Japan Art and Christianity Before Oppression

Japan Art and Christianity Before Oppression

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kano and Tosa artists provide a wealth of detail concerning various angles of Japanese high culture. Accordingly, the legacy of both schools will always attract Japanese art lovers. 

Amazingly, Kano Sōshū (1551–1601) painted a stunning Christian church in the environs of Kyoto. This happened under the auspices of the Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), who looked favorably upon this faith – irrespective of his motives.

The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was built in 1576 and consecrated on the Day of the Assumption. Oda Nobunaga was focused on power concentration, utilizing modernity, opening up the domestic economy, and seeking new ideas.

The Kyoto National Museum says, “Eitoku’s younger brother by eight years, Sōshū worked in a dynamic style that faithfully maintained the aesthetics of his older brother’s oeuvre. When Eitoku left Kyoto to produce paintings for Azuchi Castle on the order of warlord Oda Nobunaga, he left Sōshū in charge of the Kano headquarters in Kyoto, revealing the extraordinary confidence that Eitoku placed in his brother.”

However, the wrath of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) listened to the counterbalance of Nobunaga’s more enlightened policies. Accordingly, with internal religious, regional, and political discontent among the feudal lords, Hideyoshi ushered in the start of anti-Christian edicts that ultimately resulted in the mass persecution of Christians during the early Edo Period.

The “Edict of expelling Christian missionaries” was implemented by Hideyoshi before the Edo Period began. Henceforth, the lovely church depicted by Sōshū was demolished in 1587. Therefore, this adorable artifact by Sōshū is a national treasure because little remains of the period when Japan opened up to Christianity.

Accordingly, the power concentration of the Edo elites and Buddhist monasteries would witness the eradication of Christianity in Japan bar “hidden Christians.”

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