The Catholic Church in Japan

Document Type:Essay

Subject Area:History

Document 1

Nonetheless, as much as the Jesuits, led by Francis Xavier, had profound impact on the development in various aspects, it was met by profound resistance in the country as this paper will discuss. This paper shows how Christianity and the Christian crusade was been met with hostility in Japan across history and over time and more so in reference with the Jesuit missionaries. This subsequently made Christianity unpopular in the country as current numbers show. Christianity had its flourishing years after establishment and during the developmental stage following its introduction in 1549 by Francis Xavier and his counterparts with the intention of setting roots in Nagasaki. The religion had its impacts as this paper will articulate. However, as this paper will show, it was faced by hurdles and even banned only to be re-established later with a smaller following in regards to the numbers based on the population. Following the banning of Christianity in 1620, most Christians had to go underground to practice the religion secretly and this saw them branded as ‘hidden Christians’ with others losing their lives and Christianity ceased from public existence. Christianity was however restored and re-established in Japan following the Meiji Rebellion, but has never really gained wide popularity and following in the country. Discussion When the Jesuits arrive in Japan in the 1540s, they worked hard to convert the natives into the Christian religion. At first, their efforts bore fruits as many as one hundred thousand (100,000) Japanese men and women converted to Christianity within a short period of time.

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Nonetheless, religion was an integral and important part of the state in the countries from which the missionaries came (mainly Spain and Portugal) especially in expansion of territories and in enhancing and imposing influence. Japan mainly fell into the sphere of Portugal and missionaries would have been a way in for dominance, influence, and even expansion of territory. Since neither Spain nor Portugal would impose direct dominance over Japan and with dispute over the attribution of the country, the exclusivity given to Portugal for spreading Christianity meant the right to trade with Japan (Massarella, 12). The intention of the Jesuit missionaries was mainly to spread Catholicism and Christianity as such. However, issues like trade were also on the agenda as well as spreading western civilization in the East. Jesuits in Japan needed to remain economically sufficient as they would not rely on stable and sufficient payments from the king back in Portugal.

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Thus, the King gave the missionaries the green light to trade with the Japanese people. People like Francis Xavier, the earliest of missionaries, covered missionary expenses and costs through merchant activities. The major economic activity associated with the trade was Portuguese silk trade between Nagasaki and Macau. Raw silk was sold to Nagasaki after purchase in Canton at Macau (Ross, 35). The Jesuits’ actions were provocative as they started to involve themselves in local political matters making the Japanese repulsive and uncomfortable by the Jesuit presence in their land. This was one of the issues that led to the slowly beginning of the end for Christianity initially as they were stamped out. The government of Japan resolved to use a deportation method to discourage any further activities and Christian influences by the Jesuits in Macau and Manila areas (Abe, 39).

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Any child who was born of native Japanese and a Jesuit man was widely dreaded and this became a lesson and great discouragement to women who wanted to get married to the Jesuits. As such, marriage was highly discouraged between the foreigners and the natives especially when the missionary activities were banned and more so because Christianity was different and contrary to the norms and spirituality in larger parts of Japan. Currently, Catholics are over half a million but below one percent of the total population; this is due to the roots established by the Jesuit missionaries. Conclusion Essentially, in a culture where the Japanese people have largely embraced traditional spirituality and religions like Buddhism and Shinto, Christianity was not easy to be accepted. Although it received quite some good reception initially, the spread of Christianity seemingly declined a short while after it had begun expanding leaving behind only shadows of its former self.

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Nonetheless, there is more freedom to practice Catholicism and Christianity in the country unlike before. The lack of an entirely native outlook made it hard for the religion to progress in Japan. pp. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10. j. x. Davidann, Jon. swc. Massarella, Derek.  The Jesuits, Japan, and European Expansion in the Sixteenth Century. München: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens, 1999. Print.

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