Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Rokuemon Hasekura

Rokuemon Hasekura (roh-KEW-eh-mon), a rural samurai (military knight) with the rank of lance-corporal (yari-goch) in His Lordship’s gun corps. He is the master of the family fief in the marshland of northeastern Japan, a feudal vassal of the most powerful daimy (feudal nobleman) of the region. A short, well-built man in his early thirties, he has sunken eyes, high cheekbones, a flat nose, and long black hair tied up with white ribbon. Unprepossessing in appearance, he seems more a peasant than a samurai. Although he is a man of feeling, he never allows his face to register his emotions. Politically naïve, he is a simple man of few words and trusts his feudal superiors implicitly, granting them unquestioning obedience. Appointed by His Lordship to serve as an envoy to the Spanish viceroy of Nueva España (New Spain, modern Mexico), he functions as a heroic but gullible scapegoat, or “holy fool,” in the game of national politics. A confirmed Buddhist, he becomes an insincere Christian.

Lord Ishida

Lord Ishida, Hasekura’s immediate feudal superior and patron, a plump, dignified nobleman given to smiling.

His Lordship

His Lordship, Masamune Date (DAH-teh), the daimy ruling the region in which Ishida and Hasekura live.

Padre Vrais Luis Velasco


(The entire section is 512 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Abandoned by his patron, Lord Ishida, and no longer protected by the disgraced Lord Shiraishi, Hasekura comes to question the basic workings of Japan’s feudal society. Ideally, it is built upon the fulfillment of mutual obligations, but Hasekura sees how easily an insignificant member of it, one such as he, can be sacrificed to the policy decisions of the social elite. Cautioned to live quietly, he is allowed to go home to his family. In the process of destroying everything in his possession that suggests Christian sympathies, Hasekura comes upon a manuscript thrust into his hands by a Japanese living with the Indians in New Spain. A convert to Roman Catholicism, the man has rejected institutional religion for a personal relationship with Christ. The Man in Tecali (he has no other name) “had wanted not the Christ whom the affluent priests preached in the cathedrals of Nueva Espana, but a man who would be at his side, and beside the Indians, each of them forsaken by others.” Painfully aware of his own isolation, Hasekura turns to the Christ he rejected even at the moment of his own baptism. Arrested for having converted to Roman Catholicism during his journey abroad, Hasekura is tried and sentenced to death by a Japanese government intent on stamping out Western influences. Hasekura, on the way to his execution, accepts “emphatically” the import of Yozo’s parting words: “From now on...He will be beside you.”

If Hasekura’s rejection of class and culture...

(The entire section is 605 words.)