By R. Willes.
The extreame part of the knowen world vnto vs is the noble Iland Giapan, written otherwise Iapon and Iapan. This Island standeth in the East Ocean, beyond all Asia, betwixt Cathayo and the West Indies sixe and thirtie degrees Northward from the Equinoctial line, in the same clime with the South part of Spain and Portugall, distant from thence by sea sixe thousand leagues: the trauile thither, both for ciuill discord, great pyracie, and often shipwracks is very dangerous. This countrey is hillie and pestered with snow, wherefore it is neither so warme as Portugall, nor yet so wealthy, as far as we can learne, wanting oyle, butter, cheese, milke, egges, sugar, honny, vinegar, saffron, cynamom and pepper. Barleybranne the Ilanders doe vse in stead of salt: medicinable things holsome for the bodie haue they none at all. Neuerthelesse in that Iland sundry fruites doe growe, not much vnlike the fruites of Spaine: and great store of Siluer mynes are therein to be seene. The people are tractable, ciuill, wittie, courteous, without deceit, in vertue and honest conuersation exceeding all other nations lately discouered, but so much standing vpon their reputation, that their chiefe Idole may be thought honour. The contempt thereof causeth among them much discord and debate, manslaughter and murther: euen for their reputation they doe honour their parents, keepe their promises, absteine from adulterie and robberies, punishing by death the least robbery done, holding for a principle, that whosoeuer stealeth a trifle, will, if he see occasion, steale a greater thing. It may be theft is so seuerely punished of them, for that the nation is oppressed with scarcitie of all things necessary, and so poore, that euen for miserie they strangle their owne children, preferring death before want. These fellowes doe neither eate nor kill any foule. They liue chiefely by fish, hearbes, and fruites, so healthfully, that they die very old. Of Rice and Wheat there is no great store. No man is ashamed there of his pouertie, neither be their gentlemen therefore lesse honoured of the meaner people, neither will the poorest gentleman there matche his childe with the baser sort for any gaine, so much they do make more account of gentry then of wealth. The greatest delight they haue is in armour, each boy at fourteene yeeres of ages, be he borne gentle or otherwise, hath his sword and dagger: very good archers they be, contemning all other nations in comparison of their manhood and prowesse, putting not vp one iniurie be it neuer so small in worde or deede, among themselues. They feede moderately, but they drinke largely. The vse of vines they knowe not, their drinke they make of Rice, vtterly they doe abhorre dice, an all games, accounting nothing more vile in a man, then to giue himselfe vnto those things that make vs greedy and desirous to get other mens goods. If at any time they do sweare, for that seldome they are wont to doe, they sweare by the Sunne: many of them are taught good letters, wherfore they may so much the sooner be brought vnto Christianitie. Each one is contented with one wife: they be all desirous to learne, and naturally inclined vnto honesty and courtesie: godly talke they listen vnto willingly, especially when they vnderstand it throughly. Their gouernment consisteth of 3 estates. The first place is due vnto the high Priest, by whose laws and decrees all publike and priuate matters appertayning to religion are decided. The sects of their clergie men, whom they doe call Bonzi, be of no estimation or authoritie except the high Priest by letters patent doe confirme the same: he confirmeth and alloweth of their Tundi, who be as it were Bishops, although in many places they are nominated by sundry Princes. These Tundi are greatly honoured of all sorts: they doe giue benefices vnto inferiour ministers, and do grant licences for many things as to eate flesh vpon those dayes they goe in pilgrimage to their Idoles with such like priuileges. Finally, this High Priest wont to be chosen in China for his wisedome and learning, made in Iapan for his gentry and birth, hath so large a Dominion and reuenues so great, that eftsones he beardeth the petie Kings and Princes there.
Their second principal Magistrate, in their language Vo, is the chiefe Herehaught, made by succession and birth, honoured as a God. This gentleman neuer toucheth the ground with his foote without forfaiting of his office, he neuer goeth abroad out of his house, nor is at all times to be seene. At home he is either carried about in a litter, or els he goeth in wooden Choppines a foote high from the ground: commonly he sitteth in his chaire with a sword in one side, and a bow and arrows in the other, next his bodie he wearth blacke, his outward garments be red, all shadowed ouer with Cypresse, at his cappe hang certaine Lambeaux much like vnto a Bishop Miter, his forehead is painted white and red, he eateth his meat in earthen dishes. This Herehaught determineth in all Iapan the diuerse titles of honour, whereof in that Iland is great plentie, each one particularly knowen by his badge, commonly seene in sealing vp their letters, and dayly altered according to their degrees. About this Vo euery Noble man hath his Solicitor, for the nation is so desirous of praise and honour, that they striue among themselues who may bribe him best. By these meanes the Herehaught groweth so rich, that although hee haue neither land nor any reuenues otherwise, yet may he be accounted the wealthiest man in all Iapan. For three causes this great Magistrate may loose his office: first, if he touch the ground with his foote, as it hath beene alreadie said: next, if he kill any body: thirdly, if he be found an enemie vnto peace and quietnesse, howbeit neither of these aforesaid causes is sufficient to put him to death.
Their third chiefe officer is a Iudge, his office is to take vp and to end matters in controuersie, to determine of warres and peace, that which he thinketh right, to punish rebels, wherein he may commaund the noble men to assist him vpon paine of forfeiting their goods: neuerthelesse at all times he is not obeyed, for that many matters are ended rather by might and armes, then determined by law. Other controuersies are decided either in the Temporall Court, as it seemeth good vnto the Princes, or in the Spirituall consistorie before the Tundi.
Rebelles are executed in this manner, especially if they be noble men or officers. The king looke what day he giueth sentence against any one, the same day the partie, wheresoeuer he be, is aduertised thereof, and the day told him of his execution. The condemned person asketh of the messenger whether it may bee lawful for him to kill himselfe: the which thing when the king doeth graunt, the partie taking it for an honour, putteth on his best apparel and launcing his body a crosse from the breast downe all the belly, murthereth himselfe. This kind of death they take to be without infamie, neither doe their children for their fathers crime so punished, loose their goods. But if the king reserue them to be executed by the hangman, then flocketh he together his children, his seruants, and friends home to his house, to preserue his life by force. The king committeth the fetching of him out vnto his chiefe Iudge, who first setteth vpon him with bow and arrowes, and afterward with pikes and swords, vntill the rebell and family be slaine to their perpetuall ignominie and shame.
The Indie-writers make mention of sundry great cities in this Iland, as Cangoxima a hauen towne in the South part thereof, and Meaco distant from thence three hundred leagues northward, the royall seat of the king and most wealthy of all other townes in that Iland. The people thereabout are very noble, and their language the best Iaponish. In Maco are sayd to be ninetie thousande houses inhabited and vpward, a famous Vniuersitie, and in it fiue principall Colleges, besides closes and cloysters of Bonzi, Leguixil, and Hamacata, that is, Priests, Monks and Nunnes. Other fiue notable Vniuersities there be in Iapan, namely, Coia, Negru, Homi, Frenoi, and Bandu. The first foure haue in them at the least three thousand and fiue hundred schollers: in the fift are many mo. For Bandu prouince is very great and possessed with sixe princes, fiue whereof are vassals vnto the sixt, yet he himselfe subiect vnto the Iaponish king, vsually called the great king of Meaco: lesser scholes there be many in diuers places of this Ilande. And thus much specially concerning this glorious Iland, among so many barbarous nations and rude regions, haue I gathered together in one summe, out of sundry letters written from thence into Europe, by no lesse faithfull reporters than famous trauellers. Petrus Maffeius de rebus Iaponicis. For confirmation wherof, as also for the knowledge of other things not conteyned in the premisses, the curious readers may peruse these 4 volumes of Indian matters written long ago in Italian, and of late compendiously made Latine, by Petrus Maffeius my old acquainted friend, entituling the same, De rubus Iaponicis. One whole letter out of the fift booke thereof, specially intreating of that countrey, I haue done into English word for word in such wise as followeth.
Aloisius Froes to his companions in Iesus Christ that remaine in China and India.
The last yeere, deare brethren, I wrote vnto you from Firando, how Cosmus Turrianus had appointed me to trauile to Meaco to helpe Gaspar Vilela, for that there the haruest was great, the labourers few, and that I should haue for my companion in that iourney Aloisius Almeida. It seemeth now my part, hauing by the helpe of God ended so long a voiage, to signifie vnto you by letter such things specially as I might thinke you would most delight to know. And because at the beginning Almeida and I so parted the whole labour of writing letters betwixt vs, that he should speake of our voyage, and such things as happened therein, I should make relation of the Meachians estate, and write what I could well learne of the Iapans manners and conditions: setting aside all discourses of our voyage, that which standeth me vpon I will discharge in this Epistle, that you considering how artificially, how cunningly, vnder the pretext of religion, that craftie aduersary of mankind leadeth and draweth vnto perdition the Iapanish mindes, blinded with many superstitions and ceremonies, may the more pitie this Nation.
The inhabiters of Iapan, as men that had neuer had greatly to doe with other Nations, in their Geography diuided the whole world into three parts, Iapan, Sian, and China. And albeit the Iapans receiued out of Sian and China their superstitions and ceremonies, yet doe they neuertheless contemne all other Nations in comparison of themselues, and standing in their owne conceite doe far preferre themselues before all other sorts of people in wisedome and policie.
Touching the situation of the countrey and nature of the soyle, vnto the things eftsoones erst written, this one thing I will adde: in these Ilands, the sommer to be most hot, the winter extreme cold. In the kingdom of Canga, as we call it, falleth so much snow, that the houses being buried in it, the inhabitants keepe within doores certaine moneths of the yeere, hauing no way to come foorth except they break vp the tiles. Whirlewindes most vehement, earthquakes so common, that the Iapans dread such kind of feares litle or nothing at all. The countrey is ful of siluer mines otherwise barren, not so much by fault of nature, as through the slouthfulnesse of the inhabitants: howbeit Oxen they keepe and that for tillage sake onely. The ayre is holesome, the waters good, the people very faire and well bodied: bare headed commonly they goe, procuring baldnesse with sorrow and teares, eftsoones rooting vp with pinsars all the haire of their heads as it groweth, except it be a litle behind, the which they knot and keepe with all diligence. Euen from their childhood they weare daggers and swords, the which they vse to lay vnder their pillowes when they goe to bed: in shew courteous and affable, in deede haughtie and proud. They delight most in warlike affaires, and their greatest studie is armes. Mens apparel diuersely coloured is worne downe halfe the legges and to the elbowes: womens attire made handsomely like vnto a vaile, is somewhat longer: all manner of dicing and theft they do eschewe. The marchant although he be wealthy, is not accounted of. Gentlemen, be they neuer so poore, retaine their place: most precisely they stand vpon their honour and worthinesse, ceremoniously striuing among themselues in courtesies and faire speeches. Wherein if any one happily be lesse carefull than he should be, euen for a trifle many times he getteth euill will. Want though it trouble most of them, so much they doe detest, that poore men cruelly taking pittie of their infantes newly borne, especially girles, do many times with their owne feete strangle them. Noble men, and other likewise of meaner calling generally haue but one wife a peece, by whom although they haue issue, yet for a trifle they diuorse themselues from their wiues, and the wiues also sometimes from their husbands, to marry with others. After the second degree cousins may there lawfully marry. Adoption of other mens children is much vsed among them. In great townes most men and women can write and reade.
This Nation feedeth sparingly, their vsuall meat is rice and salets, and neere the sea side fish. They feast one another many times, wherein they vse great diligence, especially in drinking one to another, insomuch that the better sort, least they might rudely commit some fault therein, does vse to reade certaine bookes written of duties and ceremonies apperteyning vnto banquets. To be delicate and fine, they put their meate into their mouthes with litle forkes, accounting it great rudenesse to touch it with their fingers: winter and sommer they drinke water as hot as they may possibly abide it. Their houses are in danger of fire, but finely made and cleane, layde all ouer with strawe-pallets, whereupon they doe both sit in stead of stooles, and lie in their clothes with billets under their heads. For feare of defiling these pallets, they goe either bare foote within doores, or weare strawe pantofles on their buskins when they come abroad, the which they lay aside at their returne home againe. Gentlemen for the most part do passe the night in banketting, musicke, and vaine discourses, they sleepe the day time. In Meaco and Sacaio there is good store of beds, but they be very litle, and may be compared vnto our pues.
In bringing vp children they vse words only to rebuke them, admonishing as diligently and aduisedly boyes of sixe or seuen yeeres of age, as though they were olde men. They are giuen very much to intertaine strangers, of whom most curiously they loue to aske euen in trifles what forraine nations doe, and their fashions. Such arguments and reasons as be manifest, and are made plaine with examples, doe greatly persuade them. They detest all kinde of theft, whosoeuer is taken in that fault may be slaine freely of any bodie. No publike prisons, no common gayles, no ordinary Iusticers: priuately each householder hath the hearing of matters at home in his owne house, and the punishing of greater crimes that deserue death without delay. Thus vsually the people is kept in awe and feare.
About foure hundred yeeres past (as in their olde recordes we finde) all Iapan was subiect vnto one Emperour whose royall seat was Meaco, in the Iaponish language called Cubucama. But the nobtlitie rebelling against him, by litle and litle haue taken away the greatest part of his dominion, howbeit his title continually remayneth, and the residue in some respect doe make great account of him still, acknowledging him for their superior. Thus the Empyre of Iapan, in times past but one alone, is now diuided into sixtie sixe kingdomes, the onely cause of ciuill warres continually in that Iland, to no small hinderance of the Gospell, whilest the kings that dwell neare together inuade one another, each one coueting to make his kingdome greater. Furthermore in the citie Meaco is the pallace of the high Priest, whom that nation honoureth as a God, he hath in his house 306 Idoles, one whereof by course is euery night set by his side for a watchman. He is thought of the common people so holy, that it may not be lawfull for him to goe vpon the earth: if happily he doe set one foote to the ground, he looseth his office. He is not serued very sumptuously, he is maintained by almes. The heads and beards of his ministers are shauen, they haue name Cangues, and their authoritie is great throughout all Iapan. The Cubucama vseth them for Embassadores to decide controuersies betwixt princes, and to end their warres, whereof they were wont to make very great game. It is now two yeres since or there about, that one of them came to Bungo, to intreate of peace betwixt the king thereof and the king of Amanguzzo. This Agent fauouring the king of Bungo his cause more then the other, brought to passe that the foresayd king of Bungo should keepe two kingdomes, the which he had taken in warres from the king of Amanguzzo. Wherefore he had for his reward of the king of Bungo aboue 30000 ducats. And thus farre hereof.
I come now to other superstitions and ceremonies, that you may see, deare brethren, that which I said in the beginning, how subtilly the diuell hath deceiued the Iaponish nation, and how diligent and readie they be to obey and worship him. And first, al remembrance and knowledge not onely of Christ our Redeemer, but also of that one God the maker of all things is cleane extinguished and vtterly abolished out of the Iapans hearts. Moreouer their superstitious sects are many, whereas it is lawfull for each one to follow that which liketh him best: but the principall sects are two, namely the Amidans and Xacaians. Wherefore in this countrey shall you see many monasteries, not onely of Bonzii men, but also of Bonziæ women diuersely attired, for some doe weare white vnder, and blacke vpper garments, other goe apparelled in ash colour, and their idole hath to name Denichi: from these the Amidanes differ very much. Againe the men Bonzii for the most part dwell in sumptuous houses, and haue great reuenues. These fellowes are chaste by commandement, marry they may not vpon paine of death. In the midst of their temple is erected an altar, whereon standeth a woodden Idole of Amida, naked from the girdle vpward, with holes in his eares after the manner of Italian gentlewomen, sitting on a wooden rose goodly to behold. They haue great libraries, and halles for them all to dine and sup together, and bels wherewith they are at certaine houres called to prayers. In the euening the Superintendent giueth each one a theame for meditation. After midnight before the altar in their Temple they do say Mattens at it were out of Xaca his last booke, one quier one verse, the other quier another. Early in the morning each one giueth himselfe to meditation one houre: they shaue their heads and beards. Their cloysters be very large, and within the precinct thereof, Chappels of the Fotoquiens, for by that name some of the Iapanish Saints are called: their holydaies yeerely be very many. Most of these Bonzii be gentlemen, for that the Iapanish nobility charged with many children, vse to make most of them Bonzii, not being able to leaue for each one a patrimony good enough. The Bonzii most coueteously bent, know all the wayes how to come by money. They sell vnto the people many scrolles of paper, by the helpe whereof the common people thinketh it selfe warranted from all power of the deuils. They borrow likewise money to be repayed with great vsury in an other worlde, giuing by obligation vnto the lender an assurance thereof, the which departing out of his life he may carry with him to hell.
There is another great company of such as are called Inambuxu, with curled and staring haire. They make profession to finde out againe things either lost or stolen, after this sort. They set before them a child whom the deuill inuadeth, called vp thither by charmes: of that child then doe they aske that which they are desirous to know.
These mens prayers both good and bad are thought greatly to preuaile, insomuch that both their blessings and their curses they sell vnto the people. The nouices of this order, before they be admitted, goe together two or three thousand in a company, vp a certaine high mountaine to doe pennance there, threescore dayes voluntarily punishing themselues. In this time the deuill sheweth himselfe vnto them in sundry shapes: and they like young graduats, admitted as it were fellowes into some certaine companie, are set foorth with white tassels hanging about their neckes, and blacke Bonnets that scarcely couer any more then the crawne of their heads. Thus attyred they range abroade in all Iapan, to set out themselues and their cunning to sale, each one beating his bason which he carieth alwayes about with him, to giue notice of their comming in al townes where they passe.
There is also an other sort called Genguis, that make profession to shewe by soothsaying where stollen things are, and who were the theeues. These dwell in the toppe of an high mountaine, blacke in the face: for the continuall heate of the sunne, for the cold windes, and raines they doe continually endure. They marry but in their owne tribe and line: the report goeth that they be horned beasts. They climbe vp most high rockes and hilles, and go ouer very great riuers by the onely arte of the deuill, who to bring those wretches the more into errour, biddeth them to goe vp a certaine high mountaine, where they stande miserably gazing and earnestly looking for him as long as the deuill appointeth them. At the length at noonetide or in the euening commeth that deuill, whom they call Amida among them to shew himselfe vnto them: this shew breedeth in the braines and hearts of men such a kinde of superstition, that it can by no meanes be rooted out of them afterward.
The deuill was wont also in another mountaine to shew himselfe vnto the Iapanish Nation. Who so was more desirous than other to go to heauen and to enioy Paradise, thither went he to see that sight, and hauing seene the deuill followed him (so by the deuill persuaded) into a denne vntil he came to a deepe pit. Into this pit the deuill was wont to leape and to take with him his worshipper whom he there murdred. This deceit was thus perceiued. An old man blinded with this superstition, was by his sonne diswaded from thence, but all in vaine. Wherefore his sonne followed him priuily into that denne with his bow and arrows, where the deuill gallantly appeared vnto him in the shape of a man. Whilest the old man falleth downe to worshippe the deuill, his sonne speedily shooting an arrow at the spirit so appearing, strooke a Foxe in stead of a man so suddenly was that shape altered. This olde manne his sonne tracking the Foxe so running away, came to that pit whereof I spake, and in the bottome thereof he found many bones of dead men, deceiued by the deuill after that sort in time past. Thus deliuered he his father from present death, and all other from so pestilent an opinion.
There is furthermore a place bearing name Coia, very famous for the multitude of Abbyes which the Bonzii haue therein. The beginner and founder whereof is thought to be one Combendaxis a suttle craftie fellowe, that got the name of holinesse by cunning speech, although the lawes and ordinances he made were altogether deuillish: he is said to haue found out the Iapanish letters vsed at this day. In his latter yeeres this Sim suttle buried himselfe in a fouresquare graue, foure cubites deepe, seuerely forbidding it to be opened, for that then he died not, but rested his bodie wearied with continuall businesse, vntill many thousand thousands of yeeres were passed, after the which time a great learned man named Mirozu should come into Iapan, and then would he rise vp out of his graue againe. About his tombe many lampes are lighted, sent thither out of diuerse prouinces, for that the people are perswaded that whosoeuer is liberall and beneficiall towardes the beautifying of that monument shall not onely increase in wealth in this world, but in the life to come be safe through Combendaxis helpe. Such as giue themselues to worship him, liue in those Monasteries or Abbyes with shauen heads, as though they had forsaken all secular matters, whereas in deede they wallow in all sortes of wickednesse and lust. In these houses, the which are many (as I sayd) in number, doe remaine 6000 Bonzii, or thereabout besides the multitude of lay men, women be restrained from thence vpon paine of death. Another company of Bonzii dwelleth at Fatonochaiti. They teach a great multitude of children all tricks and sleights of guile and theft: whom they do find to be of great towardnes, those do they instruct in al the petigrues of princes, and fashions of the nobilitie, in chiualrie and eloquence, and so send them abroad into other prouinces, attired like yong princes, to this ende, that faining themselues to be nobly borne, they may with great summes of money borowed vnder the colour and pretence of nobilitie returne againe. Wherefore this place is so infamous in all Iapan, that if any scholer of that order be happily taken abroad, he incontinently dieth for it. Neuerthelesse these cousiners leaue not daily to vse their woonted wickednesse and knauerie.
A warrelike people 300 leagues to the North of Meaco. North from Iapan, three hundred leagues out of Meaco, lieth a great countrey of sauage men clothed in beasts skinnes, rough bodied, with huge beards and monstrous muchaches, the which they hold vp with litle forkes as they drinke. These people are great drinkers of wine, fierce in warres, and much feared of the Iapans: being hurt in fight, they wash their wounds with salt water, other Surgerie haue they none. In their breasts they are sayd to cary looking glasses: their swordes they tie to their heads, in such wise, that the handle doe rest vpon their shoulders. Seruice and ceremonies haue they none at all, onely they are woont to worship heauen. To Aquita a great towne in that Iaponish kingdom, which we call Geuano, they much resort for marchandise, and the Aquitanes likewise doe trauell in to their countrey, howbeit not often, for that there many of them are slaine by the inhabiters.
Much more concerning this matter I had to write: but to auoyd tediousnesse I will come to speake of the Iapans madnesse againe, who most desirous of vaine glory doe thinke then specially to get immortall fame, when they procure themselues to be most sumptuously and solemnly buried: their burials and obsequies in the citie Meaco are done after this maner. The Iapanish funerals. About one houre before the dead body be brought fourth, a great multitude of his friends apparelled in their best aray goe before vnto the fire, with them goe their kinswomen and such as bee of their acquaintance, clothed in white, (for that is the mourning colour there) with a changeable coloured vaile on their heads. Each woman hath with her also, according to her abilitie, all her familie trimmed vp in white mockado: the better sort and wealthier women goe in litters of Cedar artificially wrought and richly dressed. In the second place marcheth a great company of footemen sumptuously apparelled. Then afarre off commeth one of these Bonzii master of the ceremonies for that superstition, brauely clad in silkes and gold, in a large and high litter excellently well wrought, accompanied with 30 other Bonzii or thereabout, wearing hats, linnen albes, and fine blacke vpper garments. Then attired in ashe colour (for this colour also is mourning) with a long torch of Pineaple, he sheweth the dead body the way vnto the fire, lest it either stumble or ignorantly go out of the way. Well neere 200 Bonzii folow him singing the name of that deuill the which the partie deceassed chiefly did worship in his life time, and therewithall a very great bason is beaten euen to the place of fire instead of a bell. Then follow two great paper baskets hanged open at staues endes full of paper roses diuersly coloured, such as beare them doe march but slowly, shaking euer now and then their staues, that the aforesayd flowers may fall downe by litle and litle as it were drops of raine: and be whirled about with wind. This shower say they is an argument that the soule of the dead man is gone to paradise. After al this, eight beardles Bonzii orderly two and two drag after them on the ground long speares, the points backward, with flags of one cubite a piece, wherein the name also of that idole is written. Then there be caried 10 lanterns trimmed with the former inscription, ouercast with a fine vaile, and candles burning in them. They burne their dead. Besides this, two yoong men clothed in ashe colour beare pineaple torches, not lighted, of three foote length, the which torches serue to kindle the fire wherein the dead corpes is to bee burnt. In the same colour follow many other that weare on the crownes of their heads faire, litle, threesquare, blacke Lethren caps tied fast vnder their chinnes (for that is honorable amongst them) with papers on their heads, wherein the name of the deuill I spake of, is written. And to make it the more solemne, after commeth a man with a table one cubite long, one foot broad, couered with a very fine white vaile, in both sides whereof is written in golden letters the aforesayd name. At the length by foure men is brought fourth the corps sitting in a gorgeous litter clothed in white, hanging downe his head and holding his hands together like one that prayed: to the rest of his apparell may you adde an vpper gowne of paper, written full of that booke the which his God is sayd to haue made, when he liued in the world, by whose helpe and merites commonly they doe thinke to be saued. The dead man his children come next after him most gallantly set foorth, the yongest wherof carieth likewise a pineaple torch to kindle the fire. Last of all foloweth a great number of people in such caps as I erst spake of.
When they are al come to the place appointed for the obsequie, al the Bonzii with the whole multitude for the space of one houre, beating pannes and basons with great clamours, call vpon the name of that deuill, the which being ended, the Obsequie is done in this maner. In the midst of a great quadrangle railed about, hanged with course linnen, and agreeably vnto the foure partes of the world made with foure gates to goe in and out at, is digged a hole: in the hole is laied good store of wood, whereon is raised gallantly a waued roofe; before that stand two tables furnished with diuers kindes of meates, especially drie Figs, Pomegranates and Tartes good store, but neither Fish nor Flesh: vpon one of them standeth also a chafer with coales, and in it sweete wood to make perfumes. When all this is readie, the corde wherewith the litter was caried, is throwen by a long rope into the fire: as many as are present striue to take the rope in their handes, vsing their aforesayd clamours, which done, they goe in procession as it were round about the quadrangle thrise. Then setting the litter on the wood built vp ready for the fire that Bonzius who then is master of the ceremonies, saieth a verse that no bodie there vnderstandeth, whirling thrise about ouer his head a torch lighted, to signifie thereby that the soule of the dead man had neither any beginning, ne shall haue at any time an ende, and throweth away the torch. Two of the dead man his children, or of his neere kinne, take it vp againe, and standing one at the East side of the litter, the other at the West, doe for honour and reuerence reach it to each other thrise ouer the dead corps, and so cast it into the pile of wood: by and by they throw in oyle, sweete wood, and other perfumes, accordingly as they haue plentie, and so with a great flame bring the corps to ashes: his children in the meane while putting sweete wood into the chafer at the table with odours, doe solemnly and religiously worship their father as a Saint: which being done, the Bonzii are paied each one in his degree. The master of the ceremonies hath for his pact fiue duckats, sometimes tenne, sometimes twentie, the rest haue tenne Iulies a piece, or els a certaine number of other presents called Caxæ. The meate that was ordained, as soone as the dead corps friends and all the Bonzii are gone, is left for such as serued at the obsequie, for the poore and impotent lazars.
The next day returne to the place of obsequie the dead man his children, his kindred and friends, who gathering vp his ashes, bones, and teeth, doe put them in a gilded pot, and so carie them home, to bee set vp in the same pot couered with cloth, in the middest of their houses. Many Bonzii returne likewise to these priuate funerals, and so do they againe the seuenth day: then cary they out the ashes to be buried in a place appointed, laying thereupon a fouresquare stone, wherein is written in great letters drawen all the length of the stone, the name of that deuil the which the dead man worshipped in his life time. Euery day afterward his children resort vnto the graue with roses and warme water that the dead corps thirst not. Nor the seuenth day onely, but the seuenth moneth and yeere, within their owne houses they renue this obsequie, to no small commodities and gaine of the Bonzii: great rich men doe spend in these their funerals 3000 duckats or thereabout, the meaner sort two or three hundred. Such as for pouertie be not able to go to that charges, are in the night time darke long without all pompe and ceremonies buried in a dunghill.
They haue another kinde of buriall, especially neere the Sea side, for them that bee not yet dead. These fellowes are such, as hauing religiously with much deuotion worshipped Amida, now desirous to see him, doe slay themselues. And first they goe certaine dayes begging almes, the which they thrust into their sleeues, then preach they in publique a sermon vnto the people, declaring what they mind to doe, with the great good liking of all such as doe heare them: for euery body wondreth at such a kinde of holinesse. Then take they hookes to cut downe briars and thornes that might hinder them in their way to heauen, and so embarke themselues in a new vessell, tying great stones about their neckes, armes, loines, thighes, and feete: thus they launching out into the main Sea be either drowned there, their shippe bouged for that purpose, or els doe cast themselues ouer-boord headlong into the Sea. The emptie barke is out of hand set a fire for honours sake by their friends that folow them in another boat of their owne, thinking it blasphemie that any mortall creature should afterward once touch the barke that had bene so religiously halowed.
Truly when we went to Meaco, eight dayes before we came to the Ile of Hiu at Fore towne, sixe men and two women so died. To all such as die so the people erecteth a Chappell, and to each of them a pillar and a pole made of Pineaple for a perpetuall monument, hanging vp many shreds of paper in stickes all the roofe ouer, with many verses set downe in the walles in commendation of that blessed company. Wherefore vnto this place both day and night many come very superstitiously in pilgrimage. It happened euen then as Aloisius Almeida and I went to christen a childe wee traueiled that way at what time foure or fiue olde women came foorth out of the aforesayd chappell with beades in their handes (for in this point also the deuill counterfeiteth Christianitie) who partly scorned at vs for follie, partly frowned and taunted at our small deuotion, for passing by that holy monument without any reuerence or worship done thereunto at all.
It remaineth now we speake two or three wordes of those Sermons the Bonzii are woont to make, not so many as ours in number, but assuredly very well prouided for. The Pulpit is erected in a great temple with a silke Canopie ouer it, therein standeth a costly seate, before the seate a table with a bell and a booke. At the houre of Sermon each sect of the Iapans resorteth to their owne doctors in diuers Temples. Vp goeth the doctor into the Pulpit, and being set downe, after that hee hath lordlike looked him about, signifieth silence with his bell, and so readeth a fewe wordes of that booke we spake of, the which he expoundeth afterward, more at large. These preachers be for the most part eloquent, and apt to drawe with their speach the mindes of their hearers. Wherefore to this ende chieflie (such is their greedinesse) tendeth all their talke, that the people bee brought vnder the colour of godlinesse to enrich their monasteries, promising to each one so much the more happinesse in the life to come, how much the greater costes and charges they bee at in Church matters and obsequies: notwithstanding this multitude of superstitious Sects and companies, and the diuersities thereof amongst themselues: yet in this principally all their Superintendents doe trauell so to perswade their Nouices in their owne tales and lies, that they thinke nothing els trueth, nothing els sure to come by euerlasting saluation, nothing els woorth the hearing. Whereunto they adde other subtleties, as in going grauitie, in countenance, apparell, and in all outward shew, comelinesse. Whereby the Iapans mindes are so nousled in wicked opinions, and doe conceiue thereby such trust and hope of euerlasting saluation, that not onely at home, but also abroad in euery corner of the towne continually almost they run ouer their beades, humbly asking of Amida and Xaca, wealth, honour, good health, and euerlasting ioyes. Thus then, deare brethren, may you thinke how greatly they need the helpe of God, that either doe bring the Gospell into this countrey, or receiuing it brought vnto them, doe forsake idolatrie and ioine themselues with Christ, being assaulted by so many snares of the deuill, troubled with the daily dissuasions of their Bonzii, and finally, so iniuriously, so hardly, so sharpely vexed of their kinred and friends, that except the grace of God obtained by the sacrifices and prayers of the Catholique church doe helpe vs, it cannot be chosen but that the faith and constancie of many, if not of all, in these first beginnings of our churches, will greatly be put in ieopardie. So much the more it standeth you vpon that so earnestly long for the health of soules, to commend specially these Iapanish flocks vnto our Lord.
We came to Sacaio the eight and twentie day of Ianuary: Aloisius Almeida first for businesse, but afterward let by sicknesse, staied there some while, but I parting the next day from thence came thirteene leagues off to Meaco the last of Ianuarie. Of my comming all the Christians tooke great comfort, but specially Gaspar Vilela who in 6 yeres had seen none of our companie at Meaco: his yeeres are not yet fortie, but his grey haires shew him to be seuentie, so vehemently is his litle body afflicted and worne with extreme cold. Hee speaketh Iapanish so skilfully after the phrase of Meaco (the which for the renowne of this people and royal seat of the king is best accounted of) that hee doeth both confesse and preach in that language. Certaine godly bookes also he hath done into that speach, not omitting to translate other as laisure suffreth him. To make an ende, our Lord for his goodnesse vouchsafe to preserue vs all continually, and to giue vs ayde both rightly to interprete his will, and well to doe the same. From Meaco the 19 of February 1565.
Other such like matter is handled both in other his letters, and also in the Epistles written by his companions to be seene at large in the aforesaid volume. Amongst the rest this seemed in my iudgement one of the principall, and therefore the rather I tooke vpon me to doe it into English.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51