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Mission

What is the Keicho Missionbl•¨Π‰ξbŒc’·Œ­‰’ŽgίŠΦ˜A”N•\

What is the Keicho Mission

In 1613 (the 18th year of the Keicho Era), about 400 years ago, the Sendai feudal lord DATE Masamune sent a mission to the Vatican and to Spain to negotiate direct trade with Spanish possessions in Mexico, in exchange for allowing Christian missionaries into the Sendai feudal domain.
@HASEKURA Tsunenaga, who had been serving Lord DATE, was chosen for the mission and, accompanied by Franciscan missionary Luis Sotelo, sailed across the Pacific Ocean in a wooden european-style sailing ship which had been built in the Sendai feudal domain. They went to Spain via Mexico to meet King Philip III. Then they continued to the Vatican Palace to meet Pope Paul V. Unfortunately, he could not achieve his mission because of political changes that led to the oppresson of Christianity in Japan. He came back to Sendai In 1620, seven years after his departure.

Why was HASEKURA Tsunenaga chosen for this mission?

Some say that his experience of voyaging on the ocean and living in a foreign country during the Japanese invasions of Korea (called Bunroku no eke) was considered. Also his experience as a leader of riflemen and foot soliders showed his capability to lead the mission. Some also say that a relatively junior official was sent in order that any failure of the mission would not cause political repercussions.
@Because historical material has been lost, we cannot be sure why Tsunenaga was chosen.

The Journey of the Keicho Mission

HASEKURA Tsunenaga and about 180 members of his mission on board Sant Juan Bautista left Tsuki-no-ura (some say "Ogatsu") harbour bound for Rome on 28th October 1613.

After the 90 day voyage, Sant Juan Bautista reached Acapulco in Mexico, which was a Spanish colony at that time. After that, they continued their mission through San Juan de Ulua, Havana and Sanlucar until they reached Espana (Spain) where they met King Philip III at the capital "Madrid" and prepared to meet the Pope. Finally, 3rd of November in 1615, HASEKURA Tsunenaga met Pope Paul V and negotiated for trading with Mexico and sending Christian missionaries to Sendai.

HASEKURA Tsunenaga
uHASEKURA Tsunenagavcollection of SENDAI city museum

Tsunenaga was given Roman citizenship and joined the Roman Aristocracy. The Pope approved sending Christian missionararies but left the matter of trade to the discretion of the Spanish King.

Tsunenaga went back to Spain. He became ill because of the long journey and faced a shortage of funds for the journey.

He tried to achieve the aim of the mission, getting permission for trade from the King and the Pope, but had to go home without any certain reply from them.

He returned to Mexico and aboard the Sant Juan Bautista (which came back to pick him up) he reached Manila in the Philippines. The Sant Juan Bautista was bought by the Spanish navy so he travelled to Nagasaki by another ship and finally returned to Sendai on 22nd September 1620.

When he got back home, he heard the news that Christianity had been banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Two years after his return, he died from his illness on 1st July 1622. He never came under the spotlight of history.

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