The chapter provides a historical survey of the Christian century of Japan and its representation in later years. Japan’s first encounter with Christianity happened at a time that was highly charged in both European and Japanese history. In Europe, the departure of Jesuit missionaries for Japan was the result of two defining events in modern history: the inauguration of the so-called “age of great discoveries” and the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. In Japan, the same period saw the transition from the Sengoku period, a time of civil war among competing local powers, to the unification of the country under the Tokugawa Shogunate. Reflecting on the cultural negotiations of this period thus provides us with precious insight into the formation of both European and Japanese modernity, an important background to the modern creative interpretations of the “Christian century” that I examine in the rest of the book.
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