I’ve been attempting to research off and on all day, to find out more about Christianity in the Edo Period of Japan. Today’s commemoration was with regard to the Christian martyrs of the early portion of that period. So, this article talks about the early portion of the Edo period, and is actually pretty balanced, explaining that Christians weren’t the only ones persecuted – it was any religious organization, including Buddhists, that had large amounts of property or buildings. The rank and file of Christians were pretty much ignored. This period was about power, not religion.
One of the interesting classes I had in college was on Japanese history (although my second year of college had a class called “East Asian history” which was about 5 months of China, and 3 weeks for Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc. combined), and the history of the Japanese for taking the best from outsiders and using only those things that would enhance Japan. For a long period of time, everything was run by the Shoguns, and the Shoguns were victims of religious missionary politics. They thought Catholicism was okay, and they were incorporating portions of it into their own religions, but then the Protestant missionaries began pointing out that where the Catholics came in, they took over the power – something the Shoguns were never going to allow. The Protestants did no favors for themselves, because the Shoguns came to the conclusion that Christianity was a danger to them, and all of them eventually were thrown out.
What was interesting, though, about the commemoration is that the ban on Christianity lasted for 250 years. And when the first missionaries came to Japan after the Edo period, they found small conclaves of Christians alive and well, surviving even without any clergy.
Here’s where the social history that fascinates me so comes in. How did Christianity grow differently in Japan than it did in other places? What sort of traditions, liturgy, worship did they develop? They hadn’t had a long period of exposure to Christian clergy, so these were relatively new Christians who were left to fend for themselves in secret for 250 years. That’s the information I’m looking for, to see if things had to be “corrected” or if there was a parallel (guidance from the Holy Spirit) path of development. How many elements of other religions were incorporated into Japanese Christianity? And why did Christianity grow so rapidly in Japan the first time, and yet now, less than 1% of the population is Christian? What changed?
Ah, questions. 🙂 The path to research.