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with three Jesuit fathers and seventeen some
records say twenty -four native Christians to
Nagasaki, where they were executed. The
scene was transferred to canvas by a nameless
European artist of great ability. Crucifixion
was the method of execution, but not crucifixion
as practised in the Occident. The victims were
tied to a cross and pierced from left and right
simultaneously by sharp spears inserted below the
ribs and thrust diagonally towards the shoulders.
Death was generally instantaneous, but sometimes
the stabs had to be repeated. The painting is
true in every detail. It portrays, without ex-
aggerating, the racial types of the victims and
their slayers, the vinous swagger of the semi-
brutalised executioner, the ecstatic calm of the
Fathers, and the awful perspective of the long
line of crosses with their bleeding burdens.

This was Hideyoshi's protest, first, against the
risk of Japan's becoming a battle-field for rival
creeds from abroad ; secondly, against the defiant
attitude assumed by the strangers towards secular



authority, and thirdly, against the political in-
trigues of which the Christians accused them-
selves and of which he had long suspected them.
It is worth while to observe these facts carefully,
for they lie at the root of all Japan's foreign

lyeyasu, the Tokugawa chieftain, who suc-
ceeded to the work of domestic pacification
already carried within sight of completion by
Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, did not at first give
any clear indication of the course that he in-
tended to pursue towards the Padres and their
following. But there can be no doubt that the
Christian problem had attracted his keen atten-
tion long before the full control of administrative
affairs came into his hands (1600 A. D.). No
Japanese statesman could afford to ignore a ques-
tion which was producing not only widespread
disturbance, but also a startling change in the rela-
tions between the classes. In all times, one of
the results of Roman Catholic propagandism in
Oriental countries has been to remove the con-
verts beyond the unchallenged control of the
civil authorities and to elevate their spiritual
guides to the rank of secular protectors. The
members of the Christian community learn to
believe that their conversion differentiates them
from the mass of their unregenerate nationals,
and opens to them a tribunal of appeal against
any exaction or injustice to which the latter may
be exposed. Modern diplomatists have often



been required to consider that outcome of mis-
sionary enterprise in China. A cognate problem
forced itself on the attention of Japanese states-
men from a very early period. The Emperor
Shirakawa (1073-1087), who, at the zenith of
his power, complained that only three things in
his realm defied his authority, the chances of
the dice, the waters of the Kamo River, and the
priests of Buddha, was ultimately obliged to
invoke the assistance of the military nobles against
the contumacious proceedings of the Buddhist
prelates, thus inaugurating between the followers
of the sword and the disciples of the sutras an era
of feuds which culminated in the fierce exter-
minations resorted to by Oda Nobunaga. From
the outset a similar spirit of independence was
educated by Christian propagandism in Japan.
It is characteristic of human nature that men
conspicuously prone to encroach upon the sphere
of another's rights are proportionately conserva-
tive of their own. The Roman Catholic priest's
stout defiance of pagan interference in the foreign
fields of his labour was but another form of the
zeal that impelled him to protect orthodoxy with
the faggot and the rack in Europe. lyeyasu
mounted the administrative throne at a time
when these things forced themselves upon polit-
ical attention. He had seen Franciscan monks
trample upon the veto of the Taikb within the
very shadow of the latter's castle. He had seen
Christians in Nagasaki successfully ignore the

1 20


orders of the men appointed by the Taiko to re-
strain them. He had seen the Padres resume
their preaching almost immediately after the issue
of a prohibitory edict. He had seen the unprece-
dented spectacle of heimin (commoners) accepting
from the alien creed a commission to oppose
samurai authority. He had seen the persecuting
intolerance of the foreign faith constitute a new
menace to the tranquillity which it was his hope,
and seemingly his mission, to restore to his tired
countrymen. It can scarcely be doubted, there-
fore, that lyeyasu was opposed to Christianity
from the first. Besides, whether from policy or
conviction, he was himself a devotee of Buddhism.
He carried in his bosom an image of Amida, and
in seventy-three battles he had donned no armour,
avowedly trusting solely to the protection of the
god he worshipped. The quality of this great
leader's piety is not here a matter of concern.
He may have been prompted mainly by a desire
to win to his cause influences which, when op-
posed, had shown themselves strong and mis-
chievous. But that a man who encouraged his
followers to regard him as an incarnation of one
of Yakushi's Arhats, and professed to consider a
miniature effigy of Kuro Honzon better protec-
tion than cuirass or hauberk against sword or
arrow, should ever have seriously entertained the
idea of countenancing Christianity, is an unrea-
sonable supposition. On the other hand, con-
ciliation and tolerance were essential factors in



the administration of lyeyasu. He never resorted
to violence where his end seemed capable of be-
ing compassed by tact. Thus, although, in the
year 1 600, he proclaimed his policy by means of
an edict banishing Christian propagandists, as the
Taiko had done in 1587, like the Taiko he took
no conclusive steps to enforce the order. For a
moment, indeed, it seemed as though the edict
would be followed by drastic measures. Shortly
after its issue the Christian places of worship
in Kyoto were destroyed and several followers of
the faith met their death. But active persecution
ceased there, so far as the central authorities were

In the provinces, however, the Christians had
to endure suffering. They reaped as they had
sown. The detailed story need not be told.
It bears further testimony to the fact that the
fortunes of the Western creed in each district
depended on the prejudice or caprice of the
feudal chief governing there, and were conse-
quently exposed to many of the intrigues,
jealousies, and ambitions which disfigured the
era. lyeyasu made no attempt to interfere
between the victims and their local persecutors.
He had announced his disapproval of Christianity
and he waited on the course of events.

Meanwhile, despite local opposition and the
nominal ban of the central Government, the
foreign creed constantly gained. In the year
1605 the number of converts was estimated



at six hundred thousand, and from Sendai in
the north to Kagoshima in the south its prop-
agandists preached openly and its adherents
worshipped in their own churches. The time
had come to choose between final toleration or
resolute extirpation.

lyeyasu chose the latter. On January the
twenty -seventh, 1614, he issued a proclamation
ordering the banishment of the propagandists
and leaders of Christianity, the destruction of
their churches, and the compulsory recantation
of their doctrines. " The Christians," his edict
said, " have come to Japan not only to carry on
commerce with their ships, but also to propa-
gate an evil creed and subvert the true doctrine,
to the end that they may effect a change of
government in the country and thus usurp posses-
sion of it. This seed will produce a harvest
of unhappiness. It must be eradicated." That
lyeyasu was fully persuaded of the truth of
these words, there can be little question. It
only remains to inquire the proximate causes
by which he was led to exchange his previous
attitude of negative disapproval for one of posi-
tive extermination.

Several reasons present themselves. The first
is the issue of a Bull, in 1608, granting to all
orders of Christianity free access to Japan. From
the point of view of Rome the step was natural.
Japan had hitherto been a papally forbidden land
to all save the Jesuits. Paul the Fifth simply



rescinded the veto. But from the point of view
of lyeyasu the incident assumed a very different
aspect. The Taik'o had issued an interdict order-
ing the withdrawal of all Christian propagandists
from Japan. The Sh~ogun had repeated the inter-
dict. The Pope of Rome ignored both vetoes
and authoritatively threw Japan open to Jesuits,
Dominicans, Franciscans, anybody and everybody
wearing a cowl or carrying a Testament.

The second reason is that lyeyasu found in
Christianity a formidable obstacle to the realisa-
tion of his own political projects. After the
battle of Sekigahara there remained only one
source of possible peril to the peace which it was
the Tokugawa leader's highest ambition to secure
for his country. That source was Hideyori, the
Taik'o' s son. He and his supporters intrigued to
effect the overthrow of the Tokugawa, and the
Jesuit Fathers threw in their lot with them, as did
also a multitude of Christians. The castle at
Osaka, with its stupendous battlements and almost
impregnable defences, became a resort for perse-
cuted or discontented Christians from all parts of
the Empire. The Padres cannot be reproached
for the part they chose at that crisis. Scarcely a
faint hope remained that their faith would ever
be sanctioned by the Tokugawa, whereas, with
the Taik'o s son at the head of the administration
and owing his elevation in a large degree to
Christian aid, there might have dawned for the
Fathers and their flock an era not merely of State



tolerance but also of official patronage. Then,
indeed, events might have justified the premature
poean of the Dillingen chronicler, that Japan had
been "won over and incorporated into the true
fold of the Christian Church." Such a prize was
worth playing for at heavy risks. The Padres
played for it and failed. lyeyasu's sentence of
banishment and extermination overtook them in
1614, and in the following year Osaka Castle was
given to the flames after a struggle that is said to
have cost a hundred thousand lives.

Yet another reason for the Tokugawa chief's
recourse to drastic measures must be noted. The
Dutch, concluding a commercial convention with
Japan in 1610, naturally sought to oust the Portu-
guese from the monopoly that they held of Jap-
anese trade, and to that end they roundly accused
both Portuguese and Spaniards of prostituting
Christian propagandism to political intrigue, and
of concealing designs against Japan's integrity
under the cloak of her religious regeneration.
The English, who soon afterwards gained access
to Japan's markets, adopted the tactics of the
Dutch. It was easy to show from contemporary
history that such accusations rested on bases at
least highly plausible. Nobunaga had more than
suspected something of the kind thirty years be-
fore either Dutch or English preferred the accu-
sation ; the TaiKo had shared the suspicion, and
lyeyasu, with a wider range of experience to
guide him, would probably have passed from sus-



picion to certainty even without the testimony of
Hollanders or British. A good deal has been
urged in modern times by way of apology for
the conduct of the English and the Dutch.
Some have even denied the charge on behalf
of one, or the other, or both. There is no occa-
sion for either repudiation or extenuation. Con-
sidering the relations between Roman Catholicism
and Protestantism, between England and Spain,
and between Holland and Portugal at that era, and
recalling the canons of commercial combats and
the rules of the religious lists at the beginning
of the seventeenth century, it becomes evident
that things fell out in Japan exactly as might
have been predicated.

The facts here set down compel an impartial his-
torian to admit that what Japan did in 1614, most
European States would have done under the same
circumstances at the same epoch. An impartial
historian will probably go a great deal farther. He
will conclude that the measures of expulsion and
eradication adopted by Japan in 1614 would have
been adopted forty or fifty years earlier by any
European State under pressure of the same incen-
tives. No European State would have tolerated
for a moment the things that were perpetrated in
the name of Christianity between 1560 and 1576
in Nagasaki and Bungo, and between 1597 and
1600 in Higo. No European State would have
suffered the propagandists of a foreign faith to
settle within its borders and excite a section of its



population to make a holocaust of the national
places of worship, and to stone, slaughter, and
banish their priests. If Japan endured these out-
rages for a time, it was because her strength of
national self-assertion was paralysed by division.
The central administration had no power to pre-
scribe a uniform policy to the multitude of irre-
sponsible and semi-independent principalities into
which the country was divided, and in the rival
ambitions of the various territorial magnates
whose cause the missionary promoted with arms
and gold, he found temporary safety and patronage.
The integration of the Empire, first under Hide-
yoshi, subsequently and more completely under
lyeyasu, was the signal for recourse to measures
which, were they embodied in a chapter of con-
temporary Occidental history, would not have
seemed either incongruous or abnormal.

There is no occasion to describe in detail the
struggle that ensued between religious fanaticism
and the exterminating zeal of officials who be-
lieved themselves to be obeying the highest
instincts of patriotic statecraft. The story has
already occupied many pens. Terrible things
were done, things worthy of Torquemada and
Ximenes, and the long tragedy culminated in a
rebellion which involved the death of from thirty
to forty thousand Christians and the final expul-
sion of the Portuguese from Japan. This rebel-
lion celebrated in history as the " Shimabara
Revolt" was brought to a close in the spring



of 1638. Shortly before its outbreak an edict of
the most drastic nature was promulgated. It de-
clared that any Japanese subject attempting to go
abroad, or any Japanese subject already abroad
who attempted to return home, should be exe-
cuted ; it directed that all foreigners professing
Christianity should be imprisoned at Omura ; it
forbade Eurasian children to reside in Japan, and
it decreed banishment for any persons adopting
an Eurasian child and severe punishment for their
relatives. Four years later, the Dutch were re-
quired to confine themselves to Deshima. They
had succeeded in effectually prejudicing the Jap-
anese against the Portuguese and the Spaniards, but
they had not succeeded in preserving any large
measure of respect for themselves.

These cruel and illiberal measures crowned
Japan's policy of restriction and isolation, a
policy which may be said to have commenced on
a radical scale with the proclamation of lyeyasu
in 1614, and to have culminated in the imprison-
ment of the Dutch at Deshima in 1641 by his
grandson, lyeyasu, the third Tokugawa S/wgun.
In that interval another step, wholly destructive
of maritime enterprise, was taken by the same
lyeyasu. It has already been alluded to. He
ordered that all vessels of sea-going capacity
should be destroyed, and that no craft should
thenceforth be built of sufficient size to venture
beyond home waters.

A more complete metamorphosis of a nation's



policy could scarcely be conceived. In 1541 we
find the Japanese celebrated, or notorious, through-
out the whole of the Far East for exploits abroad ;
we find them known as the " Kings of the Sea ; "
we find them welcoming foreigners with cor-
diality and opposing no obstacles to foreign com-
merce or even to the propagandism of foreign
creeds ; we find them so quick to recognise the
benefits of trade and so apt to pursue them that,
in the space of a few years, they establish
commercial relations with no less than twenty
over-sea markets ; we find them authorising the
Portuguese and the English to trade at every port
in the Empire ; we find, in short, all the elements
requisite for a career of commercial enterprise,
ocean-going adventure and international liberality.
In 1641 everything is reversed. Trade is inter-
dicted to all Western people except the Dutch,
and they are confined to a little island, two hun-
dred yards in length by eighty yards in width.
The least symptom of predilection for an alien
creed is punished with awful rigour. Any attempt
to leave the limits of the realm involves decapita-
tion. Not a ship large enough to pass beyond
the shadow of the coast may be built.

However unwelcome the admission, it is ap-
parent that for all these changes Christianity was
responsible. The policy of seclusion adopted by
Japan in the early part of the seventeenth century
and resolutely pursued until the middle of the
nineteenth, was anti-Christian, not anti-foreign.

VOL. in. 9 129


The fact cannot be too clearly recognised. It is
the chief lesson taught by the events outlined
above. Throughout the whole of that period of
isolation, Occidentals were not known to the
Japanese by any of the terms now in common
use, as gwaikoku-jin, seiyo-jin, or i-jin, which em-
body the simple meaning, foreigner, or Western,
or alien: they were popularly called bateren (padre).
Thus completely had foreign intercourse and
Christian propagandism become identified in the
eyes of the people. And when it is remembered
that "foreign intercourse " associated with Chris-
tianity had come to be synonymous in Japanese
ears with foreign aggression, with the subversal
of the Mikado's sacred dynasty, and with the loss
of the independence of the Country of the Gods,
there is no difficulty in understanding the attitude
of the nation's mind towards this question. In
these considerations, too, is found a reason for the
lack of any element of national ambition in the
ultimate policy of lyeyasu, and from first to last
in the policy of his greatest successor, lyemitsu.


Chapter IV


NOTHING is more remarkable in the
history of the Tokugawa epoch than
the absence of anything like organ-
ised rebellion for many generations.
Nevertheless at an early period of the epoch
there appeared upon the stage a turbulent figure
which remained more or less in evidence until
modern days. This was the rbnin, or " wave-
man," an epithet applied to samurai who, believ-
ing themselves charged with a mission to mend
the times, refrained from joining the service of
any fief, and wandered about, ready to take a part
in all adventures that showed a colouring of senti-
ment. Some of them, originally vassals of feudal
houses upon whose ruins the Tokugawa had risen
to power, were only obeying the dictates of loyalty
when they refused to bow to the Yedo rule. Some
had no grievance except their own inability to
conquer fortune ; and many, swayed by the pure
spirit of knight-errantry, passed from place to
place for the sole purpose of measuring swords


with fencers of repute wherever such might be
found. When, in the fourth generation of the
Tokugawa, the office of SKogun fell to a boy of
eleven, a number of these " wave-men " imagined
that the time had come for a grand coup. They
plotted to set Yedo on fire and to attack the
castle in the confusion. Happily detection pre-
ceded the act. The leaders died by their own
hands or under the sword of the executioner, and
for a long era no repetition of such enterprises
disturbed the public peace. The seventeenth-
century ronin are not to be regarded, however,
as the outcome of a transient mood of political
unrest. They represented a conviction apparently
inherent in the Japanese mind, that every man
possesses a natural right to assert his opinion in
whatever manner he chooses, provided that he
accepts the full consequences of his choice.
That is the most emphatic form assumed by
Japanese individualism. There is no element
of license in the theory : a morally justifiable
motive must always exist. But that condition
satisfied, a man may demonstrate the sincerity
and earnestness of his views by sacrificing his own
life or that of another. The motive warrants the
method which may be called the Japanese ver-
sion of the end justifies the means.

The era (1661-1680) of this fourth Tokugawa
Stiogun, lyetsuna, was remarkable for other things
as well as for the lawlessness of the " wave-men."
From that time the Tokugawa began to fare as



all great families of previous ages had fared : the
substance of administrative power passed into the
hands of a Minister, its shadow alone remaining
to the SKogun. Sakai Takakiyo was the chief
author of this change. Secluded from contact
with the outer world, the ShUgun, a man of weak
intellect, saw and heard only through the eyes
and ears of the ladies of his household. Takakiyo
caused an order to be issued forbidding all access
to the Court ladies except by ministerial permit.
Thenceforth the SKogun became practically deaf
and dumb. He knew nothing of the novel
channels into which public opinion was beginning
to drift, of the calamities that marked the era,
or of the irreverence that his officials displayed
towards the Throne. For Yedo having been de-
vastated by conflagrations and the nation afflicted
by famine, the ministers of the Shogunate, de-
claring that these misfortunes were attributable
to the Emperor's unworthiness, caused him to
abdicate in favour of the heir apparent. They
thus practised the democratic principles laid down
by Mencius, and not a voice of protest was raised,
the feudatories being completely overawed by the
might of the Sfiogun, and the Court nobles silenced
by the munificence of the Yedo administration.
The one authoritative act of his life was done by
lyetsuna in the hour of death. Hotta Masatoshi,
a loyal minister, went secretly to his side and
warned him that a scheme was on foot to transfer
the office of Shogun to an Imperial Prince. Ta-



kakiyo had conceived this plot, borrowing a model
from the policy of the Hojo in Kamakura. His
ambition was to secure for himself and his de-
scendants the position of Vicegerent. But the
insignia of the Shogunate a Masamune sword
and a Kunimitsu dagger were handed by the
dying Shogun at midnight to Hotta Masatoshi,
and when morning broke the conspirators found
the dead man's office occupied by his brother,

This is a particularly interesting epoch of
Japan's history. It saw the first manifestations
of a public opinion destined to culminate in the
remarkable radicalism of the nation's nineteenth-
century career. The SKogun's ministers, when
they placed upon the Emperor's shoulders re-
sponsibility for his subjects' suffering, furnished
an unwitting proof of the tendency of the time,
for it was from the writings of the Chinese
philosophers that they borrowed such an idea.
On the other hand, the outrage thus offered to
the traditions of imperialism reacted in aid of
a revival then commencing, the revival of the
Shinto cult. Fate, as usual ironical, placed the
Shogun (Tsunayoshi) himself in the forefront of
this movement, though no great perspicacity
should have been needed to show him that a
cult based on the divinity of the Emperor was
irreconcilable with the Tokugawa's pretensions
to administrative supremacy. Perhaps, if his
appreciation of Shinto had not been prompted



by a woman, 1 Tsunayoshi might have showed
greater political insight. But on the whole
it seems juster to conclude that his love of learn-
ing overmastered all considerations of expediency,
and made him at the close of the seventeenth
century an unconscious contributor to influences
which in the middle of the nineteenth were to
work the downfall of his house.

But the Shinto revival was by no means as
remarkable as a very pronounced development
of political philosophy. At the head of the
latter movement stood Hotta Masatoshi, by
whose bold and timely action the succession to
the Shogunate had been preserved in the Toku-
gawa family. Masatoshi was the first feudal

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 3) → online text (page 8 of 16)