Authors: Shusaku Endo
(1923-1996), born in Tokyo and raised in Kobe, graduated from the French department of Keio University in 1950 before continuing his studies in contemporary French literature at the University of Lyon. Upon his return to Japan, he immediately established himself as a writer with his first novel,
(The White Man). A Roman Catholic from the age of eleven, he produced a number of novels abounding with Christ figures and dealing symbolically with the failure of Christianity to gain a strong foothold in Japan. The recipient of numerous literary awards, Endo is considered one of Japan's greatest twentieth-century writers.
Father Francis Mathy,
a member of the Society of Jesus, was born in 1925 in Wisconsin. He obtained his BA in Japanese from the University of Michigan in 1947 and a Ph.D in Comparative Literature in 1963. He moved to Japan in 1953 to take up a position at Sophia University in Tokyo where he worked until his retirement as Professor. He has translated several of Shusaku Endo's novels into English.
Published by Tuttle Publishing,
an imprint of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd.
Copyright © 1970 by Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.
All rights reserved.
Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that this play is fully protected under international copyright law. All rights, including professional, broadcasting, and the rights of translation into foreign languages are strictly reserved. In this present form this play is for the reading public only. All inquiries should be addressed to Tuttle Publishing, 364 Innovation Drive, North Clarendon, VT 05759 U.S.A.
First printing, 1970
Second printing, 2003
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 70-123898
ISBN: 978-1-4629-0368-9 (ebook)
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In the hundred years between 1597, when twenty-six Christians were crucified on a hill overlooking Nagasaki, and 1697, when the last great martyrdom occurred in the province of Mino with at least thirty-five martyrs, no less than four thousand Christians are known to have given up their lives for their faith. In 1600 there were approximately three hundred thousand Christians in Japan. By 1700 Christianity had disappeared from the face of the nation and existed only in the small communities of hidden Christians that managed to preserve and hand down their religious traditions secretly until the return of the priests in 1865. Whatever caused the rulers of Japan to change from benevolent protectors of the foreign religion into its fanatical persecutors (fear of Portuguese and Spanish power seems to have been one of the main causes), this was one of the cruelest and most effective of the many persecutions Christianity has suffered in its two thousand year history.
From the beginning the persecutors were intent upon making apostates rather than martyrs. Since the ordinary death penalties by decapitation or crucifixion served but to win admiration for the martyrs, who went to their deaths joyfully, singing hymns and exhorting the crowds, crueler and crueler tortures were devised. To prolong the agony of victims at the stake, as well as to give additional time for reconsideration, wood was placed at some distance so that the sufferers roasted by the slow fire. Boiling water from the Japanese hot springs was slowly poured over the victims, a dipperful at a time. Christians were tied to stakes at the water's edge at ebb tide and slowly went to their deaths as the tide came in. Finally, the cruelest torture of all was devised—that of the pit. The victim's body and arms and legs were tightly tied with rope and he was suspended head first into a pit filled with offal. A hole was drilled in his temple to permit the blood to fall a drop at a time, thus preventing rapid death from circulatory obstruction. This torture could be made to last several days and even an entire week before death took place. It was extremely painful and very effective in inducing apostasy.
This is the historical backdrop of Shusaku Endo's play,
Ogon no kuni
(The Golden Country).
The Golden Country
was produced by the Kumo troupe under the direction of Hiroshi Akutagawa, son of the writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa, in the spring of 1966 and published in the May issue of the magazine
It has as its central character the Jesuit missionary Christopher Ferreira, who in 1633 after being tortured in the pit renounced his Christian faith, became an ally of the persecutors, and until his death by natural causes in 1650 worked with them in trying to make other Christians apostatize.
Christopher Ferreira was born near Lisbon, Portugal, in 1580. He entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at the age of sixteen. After six years of study for the priesthood, he arrived in Japan in 1602. Shortly afterward he went to Macao to complete his theological studies and was ordained a priest there. Back in Japan he was assigned first to the Kyoto mission and then to the one in Nagasaki. From the beginning he caught the eye of superiors and was marked for administrative office in the Society. In 1619 he was named consultor to the Provincial, Father Mateo de Couros.
From 1622 to 1626 he was Superior of the Jesuits in Kyoto and seems to have performed this office with distinction. In 1632 he was made Provincial of Japan, and, therefore, Superior of all the Jesuits working in the country. The annual report to Rome on the state of the mission was written by him in 1628, 1629, 1630, and 1631; all are still preserved in the Roman archives. The latter is especially interesting since it gives a long, vivid account of the martyrs at Unzen. In 1633 he was captured and tortured in the pit, and subsequently apostatized. He was given the name of an executed criminal, Sawano Chuan, together with his wife and son, and he joined his former persecutors in their inquisition.
In 1636 he wrote the book
(A Clear Exposition of the False Doctrine), a closely reasoned attack on Christianity. He also translated into Japanese a number of Western works on medicine and astronomy. In later years his name is found on a number of tribunals before which the Christians were made to appear. For example, he was on the tribunal in Edo in 1639 that condemned to death the Japanese Jesuit, Father Kibe (of whom passing mention is made in Act two, Scene two). Father Kibe in his final moments zealously exhorted Ferreira to return to the practice of his faith. But it was to no avail, for Ferreira seems to have died unrepentant in 1650.
Why did he apostatize? The Ferreira of the play steps on the picture of the face of Christ for one or more of the following reasons. He believes that he has heard the voice of Christ urging him to stamp on the
a plaque of Mary or Christ, or a crucifix, and thereby commits the act to save himself and the other Christians. Inoue, on the other hand, attributes his apostasy to the corroding influence of the "mudswamp" Japan, which causes all seeds from the outside to rot. In the final scene Inoue points out to Ferreira that his words are now more Buddhist than Christian and he concludes, "When it comes right down to it, it wasn't by me that you were vanquished but by this mudswamp called Japan."
Ferreira's action is open to still another interpretation, one that was particularly cogent in the Kumo production. Before turning himself over to his persecutors in order to save the Christians, Ferreira spends a night of anguish and pain, not unlike that of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. When he finally overcomes his temptations and gathers together the courage to go to the Bureau of Investigation, knowing all along that it is undoubtedly a trap, Ferreira reaches a height of nobility and saintliness that makes everything that follows anticlimactic. The impression is given that the Ferreira who apostatizes is a man who has been broken and is no longer capable of free human action. This impression is reinforced by Inoue's boast to him:
Through the torture of the pit, by tomorrow you'll have lost all discretion and understanding. You'll have lost your freedom to oppose my words. What I call left, you will call left. What I call right, you will call right. When I say "Apostatize," you will apostatize.
The Christians who witness the shameful act of their beloved pastor assume that he has gone mad.
Endo is more charitable in his interpretation of
Ferreira's defection than the facts seem to warrant. In the first place there were at the time of his capture and torture no farmers in prison or under threat of death for him to protect. This is a figment of the playwright's imagination. There were instead with him in the pit three other Jesuit priests (an Italian, a Portuguese, and a Japanese), a Spanish Dominican priest, and two Jesuit seminarians and one Dominican, the last three all Japanese. These endured the torture of the pit until death, which came after two, four, or six days. Ferreira, on the other hand, apostatized after only five hours. In the case of other priests who apostatized under torture there is evidence of later retractions, and all were made to spend the rest of their lives in prison, showing how little their captors could trust them. Ferreira is the only known case of a priest who apostatized, was set free by his persecutors, and then worked devotedly for their cause. The true reason of his defection must perhaps forever remain a mystery.
From the above it can be seen that the person of Christopher Ferreira has much to attract and challenge the novelist or dramatist. There are in his life all the elements of tragedy. Consecrated from an early age to the service of his God and the spread of his religion, he braved many hardships to take up life as a missionary in Japan. He must have had no illusions about the dangers of his assignment, since he arrived in Japan well after the persecutions had begun and several of his fellow Jesuits had already received the martyrs' crown. An energetic missionary and capable administrator, he was from the first highly regarded by his superiors and confreres and singled out for the highest offices a Jesuit could hold in the mission. His letters to Rome, especially his vivid account of the faith and courage of the martyrs, inspired a younger generation of Jesuits and
filled them with the desire to join him in his perilous but glorious work. Yet after only five hours in the pit his character underwent a one hundred eighty degree change, so that the Dutch diarist at Dejima could comment that this former man of God "now goes about dirty and disheveled and has a black heart." Ferreira's book against Christianity is filled with hatred and the desire for vengeance. He is certainly a most dramatic figure in one of the most dramatic episodes of Japanese history.