THIRD VOYAGE:
TO JAPAN (1549)
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Shintoism
Buddhism
Japanese art
Japan today

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Return to Goa and journey to Japan

From Ternate Xavier returned to Ambon in order to travel to Malacca and from there to Goa, in India. He embarked on the ship, La Banda, a royal vessel that lay in the port of Ambon. The expedition sailed in a north-eastern direction on the high seas until it sighted the isles of the archipelago of Timor and it continued from there along the coasts of Flores, Bali, Java and Sumatra until it finally arrived in Malacca at the beginning of June 1547.
A Portuguese ship, caught in a typhoon, had accidentally discovered the land of Japan. This was the famous Cipango which Marco Polo had seen. The Portuguese sailors saved the life of a Japanese man called Yahiro, pursued by the law of his country. This man was very intelligent and open to new experiences. He heard about a great European priest who was to be found in Malacca and he wished to meet him. This meeting (1547) and the friendship which arose from it, was what awoke in Xavier a desire to travel to Japan.
Xavier returned to Goa to consolidate the work completed up to then and to prepare for his trip to Japan. He set off on 15th of April, 1549. Two Spanish Jesuits accompanied him, Father Cosme de Torres and brother Juan Fernandez, as well as Yahiro and two servants.
However, in Malacca it was difficult to find a vessel. All the ships wished to winter on the Chinese coast so that a whole year was lost in the interval. Finally, Xavier resorted to using a junco vessel which belonged to a Chinese pirate who had agreed to carry him. The vessel sailed round the coasts of Indochina and China in the midst of storms and typhoons (it was the monsoon season) and evading other pirate vessels, they finally reached Kagoshima.

 
De Malaca a Japon
ampliarFrom Malacca to Japan
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His apostolic work in Japan (1549- 1551)

Japan had a history and civilization going back thousands of years. It was an island country which was protected from foreign contact by the sea which surrounded it. In the middle of the XVI century it had little or no contact with other countries, except China and even this was of a limited nature. It had a refined culture and it observed both the Buddhist and Taoist religions. There were large monasteries where the bonzos acted as both religious instructors and as intellectual advisers.
Since 1467 Japan had been immersed in political and military turmoil. The authority of the emperor was merely nominal and the real power was wielded by a shogun, a type of chancellor or governor. But power was not centralized and many parts of the country were ruled by feudal lords, the daimyos. There were some two hundred of these lords, although the real power lay with about 20 of them.
The feudal anarchy which reigned in Japan weakened the country but this situation favoured the spread of Christianity and the reception of foreigners as many of the daimyos wanted to obtain weapons and other products from the Portuguese. For this reason they welcomed the missionaries and merchants, particularly in the coastal regions.
On15th of August, 1549 Xavier and his companions reached Kagoshima, the most southerly port of the island of Kyushu, one of the four large islands which formed the archipelago of Japan. The city of Yahiro served as gateway for Xavier and his group. After obtaining permission from the daimyo of Satsuma, a man called Shimadzu, they remained one whole year in the region of Kagoshima.
Xavier faced a new challenge in Japan. This race was of a higher moral and intellectual standard than any other he had met up to then: "The Japanese have the highest moral sense of any infidels that I have ever seen and they are so desirous of knowledge that they never leave off from asking questions and discussing all that we tell them." Xavier had begun by preaching in the streets but soon he preferred the more personal approach of talks and arguments in the houses of the people. Here he began to appreciate the depth of the Japanese soul. Conversions were made slowly but convincingly, the fruit of intense debate and discussion. After one year he had converted 150 souls in Kagoshima, including the family of Yahiro. He also converted 15 residents of the neighbouring castle of Ichiku, family members of the reigning lord of the area.
Xavier spent three months on the small neighbouring island of Hirado (August-October, 1550) and formed a small community of about a hundred new Christians there.
The next stage of his mission took in the island of Honshu, the largest in Japan and seat of the central institutions. He spent almost a year there between November, 1550 and September, 1551. Xavier wished to reach the heart of the country. He headed for Yamaguchi where he preached during one month and he was received by the daimyo, Yoshitaka, although with scant success. In the middle of December he decided to go to the capital city, Miyako or Meaco (present-day Kyoto) with the aim of getting permission from the Emperor to allow him preach all over Japan. It was a tough journey, in the heart of winter, by sea and by land, putting up with intense cold and snowfalls among other dangers. The end result was a great disappointment for he found the city in ruins and he failed to get an audience with either the Emperor or the shogun. Disillusioned, he returned once more to Hirado.
He returned to Yamaguchi and had an audience with the daimyo, Yoshitaka, to whom he gave presents which had been brought from India as gifts for the emperor. He was given permission to preach the Gospel and the feudal lord conceded the right to allow his subjects to be converted to Christianity, should they so wish. After five months of intense apostolic work he managed to convert about a thousand people, who went on to form a fervent Christian community in Yamaguchi.
In September, 1551 Xavier left Yamaguchi and returned to the island of Kyushu, where another daimyo, the great feudal lord of Bungo, Otomo Yoshisigue, had expressed his wish to become a Christian, although he did not do so until 1578. A Portuguese vessel which had landed there brought him news from India and in November, 1551 he boarded this vessel in order to return to India.

 
Mapa de Japón
ampliarA map of Japan
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Moderna iglesia de San Francisco Javier en Yamaguchi
ampliarThe modern church of St. Francis Xavier in Yamaguchi
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Francis Xavier's traces in Japan

Over the following years Christianity grew rapidly, so that by 1570 the number of Christians reached a figure of 30,000. From 1587 onwards, persecution of the Christians began and this would continue over the next two and a half centuries. During the Tokugawa era, the shogun re-established order in the empire and the country sealed itself off once more from the outside world. The Christians were brutally persecuted. In 1597 the 26 martyrs of Japan were executed in Nagasaki, headed by St Paul Miki. At the beginning of the XVII century the persecution got worse and all missionaries were expelled and Catholicism was banned. More than 5,000 Christians died over the next half century. Many Christians kept their faith in secret and passed it down from generation to generation until they finally recovered their liberty of expression in the period 1865-1873.

 
Torre de la iglesia de San Francisco entre templos budistas. Hirado
ampliarThe tower of the church of St. Francis Xavier behind Buddhist temples
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Shintoism

Shinto is the majority religion in the country and it is exclusive to Japan. Its philosophy has had an influence both on the national history and on the character of the people. It is known in Japan under the term Kami-No-Machi, the way of the Gods, and it has its origins in the tribal myths of ancient Japan when the people thought that they were the only inhabitants of the Earth and believed themselves to be descendants of the gods.
The followers of shinto pay homage to the spirit of the god, Kami, who is believed to be present in all things. The minor gods are the local Kami, where each one protects a particular village or town as well as the crops and fields of each family. The supreme divinity is the sun goddess Amaterasu, venerated in the imperial temples of Ise in the Peninsula of Shima, in Honshu. Here dwell the spirits of all the emperors that reigned in Japan.
The shinto temples - known as jinja - can be found all over Japan. At the entrance to each temple there is a water font where the faithful can wash their hands and rinse out their mouths before making their offerings. Access to the jinja is easily identified thanks to a doorway -called torii- formed by two vertical beams and two horizontal ones and flanked by two statues which represent a beast which is half lion, half dog. One of the figures has its mouth open while the other has its mouth shut. They symbolize the sounds "Ah" of birth and the "Mm" of death. Visitors to the temples pass between these two statues which remind them that the distance between life and death is very short.
No sacred scriptures or any type of writing exist for this religion. Its rituals and ceremonies consist in receiving the blessing of the gods for specific events and activities. These blessings form part of the daily life of the Japanese and are dispensed by shinto ministers who wear long robes and high caps of lacquered silk. This style of dress has not changed in over a thousand years.
Confucianism, which reached Japan by way of chinese trade merchants, had an important influence on shinto beliefs. These influences can still be seen in present-day japanese society. Confucianism is an ethical code which stresses loyalty to one's family with the father as its head as one of its most important tenets. This idea, along with the shinto belief that the spirits of the dead continue to live, gave rise to the japanese patriarchal tradition of paying worship to one's ancestors.
The emperor, as a kimi (living god) received homage from the people as he was both the symbolic father and the literal father of the family that made up the Japanese race. These beliefs remained firm right up to The Second World War where many squadron pilots sacrificed their lives in suicide attacks to defend the life of their emperor.
Part of this religious influence can still be felt in the patriarchal attitude of the japanese businessman towards their workers and in the loyalty that they receive in turn from their workers.
It is notable how shinto beliefs are not an obstacle in admitting other religious beliefs. In many houses in Japan it is possible to see a shinto offering to one's ancestors side by side with a buddhist statue or a catholic crucifix.
Shinto, which stresses the basic purity of all things, served as a blossoming bud for the assimilation of buddhism. Both schools of thought have remained detached, but both are simultaneously followed by most japanese. In fact, many buddhist temples contain a shinto temple inside their precincts or are built close to one. The japanese make use of the rituals of one or other of these religions on those special occasions in their lives. Thus, for example, marriage tends to be a shinto ceremony while funerals are usually buddhist.
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Biombo pintado en el que pueden distinguirse, abajo a la derecha, a un grupo de franciscanos y otro de jesuitas
ampliarA painted folding screen which shows, below on the right, a group of Franciscans and a group of Jesuits
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Templo budista de Kiyomizu (Agua Pura) en Kioto
ampliarThe Buddhist temple of Kiyomizu (pure water) in Kyoto
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Buddhism

Religion in the Far East means above all meditation and norms to follow in daily life. For that reason, its influence in society has been very notable. Brahmanism has shaped the social organization of India while Confucianism has been a constant in the political life of China.
Among the variety of eastern religions Buddhism holds a special place. It is one of the great religions in the East. It began in India, where its founder, Siddharta Gautama was born and where he was known as Buddha. He lived in the sixth century BC and it is very likely that he was a royal prince from Nepal. He preached his ideas around the area of the central basin of the Ganges River.
Nowadays, Buddhism has largely disappeared in India but it has extended throughout Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Tibet, Vietnam, China and Japan. There are some 800 million followers in the world.
The Buddhist doctrine rejects all knowledge that does not lead directly to salvation, that is to say, that leads to the liberation of the reincarnation cycle. According to Buda, what takes living creatures from reincarnation to reincarnation is the desire, the wish to live. If man can kill all desire in himself, even the wish to live, he does not become reborn and he enters nirvana. For the Brahmins the word nirvana stands for the fusion of the individual soul in Brahma, the supreme god, the ultimate stage of existence.

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Japanese art

The main characteristic of Japanese art is defined by this sentence from the philosopher, Suzki Daietsu: "Beauty is not in the form, but rather in the significance which this encloses."
According to Fernando García Gutiérrez S.I., the general characteristics of Japanese art, which repeat throughout all the different periods of its history in one form or another, are the following:
- An intimate connection between art and nature where the latter is often the expression. Nature is not copied, but rather the essential elements of the beauty therein are taken and reproduced in a simplified and abstract form.
- Simplicity and an essential simpleness which comes from the same connection with nature and which gives rise to the use of abstract forms.
- A tendency towards decorative forms: richness
of composition which has a rhythmic character and a chrome clarity.
- A great facility for assimilating outside styles and trends until it they become singular and with their own personality.
A good example of Japanese art in Spain is the Yamaguchi Park, in Pamplona, and the pictorial works on exhibition in the castle at Xavier.
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Parque de Yamaguchi, Pamplona
ampliarYamaguchi Park, Pamplona
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Japan today

Japan, an archipelago which is situated near the coast of continental Asia is one of the most populated nations of the world. There are 127 million inhabitants within an area of 378,000 sq. km. This works out at 335 inhabitants per sq.km. As there are many forests and mountains this means that the concentration is much denser in certain urban zones. The capital, Tokyo, has more than 8 million inhabitants and within its periphery there are some 31 million people. Another 11 cities contain populations of more than one million people.
Japan has the oldest monarchy in the world. The present-day democratic constitution was set up in 1949 with important new reforms after the defeat suffered in The Second World War.
Since then the industrialization and modernization of Japan has been even more rapid ever since the initiation of industrialization in the period of Era Meiji, 1867. In the year 2000, Japan made up 15% of the grosss national product (GNP) of the world and its rent per capita was close to 25,000 dollars. It is the third economic world power after The USA and Europe.
Its singularity lies in the fact that its way of life is closer to that of The USA and Western Europe than to its neighbouring countries in Asia, although it also manages to conserve the essence of its traditional civilization.
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Vista aerea de la ciudad de Kagoshima; al fondo el volcan Sakurajika
ampliarAerial view of the city of Kagoshima; in the background, the Sakurajika volcano
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Exercises
1. Explain the stages of Xavier's preaching in Japan and what characteristics made it different to his work in other countries.
2. How do you think Japanese religious principles have influenced the workplace?
3. What distinctive aspects does the Yamaguchi Park in Pamplona have in comparison with other public parks?
4. Compare a Japanese painting with a European one from the same period and comment on the differences you can find.
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