Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012 An Eclipse, A Tree, A Ramen Shop, and Two Stories, one Old, one New

I meet the Huddleston kids out in the little front yard to watch the eclipse through little glasses the schools give out and a sheet of paper we used for a pinhole camera. It is a complete eclipse where we are--very awesome. Then they head out for a family day at a park. Our pre-brief is at Eric's where Sue tells the story from 2 Kings 3 where the king of Israel comes in despair to Elisha. Because of a drought, the nation is at the verge of annihilation by the King of Moab. Elisha tells them he will help them out of respect for Jehoshaphat the King of Judah. Elisha waits for the hand of the Lord to come upon him, and then he tells the emissaries that their dry channels and pools will soon fill with water that will come, not from rain, and that they will defeat their enemies. In verse 18 Elisha says "this is but a small thing in the sight of the Lord." They take his word in faith, and water starts flowing down from Edom to fill the land. So Sue shares that their family of five only has until the end of the month to find another place to live because the Gilberts will be moving into this house. The deal on Eric and Sue's land has still not come through, plus the time to build a house.
So far all other leads have not been promising. But Sue says that they will start packing nonetheless in faith that God will work it out, a "small thing for the Lord." So we pray that God will provide them a roof for their heads, in the neighborhood where their kids are going to school, and for peace for their stress in case God chooses to wait until the last minute.

While the others pass out LST flyers, Eric, Richard and I tackle removing a stump and planting a tree for (Mrs.) Abe-san near the BeOne house. With the appropriate implements of destruction, sandy soil, and some koohii (coffee) from the obaasan ("auntie")
it goes well and we head to meet the others at a ramen shop for lunch. This is a place that Danny helped to muck out and pressure wash last year. The owner Sato-san, is proud to show us the work he's done since and they have very cool tsunami shirts for the employee uniforms and we decide we need to get some.

Everyone asks me if I've seen the San Juan museum and park and I say no, and they say it's real close; you've got to come see it.
As we arrive, Eric tells me two stories. The first is about George and Abe (the "e" is pronounced halfway between the sound in "bay" and "bet"). George is a member of the BeOne group living in Osaka and he travelled to Tokyo on a business trip meets a business colleague with the last name "Abe." So George says, "are you from Ishinomaki?" and Abe-san says yes, how did you know? and George says well, I've visited Ishinomaki a good bit, and there are a lot of Abe's there. And the guy says, surprised, what were you doing there, and George says doing relief work with a team called BeOne, and Abe-san says oh, everyone in Ishinomaki knows about BeOne, but just one question, I really don't understand why you would all keep doing that when the work is so dirty and the radiation and all and many people reluctant to go there? And so George reminds Abe-san of a story that the Japanese all know well from their history that George thinks just might explain it, and so here's the rest of the story.

In 1603 the Daimyo Tokugawa Ieyasu subdued Osaka, consolidating his power and receiving the title "shogun" from the emporer, beginning the Tokugawa shogunate, which was to last over 200 years until Commodore Perry sailed into Urago Harbor near Edo/Tokyo in 1853, effectively ending Japan's isolationist period.

The late 1500's and early 1600's were treacherous times in Japan, and a leader's ability to master intrigue--knowing when and with whom to shift alliances, were as important their battle prowess. The times were also stirring with change--diplomatic overtures were being made between Japan and the Phillipines, Italy, Spain, and Latin America. The Shogan had captain William Adams build an ocean-going ship for him. Forward-looking leaders saw the advantage of trade with these regions and at least some of them saw Christian (Catholic) missionaries as having a healthy influence on the land (other religions, after all, having already been assimilated). a Phillipine Franciscan named Luis Sotelo was allowed to travel and proselytize freely.

A contemporary and ally with Ieyasu, in northeast Japan ruled Date (dah-teh) Masamune the Daimyo of Sendai, with his iconic crescent-crowned helmet. Masamune was an ambitious, shrewd, and ruthless warlord. But he was also a forward-looking statesman, building Sendai into a regional center of power, promoting trade and art, and a sometime protector of Christians. Perhaps the boldest example of Masamune's interest in broadening his country's horizons was the San Juan Bautista. This was a ship Masamune commissioned with European expertise, a replica of which may be viewed today in the museum/park in Ishinomaki, from whence the original sailed. In a bold move, Masamune mounted a sailing expedition, filling the San Juan with sailors, tradesmen, craftsmen, the priest Sotelo, Masamune's special envoy, the Samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga,
and the ambassador from Spain to Japan, the famed explorer Viscaino. The little ship sailed in 1613, Viscaino being entrusted with special gifts from the rulers of Japan to the king of Spain and to the Pope, and Sotelo with a letter from Daimyo Date to the Pope, written in latin, requestoing diplomatic relations, and that more priests be sent from Europe to teach in Japan. (Remember at this time Christianity equaled the Catholic church, and Spain embodying the entertwined roles of exploration, conquest and trade.)

The expedition stopped over in Veracruz, Mexico, where the emissaries were greeted by the Viceroy of Veracruz; then proceeded overland to continue on another ship across the Atlantic to Spain and Rome. The King of Spain, and Pope Paul V's Rome eagerly welcomed and hosted the diplomatic mission, where they were zealously catechized, baptized, and given Christian names. The europeans engaged in a little irrational exhuberance, picturing Date as a major player in Japan, Hasekura as his ambassador, and Sotelo as a kind of bishop of a strong Catholic church in Japan, and ultimately, a Japan firmly in their sphere of influence.

But the timing could not have been worse--none of this would come to pass, the emissaries returned in 1620 without any priests or trade agreements (the King of Spain having heard of the troubles I'm about to describe), and the brave Samurai Hasekura was rewarded with an ignominious end. What had happened? the tide abruptly turned against foreigners and Christians, culminating in the Shogunate's Expulsion Edict of 1614 which decreed that Christians must recant, leave, or be executed. Why this sudden reversal?

-Shorrtly after he acceded to the Shogunate, Ieyasu officially retired, abdicating in favor of his son Hidetada. Hidetada was more xenophobic than his father and had no love for foreigners, the franciscans, and their converts.

-The protestant reformation was troubling Japan as the tumult in Europe began to spill out

-Viscaino may have been a great explorer, but he was a deplorable ambassador, disrespecting both the customs of Japan and its gifts to the courts of the old world -Finally when Masamune heard Sotelo describe his travels, probably including the over-eagerness of Spain and Rome, contemporary accounts say he was surprised, even shocked. Historians surmise he sensed things had quickly gotten out of hand and that the ambitions of Spain and Rome had made them potential threats.

Within two days of the San Juan's return, an edict against Christians in Sendai was published. Forty days later, the execution of Christians in Sendai began, as Masamune followed the Shogunate's lead, although it is said that Daimyo Date's persecution was mild compared to the Shogun's.

The torture and execution of Christians escalated in the 20's and 30's, climaxing in an uprising and massacre of 37,000 Christians in 1638. Some were martyred by "inverted hanging," the details of which I will skip here. The last Japanese priest was crucified in 1642, and for two hundred years there were essentially zero Christians in Japan, although when a cathedral weas built in 1895, several people came forward to reveal themselves as secret Christians.

The Filipino Franciscan Sotelo was burned at the stake in 1624.

The loyal Samurai Tsunenega died of illness in 1622, but his family and servants were executed when they failed to recant and their clan's landholdings were taken away. The story of his expedition was supressed in Japan for 200 years and was finally told to startled Japanese in the 1800's by the Europeans who had extensively recorded the official visits by and conversions of the visitors from Japan.

Date Masamune died in 1636 and today the gifts and personal items from the San Juan's expedition may be found in museums in Sendai. So conclude the main points of the story that Eric referred to.

So George says to Abe, "You know how Sendai never got the priests the Daimyo Date asked for." Then George says, "now we're here." And Abe knowingly nods his head.

After the visit to the museum and park we help pass out Let's Start Talking flyers, and I'm paired up with Joyce, a volunteer who's actually older than me. She takes one side of the street and I take the other and five minutes later a look back and she's disappeared. I go a little farther talked to a sweet woman who is proud of her flowers and interested in the LST English lessons, but was afraid she couldn't take part because she was caring for her mom. When I get back to the vans, Joyce is still not there, so Mie and I take a van to find her. Mie sees a young man talking to an old obaasan with a walker. After talking to them, Mie tells me she thought it was unusual that a young man would be so tender toward an older woman, and it turned out he was a volunteer with a Christian group. When we get back to the others Joyce is there; I guess she can take care of herself OK.

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