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"Kirishitani in Modern Japan" by Eric Lipps

Author says: what if Christianity had not been outlawed in Japan muses Eric Lipps?. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

In 1999: Hideko Cardinal Tokugawa of Kyoto presided over a Christmas celebration of nearly one million Japanese Catholics.

Christianity had been introduced into Japan in the sixteenth century. The shogun Oda Nobunaga (pictured), in particular, had embraced the new faith, both for the technologies its missionaries brought with them, which included firearms, and as a political tool against Buddhism. Although Nobunaga never converted to Christianity, he allowed Christians to proselytize and permitted the construction of the first Catholic church in Kyoto in 1576, on the site of the present Watanabe Cathedral.

After his death, some powerful Japanese came to view Christianity not as beneficial but as a threat to the state, and pressed for its restriction or even outright banning. Among them would be Toyotomi Hideyoshi, responsible for the Feb. 5, 1597 massacre of twenty-seven Christians at Nagasaki and a vocal proponent of laws restricting not only Christianity but all contact with the West. Support for such "seclusion laws" remained limited, however, and although some restrictions were imposed beginning in 1614, the Nobunaga Shogunate would lift them four decades later under Oda's great-grandson Toyo Nobunaga. By the end of the Nobunaga shogunate in the late nineteenth century, there would be twenty million Christians in the island nation. At the close of the twentieth, the number would have risen to forty million.

Author says in our history, Oda Nobunaga never attained the rank of shogun. Instead, under the Tokugawa Shogunate, Christianity was outlawed and trade with the West reduced to a trickle; Western innovations such as firearms were abandoned. Not until Commodore Perry's gunboat expedition in 1855 would Japan be reopened to the West. Today, there are an estimated one million "Kirishitani" in Japan, most following an eccentric version of the faith evolved during the centuries of suppression, when Japanese could practice Christian worship only in secret.

Eric Lipps

Guest Historian of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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