Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Japan's Christian Masada

As you may know, Across the Nightingale Floor deals a little with the hidden, persecuted Christians of Japan, the kakure kirishitan. (Here's more about them.) I've always wanted to learn more about them, so I went a-Googling and found parts of the story I didn't know.

At Hara Castle, Catholic farmers and samurai made a last stand against the shogunate's religious persecution at the end of the Shimabara Uprising. They were led by teenaged Amakusa Shiro, who was supposed to be a miracle worker. (And by some accounts claimed to be God's other son, which he wasn't somebody Christians should've been following...sorta like the Boxer Rebellion guy.)

Here's a short account of the siege from a military science POV, and here's the battle map, which according to this page was made by ninja of the Koga clan. The shogunate lost huge numbers of fighters in the siege. The main reason the castle finally fell was that it was shelled by a Dutch ship assisting the shogunate's forces.

Nice, eh?

Here are some pictures of the castle ruins, and here's the Japanese Catholic artist who sculpted the Christian samurai statue seen above. More importantly, here's some info about a contemporary Portuguese account by Fr. Duarte Correa of what happened. Less than a year later, the Jesuit and former sea captain would be martyred himself.

As this book review notes, though, the Japanese love their tragic heroes. The martyrdoms at Nagasaki, Hara Castle and countless small villages across Japan were a deep challenge to the Japanese, as peasant, samurai and daimyo were joined together in a faith in one God and the supremacy of individual conscience over the dictates of the opressive shogunate state.

Still, I have to wonder about the influence of Jesuit spirituality and practice here. The Jesuits were at least peripherally involved with Catholic resistance groups in England, for example, and of course St. Ignatius Loyola himself started out as a knight. Did the way they thought and taught encourage revolts like this? I'd like to know.


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