01 Japanese History

#21 Guns n’ Jesus

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Europeans came to Japan in the 16th century. The encounters had a great impact on the subsequent history of Japan.


In August 1543, a Chinese ship carrying about 100 people drifted ashore at Tanegashima island. Among the passengers were two Portuguese, Francisco and Motta.


Tanegashima Tokitaka, then 16 years old and the lord of Tanegashima Island, was amazed at the power of the guns owned by the Portuguese and bought two guns for 200 Ryo. Although it is difficult to convert to the current monetary value, it is thought to be at least 100,000 U.S.dollars today.


Tokitaka ordered his men to study this new weapon. They succeeded in developing a domestic gun and excellent gunpowder in just one year. One of the two guns purchased by Tokitaka was presented to the shogun in Kyoto and was also successfully produced domestically in Kunitomo and Sakai.


This new weapon had a great impact on the military balance of Japan during the Sengoku Period. The feudal lords were quick to introduce guns, and Japan quickly became the world’s largest owner of guns.


In 1549, Francisco Xavier landed in Kagoshima. Xavier was a priest of the Catholic Church and a founding member of the Jesuits. While proselytizing in Goa, India, he met a Japanese man named Yajiro and decided to evangelize to Japan.


During his stay in Japan for around two years, Xavier enthusiastically carried out Christian missionary work mainly in Kyushu and Yamaguchi prefecture. He remains one of the most famous Europeans to the Japanese people today.


Later, many missionaries followed Xavier to Japan. The number of Christian believers continued to increase, especially in Kyushu and western Japan, and even some of the feudal lords became Christians.


In 1582, the Christian lords of Kyushu sent four boys to Europe, where they had an audience with the King of Spain and the Pope.


Soon after that, however, the authorities of the time banned Christianity. Under severe repression, devoted believers and their descendants secretly defended their faith, risking their lives, for about 300 years until the Meiji government guaranteed their freedom of religion.


Thank you for reading.

Let's learn about wonderful history and culture of Japan together!  全国通訳案内士(英語) 英検1級


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