Amakusa Shiro and the Holocaust at Shimabara

National Catholic Register, Luke O’Hara:That spring day must have dawned on Hara Castle like any other — sparrows chirping in the boughs above as soft waves lapped on the shore far below, and the doves thrumming their morning song as usual in the treetops beyond the thick stone walls. Most of the 37,000 souls inside those walls must have been prostrate with hunger, wondering if death were coming soon. Perhaps the music of the morning rendered their fear and hunger pangs less urgent, evoking dreams of the longed-for Paraíso — for such dreams might come in sleep or in the desperate languor of starvation.

But a storm of gunfire exploded the slumber: invaders blasting away at the starving Christians inside the demaru, the westernmost quadrant of the fortress — invaders well-fed and well-armed, their powder-flasks brimming full. Their targets could only die or run for cover, for they had long since used up all their gunpowder. This was the wakeup call to the starving holdouts trapped in their purgatory of a fortress — that these as-yet unexterminated Christians might finally taste their demon-haunted Shogun’s wrath.

A stronghold of Christendom once flourished in Japan, an expanse of lands spanning the Amakusa Sea and knit in common faith. A peninsula called Shimabara, crowned with a scar-faced volcano, formed its head, and a short sail southward, the thicketed islands of Amakusa filled out its form. Shimabara had harbored Catholics since at Aleast 1562, and Amakusa since 1566 or earlier. Catholicism in Shimabara had been nurtured by Arima Harunobu, the feudal lord who, upon his conversion, became the strongest pillar of the Church in Japan. Amakusa’s Catholic identity had been forged under the aegis of a Catholic general, Augustine Konishi Yukinaga.  The story is here.