The Samurai Characters
The main characters in The Samurai include Rokumon Hasekura, Father Vrais Luis Velasco, and Yozo.
- Rokumon Hasekura is a low-ranking samurai whose feudal lord sends him on a mission to Mexico and Europe. He has no desire to travel and loves the land on which he lives.
- Father Vrais Luis Velasco is an ambitious and zealous Franciscan priest who has developed an affection for Japan but also wishes to impose Christianity on the Japanese people.
- Yozo is Hasekura’s loyal family retainer. He behaves entirely obediently toward Hasekura, who comes to see him as a Christlike figure.
Last Updated on June 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1121
Rokumon Hasekura is the samurai of the title, a low-ranking nobleman who accepts the mission to Mexico and Europe unwillingly, at the behest of his feudal lord. Hasekura is a simple man, whose great virtues are loyalty and consistency. He has never traveled before, even within Japan, and does not want to see the world, though his occasional envy of the enthusiasm shown by the younger envoy Nishi Kyusuke shows that he has some awareness of what he is missing. The samurai is not an impressive figure and has no gifts of eloquence or intelligence. He loves the marshland where he lives and regards the peasants as his brothers. Although he is of noble birth, it is continually stressed that his rank is low and that he has more in common with the peasantry than with the aristocracy.
Father Vrais Luis Velasco
Father Vrais Luis Velasco is a Franciscan priest who narrates part of the novel in the first person. The reader is given more insight into his character than into anyone else’s. He is proud and haughty, quick to anger, and ambitious for worldly glory. At the same time, Velasco’s religious zeal is sincere, and he is aware of his faults. He is continually interrogating himself about his motives, trying to determine whether he really wants to serve God or to advance his own career in the church. He has a particular affection for Japan and for the Japanese people, which he finds difficult to explain. At the same time, he is ruthless in lying to and manipulating the Japanese envoys to further his own schemes. He is proud of the wealth and power of the Catholic Church, and relies on these attributes to dazzle the Japanese visitors to Europe.
Yozo is an old family retainer of the Hasekura family. He is entirely loyal to the samurai, having grown up with him and looked after him all his life. He is described as being like “an obedient dog” in his attitude to his master and even declares that he will become a Christian when the samurai decides to do so. The samurai later sees him as being similar to Christ in character and appearance.
Hasekura’s uncle, who is not named, is a military veteran, wounded in the leg in Lord Ishida’s service. He is constantly complaining about the decline in his family’s fortunes and is obsessed with regaining their former fiefdom.
Lord Ishida is the samurai’s feudal lord, the most powerful daimyo in the northeast region. He is affable and friendly in his manner to the samurai, despite their difference in rank. Lord Ishida is eager to develop the region he controls, opening it up to trade and building a harbor and shipyards to rival those in Nagasaki. At the end of the narrative, he changes to become colder in his manner, as he distances himself from the samurai and from Christianity.
Lord Shiraishi is one of the council of elder statesmen at the northeast regional court. He is well disposed toward Hasekura and shows him marks of favor, suggesting that it may be possible for him to regain his ancestral lands. Hasekura, in his turn, has a high opinion of Lord Shiraishi’s trustworthiness. By the end of the book, Lord Shiraishi has lost his influence, and his fiefdom has been reduced.
Nishi Kyusuke is the youngest of the four envoys sent to Mexico. He is impressionable, enthusiastic, and eager to learn. Nishi is more impressed than the other samurai by the sights he sees when traveling and is more adaptable to the new situations in which they find themselves. He is the first of the envoys to embrace Christianity.
Matsuki Chusaku is the cleverest and most eloquent of the Japanese envoys. He is also the only one who refuses to follow Velasco to Europe and the only one who prospers and obtains a good position upon his return to Japan. Matsuki views the diplomatic mission with cynicism and trusts nobody, least of all Velasco.
Tanaka Tarozaemon is the fourth Japanese envoy, an obstinate, unimaginative man who is older than the others and the only one who is a combat veteran. When they discover that the route to Veracruz is dangerous and they are likely to be attacked, he immediately assumes command of the expedition. In temperament and attitudes, he is the closest of the envoys to Hasekura, having a strong sense of tradition and honor.
Captain Montano is the captain of the San Juan Baptista, the ship in which Velasco and the envoys and merchants sail to Acapulco. He dislikes the Japanese and refuses to fall in with Velasco’s attempts to integrate the two races on the voyage.
The Former Monk
The former monk is a Japanese man who lives among the native people in the small village of Tecali. He is eager to meet and assist the Japanese envoys and feels great nostalgia for his homeland but is resigned to the fact that he will never see it again.
Bishop Lerma is the Bishop of Seville, who cautions Velasco against his zealous approach to the task of converting the Japanese to Christianity. His attitudes are broadly similar to various other minor characters, from the archbishop in Mexico City to Velasco’s cousin and uncle, all of whom believe Velasco to be too aggressive and ambitious.
Father Valente is a Jesuit priest who lived in Japan for more than thirty years and has a shrewd understanding of Japanese culture. His shabby appearance and mild demeanor conceal a sharp mind, and he manages to remain calm in his debate with Velasco, while the Franciscan priest is visibly angry.
Cardinal Borghese is said to be the most able man in the Vatican and is one of the most famous and revered princes of the church. He is kindly and understanding but has the attitudes of a practical politician, which ultimately take precedence over religion in his mind.
Pope Paul V
The pope is surrounded by immense pomp but is a small, chubby, unassuming man who is sympathetic by nature and wants to help the Japanese envoys. However, he is unable to give them much time and attention. He grants them an audience for the sake of form and promises to pray for Japan.
Lord Tsumura is one of the council of elder statesmen in the northeast. He is suspicious and hostile in his attitude to the two envoys who return from the mission and represents the change in attitude that has taken place since they left Japan.