8th Research Meeting (December 2012)

The eighth (the second of this academic year) and the final meeting of this research project was held at Best Western Premier Hotel Nagasaki on the 28-29th of December 2012. The first day saw eighteen attendants and the second nineteen, i.e. all members of the project plus three guest researchers.

Professor Fukasawa, leader of the research project, opened the meeting with reports on administrative matters, i.e. budget and building of the website of the project. There then followed discussions about a collection of essays, planned to be the final output of the project.

The next speaker was Professor Odori, who gave a lecture on “The schism of the Anabaptists and the emergence of the Amish in Switzerland: Dynamism of exclusion and tolerance”. Odori showed that the Anabaptist movement had a tradition of absolution and toleration and that the Amish who appeared afterwards inherited the tradition. Analyzing these two groups, Odori argued that already before intellectuals built theories of religious toleration, ideas of toleration were formed at the grass roots level among ordinary clergymen and common believers.

In the next session, two speakers, Professors Kuroki and Katsuta, read papers summarizing this research project from their own research perspectives. Kuroki, specializing in the Middle East, suggested several topics for future research and indicated their possibilities. Katsuta, studying Irish history, after giving a general picture of the religious history of the modern British Isles, pointed out the necessity of distinguishing purely religious and more complex conflicts in the study of Irish history. In the following discussion it was pointed out that further study was necessary to build a conceptual framework for discussing the internal logics of religious beliefs.

The final speaker of the day was Professor Fukasawa. Firstly, he confirmed that a premise of this research project was to revise the two following views commonly held by historians: (1) that the importance of religion diminished in the modern period by the process of secularization; (2) religion inevitably led to conflicts between different religious groups. Second, while Fukasawa admitted that further comparative dialogues and mutual understanding between different research fields were necessary, he suggested several models for future research, i.e. multi-layered structure of self-other relationship or negotiations between different religious norms. He also indicated the importance of such heuristic approach as a probe into hidden concordance or internal correspondence between outwardly different phenomena, which would overcome the simple distinction model of “either A or B”. Fukasawa’s observations drew vivid responses from other research members.

On the second day of the meeting, Professor Kanda of Toyo University (a guest attendant) gave a lecture on ‘Religious conciliation between Christianity and traditional religions in Japan in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries’. He gave a stimulating argument that a rapid acceptance of Christianity in early modern Japan was enabled by the similarities between Christianity, Buddhism and other Japanese religious customs, and that coexistence of Christianity and other traditional religions was regarded as possible until the breakout of Shimabara rebellion, which began the era of repression of Christianity in Japan.

The next speaker was Mr. Oishi of Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, who gave a lecture on “Aspects of tombstones of hidden Christians in Japan”. He first showed definitions and categories, as well as geographical distributions, of the tombstones, and then elucidated conditions peculiar to Sotome and Goto Islands which enabled the hidden Christian faith to survive in the Edo period. Both Kanda and Oishi’s lectures led to vivid discussions.

The afternoon of the 29th and the whole day of the 30th were devoted to excursions to the following places: Chinese-style Buddhist temples in Nagasaki City, site of the twenty-six Japanese martyrs and graveyards of hidden Christians in Sotome. Also, Kakiuchi region and Karematsu shrine, both of which were explained by Oishi, were visited. The members had a rare opportunity of interviewing an ‘elder’ of a hidden Christian group. To see the existing hidden Christian faith as well as its relationship with neighboring Buddhists or Roman Catholics was of great help to deepen the understanding of the practice of religious conciliation between different religious groups.