Shimabara," which put an end to Japan's foreign intercourse for over two hundred years. The Gulf of Nagasaki is bounded on the west by the island of Amakusa and by the promontory of Shimabara. In the early years of Jesuit propagandism in Japan, Shimabara and Amakusa had been the two most thoroughly Christianized

regions, and in later days they were naturally the scene of the severest persecutions. Nevertheless, the people might have suffered in silence, as did their fellow believers elsewhere, had they not been taxed beyond endurance to supply funds for an extravagant feudatory. Japanese annalists, however, relegate the taxation grievance to an altogether secondary place, and attribute the revolt solely to the instigation of five samurai who led a roving life to avoid persecution for their adherence to Christianity. Whichever version be correct, it is certain that the outbreak attracted all the Christians from the surrounding regions, and was officially regarded as a Christian rising. The Amakusa insurgents passed over from that island to Shimabara, and on the 27th of January, 1638, the whole body--numbering, according to some authorities, twenty thousand fighting men with thirteen thousand women and children; according to others, little more than one-half of these figures--took possession of the dilapidated castle of Kara, which stood on a plateau with three sides descending one hundred feet perpendicularly to the sea and with a swamp on the fourth side.

The insurgents fought under flags inscribed with red crosses and their battle cries were "Jesus," "Maria," and "St. Iago." They defended the castle successfully against repeated assaults until the 12th of April, when, their provisions and their ammunition alike being exhausted, they were overwhelmed and put to the sword, with the exception of 105 prisoners. During this siege the Dutch gave practical proof of their enmity to the Christianity of the Spaniards and Portuguese. For, the guns in the possession of the besiegers being too light to accomplish anything effective, application was made to Koeckebacker, the Dutch factor at Hirado, to lend ships carrying heavier metal. He complied by despatching the De Ryp, and her twenty guns threw 426 shots into the castle in fifteen days. There has been handed down a letter carried by an arrow from the castle to the besiegers. It was not an appeal for mercy but a simple enumeration of reasons:--

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