How Christianity Spread in Japan

Topics: Christianity, Separation of church and state, Religion Pages: 5 (1591 words) Published: October 6, 2007
Christianity in Japan
Christianity as a whole idea began at the beginning of time. This entire world was founded on the basis of this concept. Through time it has tremendously expanded and has been passed down from generation to generation. As new lands were discovered and established, this notion of Christianity spread rapidly with it. As explorers traveled, they took this with them and began to incorporate it into these new cultures. Thus, we have the example of the country of Japan. Christianity in Japan began many centuries ago. Europe had a major influence in this entire process of incorporating this new idea into the Japanese culture. It is evident as we look back through history that this idea was accepted and grew and multiplied through the years. It has had its ups and downs, its growth spurts and its trials, but nevertheless, it continued, and even prospered under these circumstances. Trade was opened in Japan in the mid 1500's. This was a huge step for the Japanese culture because they hadn't wanted any other influence into their land from any other country before this time; only by force did it eventually occur. As a result of this force, these first few years of open trade was extremely limited. In 1542, the very first Europeans - who were from Portugal - landed in western Japan in Kyushu. This island of Kyushu desired to keep trade with Europe in order to receive military supplies, so they had to accept these missionaries to continue the trade. This worked for the Europeans, because they came for two main reasons: to trade weapons and military equipment, and to bring missionaries into this land. Due to these circumstances, a large number of people converted to Christianity and among those were ones who assisted in the ruling of the country. In 1549, St. Francis Xavier led a group of missionaries into Japan. These missionaries were Roman Catholics from Spain. At this time, many Japanese were either Buddhist or Shinto. It is important to note that these Europeans came to another island of Japan separate from Kyushu, which was Kyoto, and spread Christianity there. It was widely accepted as a religion, especially under the reign of Oda Nobunaga, who unified Japan in 1569. The Japanese were impressed with the example of Xavier, who with his learning and great piety they believed would positively impact the culture of Japan. For a period of almost twenty years, Christianity flourished inside the domains of Japan. Nobunaga was killed and his lieutenant Hideyoshi took over his duties. He began the persecution with an edict that forced all the missionaries out of Japan. However, it wasn't strictly enforced. Hideyoshi's predecessor, Tokugawa Ieyasu was a strict enforcer of these new policies and added more of his own after many had begun to interfere with his plans. He even had 26 missionaries executed in 1597 as a forewarning of what could happen if people did not comply with his new laws. He forced these missionaries out and put heavy pressure on these new Japanese Christians to reconvert to Buddhism. (Buddhism was made the state religion to have a basis to persecute the Christians). Through this difficult time period, many Christians moved to China and maintained their contact with Japan through trade. Bibles and tracts were sent over in an effort to maintain the high numbers of new conversions. Through this persecution of these newly converted Christians, it is estimated that by 1600, 300,000 Japanese had converted to Christianity. Organized Christianity had come to an end in this, the 17th century. Many were persecuted, tortured, and even killed for accepting Christ. At this time the Christian Japanese church went underground. For the two centuries following this beginning, thousands of these new Christians secretly continued to practice their faith. If discovered, they were tortured, some even burned at the stake. It is estimated that 3,000 believers were martyred and some 30...

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