After unifying Japan’s warring states, supreme feudal lord Hideyoshi launched a massive invasion of Korea. In 1593, a year into this Imjin War of 1592-1598, he sent an envoy to Taiwan on a doomed mission to establish formal diplomatic and trade relations. In 1609 and 1616, the Japanese Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, hoping to establish indirect trading links with China, sent two larger missions to Taiwan. They were led and manned by Christian samurai from the island of Kyushu, which in the late 1500s had seen amazing success by Portuguese and Spanish missionaries in converting the population. Both expeditions to Taiwan were failures to the point of farce, but the many misunderstandings and missteps make for fantastic stories. Get ready for some katana-flavored diplomacy, with generous servings of piracy, abducted envoys, and a lot of seppuku.
Cover: An illustration of Justo Takayama (高山 ユスト 右近), whose life of faith is honored on February 3rd in the Liturgical Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. Justo Takayama is not known to have been involved in expeditions to Taiwan, but is a good example of some of the high-level mostly Nagasaki-based samurai who converted to Catholic Christianity in the mid-1550s to the early 1600s. He was exiled in 1603 to Manila after Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) became the central feudal lord, in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). While venerated as blessed by the Catholic Church for his strong faith, Takayama fared much better than the 205 missionaries and native Christians who, between 1617 and 1632, are known to have been killed for their faith.
This episode is based on the work of Stephen Turnbull's "Onward, Christian Samurai! The Japanese Expeditions to Taiwan in 1609 and 1616"
Below: An illustration of a Christian samurai by TERRIENSEUL (Via Pinterest)
Below: A 1628 engraving of the 26 Martyrs of Japan at Nagasaki - by Wolfgang Kilian