Friday, June 10, 2016

"Jesus said, Make the men sit down" - Nobunaga and Jesuit Missionaries to Japan

A Tokyo Subway Station

Nobunaga and Jesuit Missionaries to Japan

One of the most popular or interesting historical characters of Japan is Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582).
Oda Nobunaga was a powerful daimyo of Japan in the late 16th century who attempted to unify Japan during the late Sengoku period. 
The goal of national unification and a return to the comparative political stability of the earlier Muromachi period was widely shared by the multitude of autonomous daimyo during the Sengoku period. Oda Nobunaga however, was the first for which this goal seemed attainable. Nobunaga had gained control over most of Honshu (see map below), before his death during the 1582 Honnō-ji incident, a coup attempt executed by Nobunaga's vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide. It is not certain if Nobunaga was killed in the attack or if he committed seppuku. The motivation of Mitsuhide's betrayal was never revealed to anyone who survived the incident, and has been a subject of debate and conjecture ever since the incident.
The era Nobunaga lived in was at the end of the age of provincial wars in Japan.  At the time, since the samurai class had taken political power from the imperial court, more than 300 years had passed.

The first samurai regime, the Kamakura feudal government, collapsed in 1333、and then the second samurai regime, the Muromachi feudal government, established in Kyoto in 1336, came to lose ruling power since the end of the 15th century.  Samurai feudal lords, called daimyos, independently occupied local territories while the emperor and the Muromachi shogun in Kyoto had no political power.  Japan had no unified power center, and this era was called  the age of provincial wars.  The concern was who among powerful daimyos would unify Japan again with his military power and become a new shogun, a kind of king of the samurai class.

In this situation, the first daimyo who looked like having power to unify Japan again was Oda Nobunaga originally from a region near Nagoya.  Nobunaga adopted, in a large scale, harquebuses or primitive rifles sailors of a wrecked  Portuguese ship brought to Japan.  His army defeated troops of rival daimyos one after another.  Nobunaga actually occupied Kyoto, which was going to pave the way for establishing his hegemony all over Japan.  He had already occupied most of the regions east of Kyoto, which is called the central Japan today, but some powerful daimyos with territories in west of Kyoto would not surrender to Nobunaga.  So, Nobunaga decided to launch a big military campaign with tens of thousands of samurai troops equipped with thousands of harquebuses.

But at night before starting from Kyoto, he was attacked and killed by one of his generals who mobilized 15,000 soldiers to surround a temple near Kyoto where Nobunaga happened to stay with just 150 entourage samurais.

So, though Nobunaga did not unify Japan or did not become a shogun or a top leader of all the samurais, his remarkable success of having occupied almost half of Japan by his military power made him a hero in the history, though he was originally a daimyo with a small territory around Nagoya.  It is also because almost for preceding 100 years no daimyos had come so close to unification of Japan like Nobunaga.

His popularity also came from his unique personality.  Nobunaga was so revolutionary in his way of thinking and behaviors.  That is why he adopted, in a large scale, the fire arms newly introduced to Japan by Europeans.  Nobunaga was also interested in Christian missionaries who started to come to Japan at the time.  Those Catholic missionaries brought some unique or advanced products to Japan in addition to information of the world.  Nobubaga loved them.  So, he allowed European missionaries to be engaged in their missionary work in his territory.  In fact, some Christian churches were built even in Kyoto of the 15h century under protection of Nobunaga.

Some missionaries wrote about Nobunaga in their diaries or letters as they were also so impressed by this rising future samurai king.  But as they came to know Nobunaga more, they started to be worried by strong samurai leader Nobunaga.  He loved Western products and liked to get information of the world from European priests, but he did not believe Christianity.  He was not even interested in the teaching of the Bible.  He was a kind of abusing Catholic missinaries.

So, according to one theory, some Jesuit missionaries found evil force in Nobunaga.  They decided to kill Nonbunaga.  And, eventually, they worked behind the scene of the assassination of Nobunaga in Hon-noji Temple in 1582.  But their plan was carried out so secretly.  Even Akechi Mitsuhide, one of Nobunaga's general who attacked and killed Nobunaga, did not realize why and how he could get a chance to take over power from Nobunaga who had sometimes insulted Mitsuhide enough to incur Mitsuhide's hatred.

The tragedy that Nobunaga was assassinated while he was about to seize hegemony all over Japan contributed to his popularity.  He looks like a kind of tragic hero.  He looks quite different from any other heroes in the Japanese history.  There is something in Nobunaga that appeals to the minds of Japanese people.  He was revolutionary in his mind set though he was so cruel in battle fields.  He must have looked very differently to different people even while Nobunaga was living.  And to some Jesuit missionaries, Nobunaga might have looked so dangerous to their future mission in Japan.  Maybe they worked secretly for the assassination of Nobunaga.

Even in Europe, in the late 16th century, the Vatican tried to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I who executed Mary, Queen of Scots.

Indeed, the world was so bloody in the 16th century.  So, Oda Nobunaga, the rising samurai daimyo in Japan who was abusing Catholic missionaries, might have been assassinated with involvement of Jesuit priests, though there has been no concrete evidence so far.

Oda Nobunaga

A book on Nobunaga and Missionary Luís Fróis*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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Joh 6:9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
Joh 6:10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
Joh 6:11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

"what things ye have need of" - Mongol Invasion against Japan vs. Zen Buddhism

Around the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Mongol Invasion against Japan vs. Zen Buddhism

In 1274 and 1281, Kublai Khan (1215-1294), the Mongolian emperor of the Yuan dynasty of China, tried to invade Japan, sending more than 30,000 troops by 900 ships in 1274 and more than 150,000 troops by 4,400 ships in 1281.

These incidents are called Mongol invasion attempts against Japan.

At the time, Japan was governed by the first samurai regime led by the quasi-shogun from the Hojyo clan (the real shogun had no actual power).   The quasi-shogun, Hojyo Tokimune (1251-1284), was not intimidated.  He resolutely stood against the then super-power Yuan, calling for samurais all over Japan to come to Kyusyu, the closest area of Japan to the Korean Peninsula, and prepare for war.

Eventually, Yuan troops, consisting of Mongolians, Chinese and Koreans, were defeated twice.  The strongest nation in the world at the time could not occupy any part of Japan.  Since then no Chinese dynasties tried to invade Japan.

But what made Hojyo Tokimune so bravely encounter Mongolians?   Especially, in the second invasion, Emperor Kublai mobilized overwhelmingly larger troops than in the first invasion.  But, Tokimune was so determined to fight them.

It was one Chinese Buddhist priest who came to Japan to teach Zen Buddhism that supported Tokimune.  This priest Mugaku Sogen (1226–1286) himself had encountered Mogolian troops when he was still in China.  It was when Mongolians invaded southern China and Mugaku Sogen took shelter in a temple.  But, Mongolian soldiers came in the temple and tried to kill him.  However, as Mugaku Sogen chanted some Buddhist creed, soldiers were impressed and left the temple without killing him.

Afterward, Mugaku Sogen was invited to Japan by Hojyo Tokimune who expelled the first Mongolian invasion of 1274.  Mugaku Sogen  came to Japan in 1279 to settle in Kamakura, the capital of the samurai regime, and teach Buddhism to many samurais.

Before the Yuan dynasty started the second invasion of Japan, Mugaku Sogen predicted the coming war to Tokimune, saying to go ahead without looking back.  Encouraged by this word, Tokimune bravely mobilized samurais, made them prepare for the world strongest Mongolian troops, and took command of them.

Though it was true that a strong typhoon attacked Mongolian ships off the coast of Kyusyu and destroyed many of them, Japanese samurais successfully defended an area around Hakata Bay, the main battle field, of northern Kyusyu courageously for two months against hundreds of thousands of Yuan troops.  And, Hojyo Tokimune ascribed his victory to the spiritual support from Mugaku Sogen rather than to the typhoon.

Put simply, 150,000 troops Emperor Kublai Khan dispatched to Japan were defeated by one old Chinese Buddhist monk who helped Japanese samurais.

After the war, Hojyo Tokimune built a temple named Enkakuji as part of memorial services for fallen samurais.  And, Mugaku Sogen became the chief priest of Enkakuji Temple to live in the temple till his death.

Accordingly, Zen Buddhism became popular among Japanese samurais as well as in the general public.

But if Japan had been conquered in 1281 by the Yuan dynasty established by Mongolians in China, the history of Japan should have been quite different.  For this reason, Buddhism and especially Zen Buddhism became an essential part of Japan.


イメージ 1
The Mogolian invasion route from the Korean Peninsula to Kyusyu.  They also came over the East China Sea.  Red dots show Hakata, Kyoto, and Kamakura from the left.

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Mat 6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Mat 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Monday, June 06, 2016

"he marvelled because of their unbelief" - An Episode about Tokyo Founder in the 15th Century

Around the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

An Episode about Tokyo Founder in the 15th Century

Tokyo was originally developed around the Edo castle that is now used as the imperial palace.

The present imperial palace was built in the  premises of the Edo castle that was, generally speaking, built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the leader of samurais who governed Japan and started the Tokugawa regime, in 1590.  However, the story was not so simple.

Well before Tokugawa Ieyasu, samurai Shigetsugu Edo first set his residence in the place where the imperial palace is today placed in the 11th century.  And, afterwards samurai Ota Dokan built a castle in the same place in 1457.  However, the Ota clan could not prosper and his castle was used by other samurais.  And finally,  150 years later, Tokugawa Ieyasu occupied it and expanded Dokan's Edo castle.

So, 400 years ago, Tokyo was neither a big city nor a big farming area.  In the coastal area facing Tokyo Bay, only old Dokan's castle stood.  Historically, the Kanto Plain in which Tokyo is situated was first developed in the northern area connecting to mountainous areas since the 6th century.  The coastal area of the Kanto Plain was not suitable for farming, or especially rice cropping.

But, Tokyo (then called Edo) started to become the largest city in Japan when Tokugawa Ieyasu set the capital of Japan there after he seized political power all over Japan in 1603, though the emperor still continued to live in Kyoto.

In the era of Ota Dokan, about 40 km inland from Tokyo Bay there were two key castles used by the samurai lord to whom Ota Dokan belonged.  And these castles were connected to Tokyo Bay through rivers.  Ota Dokan built a castle at the middle point between the estuaries of these rivers on Tokyo Bay.  This castle was expanded by Tokugawa Ieyasu more than 150 years after it had been used by other samurai lords who came to occupy the area after Ota Dokan.

When Tokugawa Ieyasu came to Edo, the area around Tokyo Bay had just one small town around the castle.  But, after 1603 when Ieyasu chose Edo as the capital of Japan, Edo expanded rapidly with population of 150,000 around 1603 to over 500,000 in the middle of the 18th century and more than one million in the early 19th century, though London had less than 900,000 population at the time.

When the Tokugawa clan was defeated by imperial samurais in 1868, Tokugawa shogun handed the Edo castle to the imperial samurais.  Then, the emperor moved from Kyoto to Edo that was renamed Tokyo.  Subsequently, Westernization and modernization of Japan started, putting an end to the samurai age.

So, the history of Tokyo virtually started with a samurai castle built by Ota Dokan in the middle of the 15th century.

When samurai Ota Dokan was travelling through the Kanto plain to his father's house, a rain suddenly started to fall.  Then he found a poor farmhouse.  Dokan wanted to borrow a straw raincoat there.  But when he asked a straw raincoat from the family, a girl of the house just presented a branch of yellow Japanese globeflower (called yamabuki in Japanese) to Dokan.  He was puzzled, receiving the flower and leaving the poor farmhouse.

Later, Ota Dokan told this episode about the strange girl to one of his subjects.  However, the subordinate samurai said, "The girl implied an old poem from an well known anthology:

The yamabuki flowers are flourishing,
double-flowered or more, though  
making me sad just with no fruits."

(Double-flowered Yamabuki produces no fruits.  And the Japanese word fruit is "mi" while the Japanese word for a straw raincoat is "mino." The girl indicated that her family was so poor that they had no "mino," by showing the yamabuki flower to Ota Dokan on the assumption that Dokan knew the above poem.  And she put her sorrow in referring to the poem.)

So, Ota Dokan felt shame that he did not even know the anthology of waka poems called the Goshui-wakasyu (compiled in the 11th century by an emperor).  Since then, Dokan started to learn waka or Japanese poems.  And, finally he became one of the representative writes of Japanese poems in the era.

But the end of Dokan's life was tragic.  The samurai lord whom Dokan served doubted that Dokan might someday attack him to seize the territory, since Dokan performed so well in battles against rival samurai lords.  So, the samurai lord invited Dokan to his castle, and accordingly Ota Dokan was foully murdered.

However, many Japanese still know that the imperial palace in Tokyo was originally a castle built by Ota Dokan in the middle of the 15th century, though it was expanded by Tokugawa Ieyasu around 1600.

Ota Dokan and a girl holding forth yamabuki flowers in the rain

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Mar 6:5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
Mar 6:6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.
Mar 6:7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

Sunday, June 05, 2016

"Lord also of the sabbath" - Confucianism and Samurais

Around the Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Confucianism and Samurais

Samurais of Japan were not simply warriors, though the sword was a symbol that proved a samurai status of each samurai.

They were originally from guards of the imperial court in Kyoto.  But they gradually took over power from the imperial court and the noble class to set up their own regime in the 12th century.

Since then, the samurai class governed Japan till 1860s when the last samurai regime led by the Tokugawa clan fell.  As leaders of the nation, they had to acquire some culture ranging from Japanese and Chinese classics, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shintoism, and various types of art.  As samurais also became bureaucrats in the central government and officials in office of local samurai lords, they also learnt financing and technology.

In the samurai era of Japan, intellectual persons belonged to the noble class living in Kyoto, the samurai class, Buddhist monks or Shinto priests, or rich merchants or farmers.  Especially in the Edo period of Japan (from the early 17th century to 1860s), 100% of samurais could read and write while 50% of other people, including farmers, could also read and write, since small private schools and temple schools were set up in almost every village and town.

A small private school for children of farmers, craftsmen, and merchants in the Edo era

When the Tokugawa clan seized political power and hegemony all over Japan after the age of provincial wars that lasted for one and half centuries, Tokugawa shogun adopted a school of Confucianism as de facto national learning.  They spotlighted an aspect of Confucianism that put emphasis on the relationships between the ruler and subjects, masters and servants, parents and children, and men and women to strengthen social order.  They put samurais at the highest position in the social hierarchy, farmers at the second position, craftsmen at the third position, and merchants at the fourth.  The Tokugawa shogun is situated at the top of the social structure almost in parallel with the emperor.  They used teaching of Confucianism to establish and fix the class society in Japan governed by samurais of various clans.

So, before Westernization and modernization of Japan that started in 1860s, Japanese had been cultivated by Confucianism in addition to Buddhism in terms of spiritualism.  Though Christianity was openly introduced to Japan after Meiji Restoration of 1868, this religion could not prevail due to deeply rooted Buddhism and Confucianism.

What is a point at issue is that Japanese samurais and especially the last samurai regime governed Japan not only by swords but also by Confucianism, though it was one unique school of Confucianism.

So, the moral code of the Japanese people of even today is rooted in Confucianism.  However, influences of Confucianism are different among China, Korea, and Japan.  So, these nations have not necessarily kept good relationships.  Yet, Japanese are spiritually closer to Chinese and Koreans who are also historically under influence of Confucianism than Europeans and Americans who have nothing to do with Confucianism.    

One of popular teachings of Confucius among samurais is: Masters should behave like masters; subjects should behave like subjects; fathers should behave like fathers and children should behave like children.

Of course, men should behave like men and women should behave like women.

Indeed, the Son of Man, Christ Jesus, behaved like the Son of God.

In addition, samurais were expected to die like samurais, so that they sometimes commit a suicide by disembowelment or perform hara-kiri (seppuku) if a need arose.

Incidentally, it seems that descendants of ex-samurais interestingly account for a majority of Japanese Christians of today for some reasons.

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Luk 6:5 And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.