Kirishitan History

Here let me tell you about notable figures from Japanese “Kirishitan” history.

Amakusa Shiro

Not many people outside Japan know about the Shimabara Rebellion.
This was the biggest rebellion in Japanese history. It took place in the 17th century.
This was also one of the biggest Christian persecutions in the world. 37,000 people, many of them poor farmers, were killed.
It was not only a rebellion against oppression, but also a fight for religious freedom.
Amakusa Shiro was the leader of the rebellion, who was only 16 years old. He was a mysterious young samurai with charismatic charm.
In Japan, Amakusa Shiro is a symbol of Christianity (especially for Catholics) at the same time, he is the symbol of rebellion.

Takayama Ukon

He was a samurai who dedicated everything to Christianity.
He was one of the most influential Kirishitan Daimyos. He led many, many people and fellow Samurais to Christianity. That was why he was called the “Big Boss of Fathers”. When Christianity was banned in Japan in 1587, he chose to keep his faith, and gave up his land and everything he owned as a feudal lord. His courageous decision surprised people. Because of his faith, he was expelled from Japan. He was exiled to Manila, in the Philippines and died there in 1615.

Kuroda Kanbei

Also known as “Josui” that means: “free like water”. He is a very special figure among all the Kirishitan Daimyos.
Unlike other Kirishitans who didn’t like fighting wars, Kanbei was in the frontline of Sengoku wars. He was fighting for powerful samurais such as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and brought them victory.
He was known for his great maneuvers and strategies. While he was being called “The greatest commander”, he was a Kirishitan. He is said to have kept his faith even after Christianity was banned. It is said that he died with his cross in his hand.
People say he is the man who made Hideyoshi the victor of Sengoku era. Quite possibly the most powerful Kirishitan Samurai.

Hosokawa Gracia

She was born as a daughter of Akechi Mitsuhide, the biggest traitor of the Sengoku era, and had a life full of ups and downs.
She was known as a tragic princess whose life was twisted by the unfortunate course of history. However she stayed true to her faith until the end.
She lived in confinement due to her father’s treason. But when she heard of Christianity, she couldn’t help herself. She visited a church secretly and learned about God. Later she was baptized and received her spiritual name “Gracia”.
She kept her faith in spite of her husband’s opposition. Her end was tragic though. In the midst of the biggest battle of Sengoku (The Battle of Sekigahara), her house was surrounded by the enemy. In order to avoid captivity, she had to follow the Samurai custom and choose her own death. However in Christianity suicide is a sin. So she had her vassal kill her. After her death, the house was burned to the ground.

Kyogoku Maria

She was born as a daughter of Azai Hisamasa, a Sengoku Daimyo, but she lost her father and brothers in the battles of the Sengoku war.
When she met a missionary from Italy, she immediately believed in God. She was baptized but only few days later her husband died. People said it was a punishment for believing in a foreign god. But she didn’t lose her faith.
Eventually one of her daughters became a concubine of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the most powerful Daimyo of Sengoku era. Also her sons became brave samurais and had their land. Because of her high status, she was allowed to keep her faith in God, even after Christianity was banned in Japan. She continued to work for God and led people to Christ.

Julia Ota

She was a daughter of a noble family in Korea. However her parents died in a war and she was raised by Konishi Yukinaga, a famous Christian Daimyo.
After Yukinaga lost the battle and was killed, she became one of the waiting maids for Tokugawa Ieyasu, the final victor of Sengoku and the most powerful Shogun in Japanese history. But she kept her faith firmly, praying and reading the Bible every night. As a result, she led other maids to God. It was an incredible fact that she spread Christianity in a Shogun’s house, when Christianity was banned. Being a beautiful lady, she was asked to be a concubine of Ieyasu. But she refused because of her faith. Ieyasu became angry and she was sent to an island as an exile. Even after that, she served people on the island and encouraged other believers. It is said she eventually escaped the island and devoted her life to missionary work.