Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Anjiro, Japanese Guide for Xavier

Happy New Year everybody!

Miracles abound in history. Some people call them destinies. It was in 1547 that St. Francisco Xavier (1506-1552), known as the Apostle of the East, met a Japanese named Anjiro in Melaka, Malaysia, introduced by Portuguese Captain Jorge Alvarez. The name Anjiro comes from the English Angel, and no personal records were found except that he was born in Satsuma, now Kagoshima in Kyushu. It was said that Anjiro was a fugitive seeking a shelter overseas after committing a felony. On board the Portuguese vessel, the above Captain Alvarez took his crew member Anjiro, perhaps as a Samurai who was willing to atone for his crime, and suggested he better embrace Christianity. Anjiro, following the captain's advice, became a Christian, studied both in Melaka and Goa, and when he met the captain years later, his Portuguese was fairly brushed up, and he was almost ready to serve as an interpreter for Xavier.

Upon departing from Lisbon, Xavier had relished a noble dream and hope as a young missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. After the long tiresome voyage over the treacherous ocean, stopping a year in Mozambique in Africa, 3 years in Goa in India, and two years living in Melaka, while traveling to Timor a few times, he thought he did his best despite language barriers. He converted many people, but progress was slow with lesser success than he had anticipated. He wasn't fully satisfied. When he encountered Anjiro, he was struck with joy and so reported "God has put it into my heart" to King John "to go to the islands of Japan to spread our holy faith."

Melaka Viceroy Pedro de Silva, the 5th son of Vasco de Gama, pledged financial help for the voyage and propagation, prepared gifts, such as a music playing clock, organ, matchlock, crystal glass, satin damask, bottles of wine, books, etc. On April 15, 1549, Xavier set sail on board the Chinese junk accompanied by Father Cosme Torres, John Fernandez and Anjiro, arriving at Kagoshima on August 25. Kagoshima was Anjiro's native city, and he quickly obtained from Lord Shimazu permission for Xavier to preach. While Anjiro translated and circulated the Creed, and some simple prayers, Xavier set himself to learn the Japanese language.

As soon as he could use it fluently, he began to preach. But, not long afterwards, the Lord grew angry with the Portuguese merchants because they had abandoned his port of Kagoshima to carry on their trading at Hirado, a better port a little to the north of Nagasaki. He withdrew the permission he had given and threatened to punish any Japanese who became a Christian. The few converts remained faithful and declared they were ready to suffer punishment or death rather than deny Christ. After a year at Kagoshima, Xavier decided to push on to Hirado, carrying on his back all the articles necessary for the celebration of Mass. At Hirado the missionaries baptized more converts in twenty days than they had done at Kagoshima in a whole year. Leaving these converts with Father Torres in charge, Xavier and his party set out over land for Kyoto, the imperial capital. They went by the beautiful inland sea to the port of Yamaguchi, and Xavier preached there, in public and through Anjiro, before the local prince.

After a month's stay at Yamaguchi, Xavier resumed his journey with his companions. It was nearing the end of the year, and they suffered from inclement weather and bad roads. They reached Kyoto in February and here Xavier found that the city was in a state of civil disorder and utter chaos, and the emperor was in retreat. So after a fortnight's stay, he returned to Yamaguchi. He received an official invitation from the Bungo Lord Sorin Otomo, a breakthrough. He was successful to have one of the powerful Daimyos christened and under his auspices, his friends and relatives who followed suit. However, these favorable turn of events did not hinder his personal ultimate goal to travel to China to preach the Gospel. In 1552, Xavier left Japan without knowing he was doomed to die on the way.

Portuguese missionaries, such as Luis Frois, Francisco Cabrel, Alessandro Valignano, Gasper Vilela followed Xavier, to harvest seeds sowed by Xavier, but all the Jesuit's efforts came to naught when in 1587 deportation orders by Taiko Hideyoshi took effect, and in 1612 Christianity was banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Were Xavier, Anjiro and all the other Jesuits forgotten? No, not at all! We see statues of St. Xavier in Kagoshima, Hirado, Nagasaki, and Oita in Kyushu. Yamaguchi, Xavier's favorite city, built not only the Xavier Memorial Church (see photo) but concluded sister-city relations with Navarre (now in Spain) where Xavier was born. Anjiro is remembered both in Kagoshima and Melaka. Without him, Xavier's visit to Japan never would have happened. We certainly recognize their footprints in the Portuguese words adopted into Japanese, such as, alcool, carta, caramela, castella, pao, padre, sabao, tempero and many more. They were the first Caucasians to land in Japan (given nicknames were "Southern Barbarians") that surprised and implanted deep impressions on the Japanese and opened their eyes to the outer world. The National Treasure, Kano School artwork on the folding screen at the Kobe Museum illustrates scenes from their mission.

Records of Anjiro became blurred along with his Christened name Paulo de Santa Fe once Xavier left Japan. He might have taken all the blame that his translations caused problems, e.g. Dainichi for Christ, Mary for Kannon, etc. versus Buddhism. Rumors said he traveled again overseas.

The above article first appeared in the magazine CABARAN (Challenge) of the Chi Wen Secondary School, Bahau, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.


Papa Puttss said...

As a Catholic missionary who had to struggle with strange languages, I appreciate the work and dedication of Anjiro. I wish I would have had one of him with me in the past.
Rio, you start the new year off very well. This piece is very moving to me. Congratulations

riodan said...

Thank you Paul. I appreciate and admire your language proficiency not only in Italian but
Tagalog, etc. Al West you know wrote me he remembers a high school in his child
neighborhood in Bronx. So I Googled for info. Boy, I found a multitude of schools
named after Xavier worldwide including the U.S. India has hundreds. This article first
appeared in a high school magazine near Melaka where the statutes of Xavier and Anjiro stand.