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Journal Articles Journal of the LUCAS Graduate Conference Year : 2014

Between Accommodation and Intransigence: Jesuit Missionaries and Japanese Funeral Traditions

Abstract

Jesuit missionaries landed in Japan in 1549, six years after the country was discovered by Portuguese merchants. They quickly succeeded in converting a small part of the Japanese population, especially in the southern regions of the country. But this nascent Japanese Christianity faced many challenges. A significant stumbling block was the centrality of traditional funeral rites in Japanese society. Wary of upsetting social norms, the Jesuits opted for a strategy known as the 'accommodation policy', by which they tried to identify Japanese ritual elements that could be incorporated or adapted into the Christian liturgy without threatening its doctrinal integrity. This meant understanding precisely the nature and purpose of Japanese funeral rites. Were they, for example, an embodiment of Buddhist beliefs, or were they mere lay traditions and thus compatible with the tenets of Christianity? The Jesuits set out to interpret and classify accordingly the rituals of the many Buddhist sects in Japan. However, as Japanese Christianity gained a stronghold in some regions the accommodation policy made way for a new strategy of differentiation, as evidenced by the introduction of European tombstones.

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Dates and versions

hal-01062007 , version 1 (13-07-2018)

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  • HAL Id : hal-01062007 , version 1

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Helene Vu Thanh. Between Accommodation and Intransigence: Jesuit Missionaries and Japanese Funeral Traditions. Journal of the LUCAS Graduate Conference, 2014, 2, pp.108-124. ⟨hal-01062007⟩
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