I’m in the final stages of editing a historical novel I have written. It’s called “Flashing Sword, Hidden Cross”. It is set in 1640’s Japan, in the wake of the infamous Shimabara Rebellion and the close of the period called Japan’s “Christian Century”. This is an introduction:
Daiki is the 10-year-old son of a Christian mother from a remote fishing village and a samurai father who clings stubbornly to his ancestral Shinto and Buddhist beliefs. His world is turned upside down as the Christian century in Japan comes to a close with the famous Shimabara Rebellion. The Christian farmer rebels are finally eradicated by the 150,000 troops the shogun sends to the Shimabara Peninsula. But Daiki survives the great clash and must grow quickly from the sheltered, southern island boy he was if he wants to stay alive in the brutal world he is thrust into. His story is full of ruthless samurai, cunning ninja, and the persecuted Christians like his mother who must hide their illegal faith.
For those interested in history, here is some background:
In 1547, the first Portuguese Jesuit priests arrived in Japan and soon after began converting a large number of the Japanese to Catholicism. Their efforts were centered in Kyushu and many of the daimyo were converted, but their influence reached all the way to Edo and the shogun’s household. This was during the Sengoku Period when daimyo were independent and warring with each other. By the 1590’s, some historians believe there were over 400,000 Christians in Japan.
But in 1603, the entire nation had been conquered and had come under control of the Tokugawa shogunate, the central government. Once the shoguns had the daimyo under control, they addressed the next possible threat: the large number of Christians who might be loyal to Portugal or Spain, if those countries tried to duplicate the recent colonizations of Brazil and the Philippines. From 1614 through the 1630’s, edicts were issued outlawing Christianity. Foreign priests were kicked out and killed when they returned. Japanese Christians were subjected to hideous tortures in attempts to turn them back to Japan’s native religions.
The last large-scale battle from the 1600’s to the mid-1800’s occurred when the farmers and Christians in Kyushu rose in rebellion. Over-taxation and mismanagement by several daimyo contributed, but the government put a Christian face on the rebellion. Indeed, most of the rebels were devout Christians who preferred to die fighting than starve or be tortured to death. In 1638, the rebellion was crushed when a 4-month siege on their last stronghold exhausted their supplies and ammunition. Historians say around 37,000 rebels were slaughtered when the lines broke. This was certainly the final step in the closing of the “Christian Century” in Japan.
After this, Christianity went completely underground. It was disguised, hidden, and practiced in secret. In 1865, after Japan opened its doors to the world after over 200 years of isolation, some “Hidden Christians” approached French missionaries who built a church in Nagasaki. They had kept their faith alive down through the generations without priests or any western support. How did the faith survive so long in secret? This is a story of a victim-turned-hero who helped Christians escape arrest and learn to hide and disguise their worship of the foreign God.