The Father of Otakuism

Sometimes people say that the Tengu and Oni of folklore are actually Romans living secretly deep in the mountains.

Luís Fróis (1532-1597), o primeiro japonólogo europeu

One of the best known of the early missionaries in japan was Father Louis Frois (ルイス フロイス). His detailed and graphic descriptions of East Asia and especially of the Japanese mission field were a real contribution not only to the history of missions but also to the Geography, Ethnography and the Cultural History of the Far East, a contribution that is becoming more and more recognized in the world of scholarship today.

Father Louis Frois : Historian of the Mission, by Fr. Hubert Cieslik, Sophia University

Luís Fróis was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1532. He became an apprentice scribe in the Secretaria Real (the Royal Secretariat) in Lisbon, and in 1548, age 16, entered the Society of Jesus. In March of that year he departed for India, arriving in Goa in October. He was never to see his family again. He soon met Father Francis Xavier, as well as a Japanese convert from Kagoshima named Jiro. Frois worked for some years under the Provincial of India as the person in charge of reporting on East Asia to the church in Europe;

In 1563, age 31, he arrived in Japan for the first time, at Yokoseura, Nagasaki. In 1565 Frois journeyed to Kyoto, but with the downfall of his protector, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru, he was forced to take refuge in Sakai. It was in 1569 that he met Oda Nobunaga at Nijo Castle and received permission to proselytize. He spent the ensuing years in missionary work while writing The History of Portuguese Territories in East India. In 1581, in the capacity of interpreter, he accompanied Visitor General Alessandro Valignano on the latter’s travels in Japan, and was welcomed in Kyoto and Azuchi by Nobunaga. Nobunaga died the following year.

In 1583, at age 51, Frois began writing his History of Japan on the order of Vice Provincial of Japan Gaspar Coelho. Part One of the history was completed in 1586. In that year, Frois traveled to Arima, Amakusa, Nagasaki, Ohmura, Hirado, Sakai, Osaka and Kyoto in the company of the Vice Provincial. Hideyoshi promulgated the edict on the expulsion of the missionaries in 1587, and Frois was given this order by his envoy. From then on, Frois devoted himself to writing his history.

In 1590, at age 60, Frois was sent to Macao, accompanying Visitor General Valignano. Three years later he returned to Nagasaki; and two years after that, in 1597, the persecution of Christians began in earnest in Japan. Frois’ last report was on the fate of the twenty-six martyrs crucified in Nagasaki. That year—1597—Frois died at the church in Nagasaki.

(Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit)

Luis Frois Statue, in Yokoze Ura Park (横瀬浦公園), Sakai City, Nagasaki-ken

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