Japan’s 16th-century contact with the West occurred through the vector of Jesuit missionaries, ushering in a “Christian century” that witnessed entire fief conversions and the translation of scriptures and other religious texts into Japanese. With the subsequent outlawing of Christian practice by the Tokugawa regime, practicing lay Christians went underground, to reappear only during the Meiji Restoration (see KAKURE KIRISHITAN). AntiChristian sentiment during the Tokugawa period effectively kept Japanese readers free from Christian contamination, but with the opening to the West, some of the first foreigners to settle in Japan were Christian missionaries. Young Japanese eager to study Western ways often attended Christian academies where they learned English, and along the way many were converted, some remaining faithful while others moved away from Christian ideology toward the philosophies of naturalism or Marxism. Many early modern writers, such as Kitamura Tokoku, were influenced by doctrines of Christianity, in particular a focused sense of self-consciousness and guilt that were relatively absent in Buddhism. Although the period of intense nationalism during World War II led most Christian writers to eschew the faith, a number of the postwar generation of writers found their way to Christianity. Notable among these are Endo Shusaku, Shiina Rinzo, and Shimao Toshio. Today a disproportionately large percentage of Japanese writers have ties with Christianity.

Historical dictionary of modern Japanese literature and theater. . 2009.

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