Roman Catholic Missions — March 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm

The embarkation of the exiles took place on the seventh of November!


A Japanese Red seal ship(朱印船). Tokyo Naval Science Museum.

The embarkation of the exiles took place on the seventh of November. Three small junks, in such poor condition as to be hardly seaworthy, were employed. One of these was sent to Manila. Among those on board were Takayama Ukon and John Naito with their families, Julia Naito with fourteen of her companions, two secular priests, and about thirty members of different orders. The other two vessels were ordered to go to Macao, taking seventy Jesuit priests and a number of Japanese Christians.

Not all of these persons actually left Japan. The Deputy Governor, Murayama Toan, whose son was one of the secular priests, was priests, was probably privy to a plan by which, when the junk bound for Manila had sailed about two leagues and had been freed from the guards, small boats put off from shore and took back two Dominicans, two Franciscans, and the two Japanese priests. Some of the Jesuits also escaped, and the number would have been greater if it had not been that by mistake too few boats were sent. any of the persons that were carried to Manila and Cacao soon found ways of returning disguised as merchants, sailors or even as slaves. There also remained in concealment a number of missionaries who had not been found at the time their associates were deported. Some of the feudal lords showed little zeal in hunting them up or in taking action against the Christians. One of those in Tamba joined with his son in openly resisting the orders, and act of nullification to which Ieyasu is said “to have shut his eyes.”

One of the most active persecutors of the Christians was Hasegawa Sahioye Fujihiro, the chief Governor of Nagasaki. In that city he was somewhat restrained by various privileges that had been granted to the Portuguese, by fear of an insurrection, and by the apprehension that he might be blamed if his acts put an end to foreign commerce. He had for a long time desired to be put in possession of Arima. He had already been given some oversight of the apostate Daimyo of that fief and it was partly because of this that the persecutions that had been particularly severe. He now succeeded in getting that daimyo transferred to Hyuga, while he himself obtained the coveted territory. He determined to purge it from the hated religion. For this purpose he made use of a large force of soldiers from Satsuma and Hizen. He is said to have issued the following directions to his subordinates:

“The Christians desire death in order that they may be honored as martyrs. Hence it is not desirable to slay them, but rather to prolong their lives, subjecting them to such severe punishments as will finally overcome their resistance. The most effective trial will be to enslave their woman, sending the most beautiful of them to the houses of prostitution in Kyoto. If the people will renounce the religion of Christ, they shall be exempted from imposts and other obligations; moreover, Chinese ships will be induced to come to their ports for trade, and this will be for the great enrichment of the country.”

As most of the Christians in Arima stood firm, arrests and persecutions soon began. Most of the soldiers that were sent to scour the country had little taste for attacking unarmed men, women, and children. In many cases, they sent warnings before them to the villages so that the inhabitants might escape to the mountains. The men from Satsuma soon reported that they could find no Christians in the section allotted to them. Not all the soldiers, however, were so indulgent. Many Christians were arrested and subjected to torments. Notwithstanding what Hasegawa had said about disappointing the desire of the Christians for martyrdom, he caused a number of them to be put to death.

After personally supervising these proceedings in Arima, Hasegawa returned with his soldiers to Nagasaki, where he threatened that he would compel all the Christians to apostatize. It is asserted that an order from Ieyasu directed him not to cause any check to commerce by taking action before the arrival of the next great ship from Macao, and also to be careful not to adopt such methods as would excite the people to revolt. However that may have been, another reason for the temporary cessation of persecution was that Hasegawa and his soldiers were called to take part in Ieyasu’s military operations against Hideyori.

In April 1615, Ieyasu received word that Toyotomi Hideyori was gathering even more troops than in the previous November, and that he was trying to stop the filling of the moat. Toyotomi forces (often called the Western Army) began to attack contingents of the Shogun's forces (the Eastern Army) near Osaka. Commanded by Ban Danemon, they raided Wakayama Castle, a coastal fortress belonging to Asano Nagaakira, an ally of the Shogun, on April 29. Asano's men sallied forth from the castle, attacking the invaders, and driving them off. By early June, the Eastern army had arrived, before Hideyori managed to secure any land to use against them. At the battle of Dōmyōji, on June 2, 2,600 of his men encountered 23,000 of the Eastern Army. Hideyori's commander at the battle, Gotō Matabei, attempted to retreat into the fog, but the battle was lost and he was killed. After this, Tokugawa forces intercepted those of Toyotomi general Sanada Yukimura at Honta-Ryo. Sanada tried to force a battle with Date Masamune, but Date retainer Katakura Shigenaga

The last great struggle, which was to establish the Tokugawa family firmly in the shogunate and to put an end to the hopes that Hideyoshi’s son might recover the power his father had wished to bequeath him, was now beginning. Hideyori held the strongly fortified castle of Osaka. Many powerful lords remained faithful to his cause. In various ways Ieyasu had tried to involve him in undertakings that would diminish the treasure inherited from his father, and to increase the difficulties that the young man had found in asserting his claims. At last, when the time seemed propitious, Ieyasu found means for picking a quarrel that opened the way for laying siege to Osaka Castle. After a long struggle and as much through trickery as by good fighting, it was captured June 4, 1615. Hideyori with some of his retainers committed harakiri in the innermost citadel, which was then set on fire.

One of Hideyori’s prominent generals was a Christian named Akashi Morishige, who found that military necessities required the burning of about two hundred temples, including three of the most important in Osaka and Sakai. A son of Takayama Ukon with three hundred of his father’s former retainers joined Hideyori’s forces, as did sons of John Naito and Otomo Yoshishige, besides many Christian warriors who had been banished from their homes. We are told of six great banners that, in addition to the cross, had representations of Christ or of St. James, the patron saint of Spain. Some even bore ideographs signifying “The Great Protector of Spain.” Moreover, five missionaries, together with a Japanese priest, the son of Murayama Toan, were in Hideyori’s camp. It is asserted that this priest led a band of four hundred Christian warriors. He was slain; but the foreigners managed with great difficulty to escape. One of them, Father Porro, wrote a vivid description of the destruction of Osaka and of his own adventures. Two of the Christians had persuaded him to leaved the castle and had brought him to the mansion of one of Ieyasu’s followers, where it was thought he would be safe. While there, he saw the burning of the castle and city. A high wind increased the fury of the flames. The buildings of the mansion where he had found shelter caught fire one by one, so that he was forced to take refuge in a clump of bamboos. While there, he heard the confessions of several Christians and even baptized a new convert. The next morning a company of soldiers came up and threatened him with death. They stripped off most of his clothes, but finally let him go free. Making his way among the ruins of houses and the corpses of the slain, he reached the camp of Date Masamune, who had been among the besiegers. Porro says:

“I was noticed by a soldier who, thinking I might be one of the Fathers, called to me in a very respectful manner, led me to his tent, and said that in the present circumstances he would never consent to my going farther at the very evident risk of my life. I remained with him all that day. On the morrow, which was the fifth of June, my host started for Kyoto, while I, falling once more into extreme peril, took my way toward Masamune. I found this lord on the point of mounting his horse as he started for Kyoto. I explained briefly that I was a foreigner from the city of Nagasaki and that, having found myself in Osaka during the recent occurrences, I had been reduced to the sad condition in which he saw me. I asked that he would generously assist me to go to Morro and from thence to Nagasaki. Masamune replied through a page that he would have acceded to my request gladly and at once if I had not been a Christian.”

This reply of Masamune is the more noticeable because it was just at this time that his ambassador Hashikura, after being specially welcomed in Mexico, was about to proceed to Europe, where he represented his master as ready to become to protector of the Christians. After this repulse, Porro passed on through other dangers until he found persons who treated him kindly, gave him clothing, and sent him on his way until he found shelter among believers.

Although many Christians were among the soldiers in Ieyasu’s army, it is not strange that the presence among his enemies of religious teachers whose deportation he had ordered, and the prominent display of Christian emblems increased his dislike for the foreign religion.

One of the Franciscans, assuming the garb of a soldier and mingling with those of Ieyasu’s army, managed to get to Yedo itself. he lodged for a time in the leper hospital, which was kept up under the direction of one of its inmates, who belonged to a distinguished family. This seemed a safe retreat, for the lepers were so avoided by other people that it was unlikely any search would be made among them. He frequently made his way into the city, and for a short time lived in a house belonging to the retainer of a high officer. Finally he was arrested, as were also fifty of the lepers. The hospital itself was destroyed.

This missionary, with ten or twelve of the Christians, was confined in a single room so closely packed that any person wishing to sleep had to support himself by leaning against his neighbor. There were many other prisoners, and these were constantly quarreling about the amount of space each could have and the length of time he could sleep. In summer, it was so hot that objection was made to any person’s wearing clothing, because he thus made those near him warmer. The missionary, as a special favor, was allowed to wear a thin garment, though at times he himself found it unendurable. The food was so scanty that many died for lack of nourishment. The Father was kept alive by food that outside Christians bribed the guards to give him. Many prisoners committed suicide. Others were murdered. Frequently the corpses were not removed for seven or eight days. All the prisoners soon became covered with frightful ulcers. In the midst of these horrors, the missionary was at first able to perform religious exercises with his fellow-Christians; but afterwards the prison received a rougher set of men, who put an end to the preaching and open performance of any sacred ministry. The missionary remained in the prison for more than a year, when he was released by the intercession of one of the Shogun’s officers, who desired to conciliate the Spaniards so as to facilitate certain commercial enterprises.

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