To what extent could Japan become Catholic?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by IntellectuallyHonestRhino, Sep 30, 2019.

  1. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    During the Sengoku period, Catholic Christianity was growing at an extraordinary rate. I'm wondering how under the right circumstances, how much of Japan could become Catholic? 10%? 33%? 84%? Oda Nobunaga can live in a potential scenario, or Ieyasu loses Sekigahara, etc.

    Also, what would Catholic-Buddhist relations in Japan be like then?

    Foe example, Nagasaki in OTL did have a ton of Catholics, in fact it was called Rome of the East. Would Catholicism in Japan go the way of Indonesia, or Germany? Indonesia style would be an almost total conversion from the old faith to the new (from Hinduism and Buddhism to Islam), while Germany style is how in various provinces, the religious make-up differed, and so you have a Protestant majority and Catholic minority, but both populations are substantial and not the overwhelming majority (the majority but not overwhelming majority of Germans converted to Lutheranism).
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
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  2. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    It would also be really cool if one could describe in detail the potential makeup of certain provinces/prefectures in this ATL Japan. I, for one, expect Nagasaki and Bungo to be more Catholic than the national average, while Echigo would be more Buddhist than average.
     
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  3. Monter Gone Fishin'

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    Depends in how long the social strife of the Sengoku continues, although the proportion of Japanese Christians is overly exaggerated, it made up roughly 1% of the Japanese before Toyotomi expelled the Jesuits, the Germany route is the most likely there, unlike Indonesia Japan has a long tradition of an unified polity under a singular head of government (even if said head of government didn't actually control the entire country, as it was during the Sengoku), so a complete break with the court isn't attractive for many local lords, particularly those far from the big centers of Japanese Christianity (Kyushu and Western Kansai), it is also noteworthy that the same strife that caused some lords to be disillusioned with ancient traditions and convert to a new faith also created a sense of nostalgia for the "good ol' days" where the ancient traditions of the Imperial Court got a great deal of prestige and recognition by the daimyo (ironically, since the period from the Onin War to Hideoyoshi's reconstruction of Kyoto saw the court at the lowest point of power and finances), so you have many people leaving the system and as much (if not more) holding on, so a scenario where a substantial Catholic population in localized regions (mostly in the west) with a firmly Shinto-Buddhist central government is a plausible scenario, if bound for some mayhem.
    And it is cited very often but I'll take the unorthodox route and say that Nobunaga is the least likely of the three unifiers to make a Christian Japan, yes the patronized some Jesuits and was genuinely curious about them, but also consider how he treated the Buddhists that opposed him and the patronage may not be out of sincerity, but pragmatism, should the Jesuits take a large role on his government (and frankly, they will) Nobunaga wouldn't hesitate in crushing ruthlessly, there is also the fact that contrary to his reputation Nobunaga was a big traditionalist in terms of governance, ounce dismantling the Ashikaga bakufu instead of usurping Ashikaga Yoshiaki he amassed traditional court titles like Udaijin and Taisho, leading one to believe he was somewhat in the "good ol' days" folk that clang on tradition rather than one that was going to break away from it.
     
  4. Dolan Lookin fer Gooby

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    Simple, just play Shogun2 Campaign as Otomo Clan. Unless you deliberately limit yourself, Japan will turn Catholic at the end of the game.

    AI have trouble when you just do the Donderbuss Cavalry spam.

    In more seriousness though, it was hard to achieve in real life, because nobody is stupid enough to kindly let their infantry massacred by matchlocks and donderbusses.
     
  5. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    What about around Sendai and Miyagi provinces? Miyagi is where some Japanese in the past claimed Jesus died, so a significant Catholic minority could turn in into a local pilgrimage center, and Date Masamune was tolerant of missionaries, so perhaps if Catholics are much more powerful compared to OTL, could the north have Catholic majority regions as well?
     
  6. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    The Otomo under a Japan with a sizable Catholic minority (and majority in Kyushu) will most likely be the most powerful clan in Kyushu, apart from the clan that unifies Japan.
     
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  7. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    How much communal strife do you think there would be in this Japan? @Monter
     
  8. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    The Ikko-Ikki are my favorite faction in Shogun 2.
     
  9. Dolan Lookin fer Gooby

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    So yeah, let's be fair here. When we factored that as Christianity spread, there will be equal reactions by Buddhist-Shintoist rivals, it will come to a point of the Realm would be divided sooner than you think.

    Most realistic assessment of Christian dominating Japan is have Otomo and Kyushu Daimyos declaring independence from Emperor, having converted or subjugate Shikoku with Portuguese help, and hold on some Western Honshu regions.
     
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  10. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    Christianity doesn’t have to dominate Japan. It can just be a third of the country. 2/3’s of Japanese are Buddhist, 1/3 are Catholic in such a scenario. The country would still be more Buddhist than Catholic, and still run by Buddhists in Edo or Kyoto (or wherever). How do we get that?
     
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  11. BBadolato Fifth Picturewraith

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    Okay, the problem with the spread of Christianity is that depends on the Daimyo to not tolerate but actively encourage it within the clan to become a majority and this is difficult. Other Christian daimyo are just weak, so that leaves The Otomo and if your willing to go the distance the Ouchi. The Date where just one clan of many in the North of Japan so it would not make the North necessarily a stronghold for Christianity same with the Hosokawa.

    First things first you can't use the Otomo unless you really screw over the Shimazu, the Mori and make the Otomo clan stronger internally. Otomo Sorin adopted Christianity far later than what Shogun 2 will give you, and since he never really had full control over his lands, and that some his lands were ruled by clans that were more allies than vassals it wasn't as if Christianity was widespread. Second Screwing the Mori if it means keeping the Ouchi in power actually gives the Catholics a better foothold in Yamaguchi in Kansai than anywhere else. Third, screwing the Shimazu means anyone trying to gain control is going to have to fight the Otomo instead of Sorin turning to Hideyoshi for help, which considering Sorin does not seem the most strategically minded of lords could see Christianity not enjoying the same kind of patronage.

    The Ouchi are overshadowed by the Otomo, but with no real good reason for it. The Ouchi allowed Xavier to come to Kyoto and even allowed a church in Yamaguchi Castle their capital. However, Ouchi Yoshitaka after failing to defeat the Amago ended up getting coup'ed by his retainer Sue Takafusa and forced to commit suicide by 1551. Takafusa now known as Sue Harukata then put Yoshitaka's nephew Otomo Haruhide in as a figurehead known as Ouchi Yoshinaga. By 1557 both Yoshinaga and Harukata are dead and the Ouchi clan is no more with the less tolerant Mori clan ruling the West. So you can either go Yoshitaka defeats the Amago, or Harukata Sue beats the Mori. However, this takes the risk of butterflying away Nagasaki. I did for my timeline but how expansive Catholicism gets assuming it isn't replaced is still up in the air.

    Depending on how things go you could at least see some catholic presence in a major city or two in Northern Kyushu, maybe Yamaguchi on the mainland and some city on the coast I doubt it can really spread inland. However, you would really have to decide how is Japan going to be united, and when which is always a hard question to ask because it requires a fair deal of imagination. As for toleration that depends on both individual lords and the religious policy a united Japan which requires dealing with the problem of militarized temple complexes.
     
  12. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    So, how large can Catholicism become in Japan, assuming that it is very lucky (everything mentioned above and potentially more goes right) without being absolutely ASB? Which provinces would be majority Catholic? Have significant Catholic minorities? And after Catholicism is established in Japan via those provinces, would Catholicism across Japan be overall protected, so perhaps 5% of the population in the province can convert? Or would it be like the HRE, where the minorities are heavily persecuted (i.e. Catholicism may be flourishing in Yamaguchi but utterly oppressed in Kaga).?
     
  13. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    Also, how much social strife would there be in a more religiously pluralistic (emphasis on more)? Would riots between Catholics and Buddhists almost be commonplace for a century?
     
  14. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    What kind of mayhem do you envision?
     
  15. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. Why is that?
     
  16. ennobee Well known in disreputable subgroups

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    One thought: how Catholic could Shintoism get? Or otherwise how many of the folk religion rituals would Japanese Catholicism be able to take up and still remain Christian, even Papist in core? I recall many of the Catholic traditions I grew up with, like Sinterklaas/Santa Claus actual being folk rituals with a thin Church veneer on it. Might something like that work in Japan too? Like priests in Shinto robes celebrating Carp Day?
     
  17. IntellectuallyHonestRhino Well-Known Member

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    I’m sure Japanese Catholicism would have to adapt to the region it lives in, especially if it were to be ten to forty percent of the country.

    Japanese Mary and Jesus in OTL never looked Nordic or Italian.
     
  18. Monter Gone Fishin'

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    As much as you want, really there isn't much to make certain conclusions as that is a situation that didn't even get close to happen, only thing we know is that once an unified government is formed in Kyoto there was a reaction against Christianity, although there is the question in how different it would be if instead of a small localized community in a few cities you have an actual mass movement in several sectors of Japanese society, better yet if Nobunaga never takes off and the Warring period continues as the Japanese Christians have time to consolidate and expand so their existence isn't so easily crushed. In the communal conflicts in the pluralistic Japan we have to look in the 3 main issues that lead to Toyotomi and Tokugawa in being either suspicious or outright hostile to Christianity and missionaries:
    1. Abrahamic exclusivity: The first "foreign" religion to reach Japan was Buddhism, and it's introduction wasn't without resistance under the traditional elites, however Buddhism isn't an exclusionary religion, the Buddha's teaching are esoteric and far-reaching enough that it can blend and syncretize with local beliefs all over Asia, Japan no exempt. Christianity surely can find places to blend in, Catholicism in particular is really good at it, but while it is really hard to pinpoint where Shinto begins and Buddhism end in Japanese traditions, Christianity is Christianity with a series of well-established dogmas, Church hierarchy, hard coded teachings, whereas Catholicism can be more syncretic that other European brands there is a limit for that, the Chinese rites controversy is the crux of the issue there, and in Japan it would be no different, so as long as the one in charge is not Christian himself, the Christian minority will always stand out and be easily targeted.
    2. Divine right to rule: The Japanese Emperors claimed their right to rule by being the direct descendant of the sun kami, even as their rule faded during the Heian era the divine descent of the Emperors was still used by whoever ruled under their name to also legitimize their own right to rule, Christianity is a torn in the side because it fundamentally rejects such notion, the only divinely concept person was Jesus and the Emperor surely isn't Jesus, so how you deal with that? This is one is poignant because Christianity was introduced right during a period of great strife (which was also one of the reasons it was able to expand so much) which once it ends sectional conflict is the last thing the new ruler of Japan will want and to him the new faith is a constant source of instability and rebellion. There is also the fact that the Sengoku saw the rise of the Ikko-Ikki, Toyotomi and Tokugawa saw first hand how dangerous religious fanatics that openly rejects your right to rule can be, their prejudice had some ground as bad as it sounds.
    3. "Gaijin goes home!": This one is often the most pointed out reasons for the anti-Christian edicts, even if many (hard to believe that most didn't) Japanese Christians genuinely followed their new faith it is a fact that it was a tool for foreign powers (read: Portugal and Spain) to enter the echelons of Japanese society and benefit from it, being from trade to actual political influence, which goes to the previous point of stability after the age of war, further Christian expansion will be also seen as continuous foreign encroachment.
    Just to not be such a downer: can it work out? Yes it can, if improbable. For point #1 we can look at the Ottoman Empire, although not perfect by any standard and with plenty of rebellion even before the 19th century, the Empire had mechanism to deal with the multi-faith nature of the state, which can be a solution for the Japanese (counterpoint being that such system emerged from a region that was already familiar with multiple faiths and ethnicities and for such thing to emerge in Japan would be too convenient, but let push it aside) to deal with the dual nature of society. For #2 you can look at Indonesia and Islam, there Sufi mystics went through really unorthodox practices to win the people there (read: the rulers), going to claim actual magic such as changing the weather to win credibility for their faith, so can Japanese Christianity evolve in such manner? Maybe if the Church is too intransigent but Christians are too numerous to be stamped out, the Emperor/Shogun/Kampaku/whatever can set up its own "Church of Japan" with him as its protector (even if the ruler itself isn't Christian, we can look at the Ottomans again). For #3, it is actually pretty easy, OTL itself did so, the 1600s saw the decline of Iberian power in East Asia, as their power continues to dwindle so does its influence through the Catholic community, this allows the Japanese Christians to become their own thing, rather than tools of foreign powers.
    Can any of this happen likely? Not at all, @BBadolato laid some info about the challenges for Christianity to even establish themselves outside of some periferic regions, to grow to such extends that a biconfessional system to emerge will be quite a ordeal, but with enough suspension of disbelief it can work out.
     
  19. BBadolato Fifth Picturewraith

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    Okay, Nagasaki was formed as a Jesuit leased trade post when they lost Yamaguchi, and the Otomo merely tolerated them. The Arima benefited from Nagasaki but was always going to be a minor threat to the Ryuzoji clan in Hizen, who where only really stopped by the Shimazu.

    Japan-Religion.png

    Okay, my best guesstimate is Catholicism becomes a majority in the Yellow Provinces assuming butterflies give both the Ouchi and Otomo success. The Green is a sizable minority, I given Izumi Province in Kansai due to Sakai city. The Orange is a Buddhist majority, with a possibility for some catholicism. This is assuming a lot of things especially no protestant-esqe Church of Japan, which would be a really tempting idea for some.
     
  20. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    The funny thing, of course, is that Christianity has a long history of endorsing various versions of a "divine right to kingship," including, prominently, in this very era. It would be fairly easily solved by a workaround such as: The Emperors may not have been of divine descent, but they were of divine endorsement, recasting the descent from the sun kami as being some kind of misremembered message from the angels of God. Basically, it would be recasting the Japanese monarchy as a version of the Davidic kingship for Japan instead of Israel. You could probably come up with some tortured explanation for how the Emperors actually descended from David, who was supposed to predate them by a few centuries, too, just to avoid the question of "Why did God choose two peoples?" and to tie into the obsession with the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel (they're totally the Japanese, guys!).

    More broadly, even without something like this the Church's behavior around this time suggests that they would have been totally willing to endorse a divine right to rulership by the Emperor and the Shogun (more in the vein of "they were made kings, so they have a divine right to rule") had they tolerated Church activities in Japan (or, ideally, converted, but I don't think they would insist on that).