Women Religious Leaders in Japan's Christian Century, 1549-1650  book cover
1st Edition

Women Religious Leaders in Japan's Christian Century, 1549-1650

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ISBN 9780754664789
Published March 28, 2009 by Routledge
422 Pages

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Book Description

Meticulously researched and drawing on original source materials written in eight different languages, this study fills a lacuna in the historiography of Christianity in Japan, which up to now has paid little or no attention to the experience of women. Focusing on the century between the introduction of Christianity in Japan by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in 1549 and the Japanese government's commitment to the eradication of Christianity in the mid-seventeenth century, this book outlines how women provided crucial leadership in the spread, nurture, and maintenance of the faith through various apostolic ministries. The author's research on the religious backgrounds of women from different schools of late medieval Japanese Shinto-Buddhism sheds light on individual women's choices to embrace or reject the Reformed Catholicism of the Jesuits, and explores the continuity and discontinuity of their religious expressions. The book is divided into four sections devoted to an in-depth study of different types of apostolates: nuns (women who took up monastic vocations), witches (the women leaders of the Shinto-Buddhist tradition who resisted Jesuit teachings), catechists (women who engaged in ministries of persuasion and conversion), and sisters (women devoted to missions of mercy). Analyzing primary sources including Jesuit histories, letters and reports, especially Luís Fróis' História de Japão, hagiography and family chronicles, each section provides a broad understanding of how these women, in the context of misogynistic society and theology, utilized resources from their traditional religions to new Christian adaptations and specific religio-social issues, creating unique hybrids of Catholicism and Buddhism. The inclusion of Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese texts, many available for the first time in English, and the dramatic conclusion that women were largely responsible for the trajectory of Christianity in early modern Japan, makes this book an essential reading for scholars of women's history, religious history, history of Christianity, and Asian history.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part 1 Nuns: Preface to Part 1; Hibaya Monica (c.1549-c.1577): Virgem of Sakai; Naito Julia (c.1566-28 March 1627): Superiora; The beatas of Manila (1615-1656): visionaries; Epilogue to Part 1. Part 2 Witches: Preface to Part 2; Otomo-Nata Jezebel (d. 15 February 1587): priestess of Hachiman; Marriage and divorce in Catholic Japan: Otomo Sorin and his marital conflict; Jezebel the witch; Jezebel versus the Church (1577-1587); Epilogue to Part 2. Part 3 Women Catechists: Preface to Part 3; Hosokawa Tama Gracia (1563-25 August 1600): scholar-teacher; The women catechists; Tama Gracia in the network of women against abuse; Releasing Kirishitan women apostles from captivity; Epilogue to Part 3. Part 4 Sisters: Preface to Part 4; Justa of Nagasaki and the sisters of the Misericórdia; Elder women of the Marian confrarias; Epilogue to Part 4; Conclusion; Glossary; Bibliography; Index.

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Haruko Ward is Associate Professor of Church History at Columbia Theological Seminary, USA.


'An amazingly learned, well-researched, and in-depth look at women’s religious activities in the "Christian Century" in Japan, including leaders in the Zen Buddhist and Shinto traditions as well as the Japanese women who became Christian teachers and catechists. The book gives a human face to the story of cultural encounters and religious conversion, explores women’s activities within and in opposition to Christianity from a global perspective, and offers a startling new explanation for the "closing" of Japan to the West.' Merry Wiesner-Hanks, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA 'A monumental achievement! Haruko Ward has revealed a century of forgotten lives and given voice and agency to religious leaders who have been absent too long from our histories. She has shown us, in all their variety and complexity, the female leaders who transgressed and transformed Japan's religious culture. This is more than a history of women or a history of religion. It is a book that will change the way that we think about a crucial and transitional age in the history of Japan.' D. Max Moerman, Columbia University, USA 'Haruko Ward's new book on the unique role played by women in evangelization in early modern Japan breaks new ground in the study of Christian missions in East Asia. Based on an extensive knowledge of primary sources in a number of languages, it is an impressive piece of original scholarship and will become an important reference work for further research.' M. Antoni J. Üçerler, S.J., Campion Hall, Oxford, UK ’This very readable volume represents an extraordinary degree of scholarship, drawing on original sources in Portuguese, Japanese and Latin, with secondary material also in German, and working with theoretical and analytic tools from disciplines including history, feminism, theology and ethnology.’ Parergon ’This work is a valuable contribution to the history of Christian missionary activity in Asia and to women’s studies. It joins a growing n