Kirishitan in Lone Wolf and a Cub

January 16, 2022

If you watched the Japanese television show “Lone Wolf and a Cub,” you’re really old.

I kid.

While I was too young to remember most of it, one episode stuck with me. It’s actually a scene in which Itto Ogami is in a river with his sword and hands hidden in the water.

Of course, he killed every attacker. He’s the Japanese equivalent of FPJ. The man eliminates all his enemies by himself.

I was on a quest to find this episode. Fortunately, you can watch all episodes on YouTube. Thanks to users who have uploaded entire seasons of the show.

My surprise was finding many episodes with the same scene. Apparently, fighting in the water is one of his signature moves.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about what many suggest are Catholic influences in Japanese tea ceremonies. Finding references to Catholics in the show was a pleasant discovery.

One interesting episode (titled “Exorcism Day”) involved Japanese Catholics, the Kirishitans. During feudal Japan, they were persecuted for their faith. In the 1600s, the Tokugawa shogunate banned the religion.

I have always been fascinated by feudal-era Catholics in Japan. In a way, we must be grateful for it because it produced many saints, including our very first, San Lorenzo Ruiz.

There was no doubt that it was brutal persecution. Many descendants have been forced to hide. One can only imagine how their faith endured without priests and connection to the Catholic ministry. 

Anytime I’m about to complain about attending church on Sundays, I think of Kirishitans of feudal Japan.

I am also drawn to Kirishitan history because of Takayama Ukon, the Catholic samurai daimyo. Soon to be declared a saint, and will also be counted as a Filipino and Japanese saint.

Takayama died in Manila after deciding to exile himself during the Catholic prohibition.

I visited the Osaka cathedral where he was beatified. It’s a shame that I no longer had the time and funds to go to Takatsuki, a part of Takayama’s old domain not far from downtown. Perhaps next time.

Ok, let’s go back to the Lone Wolf and a Cub episode about Kirishitans.

The episode dealt with a hit on a Christian leader, Misumi Gensai, a healer who was becoming increasingly popular. As Itto Ogami is a paid assassin, he took on the assignment.

Pretending that his son was ill, he went to see Gensai.

But he realized that Ogami was an assassin, he explained the concept of “pure” to him. That he could not kill him yet because he was not pure. As he wasn’t pure, he couldn’t kill him yet.

The purity of intention could have meant, from a Catholic perspective, excluding selfish desires in the quest to perform God’s will. 

Afterward, Gensai led him to a statue of Mary in a secret basement. The man then gave a rosary to Daigoro (Itto’s son). 

Itto Ogami then meditated and thought about what the old man had said. Once he was ready, he returned presented himself to Gensai, who then accepted the samurai’s execution.

Therefore, I see Itto accepting the role of ending the old man’s life as divine will. The old man’s willingness to submit to his fate proves this.

So that was my interpretation of how it all went down.

The series provided historical context to the persecution of Christians in feudal Japan in this episode. This was unexpected, but I could see why they had to do it since Kirishitan history is relatively little known.

Occasionally you can learn history by watching old TV shows that now can only be found online. Even old samurai and ninja films.

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