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Amakusa Shiro and Japanese Christianity - Research Paper Example

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Christianity in Japan has a history spanning at least 100 years. As early as in 1549, Francis Xavier, had reached the Japanese land by a ship. It was in accompaniment with the Portugese traders that the Jesuit priests and missionaries reached the coasts of Japan during mid-16th century…
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Download file to see previous pages The poor peasants of Japan’s rural areas as well as the samurai feudal lords who wanted to have guns and profits from the traders, got attracted to Christianity that spread its wing slowly under the leadership of Jesuit missionaries. It was after Xavier spent two and half years spreading his message, and in 1580, the port of Nagasaki was gifted to the Jesuits that the ruler of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi condemned Christianity through an eleven point edict and banned conversions made under compulsion. But this decree was not strictly enforced.
But the Jesuits priests and missionaries were ordered to leave the country. This was a stage when Christianity in Japan went into hiding as cruel persecution of Christians became a routine. Many Christians had fled to the Japanese island of Amakusa but they were burdened with heavy taxes and often burned individually and in groups at stake by the rulers. It was at this juncture that a 16 year old youth, who was a Christian and a samurai, was chosen by a group of rebellious Christians to lead them in a revolt against the persecutors of Christian faith. Amakusa Shiro was to be called as the Japanese Messiah, later. He was a youth of great courage as is known from whatever historical facts that have been available about him.
It was at the age of eight that Amakusa started learning Japanese martial arts and warfare. It is reported that he used to teach religion to children in his leisure time. It was violating the laws that had banned Christianity that he preached his faith. The mythological accounts about his childhood say that he used to do magical tricks to lure the crowds to his preaching. (CathInfo). It might have been his success in attracting people to the faith and his ability as a swordsmanship that prompted the rebel leaders to make him his leader. And his leadership might have imparted a new vigor to the poor peasants who thought of him as a deliverer from God (Keith, 2006, 29). Around forty thousand Christians, all poor peasants, rallied behind Amakusa in the uprising (Millard, 2001, 8). Though Amakusa Shiro was the leader of the rebellion, it is observed that the real leaders of the war were a group of about six warriors who led it and planned the strategies (Pettitt, n.d., 53). But Amakusa was the symbol of the struggle. And his boyishness, his charm and his brevity might have made him dear to his followers. The violent uprising started in 1637, went on for three years, and ended with the capture of Hara castle from the rebels by the Japanese army and the beheading of the rebels including Amakusa Shiro (Pettitt, n.d., 52-53). His head was displayed in Nagasaki along with the heads of many other rebels (Keith, 2006, 53). After the rebellion was suppressed, Christianity in Japan became a banned faith (Pettitt, n.d., 53). Many a legends have emerged in Japanese popular culture picturizing Amakusa Shiro as a failed hero (Keith, 2006, 31). Amakusa had led the rebellion by claiming that he was Christ himself reincarnated (Keith, 2006, 49). Thus he had become a spiritual head of the rebels (Keith, 2006, 49). The father of Amakusa Shiro was Masuda Jinbei, was also a follower of Christianity and a samurai (Pettitt,n.d., 51-55). After capturing the Hara castle, Shiro had raised a Christian flag over it thereby imparting a political nature to the rebellion and of course greatly boosting the morale of the rebels (Keith, 2006, 50). The Japanese rulers had sent the mother and sister of Amakusa Shiro ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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