4. 1500 Christianity in Kumamoto (Otomo Sorin, Xavier, Amakusa Colegio and Shimabara Rebellion)
1. Who brought Christianity to Japan, and when?
2. What was different between the first wave of Christianity (in Sengoku and early Edo) and the second wave in early Meiji?
3. What do you know about the Hidden Christians in Amakusa?
The Ashikaga government was located in Kyoto, where they effectively controlled the Imperial system as well. But from 1467-1477, a great civil war called the Onin war, weakened the shogunate and ushered in the Sengoku period. The change from Ashikaga (Muromachi) to Azuchi-Momoyama is dated from 1573, and is considered the climax of the Sengoku era with famous samurai Oda Nobunaga. The last Ashikaga shogun, Yoshiaki, was supported by Nobunaga, who gained his spectacular power during this period. Nobunaga also protected Christianity in his bid to suppress Buddhism. In 1582, Nobunaga was attacked by Akechi Mitsuhide, the father of Hosokawa Gracia. Toyotomi Hideyoshi succeeded Nobunaga in his struggle to unite Japan.
However, in Kyushu, another movement was gaining ground: that of Christianity. It was introduced by Xavier in 1549 in Kagoshima, who lived in Yamaguchi in 1550-1551. He wanted to meet the emperor but was not able to, so he turned southward. He established churches in Yamaguchi, Hirado in Nagasaki, and Bungo (now Oita). He met Otomo Sorin in 1551 when the latter was only 22 years old, and under his influence Sorin became a devout (Catholic) Christian.
Xavier’s successors, Christian Jesuit missionaries, visited Oe (Sakitsu) in Amakusa, and Christianity took a firm hold there. Otomo Sorin sent 4 young Japanese men to Rome in what is called the Tensho Embassy in 1582. They returned in 1590, bringing with them a printing press which was established in the Amakusa Collegio in Kawaura (1591-1597). This school taught Christianity and published Christian materials in both Japanese and Portuguese. The four young men who were sent to Rome at that time brought back the printing press, but their success, and that of the Collegio, was short lived. First Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and then Tokugawa Ieyasu turned against Christianity. The result of this was the Shimabara Amakusa rebellion in 1637. But we get ahead of ourselves.
The end of the Sengoku Era, is also known as Azuchi-Momoyama (taken from the names of the castles of Oda Nobunaga (in Azuchi, Shiga) and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Momoyama Castle, also known as Fushimi Castle, in Kyoto). After Hideyoshi died in 1598, the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 ended with Tokugawa Ieyasu as the victor, ushering in the Edo era. Hideyori, Hideyoshi’s young son, was only 5 years old. Tokugawa became regent, and consolidated his position as Shogun in 1615 in the siege of Osaka castle, in which Hideyori and his mother committed suicide.
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