Francisco Xavier (1/2)Japan's first missionary

Francisco Xavier

Francisco Xavier

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Francisco Xavier (1506-1552)
place of birth
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The Sengoku period was a time of war throughout Japan. However, the Sengoku period was also a time of deepening contact with foreign countries. This was also the time when Japan first came into contact with not only Asian countries such as China, which had particularly influenced Japan, but also Europe. A missionary, Xavier, came to Japan to spread Christianity to Japan. This time I would like to take a look at Japan's first missionary, Francisco Xavier.

About birth

Francisco Xavier was born in April 1506 at Javier Castle in the Kingdom of Navarra (a kingdom in the Basque region of present-day Spain) as the son of a local aristocrat (the youngest of two older brothers and two older sisters). Francisco Xavier's surname Francisco comes from the town where his birthplace is located. Also, the first name Xavier was called "Javier" in Spanish and "Xaverio" in the Japanese church, but it is now unified as "Xavier".

Xavier's father, Don Juan de Hasso, was the prime minister of King Juan III of Navarre (Juan's sister Charlotte married Cesare Borgia, so Juan was Cesare's brother-in-law), but around the time Xavier was born, was approaching old age. When Xavier was a child, the Kingdom of Navarre became a war zone between France and Spain. Her father, Juan, passed away during this period of conflict, leaving the family at its mercy.


In 1525, at the age of 19, Xavier went to study at the University of Paris. He entered the Saint Barbara Institute (one of the colleges that make up the University of Paris) and studied liberal arts. Furthermore, while I was studying philosophy, I shared a room with Pierre Fabre from France. Later, Iñigo (Ignadeo de Rowora), a disabled knight from the Basque country like Xavier, also joins the group. The three people in the room had deep conversations and became comrades. Xavier was studying philosophy, but under the influence of Inigo, he decided to become a priest.

Founding of the Society of Jesus

During this period, there were other young men besides Xavier who were influenced by Inigo, and seven of them, including Xavier, Fabre, and Inigo, gathered at Montmarton Basilica. Fabre, a priest among the seven, took a vow to dedicate his life to God (the Vow of Montmarton), and the Society of Jesus was founded. The Jesuits' founding goals include "pilgrimage to Jerusalem" and "poverty and chastity." Inigo, who became the first general, was a knight and was characterized by a strict military-like atmosphere, and was also called ``God's Army'' and ``The Pope's Elite Unit.''

In 1537, a group of Jesuits traveled to Italy to seek permission from the Pope to establish a religious order. In Venice, Pope Paul III recognized their virtue and learning, and after conferring ordination on them, all of them became priests, except for Fabre, who was already a priest. However, due to the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, the group was unable to reach Jerusalem, and for the time being they concentrated on religious activities on the Italian peninsula.

To the East

After about three years in Italy, the Jesuits were considering missionary work around the world. King João III of Portugal requested the Jesuits to send Jesuit missionaries to Goa, India. The person chosen at this time was Xavier, whose destination was undecided.

In March 1540, Xavier and other missionaries departed from Rome and headed to India via Portugal. It took about two years to travel from Europe to Africa and finally to India.
Xavier's group went to India and spent the next five years conducting missionary work, traveling from various parts of India to Malacca and other Southeast Asian countries.

In December 1547, Xavier met Yajiro (Anjiro), a samurai from Kagoshima, in Malacca. Yajiro killed someone when he was young and fled to Malacca. Yajiro came to meet Xavier, the priest, and confess his sins. After hearing his story, Xavier highly praised Yajiro's personality and brought him back to Goa, where Yajiro became the first Japanese to be baptized. Xavier became a member of Yajiro, and based on Yajiro's recommendation, he decided to travel to Japan.

To Japan

April 1549. Xavier leaves Goa and heads to Japan with Torres (a priest), Fernandez (a monk), an Indian man named Amador, a Chinese man named Manuel, and Yajiro. Via Ming Shangkawa City (Taishan, Jiangmen City, Guangdong Province, China), it landed at Bozu on the Satsuma Peninsula and entered Kagoshima City. In September, he had an audience with Takahisa Shimazu, the feudal lord of Satsuma Province, and received permission to begin his missionary work.

During this missionary mission in Kagoshima, he also met ``Bernardo of Kagoshima'' (Japanese name unknown), who later became the first Japanese to study in Europe and had an audience with the Pope. However, Takahisa Shimazu accepted the advice of a Buddhist monk and banned Christianity, so Xavier and his group left Kagoshima.

From Nagasaki to Kyoto and then to Yamaguchi

In August 1550 (Tenbun 19), Xavier and his friends left Kagoshima and entered Hirado, Hizen Province (Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture) to carry out missionary work. However, three months later, Xavier and his friends split into two and headed to Kyoto. On the way, he entered Yamaguchi, Suo Province (Yamaguchi Prefecture), and had an audience with Yoshitaka Ouchi, the shugo daimyo. From there, he took the sea route and landed in Sakai, arriving in Kyoto in January 1551 (Tenbun 20).
In order to gain approval for his missionary work throughout the country, Xavier brings a personal letter from the Bishop of Goa and requests an audience with Emperor Gonara and Seii Taishogun Yoshiteru Ashikaga. However, due to the lack of gifts and the declining authority of the Imperial Court and Shogunate, he was not granted an audience. Xavier gave up on missionary work in Kyoto and returned to Hirado via Yamaguchi.

Returning to Hirado, Xavier brought the gift with him and returned the way he had come, entering Yamaguchi. There, he had a second audience with Yoshitaka Ouchi, and presented Bishop Gore's personal letter as well as gifts such as a telescope, and Yoshitaka gave him permission to preach. Furthermore, Daidoji, which had been abandoned, was given to him as both a residence and a church (Japan's first church).
Here, Xavier preached twice a day and gained followers.

To Bungo and leave Japan

Xavier, who was carrying out missionary activities in Yamaguchi, heard that a Portuguese ship had arrived in Bungo Kokufu (present-day Oita City, Oita Prefecture), so he entrusted the missionary work in Yamaguchi to his companions and went to Bungo. In September 1551, Xavier met Yoshishige Otomo (Sorin Otomo), the shugo daimyo of Bungo Province, and received permission to spread the word.

Francisco Xavier's article continues

Tomoyo Hazuki
Writer(Writer)I have loved history and geography since my student days, and have enjoyed visiting historical sites, temples and shrines, and researching ancient documents. He is especially strong in medieval Japanese history and European history in world history, and has read a wide range of things, including primary sources and historical entertainment novels. There are so many favorite military commanders and castles that I can't name them, but I especially like Hisashi Matsunaga and Mitsuhide Akechi, and when it comes to castles, I like Hikone Castle and Fushimi Castle. Once you start talking about the lives of warlords and the history of castles, there's a side of you that can't stop talking about them.
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