Roman Catholic Missions — March 22, 2010 at 11:54 am



Spanish Armada

Two ships sent out by the Dutch East India company reached Japan in July, 1609, and the kindness that the Daimyo of Hirado had shown to the Hollanders, who had been Will Adam’s companions, was no requited by having that city chosen as the place for a new factory that was established by their countrymen.

Not quite two months after the arrival of the Dutch, two Spanish vessels on their way from Manila to Mexico were wrecked, one on the coast of Bungo, the other on the coast of Awa, about forty miles from Yedo. Among the passengers saved from the latter was Don Rodrigo Vivero, who had just finished a short term of service as acting Governor of the Philippines. Being taken to Yedo and after-wards to Shizuoka, he was treated with great honor by both Hidetada and Ieyasu. He took the opportunity to present three requests.

Ieyasu assented to the first two propositions; but, while thanking Vivero for making him acquainted with the true character of the Hollanders, he declared that he could not now withdraw the permission he had given for their residence in Japan. He offered to let Vivero have for his conveyance to Mexico one of the vessels that Adams had built in European style, and asked him to get the King of Spain to send out fifty experienced mining engineers who could teach the Japanese the best methods of working mines and extracting precious metals from the ore. Vivero said that, before deciding what to do, he wished to visit Bungo and see if the vessel that had been driven ashore there could not be made seaworthy. Apparently he found it injured beyond repair, for he soon returned to take the ship built by Adams. He now proposed to Ieyasu that, if miners were sent from Spain, one-half of the metals extracted should belong to them, one-fourth to Ieyasu, and one-fourth to the King of Spain. The King should be allowed to have his agents in Japan to look after his interests in the mine, and these might bring with them members of different religious orders, who should be permitted to have churches and to conduct public services. Furthermore, Spanish ships in any of the ports of Japan, he should be received with all the honors due to one who represented so great a monarch. A treaty incorporating these points was concluded July 4, 1610. Ieyasu, however, refused to grant the repeated request for the expulsion of the Hollanders.

To show his sincerity, Ieyasu decided that he would send an ambassador bearing rich presents to King Philip and to the Viceroy of New Spain. In response to his request that Vivero would choose one of the missionaries to be the ambassador, Father Munoz was selected. The dispatches and presents were put in the care of Vivero himself, to whom were also given four thousand ducats for fitting up the vessel in which he and Munoz set sail, August 1, 1610.

The San Juan Bautista is represented in Claude Deruet's painting of Hasekura Tsunenaga in Rome in 1617, as a galleon with Hasekura's flag (red swastika on orange background) on the top mast.

Meanwhile the relations with the Portuguese were becoming more strained. A Japanese vessel on its return voyage from Cambodia wintered in Macao. A quarrel that arose between its crew and the Portuguese developed into a fight in which many were wounded and some killed. Pessoa, the Portuguese Governor, quelled the disturbance and made the Japanese sign a document in which they acknowledged that the blame lay entirely with them. On returning to their own land, they made loud complaints that they had been treated with great injustice. The next January (1610) Pessoa came to Nagasaki in command of the annual ship, La Madre de Dios. Ieyasu sent orders to the Daimyo of Arima that he should seize the vessel and take Pessoa, alive or dead. The ship was therefore surrounded by a flotilla of boats carrying more than twelve hundred men. For three days a fierce fight was carried on. Finally Pessoa set fire to the magazine. The vessel, with a cargo valued at a million ducats, sank beneath the waves, and the few Portuguese who were not destroyed with the ship were massacred. As this disaster brought to the Jesuits the loss of their subsidy for two years, they were in such great financial straits that they were obliged to close their seminary and also to send home the pupils that were being educated in the residences of the missionaries.

The Portuguese in Macao were in consternation when news of this event reached them. They finally decided to send an embassy to Ieyasu carrying rich presents, offering excuses for what had been done at Macao, requesting that trade might be continued, and asking that compensation should be given for the loss of their ship and cargo.

Another embassy from Manila, and more over a vessel had just arrived from New Spain bringing the Viceroy’s ambassador, Nuno de Sotomayer, to return thanks for the favors shown to Vivero and to present a new set of proposals as follows.

  1. That Spaniards be allowed to build in Japan such ships and as many as they might desire.
  2. That their pilots should be permitted to survey the coasts and harbors of Japan.
  3. That the Shogun should prohibit the trade of the Hollanders, in which case the King of Spain would send men-of-war to Japan to burn their ships.
  4. That when Spanish vessels came to Japan they should not be subjected to search and should be free to sell their goods to whomsoever they pleased.

Spanish pride came in collision with that of the Japanese and made the conduct of this last ambassador displeasing to Ieyasu. Sotomayor was told that he must kneel on both knees while in the presence of Ieyasu and remain with hands and head to the floor until bidden to rise. To this he objected and was finally allowed to follow the etiquette of Spain. Three friars were with the ambassador during the interview. Whenever they spoke to him, he made a low obeisance in order to show the respect that he had for their holy office. He says that this made a great impression on Ieyasu and his counselors.

A modern equestrian statue of Masamune at Sendai Castle.

On St. John’s day the ambassador with his escort attended mass; his object, as he says, being both to honor the saint and to give the Japanese an example of attendance at church and of respect for the priesthood. On his way to the convent where the service was held he was met by the powerful Daimyo of Oshiu, Date Masamune, whose name will appear later in this history. As soon as Date saw the ambassador he dismounted and sent a messenger to ask that the Spanish soldiers would discharge their firearms, as he wished to see and hear them. When this was done, many of the horses in the Daimyo’s train were so frightened that they threw their riders, much to the amusement of the onlookers. Afterwards, at the elevation of the Host, there was antoher discharge of musketry and the royal standard was lowered at the foot of the altar.

Luis Sotelo, discussing with Hasekura Tsunenaga and other Japanese in Rome. Sala Regia, Quirinal Palace, Rome.

With the exception of that concerning the Hollanders, the requests presented by Sotomayor were granted. When in accordance with the second of these the Spaniards came the next year (1612) and began to make soundings along the coast, Ieyasu’ s suspicions were aroused. Will Adams was his trusted authority in all matters concerning European customs and it is probable that, when his advice was asked, he replied, as is asserted by Roman Catholic historians, that, since in the West it would be considered an act of hostility for one nation to take soundings in the harbors of another, there was good reason to suppose that the Spaniards had designs upon Japan, the missionaries (One of whom, Sotelo, had come with Sotomayor and was now on the ship engaged in the surveys) being emissaries of the King and employed to seduce the people from their rightful allegiance. Since Spaniards and Portuguese were subjects of the same monarch, care should be taken to guard against the machinations of each.

And end was put to the survey and the captain of the ship was told that, though merchants would still be welcomed, no more missionaries were to be brought to Japan. It was at this time that Ieyasu began to take active measures in opposition to Christianity.

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