Sunday, March 07, 2004

Sakai blog.

Items from the past, in this case a passage from a letter I sent from Japan. I'd forgotten I'd taken such an interest in a place called Sakai.

March 13, 1992.

Sakai is a southern suburb of Osaka, these days an agglomeration of quayside factories, boxy dwellings and traffic, home to about 800,000 people. In modern times, it's a place of no particular distinction. But it has a history, traces of which remain. Before the Edo era, it was the main port of the Kansai, not Osaka, which could properly be described as Sakai's northern suburb in those old days.

St. Francis Xavier landed in Sakai en route from Kyushu to Kyoto, and succeeded in making converts there, the most noteworthy being the daimyo of Senshu (the ancient province centering on Sakai). Looking further into this, I've discovered that there's a park in Sakai called Zabieru-koen -- "Xavier" rendered into Japanese + "koen," park -- dedicated in 1949, 400 years after St. Francis Xavier landed in Japan. During the Tokugawa suppression of Christianity, evidently a nucleus of Sakai-area Japanese Christians went underground; at the time of the Meiji revolution, they re-emerged. A similar dynamic played out in other places, most famously Nagasaki. Now Sakai has a relatively large Christian population, and a number of churches. But that is relatively speaking, since overall Japan's Christian population is about 1% of the total, I think.

There are other spots of interest there, too, including a 5th-century tumulus that bears distinct design similarities to sites in Korea.


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