Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Way of 26 Crosses

'China Town', Nagasaki
The 13th century Breton knight and adventurer Fulkes de Breaute is rather an obscure figure, but he crops up in unexpected places. A favourite of King John (the 'Bad'), he was made sheriff of several midlands castles (though not Nottingham), and his name is recalled in the name Vauxhall ('Fulkes Hall') on the south bank of the Thames. Funnily enough, it was at Vauxhall station that 19th century visitors from Russia asked "Where is this?"; "Vauxhall" came the reply, for which reason the word for train station in Russian is "Vokzal" to this day!

Kyoto. "Let us dicover the significance of birth and the joy of living"
Sort of similarly, though in fact he takes centre stage in late 16th century Japanese history, last week there was information outside one of the marvellous temples here in Kyoto referring to one Toyotomi Hideyoshi, aka 'Taikosane'. It was the second time i'd come across him; he ordered the Imjinwaeran invasion of Korea in 1592, about which a mini museum in Busan (Korea) tells the terrible story. Then, in "historic, romantic and exotic" Nagasaki, which i reached after a mixture of walking and not walking at the weekend, there he was again in the excellent little Jesuit museum dedicated to the 26 Japanese Martyrs. The first thing one sees there is a beautiful (17th century?) statue of St. Francis Xavier, wearing the traditional garb of a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela, with scallop shells around his shoulders. He seems to have been a real 'St. Patrick' of the Far East and Japan, converting hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in the first half of the 16th century. Among them were numerous members of the feudal aristocracy, which by the way is another thing Japan has in common with Britain - its own tradition of "chivalry", where the knights of course were known as "Samurais". Hideyoshi however specifically ordered many of the Christian warriors to take part in the invasion of Korea. Then in October 1596 a Spanish galleon, the San Felipe, was shipwrecked off Japan on its way to Mexico. When the crew resisted his attempt to confiscate this vessel, Hideyoshi used it as a pretext to condemn 26 Kyoto Christians, men and boys, 6 foreigners and 20 Japanese, to death by crucifixion in Nagasaki. The most famous of these is St. Paul Miki, a native Japanese Jesuit who would soon have been ordained a priest. From what i could gather they each had an ear cut off before being made to walk 1000 kilometres in January 1597, being martyred on February 6th. The Franciscan St. Felipe de Jesus OFM was able to joke on the way, that "the San Felipe was shipwrecked so that Br. Felipe could go to heaven".
Church of Our Lady, Nagasaki

Soon afterwards Catholicism was banned for 250 years (sound familiar? - oh alright, the Japanese banned ALL Christianity), and there were sporadic further persecutions, but remarkably, when priests returned to Nagasaki in the late 19th century, a group of Christians whose faith had been hidden for generations came and presented themselves.

In the Cathedral in Fukuoka i met a young Japanese guy who has not (yet) become a Christian, but who has walked to Santiago more than once, and visited Marian shrines including Fatima and Medugorje. He kindly agreed to look after my bulky sleeping bag while i went to Nagasaki, and then wouldn't let me pay anything towards coffees and a great lunch when i came back, yesterday. Living in London from 2003-4, he had his picture taken with Arsene Wenger, who was coach of the Japanese football team before moving to Woolwich Arsenal. Not least as yesterday was St. James's day, patron of pilgrims, i was glad to be able to give him the excellent 'Dazer' dog deterrent, which i'd used successfully on a number of occasions.

There was sumo wrestling on the TV in the bus station in Nagasaki, including at least two European/American gentlemen, complete with amazing hair-cuts and generous beer-guts. Thank goodness there isn't a womens' version, (though frankly it wouldn't look much more ridiculous than womens' boxing or rugby). This however brings me to a much more serious matter. Baseball is a great game, but cricket, without the slightest shadow of a doubt, is at least as good. Yet, are cricket's governing bodies awake to this fact? China is the country that springs to mind, which could easily follow Korea and Japan down the "glorified rounders" route...

Here is St. Patrick's Breastplate;

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, and in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

No comments:

Post a Comment