Handbook of Christianity in Japan

Handbook of Christianity in Japan

Handbook of Christianity in Japan

Handbook of Christianity in Japan

Synopsis

This volume provides researchers and students of religion with an indispensable reference work on the history, cultural impact, and reshaping of Christianity in Japan. Divided into three parts, Part I focuses on Christianity in Japanese history and includes studies of the Roman Catholic mission in pre-modern Japan, the hidden Christian tradition, Protestant missions in the modern period, Bible translations, and theology in Japan. Part II examines the complex relationship between Christianity and various dimensions of Japanese society, such as literature, politics, social welfare, education for women, and interaction with other religious traditions. Part III focuses on resources for the study of Christianity in Japan and provides a guide to archival collections, research institutes, and bibliographies. Based on both Japanese and Western scholarship, readers will find this volume to be a fascinating and important guide.

Excerpt

Miyazaki Kentarō

The Encounter Between Japan and Catholicism
in the Age of Discoveries

The encounter between Japan and Christianity in the sixteenth century was the first contact ever to take place in Japan between one universal religion and another, and also between a polytheistic religion and a monotheistic one. As a universal religion Buddhism, Mahayana as well as Theravada, underwent a kind of syncretism with the indigenous folk religion and had been accepted by, had merged with, and had taken roots in the alien culture in a peaceful manner. Such a tendency is particularly conspicuous in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Buddhism.

The Christian religion, on the other hand, penetrated into the world of western Europe clashing head-on, in Hellenistic times, with other religions and eliminating the worldviews of other religions by dint of force. In the time of the Great Discoveries by Spain and Portugal the same policy that was to turn the countries of Middle and South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa into colonies was aimed at eliminating native religion and imposing the Christian religion. In East Asia, i.e., China and Japan, such great religious figures and thinkers as Francisco Xavier, S.J. (1506–52), Alessandro Valignano, S.J. (1539–1606), and Matteo Ricci, S.J. (1552–1610) held these cultures in high esteem. Therefore, an imposition of the Christian religion by force did not occur in practice.

The universal character of polytheistic religion lies in tolerance. This tolerance, however, is something that is manifested on the assumption that the other is acknowledged and respected; it does not mean accepting the other to the extent of denying one's own self. The religions that entered Japan from outside her borders, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, they all became entrenched in Japan by merging with the native religions, in particular with Shinto. Valignano proposed a policy of accommodation to Japanese culture . . .

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