Monday, March 20, 2023

How a Catholic Missionary Experienced Japan in 1585

In the midst of struggles for the unity of Japan in the late 16th century, the Portuguese Jesuit Luis Frois wrote the preface to an unusual treatise on June 14, 1585, in the small town of Katsusa on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. It contained “in essence certain contradictions and differences in use between the peoples of Europe and this land of Japan”.

More than four decades had passed since the first “southern barbarians” – as the Japanese are called Westerners – set foot on Japanese soil. By 1585, Froise had been a missionary in Japan for 22 years and had also spent some time in the capital, Miyako (now Kyoto). Many things about Japanese culture attracted him, he held it in high esteem, spoke and read the language excellently, knew the customs, and was close with the powerful as well as the common people. Used to behave Froise’s letters about the state of affairs in Japan were widely read in Europe and translated into various languages. A connoisseur, Froise began writing a history of Japan in 1583 on behalf of the Order. “One of the most important writers of the Jesuit mission of his time,” writes tract editor Joseph Franz Schutte. It is even more surprising that this text appeared only after more than 300 years.

Didn’t Louis Froise want his text to appear in his lifetime?

Born in Lisbon in 1532, Froise was probably a clerk in the royal chancery before being accepted into the Society of Jesus at the age of 16, the order in the wake of Portuguese converts to Christianity during the Counter-Reformation. Expansion in Asia as well. Soon after entering command, Froise went to Goa on the west coast of India, where the Jesuit headquarters for Asia was located. He lived there and in Malacca, Malaysia, studied, did missionary work, and as a secretary until 1562. In Goa he met Francisco Javier, the leader of the Jesuit Asia Mission, and Anjiro, the first Japanese informant about Japan to Europe. In this way he found out about the island kingdom and Francisco Javier’s positive attitude towards the country and its people. That’s why he also wanted to go there. But it was not until 1563 that he was sent to Japan, where he died three decades later, on July 8, 1597, in Nagasaki.

Froise’s remarkable treatise, in 611 two-liners, arranged according to subject areas in 14 chapters, in contrast to European and Japanese customs, numbered chapter by chapter, each in a short sentence. 611 couplets, also presented in two lines in the manuscript, provide a wide spectrum of impressions and make the first contribution to comparative cultural studies. Some examples: “In Europe, once a child is born, it is rarely or almost never killed; / Japanese women put their feet on the necks of children and kill all they think.” that they cannot lift.” (Chapter II Women / 39)

“It is not very common with us that women can write; / It is considered disgrace among the aristocratic women of Japan to not understand it.” (Chapter II/45)

“We ask an Almighty God for this life and the next life; / The Japanese pray for temporary objects We And just to save their soul winter(Chapter V Temple / 27)

“Our paper is only of four or five kinds; / The Japanese more than fifty.” (Chapter X From the writings of the Japanese, from their books, paper, ink and letters /10)

With us it is customary to say goodbye or to hug each other when coming from abroad; / The Japanese do not know this practice at all, on the contrary, they laugh at it.” (Chapter XIV) Among the various extraordinary things that do not fit well in the previous chapters / 30)

Neither the number of observations nor their accuracy nor deliberate exaggeration is unusual: it is surprising that Froise does not do justice. No handouts are given about who is “right”, as it is “correct”. Around the time of its creation, a missionary method was developed under the energetic designer of Jesuit Japan and China companies, Alessandro Valigno, with the aim of adapting Japanese customs down to the last detail. A “Japanese” Christian church was to come into existence, not a European church for the Japanese – in direct contrast to the Christian missionary policy practiced for centuries.

The manuscript was not discovered until 1946.

Froise goes further: in his treatise, the similarity of the two cultures is established in terms of form and content. There is no sense of mission here. This tract is written in Portuguese in Froise’s handwriting and does not name an author; It was never published in print, the reason for its creation and its passing through the centuries is still a mystery. It was not until 1946 that the manuscript of Joseph Franz Schutte was discovered in a library in Madrid. It was published nine years later, annotated by him and translated into German.

Has Froise made a secret of his work? Didn’t he want it to appear in his lifetime? Perhaps he found the challenging relativistic nature of his approach so problematic that neither attached his name to it nor dared to attempt to disseminate it. If you look at the text from a literary point of view, it loses the school masterly paints as a mine for cultural-historical information. While reading, respect for the various expressions of cultural behavior grows, with the human in every form of life gaining the upper hand. Froise was also a cultural ambassador for Europe, his conceptions do not suffer from the dominant weighting of ecclesiastical and European scale. This opens up a wider intellectual space in the equivalence of two different cultures.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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