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Giovanni Battista Sidotti

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Giovanni Battista Sidotti was the last Christian missionary to enter Japan during the Tokugawa period, prior to Bakumatsu.

Born in Sicily and trained as a missionary in Rome, Sidotti was ordered by the Pope in 1703 to travel to Manila, and from there to Japan, to seek to convince or force the Japanese to lift their ban on Christianity.[1]

He entered Japan in 1708, landing on Yakushima, an island just south of Kyushu, and was arrested there. After being brought to Edo, he was interrogated by Arai Hakuseki, who used the information gained from Sidotti in writing his Seiyô kibun ("Record of Things Heard about the West").

Arai reportedly made efforts to have Sidotti freed, but after the elderly couple assigned to watch over the missionary converted to Christianity, Sidotti's punishment had to be continued. He remained imprisoned at the Christian mansion in Edo for the next six years, dying there in 1714.

Scholars led by Akio Tanigawa of Waseda University announced in April 2016 that they believe they have found Sidotti's remains. A body identified as European, and as being of the correct size and age, was found on the former site of the Christian mansion, alongside the remains of an elderly Japanese couple, who the scholars presume to be the two converts. The only other European who they might expect to find buried there would be Giuseppe Chiara, who died at a much more advanced age, thus making the identification of this body as Sidotti's all the more likely.

References

  1. Watanabe Hiroshi, A History of Japanese Political Thought, 1600-1901, International House of Japan (2012), 155.
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