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In the name of the father, the son and the islands of the Gods : a reappraisal of Konishi Ryusa, a merchant, and of Konishi Yukinaga, a Christian samurai, in sixteenth-century Japan Petrucci, Maria Grazia


The aim of this thesis is to investigate and re-interpret the historical figures of Konishi Ryusa and of his son, Konishi YakuroYukinaga analyzed through their mercantile background, as a samurai, and as firm Christian believers. Konishi Ryusa emerges as an atypical character, whose knowledge and appreciation for a foreign credo brought him to be wealthy and well connected. He was the bow from which his sons sprung by projecting their images on the historical screen of Japan's past. Ryusa was in effect the sponsor and the cause for Yukinaga's success in life. Yet, Yukinaga remains a controversial character in Japanese history because nothing much is left than few records. Most of his family documents were destroyed or lost, as Japan was engulfed in civil wars, factional rivalries and destruction. Yukinaga was involved in the territorial unification struggles, as his job was to connect peripheral areas, like the Seto Inland Sea, to the central government represented by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Yukinaga's father, Ryusa, also worked for Hideyoshi once he became the ruler of central Japan. Ryusa's acquaintance with the Jesuit Fathers and his consequent adoption of Christianity, a foreign religion, brought to him and to his family spiritual, practical and political advantages. For Ryusa, the spiritual advantages were less visible as Christianity was still in an early stage, but his contact with the Jesuits opened the way to the Portuguese merchants, enhancing his business relations. His mercantile experience brought him to get acquainted with local political power hubs. His son, Yukinaga reaped the benefits of his father's position, and being a skilled warrior he raised higher close to Hideyoshi's power. Yukinaga for his integrity was often described as model for Christian conversion, but remained a samurai in the "Land of the Kami". He embodied both western cultural expansion and Japanese militaristic ambitions proper of the last stages of the period of the civil wars. Hence, this study aims at a re-appraisal of both Konishi Ryusa, as a merchant and Yukinaga as new types of men, possessing not only technical and military knowledge, but also a commercial know-how. They applied new technology and ideas brought in by the Portuguese and missionaries literally navigating on the monsoon winds. My aim is to focus particularly on their adoption of Christianity, as it was perceived in sixteenth century Japan, and on how they applied it in their lives. Although my research includes Ryusa as one of the leader of the Christian movement in Kyoto and Nagasaki, my focus will be mainly on Konishi Yukinaga, whose brilliant career as a warrior led him to become a Great Admiral. He used Christianity as a political tool in the Seto Insland Sea area, still a peripheral area ruled by pirates and warlords. It was in this stretch of Sea that important cultural contact between Japan and the rest of the world occurred. From there Japan exercised its domestic and international authority in the attempt to create a new order in East Asia. Yukinaga's work in the Seto Insland Sea demonstrated the existence of a power gap between peripheries and the not yet stabilized centrality of the Japanese Government, whose expansionistic aim was to put under control peripheral but strategic areas in order to regulate its domestic and international relations. Although Konishi Yukinaga took part in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's adoption of an international aggressive diplomatic policy, used by Japan to face western economic expansion in Asia, he embodied the will to negotiate and to mediate at its best. His brilliant character, neglected and perhaps misinterpreted throughout the centuries, is revealed through his work as a mediator, as he was willing to persuade and to compromise in order to reach a situation where there were only winners. It relates perhaps the story of a man whose values lingered between the old and the new, almost as a "renaissance" type of man, for a Japanese renaissance that never took off.

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