Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hirado(-平戸), Japan


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Hirado (平戸市 Hirado-shi) is a city in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan.

The city of Hirado is located on the north western tip of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan. Hirado City consists of populated islands (Hirado(平戸島), Ikitsuki(生月島), Oshima(的山大島), Takushima(度島), and Takashima(鷹島) islands), numerous unpopulated islands with in its vicinity, and the town of Tabira(田平町 Tabira-chō). Part of Nagasaki Prefecture, Hirado and Ikitsuki islands are connected to the main island of Kyushu by bridges.

The part historically named Hirado is located on the island of the same name. On October 1, 2005 Ikitsuki, along with the town of Tabira, and the village of Ōshima, both from Kitamatsuura District, was merged into the expanded city of Hirado. With recent mergers, the city's boundaries have expanded, and Hirado now occupies parts of the main island of Kyūshū. The components are connected by the Hirado Bridge.

Where the East meet West.....Hirado has a long history of interaction with foreign countries. From the Sengoku Period (the Warring States Era from 1467 to 1600) to the beginning of the Edo Period (1603-1867), the city blossomed through trade with the Netherlands and other European countries and was known as `Firando` by the Western visitors. It flourished to become a wealthy trading port that was even called `Firando, Capital of the West`. A cultural crossroad, Hirado still has many historical sites from that period of time.

Hirado had been a port of call for ships between the Asian mainland and Japan since the Nara period. During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, the local Matsuura clan held the rights to trade with Korea and with Sung Dynasty China. During the Sengoku and early Edo periods, Hirado's role as a center of foreign trade increased, especially vis-a-vis Ming Dynasty China and the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The Portuguese arrived in 1550; and the English and Dutch initially reached Japan at the beginning of the 17th century. At its maximum the Dutch trading center covered the whole area of present-day Sakikata Park.

In 1637 and in 1639, stone warehouses were constructed, and the Dutch builders incorporated these dates into the stonework. However, the Tokugawa shogunate disapproved of the use of any Christian Era year dates, and therefore demanded the immediate destruction of these two structures. This failure to comply with strict sakoku(鎖国,さこく)national isolation policy was then used as one of the Shogunate's rationales for forcing the Dutch traders to abandon Hirado for the more constricting confines of Dejima, a small artificial island in the present-day city of Nagasaki. The last VOC Opperhoofd or Kapitan at Hirado and the first one at Dejima was François Caron, who oversaw the transfer in 1641.

Historian said that the transfer was actually the excuse for the Shogunate to take the Dutch trade away from the Hirado clan. During the Edo period, Hirado was the seat of the Hirado Domain. Hirado Castle is today an historical and architectural landmark.

Kakure Kirishitan - The hidden Christian

Hirado has a long Christian tradition. With the arrival of St Fransisco Xavier in the mid 16th century, many people converted to Christianity. Even during the period of Christian prohibition, people continued their faith underground. When the ban was lifted many people in Hirado became Catholics again and some kept practicing their faith as they did under the ban. They are called Kakure Kirishitan. Many beautiful churches and sights related to this long Christian history can be found in Hirado so come and Discover Hirado!

Some history on hidden Christian
Christianity was proclaimed initially by the Society of Jesus, joined later on by the less cautious Franciscan order. In 1570 there were 20 Catholic missionaries in Japan, the most famous of whom was Francis Xavier, who arrived in 1549. Nagasaki became the center of Japanese Catholicism, and maintained close cultural and religious ties to its Portuguese origins. These ties were severed once Christianity was outlawed; at this point, Catholicism went underground, its rites preserved by the Kakure Kirishitan, or "hidden Christians", who continued practicing their faith in secret. Some Japanese Catholics were killed for their faith, thus becoming martyrs. Many of these martyrs have been canonized by the Church, and their feast is still kept by Catholics as a universal memorial on February 6 each year.

Kakure Kirishitans who refused to renounce their unorthodox, secrecy practices decided not to rejoin Catholic Church, they were called Hanare Kirishitan (離れキリシタン, separated Christians). Ikitsuki Island(生月島), Gotō Islands.

Yamada Church, the last remaining one in Nagasaki Prefecture to have an organized group of Hidden Christians (Kakure Kirishitan) in practice and existence. Located near Yamada Elementary School, this small church holds much history as one of the first and last outposts of Christian belief and persecution in Japan.

Discovery in History

Hirado Castle,also known as Kameoka Castle, looks out over the surrounding blue sea. From the top of the main donjon one can admire the view of the harbour and the primeval forest of little Kurokojima island.

In Konoura village on Oshima Island you can still find the old wooden townhouses lining up next to each other creating a special atmosphere that is reminiscent of an old traditional Japan.

There is Umegayatsu Kairakuen Mansion,a old Japanese style villa.

The Dutch Trading Post, before it was ordered to be moved to Dejima in Nagasaki City, the Dutch Trading Post was located here in Hirado.

William Adams(1564-1620)
The first English citizen to arrive in Japan, Anjin Miura(三浦按針)(Williams Adams' Japanese name)or Anjin-sama became a diplomatic advisor for the Tokugawa Shogunate. William Adams (1564–1620), the English navigator, died here, and the Gravesite can be found here. he became a key advisor to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and built for him Japan's first Western-style ships. Adams was later the key player in the establishment of trading factories by the Netherlands and England. He was also highly involved in Japan's Red Seal Asian trade, chartering and captaining several ships to Southeast Asia. He died in Japan at age 55, and has been recognized as one of the most influential foreigners in Japan during this period.

Camillus Costanzo (1571–1622)
Camillus Costanzo (1571–1622), Italian Jesuit martyr, was burnt alive in Hirado. Camillus Costanzo SJ was a soldier and a law student before joining the Naples province of the Society of Jesus in 1591. A native of Calabria, southern Italy. Initially he was sent to China by Jesuit Order ; but the Portuguese prevented his entrance into that country. Instead, his energy and calling were invested in Japan. He learned the Japanese language quickly; and he successfully encouraged converts in the region near the city of Sakai(西海市 Saikai-shi). When all missionaries were banished from Japan, he went to Macao for six years, devoting himself to studying Buddhist texts and writing pamphlets in Japanese. Despite the dangers involved in ignoring the Tokugawa shogunate's exclusionary laws (sakoku), he returned in 1621. Disguised as a soldier, he managed to elude capture until April 24, 1622 when he was arrested on the island of Hirado off the western coast of Kyushu.He was condemned to death; and he was burned alive on September 15, 1622. There is a monument to Costanzo Camillus, Jesuit martyr, located in the mainland part of the modern city of Hirado, formerly the town of Tabira, Japan.

Zheng Chenggong(郑成功/鄭成功)

The Taiwanese national hero and Ming general Koxinga(国姓爷)(1624–1662)was born here.His actual name is Zheng Chenggong(郑成功/鄭成功). Right behind Kawachi Village is a small hill on which the little Maruyama Park is located. Here one can find the mausoleum of Zheng Chenggong. Inside there's a statue of him and every year on July 14 the Tei Seiko Festival is being held at this spot.

He is the son of Zheng Zhilong(鄭芝龍), a Chinese merchant/pirate, and his Japanese wife Tagawa Matsu(田川松),or Weng-shi (翁氏) (1601 - 1646). Born in Kawachi village on Hirado Island, Zheng Chenggong's Japanese name is Tei Seikô.

She gave birth to Koxinga during a trip with her husband when she was picking seashells on the Senli Beach, Sennai River Bank (川內浦千里濱), Hirado.The stone beside which she gave birth still exists today as the Koxinga Child Birth Stone Tablet (鄭成功兒誕石碑), which is 80-cm tall and 3-metre wide, and submerged during high tides.

Tagawa Matsu raised Koxinga in Japan by herself until he was seven, and her closeness with her son is evident in some of the accomplishment and decisions Koxinga made in his adult life.

Later he moved to China with his parents. During the turbulent days of the decline of the Chinese Ming Dynasty and the rise into power of the Qing Dynasty he was active in the movement supporting the Ming. Famous for achievements such as conquering Taiwan and making valuable efforts towards the country’s national land development, he was also called Kokusenya or Koxinga. Koxinga died of malaria at the age of 37, at a relative young age.

In 1995, Hirado started a friendship affiliation with Nan'an City(南安) of Fujian Province, China, the birthplace and homeground of Zheng Chenggong's Chinese father.

Japanese diplomat Inagaki Manjiro(稲垣満次郎)(1861–1908) also born in Hirado.

Discovery the natural beauty

The city is surrounded by the bountiful sea and is blessed with a rich natural environment. Its main industries are fishing and agriculture. It is the northern entrance to the Saikai National Park.

Discovery of the culture

It seems like I am using my blog to promote Hirado, Japan for free.....better look for yourself at their official websites...other than believing in what I wrote to plan your trip to Hirado...


1. Hirado official website, http://www.city.hirado.nagasaki.jp/english/home.htm
2. Religion: Japan's Crypto-Christians, Time Magazine, 11-1-1982 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,925197,00.html
3. Ikitsuki Journal; Once Banned, Christianity Withers in an Old Stronghold, The New York Times, 25-12-2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/25/world/ikitsuki-journal-once-banned-christianity-withers-in-an-old-stronghold.html
4. Koxinga, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koxinga

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