Summary (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
Dealing with a relatively obscure mission to New Spain, today known as Mexico, mounted by the feudal overlord of a district in seventeenth century Japan surrounding the modern northeastern city of Sendai, Shsaku End’s The Samurai focuses on the fundamental effects of the Tokugawa period on Japan, of Japan’s association with European Roman Catholic missionaries, and of its ultimate decision to close the country to all foreign influence. End’s interest in the episode arises from its relative obscurity and the lack of surviving historical records. His imagination was stirred by the situation of unsophisticated Japanese of the lowest rank in the samurai class being forced to play large roles on the international stage.
The novel begins with descriptions of the two men central to the action of The Samurai. The first is Rokuemon Hasekura, a samurai and the holder of a small fief in the marshlands in Masamune Date’s district. At home in his estate and among the people who serve his family, Hasekura cannot imagine a life different from the one he leads. He is of the land he tills, and he suffers the privations of the peasants tied to it. The second man is Father Velasco, Provincial at Edo (the older name of the modern city of Tokyo) for the Franciscan order of missionaries in Japan. Velasco is, in nearly every respect, the apparent opposite of the samurai. An alien in Japan, having fought with the Jesuits for control of missionary...
(The entire section is 993 words.)
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