S4b_06
Staging Christian Insurrection in Medieval Japan, and in Early-Modern Japanese and European Memory

Convenors:
Patrick Schwemmer (Musashi University)
Stream:
Performing Arts
Location:
Torre B, Piso 2, Sala T5
Start time:
1 September, 2017 at 11:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

This panel explores the turn from insurrection to martyrdom in medieval Japanese Christianity, as depicted in the Japanese-language performing arts of the Jesuit mission, in anti-Christian kabuki and puppet plays in Japan, and in nostalgic "Japan plays" produced in the early-modern Catholic world.

Long abstract:

This panel explores the turn from insurrection to martyrdom in medieval Japanese Christian reactions to the persecution, as depicted in the Japanese-language performing arts produced by the Jesuit mission at the time, in anti-Christian kabuki and puppet plays in Japan, and in nostalgic "Japan plays" produced in the Catholic world throughout the early modern period. Before the strategy had solidified of preparing parishioners for martyrdom, European missionaries initially reacted to Hideyoshi's expulsion edict by flirting with a strategy of dual Iberian invasion and Japanese Christian insurrection (Takase 1977). Schwemmer presents a previously-unstudied miracle story set in Japan, written in Japanese in a Heike-like ballad style, and centred around themes common to hagiographies of the Reconquista and the Conquest of the New World—and moreover bearing a postscript by the ranking Jesuit which explicitly situates it as propaganda in support of the planned insurrection. Although this plan was ultimately abandoned in favour of martyrdom, the charge of insurrection is among the most prominent levelled at the missionaries in anti-Christian kabuki and puppet plays in early modern Japan. As Leuchtenberger shows, this image of European interventionism had an enduring influence upon the formation of Japanese community consciousness, from the Tokugawa shogunate to the present day. Finally, back in Europe, the image of Japan also endured: a vast corpus of plays, written and performed as early as the reception of the Tenshō embassy in the 1580s and right on down to the nineteenth century, re-imagined Japanese Christendom in a variety of ways depending upon the needs of various communities. Ōba introduces the Japan plays, with attention to a previously-unstudied composition of 1665, entitled "Victor the Japanese." The eponymous Noda Gensuke Victor is a peripheral figure in contemporaneous accounts of the first major martyrdom in 1597, but here he is an old man who argues with a younger interlocutor—as in the comedies of Terence—over the moral merits of taking up arms against the tyrant Hideyoshi versus the 'suicide attack' of martyrdom. In all three cases, the performing arts are the medium through which a community contemplates the encounter between Latin Christendom and Japan.