The Story Of Hasekura Tsunenaga

Hasekura Tsunaga was an ambassador sent by Date Masamune to the continent of Europe during the Keicho and Genna periods. He was called Yoichi at first, and later Rokuemon or Nagatsune. His father was Yamaguchi Tsunenari, and he was adopted by his father’s elder brother, Shikura Tokimasa.

He was temporarily banished from Japan for being involved in his father’s abdication but was later forgiven and granted 600 koku of rice. In 1611, Masamune invited a Franciscan priest, Sotero, and allowed him to proselytize in his territory.

Hasekura Travels
Hasekura Travels

He sent envoys to the King of Spain and the Pope, and Sotero intended to increase the number of Franciscans and establish the Bishopric of Oshu. On September 15, Keicho 18, Shikura and Sotero set sail from Tsukiura on the Oshika Peninsula on the San Juan Bautista, which Masamune had built with the support of Shogun Mukai, the shogunate’s shiphandler.

The party crossed Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean and had an audience with King Felipe III of Spain in Madrid, where they presented Masamune’s letter to him. While in Madrid, he was baptized in the presence of the king at the church attached to the Discalced Daughters’ Monastery of the Royal Family.

His spiritual name was Felipe Francisco. He went to Rome, had an audience with Paul V, and presented a letter of the sovereign to him. The city of Rome gave them civic rights and made Shikura a nobleman.

Hasekura in Rome
Hasekura in Rome Hasekura Tsunenaga. (2022, August 27). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasekura_Tsunenaga

When they returned to Madrid again, they received reports of the persecution of Christians in Japan, and the attitude of the Spanish government was cold.

Therefore, he could not fulfill his original wish and had to leave Spain in vain. He left Seville for Manila via Mexico and returned to Sendai on August 26, 1620.

What happened after his return?

While the envoy was granted an audience with the Spanish king, the Osaka Summer Campaign was over, the Toyotomi clan was destroyed, and Tokugawa Ieyasu’s supremacy was established. Date Masamune’s plans were also destroyed by this. The following year, in 1616, Ieyasu died, and the era of the Japanese people’s overseas heroism was over.

The prohibition of Christianity spread throughout the country, and there was a succession of expulsions and executions of Christians in various parts of the country. Shikura Tsunenaga returned to Sendai in 1620, but he was not recorded in the official records of the clan. He passed away just two years later at the age of 52.

Some say that he apostatized, others that he kept his faith, and it is impossible to determine which. His son, Rokuemon Tsuneyori, had his lands confiscated for breaking the Christian prohibition and was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide).

The missionary Sotero sneaked into Nagasaki from Manila, but was soon discovered and martyred at the stake. Date Masamune began to actively crack down on Christianity in the territory of Sendai from 1620 when Shikura Tsunenaga returned to Japan. Masamune lived to the age of 70 in 1636.
Episode Descendants of Japanese Samurai?

The Mystery of the Spanish Hapon Surname

Hasekura Tsunenaga
Hasekura Tsunenaga

In the town of Coria del Rio, near Seville, Spain, there are 830 people with the surname Hapon, or “Japan. This is the town where Shikura Tsunenaga and others on the Keicho envoy mission to Europe stayed for four days on the outward journey and for nine months on the return journey. It is said that they may be descendants of the envoys.

Victor Valencia Hapon, who works at the town office, checked the archives left at the office to see if they were descendants of the samurai from Sendai, and found a baptismal register of 166 years, which was left at the Estonian church. In the baptismal register of the year 7, he found the name Juan Martin Hapon. \

Hapon is a second surname, which means that his mother took the surname Hapon. If we assume that Juan Martin was baptized in 1616, 51 years after the mission’s stay, and that his mother gave birth to him, we can assume that he was 25 years old. If we assume that Juan Martin was 25 years old when he was baptized and his mother gave birth to him, the timing fits.

However, we cannot be sure because there are no surviving registers for the period 1604-65. There is no Hapon surname in the registers before 1604. The person who left the surname of Hapon is also speculated in Oizumi Koichi’s “Shikura Tsunenaga”.

There is a magnificent statue of “Tsunenaga Shikura” among the artworks owned by the Borghese family, a prestigious family in Rome. Pope Paulus V, whom Tsunenaga Shikura had an audience with, was from the Borghese family, and Cardinal Borghese took care of the group in Rome.

This picture was painted in 1616, just after Shikura left Rome. The Sendai City Museum has a statue of Tsunenaga Shikura, a national treasure, a statue of Pope Paulus V that he brought back with him, and a certificate of Roman citizenship given to him. A letter from Date Masamune is also kept in the Vatican.

The Samurai by Shusaku Endo is a novel featuring Tsunenaga Shikura, who was baptized in order to advance his mission as an envoy to Japan, but is troubled by his true faith, which is depicted in his profound writing style