When one thinks of Christianity, Japan is often not the first country to come to mind. Missionaries of all denominations of Christianity have found evangelizing Japan to be a difficult process since the days of St. Francis Xavier, the first missionary to Japan. This has led some to deem Japan a total missionary failure, and to conclude that the Christian religion and Japanese culture are antithetical to one another. But is such a sweeping statement really a universal truth?
When Pope Francis beatified a previously underappreciated Catholic samurai named Takayama Ukon, the myth that Christianity and Japanese identity are mutually exclusive was shattered, since an objective analysis of his life reveals that Ukon lived as an excellent Catholic as well as a celebrated example of a true samurai. By delving into Ukon’s life as well as the methods employed by the early Jesuit missionaries and the similarities between European chivalry and Japanese bushidō, it becomes clear that Catholicism, and Christanity in general, does not have to be alien to Japanese culture and society, and in fact, the two can be synthesized in an extraordinarily beautiful way.