Monday, 1 October 2012

Hario Strait, Suwon
The Suwon district where he dropped me is endowed with some breathtaking scenery, not least in the vicinity of the Hario Strait where it is spanned by the Saikai Bridge. I enjoyed a fishburger and fries for supper at an English-style chippy on the south side, then walked a few kilometres in the dark, before settling down to sleep, obscured by a big pillar under a road bridge. Entertainment overnight came from wild boars, foraging noisily to within a few metres of my ‘camp’; i had resort to shouting and throwing rocks in order to send them back into the forest. Then at first light there was a similar rustling but a more appealing vision, of what initially i supposed could be a monkey but turned out to be a Japanese Marten; bright orange with a pretty white face, watching me from a vantage point at the top of an escarpment.
   On Saturday 23rd July, dedicated to SS. Philip Evans and John Lloyd, i got up respectably early and followed the road down to the coastline, with gorgeous views across Omura Wan bay, separating the Nishisonogi Peninsula from mainland Kyushu. My plan was to put off using transport until evening, but by late morning more fierce heat had induced me to wait for an omnibus. Such a charabanc brought me to the centre of “historic, romantic and exotic” Nagasaki at about 2pm; the only place on my round-the-world voyage, incidentally, which also featured in that of Phileas Fogg. At a tourist information point i learnt how to find a nearby Catholic church, where it was a blessing to pray my rosary in the cool. I then went to the bus station to arrange carriage back to Fukuoka for Monday morning, and was mildly diverted by the sight of European/American sumo wrestlers on a television screen, complete with amazing hair-cuts and generous paunches. Thank goodness there isn't a womens' version, though frankly it wouldn't look much more ridiculous than womens' boxing or rugby[1]. Deciding to gauge the bed situation, the tourist info people came up trumps again, booking me into an old-fashioned, inexpensive and welcoming youth hostel about 10 minutes walk away. After a wash and nap i supped a bowl of rice with nice sauce in a straightforward diner before heading to bed.

   On 24th July i came back to the church near the centre for 9am Sunday morning Mass. A solicitous English-speaking member of the congregation told me to visit the Oura Catholic Church but, partly because of its proximity to Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum, my first priority was the Shrine of the 26 Martyrs. This consists firstly of a monument, overlooking a small park, with a row of statues of the 26 men and boys, foremost among whom is St Paul Miki, one of 20 native Japanese; a Jesuit who would shortly have been ordained to the priesthood, had not an episode worthy of the most swashbuckling ‘high seas’ adventure yarn intervened.

   In July 1596 the Spanish galleon San Felipe set sail from Manila in the Philippines for Mexico (New Spain as it was then known), carrying a contingent of soldiers, cannon and ammunition, along with five friars of various orders. One of these was a Franciscan, Philip of Jesus, a native of Mexico, journeying home for his ordination, since no Bishop was available in Manila. When the ship was driven by a storm onto the coast of Japan, the local governor confiscated her and imprisoned the crew and passengers. The figure of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Taikosane or regent for the emperor (effectively Japan’s head honcho[2]) then makes another of his faintly disquieting appearances on the pages of history. Already alarmed, it seems, at the growing influence of Christianity in Japan (there were perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century), he sought to exploit the ship-wreck of the San Felipe as a way of raising the spectre of foreign invasion, and associating this fear with the advance of Christianity. The friars, with 21 other Christians from the community in Kyoto, were condemned to the exemplary punishment of crucifixion. On 3rd January 1597 their ears were cropped, after which they were made to walk 1000 kilometres to their martyrdom in Nagaski, on February 5th, being bound to crosses and then run through with spears. The church at the shrine is principally dedicated to St Philip of Jesus, Mexico’s first native-born saint and patron of Mexico City; visiting briefly, i noticed a large book about Our Lady of Guadalupe in an ante room. On the gruelling march from Kyoto, St Philip is said to have found the courage to joke; “…the San Felipe was shipwrecked so that Br. Felipe could go to heaven”. A contemporary account records these words of St Paul Miki, delivered as a sermon from his cross:


“All of you who are here, please, listen to me. I did not come from the Philippines, i am a Japanese by birth, and a brother of the Society of Jesus. I have committed no crime, and the only reason why i am put to death is that i have been teaching the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am very happy to die for such a cause, and see my death as a great blessing from the Lord.”[3]

[1] In case this needs to be explained: certain sports and activities have been developed as ways of channelling testosterone. Women don’t need to channel testosterone, so their engagement in these activities looks stupid.
[2] Derived from a Japanese word, approximating to the English word ‘sergeant’.
[3] It’s interesting to note that the 26 Martyrs are recognised as saints by the Church of England as well as the Church of Rome.

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