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Missions. (I. Roman Catholic.) When the first Portuguese reached Japan in 1542, one Anjirō, a native of Kagoshima in Satsuma, who had many sins on his conscience, heard through them of the fame of Francis Xavier, "the Apostle of the Indies," and started for Malacca in quest of this wonderful soul-doctor. After missing Xavier once (he being then in the Moluccas), Anjirō ultimately met him at Malacca in 1547. The reports of Japan brought to Xavier by this Japanese and by certain Portuguese merchants aroused in his breast a desire to evangelise the island empire. Accordingly Anjirō, who already knew something of the Portuguese language, was sent for further instruction to the Jesuit College at Goa, where he and his servant, together with a third Japanese, received baptism. In April, 1549, Xavier, accompanied by these three and by two compatriots of his own,—one of whom was a monk,—left Goa for Japan. The party reached Kagoshima in August of the same year, and during Xavier's twelve months stay in that province about 150 natives were baptised. The total result of his twenty-six months sojourn in Japan was nearly 1,000 converts. In the winter of 1550-1 he made an extremely arduous journey to Kyōto, the capital; but it proved fruitless from a religious point of view. His long stay at Yamaguchi in Western Japan (1551) produced 600 baptisms. At Hirado there were about 200.

The seed thus sown grew apace. Thirty years later, in 1582, the "Annual Letter" sent from Japan to the Jesuit headquarters at Rome puts the number of converts in the empire at 150,000, more or less. This certainly was a wonderful harvest, especially when the paucity of the reapers is taken into consideration. In this year of 1582 there were, indeed, as many as 75 members of the Company of Jesus in the country, some 30 of whom were Japanese. But down to 1577 there had never been more than eighteen, and down to 1563 no more than nine. Of the 150,000 converts, about 25,000 were in Central Japan, 10,000 in the province of Bungo (North-Eastern Kyūshū), and the remainder in certain small maritime fiefs in Kyūshū, Ōmura, Arima, Amakusa, and the Gotō Islands. The method of conversion adopted in these fiefs was simple. The local princelets were eager for the Portuguese trade, and the merchants loyally co-operated with the Jesuit missionaries. The plan pursued by these last was to convert the rulers, and then get them to proscribe all non-Christian cults within their domains. In some cases, only a single day's notice was granted for those who would not adopt the foreign religion to quit their ancestral homes, the images of Buddha were hacked to pieces, and the native temples given over to the flames. In Central Japan, where there was no foreign trade, the conversions seem often to have been the result of honest conviction; but the modus operandi was the same. Hence the fact, inexplicable at first sight, that of 24,000 converts in the neighbourhood of Kyōto, no less than 18,000 were upon one small fief. Kyōto itself never contained more than 300 believers.

The celebrated ruler Nobunaga (see p. 234) treated the Christians with marked favour. On his death in 1582, Hideyoshi, a greater ruler still, assumed the direction of affairs. He, too, befriended the missionaries during the first five years of his sway; consequently, his sudden suppression of Christianity in 1587 came like a bolt from the blue. The account given of this circumstance by Froez, a leading Jesuit, is as follows:—One of Hideyoshi's Court physicians, a bigoted Buddhist, "had noticed that the Fathers were devoting most of their efforts to the conversion of men of noble birth; and, believing that their pretext of saving souls was merely a device for the conquest of Japan, he had done his best to rouse Hideyoshi's suspicions." The latter "had at first merely laughed at him;" but "when he arrived in Kyūshū against the King of Satsuma, and noted that many lords with their vassals had become Christians, and that the same were bound to each other in great concord and exceedingly devoted to the Fathers, he began to recall what Toquun had already filled his ears with, and to understand (although in this he was auguring falsely) that the propagation of the faith would be prejudicial to the safety of the Empire. And this is the true cause of the aversion he now declares." Nevertheless, the persecution foreshadowed by this change of sentiment on the ruler's part was delayed ten years. Despite his suspicions of the missionaries ulterior aims, Hideyoshi clung to the present advantages which accrued to his realm from the Portuguese trade, and he temporarily shut his eyes to the presence of 130 or 140 Jesuits on Japanese soil.

Meantime, mischief had been brewing in another quarter. A Papal Bull, promulgated in 1585, had given the Jesuits a monopoly of missionary work in Japan, and the terms of the Concordat entered into between Spain and Portugal in 1580 on the occasion of the union of the two crowns confined the Japan trade to members of the latter nation. However, in the year 1593, the intrigues of a Japanese adventurer anxious for trade with the Philippine Islands, then a Spanish possession, led to the despatch from Manila of four Spanish Franciscan monks, not indeed as missionaries but as ambassadors. They were permitted to proceed to Kyōto, on the express condition of engaging in no proselytising work; but this pledge they violated in the most flagrant manner. Hideyoshi's attention was called to their doings in October, 1596, by an incident which has remained famous. A Spanish galleon, called the "San Felipe," had been stranded on the Japanese coast, and her cargo, including 600,000 crowns in silver, had been confiscated. In the absence of the captain, the pilot endeavoured to overawe the local Japanese authorities. He produced a map of the world, and pointed out the vast extent of the Spanish monarch's dominions. On being asked how it was that so many countries had been subjected to a single ruler, he replied: "Our kings begin by sending into the countries they "wish to conquer priests who induce the people to embrace our religion; and when these have made considerable progress, troops are despatched who combine with the new Christians, and then our kings have not much trouble in accomplishing the rest.[1]" This speech was reported to Hideyoshi, whose fury knew no bounds. The immediate outcome was that six Spanish Franciscans, together with seventeen of their native converts and three Japanese Jesuits, were crucified at Nagasaki on the 5th February, 1597.

To this first outbreak of persecution there succeeded a respite of several years, traceable partly to the civil wars and other distractions that accompanied the establishment of the Shōgunate in the family of Tokugawa Ieyasu. This powerful ruler suppressed Christianity for political reasons in 1614, ordering the deportation of all the foreign ecclesiastics. But 47 contrived to remain behind at Nagasaki and elsewhere, and the others quickly returned. Meantime, some of the native Christian lords had been seeking to establish relations abroad, the most noted of these efforts being the despatch of envoys from the Kyūshū Princes to the Pope in 1582, and that of Date, Lord of Sendai, to the King of Spain and the Pope in 1613. When Ieyasu finally triumphed over all his political enemies, with some of whom the Catholics had been associated, a duel to the death began between the Japanese authorities who were resolved to maintain the political integrity of the Empire which they believed to be menaced, and the foreign priests equally resolved to discharge what they held to be their duty to God. This contest lasted for nearly thirty years, the missionaries displaying intrepid devotion, and many of the converts a remarkable constancy. At its most flourishing period (before the persecution of 1597), Christianity in Japan numbered 300,000 converts. One Japanese record tells us that no fewer than 200,000 persons were "punished" for the crime of Christianity. "Punished," however, evidently cannot mean "executed;" for the Jesuit Father Cardim's list of martyrs gives only between 1,400 and 1,500 victims. It is plain, from the missionary records themselves, that the Japanese authorities were far from eager to proceed to extremities. Even at the last moment those converts who consented to abandon their belief were spared, and such few ecclesiastics as apostatised were granted a decent maintenance. But the heroic persistence of the great majority forced the government's hand, and (once the suppression of Christianity had been decided on in principle) left them no choice in the matter. Two irreconcilable ideals were at stake: each side was fighting for what it held most sacred. Hence the application and the endurance on Japanese soil of tortures no less fiendish than those with which Spanish and Portuguese rulers had extinguished heresy in their own dominions. The Japanese government emerged victorious from this deadly duel; but its victory was achieved only by the cessation of intercourse with the outside world, and the all but total isolation of the Empire.

Nevertheless, the Church of Japan was not forgotten. The Jesuit Father Sidotti and others, nothing daunted, disembarked on the Japanese coast at intervals during the eighteenth century, but were at once cast into prison. In 1846 the Pope nominated a bishop and several missionaries, who took up their station in the neighbouring Luchu Islands, and entered Japan on the signing of the treaties of 1858. These men had the joy, in 1865, to discover several Christian communities round about Nagasaki, surviving the ruin of the church of their forefathers over two centuries before. They had preserved certain prayers, the rite of baptism, and a few books. But if these Christian communities survived, the persecuting spirit survived also. In 1867-70, all those Christians—and they numbered over four thousand—who refused to forswear the faith, were torn from their native villages and distributed over various provinces of the empire, where they were kept as prisoners by the respective Daimyōs. After some years of exile, they were at length set at liberty in 1873. The Church of Japan, thus restored, is now slowly but surely developing, thanks to the toleration enjoyed under the Imperial Government.

The Church was governed from 1846 to 1877 by a single bishop, from 1877 to 1888 by two bishops, from 1888 to 1891 by three, and since 1891 by an archbishop (assisted by a bishop coadjutor) and three bishops, whose respective residences are at Tōkyō, Ōsaka, Nagasaki, and Sendai. The Catholic population of the empire amounted, in 1903, to 58,000 souls, as against 44,300 in 1891. They are grouped in some 360 stations or congregations, spread more or less all over the country, but most thickly in the island of Kyūshū. The clergy consists—besides the archbishop and bishops—of 129 European missionaries and 32 Japanese priests. The missionaries are all seculars belonging to the Societe des Missions Etrangères de Paris.[2] There are also 70 European teachers, of whom 18 Cistercian friars devoted to agriculture in the island of Yezo, and 197 nuns (of whom 145 are European and 52 Japanese) engaged in teaching. The missionaries are assisted by 280 male catechists, besides 265 women employed as catechists and in nursing the sick. The Catholic educational establishments include three seminaries for native priests, where 60 students are now pursuing their course, and 58 other schools and orphanages, with an attendance of about 6,000 pupils. There exist furthermore two lepers' homes, where 147 lepers are cared for, and several small hospitals.

II. Anglican. The Church of England, in conjunction with the Episcopal Churches of America and Canada, has missions collectively designated by the title of Nihon Sei Kōkwai, or the Church of Japan. The origin of this church goes back to the year 1859, when two American clergymen settled in Nagasaki. The missions in Tōkyō, both American and English, were started at the same time, in 1873. There are now six bishops—two American and four English,—some 64 foreign and 50 Japanese priests and deacons, and 87 foreign lay workers of both sexes, besides a large body of Japanese catechists and school-teachers, and over 11,000 baptised persons on the roll. The increase in numbers has been steady during the past few years, as has also the amount contributed from native sources for self-support. The affairs of the Church are managed by a synod consisting of the bishops and of delegates from the clergy and laity, both foreign and Japanese. These delegates are themselves elected at the local synods, which are presided over by their respective bishops, and held annually in the various jurisdictions of North and South Tōkyō, Kyōto, Ōsaka, Kyūshū, and Hokkaidō, into which the whole country has now been divided. The general synod meets once in three years. The aim of the Church is to be in communion with, but not in subjection to, the Churches of England and America,—in fact, to occupy in Japan much the same position as the Anglican Church occupies in the United States. The Japanese Prayer Book is based, with necessary modifications, on those of the Anglican and American Churches.

III. Protestant. In 1859, shortly after the arrival of the earliest Anglican missionaries, representatives of the American Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed Churches landed in Japan, and the Protestant missions have ever since continued to be chiefly in American hands. The first baptism took place in 1864, the first native church was organised at Yokohama in 1872, and the first church building was consecrated in 1875. In 1872 the work of Biblical translation, till then hindered by want of sufficient familiarity with the language, was vigorously undertaken. It should be added that the existence of several Chinese versions, which all educated Japanese could read, render ed the necessity for a version in the vernacular less urgent than would have been the case in other lands. A complete version of the New Testament was published in 1880, of the Old Testament in 1887.[3] Meanwhile the opposition of the government to Christianity faded away, and the number of converts increased,—slowly at first, for in 1872 no more than ten persons had been baptised, but afterwards by leaps and bounds. Besides actual evangelising work, much general school work has been engaged in. The venerable Dr. Hepburn and others have also combined the art of healing bodies with that of curing souls. The educational efforts of the missionaries have met with amazing success, even allowing for an interval of disappointment during the last decade of the nineteenth century, consequent on the spread of chauvinistic feeling and the difficulty of conforming to school standards insisted on by a non-Christian Government. Obstructions of this nature have now been removed, the higher departments of certain Christian colleges (including at least one theological school) having even received formal official recognition, and been accorded equal rank in the national educational system with those government colleges that represent the grade immediately below the Imperial Universities. Thus their scholars share in the much-prized privilege of postponement of the call to military service until the completion of eight years of school life.

The leading Protestant denominations having missions in Japan may be classified under four heads, which we notice in the order of their local importance:—

The Presbyterians, representing seven religious societies, number 55 male and 53 female missionaries,[4] whose labours are aided by those of 38 ordained and 112 unordained Japanese fellow-workers,—the whole force being distributed over 74 organised churches, besides many out-stations. In 1903 (the last year for which statistics are available), the total membership numbered over 12,400, and contributed during that year a sum of 34,800 yen. They supported 3 boarding-schools for boys and 11 for girls, together with 10 day-schools, the aggregate number of scholars being 2,289. The various Presbyterian bodies—American and Scotch—amalgamated in the year 1877 into a single church, which is now known as the Nihon Kirisuto Kyōkwai, or Church of Christ in Japan, and which, no longer insisting on such standards of doctrine as the Canons of the Synod of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter Catechism, or the Heidelberg Catechism, confines itself to a much simpler "Confession of Faith," consisting mainly of the Apostles Creed.

The Congregational or Kumi-ai Churches are associated exclusively with one body,—the mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. In 1903 there were 23 male and 25 female workers on the staff, besides 48 ordained and 41 unordained Japanese. There are 106 organised churches, 38 of which are self-supporting, and over 11,400 members, who in 1903 contributed 41,800 yen. The Dōshisha College at Kyōto—by far the largest Christian institution in Japan—is under the control of this mission.

The Methodists, representing six American societies and one Canadian, consist of 59 male and 71 female missionaries, 126 ordained and 101 unordained Japanese fellow-workers, 139 organised churches, and over 9,600 members, who in 1903 contributed 36,600 yen. The Methodists have 18 boarding-schools and 19 day-schools, with a total of 4,761 scholars. To them belongs the Aoyama Gakuin, the most important Christian College in Tōkyō.

The Baptists represent four American societies, and number 36 male and 24 female missionaries, with 28 ordained and 45 unordained Japanese workers in 55 organised churches, with a membership of over 3,361, who in 1903 contributed 5,681 yen. The two leading Baptist bodies support a theological seminary with 18 students, one academy for boys, five boarding-schools for girls, with a total of 302 students, and eight day-schools with 588 pupils.

The Salvation Army, which invaded Japan in 1895, has now 15 corps here with 51 officers. Ten thousand copies of the Toki no Koe (the Japanese edition of the "War-Cry") are published fortnightly. The Army has deserved well of Japan by the stout fight which it has made and still makes to rescue girls from the thraldom of licensed immorality.

Besides the above, must be mentioned the Society of Friends; furthermore, the American and London Religious Tract Societies, which have joint headquarters at Tōkyō, and the Young Men's Christian Association of Japan, etc., the total number of missions represented being twenty-eight.

Numerous as are the Protestant bodies labouring on Japanese soil, and widely as some of them differ in doctrine, fairness requires it to be stated that they rarely, if ever, have made Japan the scene of sectarian strife. The tendency has been rather to minimise differences,—a tendency exemplified in the amalgamation of the various Presbyterian churches and of the various Episcopal churches, the proposed amalgamation of the Methodist churches, and the cementing influence of the Young Men's Christian Association work and of the General Conferences of all denomina tions held from time to time. At one period, orthodoxy and union were menaced by the advent of the so-called "Liberal Churches,"—the Unitarians and Universalists (1889-90),—who for a brief season seemed likely to obtain a hold over the Japanese mind. But the Unitarian mission is now extinct, and the Universalists have little or no following. The German Evangelical Mission, while numbering few actual converts, claims (with what justice we have no means of estimating) to have exerted a strong influence upon the thought of the Christian community, and even upon others outside the Christian pale.

IV. The Orthodox Russian Church, presided over by Bishop Nicolaï, and served by 37 native priests and deacons, has had a mission in Japan ever since the year 1861. It claims a total following of over 27,000. The Russian cathedral, which was opened for worship in 1891, is the only ecclesiastical edifice in Tōkyō with any pretensions to splendour. From the eminence on which it stands, it seems to dominate the whole city.

V. General Considerations. To those who can look back forty, or even only thirty years, the varying fortunes through which Christianity has passed in Japan are most striking, indeed well nigh incredible. As late as 1870, it was perilous for a Japanese to confess Jesus. Later on, such confession became rather fashionable than otherwise. Then it was hard for a missionary to obtain a native teacher. Now there are hundreds of ordained and unordained native preachers and teachers of Christianity. The old proclamation, which, since A.D. 1638, had prohibited the religion of Jesus as "an evil sect," was still posted on the notice-boards of the public thoroughfares in 1873. The government now openly tolerates the building of churches and the performance of Christian funeral rites, in accordance with Article XXVIII of the new Constitution, which decrees that "Japanese subjects shall, within limits not prejudicial to peace and order, and not antagonistic to their duties as subjects, enjoy freedom of religious belief." Such were the strides made during the decade from 1878 to 1888 as to suggest the notion that in future the danger might be, no longer from persecution, but from worldly-minded favour. Some of the leaders of Japanese thought, while professing themselves personally indifferent to all religions, used then cold-bloodedly to advocate the adoption of Christianity as a school of morals and music, and as likely to be advantageous in political negotiations with the powers of the West! To make all Japan Christian by edict some fine morning, might not have been on the programme of the Japanese statesmen of the hour; but that something of the kind should happen before the end of the century, appeared far less unlikely than many things that have actually happened in this land of realised improbabilities. But 1888 witnessed a reaction in every department of Japanese life and thought. Angry with Europe for the recent failure of treaty revision, the leading classes then turned their backs on all such European things as appeared to them non-essential,—not on the electric light of course, or on banking, or surgery, or anything of evident material utility, but on European dress, European cookery, European amusements, European ideals. Christianity, being alien and non-utilitarian, has come in for its share of this cold wave. While the population grows rapidly, the number of the converts grows slowly. This spirit, too, has changed, their regard for the missionaries has cooled, they desire to walk alone. Not only so:—they wish to Japonise Christianity itself, in essence as well as in outward form, and seem inclined to throw over board even that minimum of dogma on which the Protestant missionaries feel bound to insist. Evidently a modern Bossuet would find in Japan materials for a new chapter on the Variations of Protestantism within the space of a single generation.

Prophesying is no safe occupation nowadays. Nevertheless, we hazard a guess to the effect that in the future the Protestants of Japan will be occupied with questions of morals and practice—the temperance question, for instance, and Sunday observance—rather than with subtle doctrinal theories, the Japanese mind being too essentially unspeculative for the fine distinctions of the theologians to have any charm for it, much less for it to seek to split new hairs for itself. The failure of Buddhist metaphysical abstractions to take any hold of the national sympathies, is a finger-post in history pointing to what may be expected in the future. People will never greatly excite themselves about beliefs that sit lightly on them; and Japanese religious beliefs have always sat lightly. Has not the whole attitude of the Far-Eastern mind with regard to the supernatural been aptly described as one of "politeness towards possibilities?" Doubtless this natural disinclination to a spiritual religion on the part of the Chinese and Japanese is aided and abetted by special local causes. There may be a measure of truth in the assertion often made in religious circles that missionary enterprise is impeded by the openly im moral lives of many of the (so-called) Christian residents. We feel absolutely certain of another thing, namely, that missionary enter prise is impeded by the openly immoral politics of the (so-called) Christian nations. When Protestant England grabs at Hongkong, Weihaiwei, and Thibet, while "Holy" Russia grabs at sundry other provinces of a country which has never done either of the aggressors any harm; when France and German}, anti-clerical at home, eagerly avail themselves of each bespattered priest or battered mission-house to exact some commercial advantage or snatch some strip of territory abroad, what is the Far-Eastern to think? He thinks precisely as we ourselves should think, mutatis mutandis; he thinks, and thinks rightly, that our professions of religion are a mere cloak for vulgar greed. The Japanese perhaps, being strong enough to protect themselves, might be deemed likely to feel this consideration less than other Orientals. They do feel it, however, as expressions of opinion in their press testify from time to time. They feel that physical compulsion and spiritual influence cannot be successfully yoked together, that what has come to be known as the "gospel and gunboat policy" is a contradiction in terms, and that if the missionaries are ever to assert themselves as an apostolic force, they must, like the apostles, dissociate their personal status from all reliance on alien intervention. The naturalisation of the missionaries in the land of their labours, their complete subjection to native law, and rejection of all diplomatic interference on their behalf, would at once enormously increase their influence. But doubt less such a step would be viewed with disfavour by home politicians, to whose mind the sole advantage of missionary enterprise is that it may open markets and pave the way for annexation.

Books recommended. (I. Catholic.) The traditional Catholic standpoint is embodied in Crasset's Histoire de la Religion Chrétienne au Japon, Charlevoix Histoire du Christianisme dans l'Empire du Japan, Leon Pagès Histoire de la Religion Chrétienne an Japon, Marnas' Religion de Jésus Ressuscitée au Japan, and Steichen's Christian Daimyōs. The critical standpoint is assumed in Murdoch's History of Japan during the Century of Early European Intercourse (1542-1651), and in Haas's Geschichte des Christentums in Japan.—The above are general accounts, or résumés, of the subject.—The literature of Catholicism in Japan is very voluminous, beginning with the Jesuits' Letters in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and coming down to the special treatises by Leon Pages, Satow, and others. Satow's researches are, for the most part, scattered through the volumes of the Asiatic Transactions; but one of his most interesting essays, entitled The Jesuit Mission Press in Japan from 1591 to 1610, giving extracts and facsimiles, was printed privately as a separate work.

(II. Protestant.)—The Statistics of Missions, published yearly.—The Reports of the various missionary societies and of the General Conferences of 1883 and 1900.—A History of Protestant Missions in Japan, by Pastor H. Ritter, Ph. D., translated by Rev. George E. Albrecht, A. M., revised and brought up to date by Rev. D. C. Greene, D.D.—An American Missionary in Japan, by Rev. M. L. Gordon, D.D.—Thirty Eventful Years in Japan, the Story of the American Board's Mission in Japan, by Rev. M. L. Gordon, D.D.—The Life of Joseph Hardy Neesima[5] LL.D., by Arthur S. Hardy.—How I Became a Christian, by Uchimtira Kanzō.—Die Japaner, by Rev. C. Munzinger.

  1. Though not to be taken literally, there was doubtless a foundation of fact for the statement thus imprudently blurted out:—the rulers of Spain and Portugal, as we know full well from their proceedings in other quarters of the globe, were anything but single-minded in their dealings with native races. History repeats itself; for the conduct of Europe towards China in our own day exhibits precisely the same medley of genuine piety on the part of the missionaries, and shameless aggression on the part of the countries which send them out.
  2. The summary here given does not include the island of Formosa, where there are old-established missions in the hands of Spanish Dominican friars.
  3. Unfortunately the Japanese language, intricate and impersonal, is singularly ill-fitted to reproduce the rugged sublimity of Hebrew thought. Chinese lends itself somewhat better to the task.
  4. If the wives of married missionaries be included in the enumeration, the number of female missionaries in this and the other Protestant missions will be considerably increased.
  5. Properly Niishima or Niijima; but the awkward transliteration of former days has been usually retained for this particular name.