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Free Research Paper on Samurai

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In a historical fiction novel, Shusaku Endo brings forth the theme of faith and loyalty. “On one level, this novel is the story of that journey towards faith” (Gessel 153). This quote form Van C. Gessel captures the main theme of the novel. In this novel, the main character, Rokuemon Hasekura, faces a moral decision between two completely different religions. As he journeys though different places in the world he is exposed to another completely different religion of Christianity. As he returns home he must chose one or the other.

Rokuemon Hasekura is a samurai who is the hold of a small fief in the marshlands and lives a rather simple life with his family and his people. He has no intentions or dreams to live a different live than the one he lives at the moment. “Christianity itself meant nothing to him. It bore no relation to the snow-laden wilderness where he lived” (Endo 16). Japan needed to make a boat to get the Spanish merchants back home and this way Japan was trying to impress Spain. By impressing them, Japan wanted to have trading access with Spain. Japan also stated if trading was established between Japan and Spain, than there was a good chance for Christianity to grow in Japan. For this mission, one day Lord Ishida summoned Rokuemon. He told Rokuemon of the mission at hand and said “If you distinguish yourself in this mission, he (His Lordship) just might consider giving back your fief in Kurokawa upon your return” (Endo 38). With this offer in mind and as a loyal subject to his elder Lords, Rokuemon takes the mission.|

As Rokuemon is on his way to “Nueva Espaсa,” he hears of Christianity for the first time from Father Velasco at Mass. Rokuemon later hears about the great deeds performed by Christ and how he accomplished many great things. He also realizes the other Japanese sailors and merchants faking interest in Christianity. They act as though they were genuinely interested and wanted to learn everything they could about Christ. Then in Mexico he witnesses many of the Japanese merchants converting to Christianity. They were not sincere about this conversion, for, “Anything for profit was their motto, and they were quite open about it” (Perrin 155).
In Mexico Rokuemon encounters a Japanese Monk living in an Indian village in Mexico. He tells Rokuemon “I believe in my own Jesus. He lives among the miserable Indians” (Endo 120). This is the first moment when Rokuemon sees the good of Christianity and how Jesus can help people. Yet he is still unimpressed by Christianity. He still views Christ as the “ugly and filthy” figure he sees hanging on those omnipresent crucifixes in Mexico.

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His mission then leads him to Spain. Hear he meets the King Philip III of Spain and the Pope Paul V. This is when Rokuemon realizes how the mission is about to fail and there was only one thing they could do to prevent the mission from failing. Rokuemon tells his servant Yozo, “I’ve decided to go along with Lord Tanaka and Nishi and become a Christian” (Endo 170). Even though he does not believe in Christianity, he decides to go along with the baptism for the sake of the mission. Throughout the whole commencement Rokuemon keeps saying, “I have no desire to worship you. This is for the sake of our mission. I don’t believe any of this.” Before, during, and after, Rokuemon kept repeating the same thing over and over. Rokuemon is “baptized without conviction” and rejects Christ even at the moment of his own baptism. (Higgins 160) Even though the envoys had converted to Christianity, they were not able to make much better progress towards the success of their mission. There were still many problems that they encountered. As they saw the mission failing again, Lord Tanaka, on of the other envoys, committed seppuku. Lord Tanaka did not want to return home a failure so he committed the traditional suicide to die with honor. There was a total mission failure when Spain received a letter from the Christian priests in Japan. In this letter stated the persecution of Christians and how Japan has decided to close their doors to all foreigners. Due to this, Rokuemon was forced to go back home, Japan, empty handed and as a failure. All the Pope Paul V could do was “promise you (the envoys) that I will pray at each mass for the next five days… for Japan and for each of you. I believe God will not forsake Japan” (Endo 205).

“During the samurai’s absence, the tides turned in Japan” (Higgins 160). Many of the political figures have changed. The biggest change was the fact that “Japan has closed its door to the West and is vehemently engaged in the persecution of Christians” (Higgins 160). Lord Shiraishi, who initially send Rokuemon and other envoys on the trip for a trading agreement, left the Council and has been taken over by Lord Ayugai, who hates Christianity. There is zero tolerance for people who follow or spread Christianity. All who do so are taken for interrogation and are locked up in cells, like prisoners. They were stripped of their freedom and they were not able to communicate with each other. After a few deliberations amongst the member of the Council, the people who followed Christianity were burned at the stake in public.

When the envoys finally return from their trip “The only welcome that the samurai and Nishi received came from the officers, the children watching them from a distance, and the sound of the waves washing languidly onto the beach” (Endo 227). There had been no news of their return home, since there were no other ships going in or out of Japan. These officers take him to new Lords and say that all the people entering Japan are being interrogated. Instead of making this seem better, Rokuemon saw this as bad news. The elder statesmen were certainly aware of that fact. I was mortifying to get the same treatment as the merchants and seamen” (Endo 229). As soon as the officers found out that they had encountered Christianity their attitude towards the envoys changed overnight. It was as though they were in prison and not having any freedom.

As they envoys get interrogated by Lord Tsumura, they find out that “Edo has forbidden the practice of Christianity throughout every corner of Japan. His Lordship will not allow anyone who would spread the Christian teachings into our domain” (Endo 230). They find out that Japan no longer wants to trade with “Nueva Espaсa” and that they no longer have a mission to complete. Than out of nowhere Nishi says, “I became a Christian” (Endo 231). With this shocking information, there is not much that other could do to prevent their deaths. The only way to get out was by writing vows of recantation. Later they learn from Lord Matsuki, Assistant Inspector to the Council of Elders, that their mission was in vain.  Edo used our domain to find our how to build and said the great ships. And the waterways the great shops navigate – that’s why they stuck a lot of sailors in with the merchants on the voyage” (Endo 236). Their four years from home was a waste. There was no reason for them to leave home and there was no reason for them to convert to Christianity, not even for the sake of the mission. Their lives were in jeopardy due to this useless mission which they tried to complete successfully.

At this moment Rokuemon Hasekura has a great moral decision to make. Either he chooses to follow the rules of Edo and forget that Christianity ever existed, or he chooses to follow his new belief of God and live a life as a Christian. “His experiences in the West have torn him away from family and friends in his tiny, insular marshland, and the shogunate forbids him to associate with his other comrades who have converted to the proscribed faith” (Gessel 154). All he could do was stay at home and do only the work on his land. He was not able to socialize with any person who had gone with him on the mission in Spain. There is no one who can offer comfort or compassion. There is nothing he could do but to follow the orders of the Council of Elders. Now “Hasekura turns to the Christ he rejected even at the moment of his own baptism” (Peterson 3). As he becomes aware of his isolation, he realizes that Christ is the only figure who he can turn to. “The samurai returns to a life lived under a cloud, and out of the depths he beings to understand the “lordship” of Christ; he begins to see that the beauty of this emaciated man lay in his life and co-suffereing with the weak and wretched” (Higgins 160). Through his isolation he is able to see how Christ can help a man like him and how there is more to be done with his life.

After this Rokuemon Hasekura is tried and sentenced to death by the Japanese government with the intent on pushing the Western influences out of Japan. Even though he said he converted for the sake of the mission, like the other merchant who converted for their own benefit, Nishi and Rokuemon were sentenced to death. On the way to his execution, Rokuemon accepts the final words of Yozo, “From now on…He will be beside you. As Rokuemon is headed for his death, Yozo shows his belief in Christ and show how God will take care of all his problems. “He” will help Rokuemon get through the tough times and help his family get over the loss of his life. “At the moment when life itself is about to be snuffed out, it is the faith which lies at the core of his existence that sustains the samurai and transform his miserable death into a kind of martyrdom. And his sole companion as he makes the final journey of his life is the Jesus who met with similar rejection in the world” (Gessel 154). As he is about to die Rokuemon only has one person with him and only one person who can make his death a better one and that one person is God. As he is about to die in front of all the people to set an example against Christianity is when “Hasekura meets and embraces this pathetic King that his own sorrows become endurable, and his abortive life’s journey is transformed into a spiritually significant success” (Gessel 154). Only at the moment of his death did he become a true success. Only when he chose Christianity was he able to gain true happiness. Without Christianity his life was miserable and full of failure, but as soon as he accepted Christianity, his life became “a spiritually significant success.” Through the decision to accept his new God, Rokuemon was able to die in peace and not in vain.

“What was originally an alien religion put upon him like a suit of clothes has been personally appropriated. The Western suit which his creative writing retailored is Christianity, or, more precisely, Christ himself, who will not be discarded but humbly permits reshaping of his image to conform to the religious sensibilities of all believers” (Higgins 160). Rokuemon with the decision to take upon the beliefs of Christianity is able end his life happily. Through Christianity Rokuemon was able to survive when there was nothing left for him, when he was unable to talk with his friends just because they had converted to Christianity, and when he was burned at the stake. Christianity made his life a success instead of a complete failure.

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