The panel will show the value of this collection from the perspective of the influence of the Christian impact on Japanese society over time. Special focus will be given to its formation and to the consequences of the anti-Christian measures for the life of local communities in the Usuki domain.
This panel intends to share the preliminary results of ongoing research on the Marega collection recently discovered in the Vatican Library, a cache of more than 10,000 administrative records mostly from the region of Bungo running over about two hundred years (from the 17th to the 19th century). All the presenters are in the research team working on a project by the National Institutes for the Humanities of Japan and the Vatican Library for digitizing and cataloguing the collection. The documents provide evidence of the restrictions applied on Christians and their descendants, and of the administrative machine for their application as well as its impact on village society and individual lives. Their unprecedented value lies on the extended period covered, and the focus on a limited geographical area, which allows to follow the working of the system in microscopic detail and in terms of longue durée. From the point of view of archival studies present research is trying to give a proper collocation to these records in their original context as well as to make clear the process of their retrieval by Father Mario Marega (1902-1978) in the first half of the 20th century. At the same time, analysis of single items or groups of them is revealing their significance for the study of social order in Tokugawa Japan. In other words, the collection helps to clarify the influence of the Christian presence in Japan from different perspectives. The first paper will dig into Marega's activities in the 1930s within the trend to recover the kirishitan heritage by missionaries. The other two will add on previous research by using the documents to look at the Usuki domain, from which the majority of them originate. A reconstruction of the bureaucratic mechanisms will be presented with special concern with the lifecycle of local communities. Following on, the last presentation will integrate these documents with other records from the same domain to look at the administrative key-word indicating the descendants of Christians (ruizoku) in order to show how this social "attribute" actually functioned in the overall system of social control.