Miyanomae Incident

宮ノ前事件

The Miyanomae Incident occurred in Eiroku 4 (1561) in Hirado in Hizen Province.  In this event, an argument broke-out between merchants from Japan and Portugal that resulted in the killing of a group of Portuguese traders.  It is called Miyanomae for having occurred at an outdoor stand in front of the Shichirō Shrine alongside the port of Hirado.

Prelude

In 1559, a religious debate occurred between a Japanese friar (a member of the Society of Jesus) named Lorenzo Ryōsai and the abbot of the Nishizen Temple on Yamandake, a local center of Buddhism located in the northwest portion of the island of Hirado.  This triggered an attempt at a violent uprising by the Buddhists.  Matsura Takanobu, a sengoku daimyō in Hizen Province, responded by banishing Gaspar Vilela, the Catholic priest having overall responsibility for the conduct of evangelical activities in Hirado.  Takanobu, however, did not go so far as to prohibit the practice of Christianity in the area.  As a result, tensions continued to simmer among the Buddhists who remained distrustful of the Christians.  This situation foreshadowed the Miyanomae Incident.

Course of events

In 1561, sales negotiations began with the townspeople of the Hirado in connection with the delivery of items to a Portuguese ship.  Negotiations over silk thread (or silk woven items) broke down, giving rise to an atmosphere of ill-feeling between the parties.  After the townspeople threw items at them, the Portuguese merchants responded with punches, escalating into a fight.  Unable to stand idly by, bushi intervened.  The Portuguese mistook them for backups to the Japanese merchants so they went to their ship, armed themselves, and returned to assault the townspeople and band of bushi.  The bushi then drew their swords to fight back.  On the side of the Portuguese, a total of fourteen people including the ship captain, Fernão de Souza, were killed.  Survivors fled the port of Hirado.

This incident was viewed not only as trouble in regard to a commercial transaction, but the manifestation of discord between Christians and followers of the Buddhist faith within the territory of Hirado.  After conducting evangelical activities in Kagoshima, Francisco de Xavier eyed Hirado as his next base of activity.  The landlord, Matsura Takanobu, permitted evangelism as a means to benefit from the merchant trade.  Consequently, on the islands of Ikitsuki and Taku controlled by a baptized retainer named Koteda Yasutsune, there were 1,400 Christian converts.  The Christian converts destroyed the Shijiki Shrine and other indigenous religious sites along with the graveyards of ancestors.  This gave rise to tensions with local Buddhists who refused to convert to Christianity.

Consequences

Cosme de Torres, a Jesuit missionary from Spain serving as the mission superior in Japan, led evangelical activities from Bungo Province.  In the wake of the Miyanomae Incident, de Torres noted that participants on the side of the Japanese were not subject to punishment so he decided to halt the conduct of the merchant trade in Hirado.  Since the time of the attempted uprising in 1559, he ordered a missionary named Luís de Almeida to search for a new port for trade.  He then recommended to the Portuguese viceroy in Goa that the Portuguese withdraw for the time being from Hirado.  Meanwhile, de Almeida successfully forged relations with a Christian daimyō named Ōmura Sumitada.  In 1562, Sumitada offered the area of Yokoseura as a new port for trade with the Portuguese.