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Authors: Shusaku Endo

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BOOK: The Golden Country
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Endo, as we can gather from the changes he has introduced in the story, is not simply interested in presenting the historical facts. He has fashioned his material into a problem play, revolving around themes that have already been sounded in his earlier works from the novel
Kiiroi hito
(The Yellow Man) in 1956 to the novel
(Silence) published shortly before
The Golden Country. Silence
also is a tale of martyrdom and apostasy in seventeenth-century Japan, a companion piece to the play.

We have space here to touch upon only the principal theme, the disparity between Eastern and Western culture. The man from the East, in Endo's mind, can never really come to terms with the West. Tanaka, for example, the hero of the 1965 novel
Nanji mo mata
(And You Too) is completely broken in his attempt to understand and assimilate Western culture as a foreign student in Paris, and the gloomy conclusion of the novel is that the blood that produced the two cultures of East and West was of altogether different type. "We are unable to receive a blood transfusion from a donor of a blood type different from our own." On the opposite side, Father Duran, the fallen priest of
The Yellow Man,
who has left his priesthood to marry a Japanese woman, makes the same discovery. He finds in the Oriental's eyes "a lack of reaction, a lack of emotion ... [they are] eyes which are imperceptive of God or sin, eyes which are unmoved by the thought of death."

In an early essay,
Christianity and I,
Endo states that in some form or other Christianity is still the center of Western culture, even where it is attacked or neglected. But in Japan there is no Christian history, tradition, sensibility, or cultural heritage. "Even further," he continues, "there is something in the Japanese sensibility that cannot accept the Christian view. From my youth I began to discover this puzzling Japanese sensibility in my environment and even in myself." Endo goes on to specify this "puzzling Japanese sensibility" as a threefold insensitivity not to be found in the Westerner: an insensitivity to God (so that the very question of the existence or nonexistence of God does not even present itself to the Japanese), an insensitivity to sin, and an insensitivity to death. He points out the difficulty of making Christians of a people like the Japanese, who hate extreme ways of thinking about evil and sin and who are indifferent to the question of God.

The Golden Country
it is Inoue that expresses these sentiments. Inoue is a relatively complex character. At one time a Christian, he gave up his Christianity when he came to believe that it was unsuited and unadaptable to Japan. Still even as he persecutes the Christians and seeks to eradicate the religion from the land, he holds on to the hope that he may after all be mistaken. In Act two, Scene two, Inoue tells Tomonaga that he rejected Christianity when he came to see that the teachings of Christ could never take root in Japanese soil, and he explains:

It isn't that the Christian shoots are bad in themselves. Nor is this country of Japan bad.... But when a certain plant will not grow in a certain soil, no matter what means are used, then even the most stupid of farmers will know enough to either change the soil or pull up the plants. But the soil is this Japan of ours. There's no way of changing it. That being the case, there is no choice but to pull up the plants.

When Tomonaga protests that the plants were growing nicely until the persecution began, Inoue answers that they only seemed to be growing, they only seemed to be blossoming, and he adds:

Sometimes I get to dislike this country of ours. Or, more than dislike, to fear it. It's a mud swamp much more frightening than what the Christians call the devil—this Japan. No matter what shoots one tries to transplant here from another country, they all wither and die, or else bear a flower and fruit that only resemble the real ones.

To what extent does Endo identify himself with these sentiments? He is himself a practicing Christian, but, according to his own admission, one who experiences an interior conflict between his Christian self and his Japanese self. In a magazine interview he has stated that he received baptism when still a child. His Catholicism seemed like a ready-made suit and he had to decide either to make this suit fit him or get rid of it and find another.

There were many times when I felt I wanted to get rid of my Catholicism, but I was finally unable to do so. It is not just that I did not throw it off, but that I was unable to do so. The reason for this must be that it had become a part of me after all.... Still, there was always that feeling in my heart that it was something borrowed, and I began to wonder what that other self was like. This I think is the "mudswamp" Japanese in me. From the time I first began to write novels even to the present day, this confrontation of my Catholic self with the self that lies underneath has, like an idiot's constant refrain, echoed and reechoed in my work. I felt I had to find some way to reconcile the two.

The action of
The Golden Country
is centered upon the tension between Christianity and the "mudswamp," a tension that exists first of all within Endo himself. In the novel,
it is the mudswamp that wins out. Not so in the play, which was written shortly afterward. The impression that caps the play and remains longest with the playgoer is that of the courage, nobility, and love of the martyrs. Against this concrete image, the abstract thesis of Inoue is powerless. Both the novel and the play, however, underline sharply the work that is still to be done in shaping essential Christianity into a form that will touch the strings of the Japanese heart and release his love and action. A Christianity that remains an abstract creed or a list of juridical prescriptions, of dos and don'ts, will never survive in the mudswamp. However this is not basically a problem of East and West, but of all human motivation, regardless of culture. Until the Christian apprehends the face of Christ as clearly and concretely as Gennosuke, the young samurai, apprehends the face of his beloved Yuki, it will be possible to go on stepping on that face. But Endo is right in saying that even after stepping on it, a start is at least made by continuing to look upon it with longing and loving eyes, as the fallen Ferreira does in the last scene of the play.


Officials of the Bureau of Investigation of the Christians:

in charge of the bureau

second in charge

a young samurai in the employ of 
the bureau



Portuguese Jesuit 
Missionary priest in hiding

landowner of the village


The scene is the Bureau of Investigation of the Christians set up by Inoue Chikugo-no-kami. Outside can be heard the voices of children singing the songs of the Buddhist festival of O-Bon.

INOUE: The night of O-Bon. The children's songs have a melancholy air. We've been in Nagasaki four months already.

(in a flattering tone of voice):
A very fruitful four months! Since your arrival the proscription of Christianity has been enforced from Nagasaki to Omura and Hirado, and most of the farmers have given up the foreign religion. Here in Nagasaki alone we've caught ten priests, five Japanese lay brothers, and seven catechists. My heartiest congratulations!

INOUE: But there's still much to be done. There are still priests in hiding. We capture the Christians one after the other. We force them to renounce their faith. The Christian entrusts himself to his strength of spirit. We assail his flesh. We test to see which is stronger, spirit or
flesh.... But I'm tired of watching people. Don't you also find this work distasteful, Hirata?

HIRATA: No. Watching people is my duty. As an official, I must suspect everyone I meet. That is the only way to find out what others really are.

INOUE: The only way to find out what others really are! The Christians propose another way. You've got to trust people, they say. Only then do you find out what they really are.

HIRATA: But supposing there were a Christian spy planted here in the bureau. To all appearances one of us, energetically working with us; but in reality an ally of the Fathers and the Christian farmers.... You see, one cannot trust appearances. To smell out the reality, it takes someone like me.

INOUE: Then you would carry suspicion even to your fellow workers, even into the bureau itself.... I was once a believer in the Christian teachings, you know. That was when I was a retainer of Lord Gamo. So you must suspect even me. But do you mean to say that there is in fact a Christian here among us?

HIRATA: I didn't say that. I was only giving an example.

INOUE: An example? You're very crafty with your implications.... This Christian you speak of—is he someone close to me?

HIRATA: I leave that to your own observation.

Inoue drinks his tea, deep in thought. The sound of falling sand in the hourglass. The voices of the singing children are heard outside.

(lifting his head):
But do you have any proof?

HIRATA: What kind of proof do you want?

Inoue shakes his head and points his finger at Hirata. Kano Gennosuke enters.

GENNOSUKE: Sir, Omura Ietada, one of the head samurai of the Omura clan, is here to see you.

INOUE: Fine. Show him into the study.

GENNOSUKE: Yes, sir.

INOUE: Gennosuke, just a moment.

GENNOSUKE: Did you call me, sir?

INOUE: Gennosuke, how old are you?

GENNOSUKE: I'm twenty, sir.

INOUE: You're not married yet, are you?

GENNOSUKE: No, sir. I've been too busy with my work to think of marriage.

INOUE: On the contrary, if you think so much of your job, you ought to find a good wife as soon as possible. Don't you agree, Hirata?

HIRATA: You're quite right, sir.

INOUE: Fine, you may go.

Gennosuke exits.

INOUE: Hirata, I'll hear what you have to say later. But if there is really a Christian here among us, it will go very hard with him.

HIRATA: I haven't said anything about this to anyone else. I'll follow your directions. Perhaps before we pass the word on to Edo, we might make some private investigations of our own.

Inoue exits. Hirata looks about him, then signals to someone offstage. A guard enters.

HIRATA: Has the woman come yet? What was her name-Tome?

GUARD: Yes, she's here.

HIRATA: Fine. When I give you the signal, bring her in. But only when I signal, mind you.

Guard exits. Gennosuke enters to clear away the tea things from which Inoue had been drinking. He sees Hirata and greets him.

HIRATA: Twenty years old, you say.

GENNOSUKE: Excuse me?

HIRATA: You said twenty, didn't you? That's a fine age to be.

GENNOSUKE: Do you think so?

HIRATA: I was twenty once. Like you, I'd just entered the bureau. I still knew how to trust people. But as I was just telling Inoue, fifteen years of suspecting and examining people have had their effect. The grime of the job has seeped into my soul, habit has become nature. And now I'm as you find me. Gennosuke, you'll be like me someday.

He laughs.

GENNOSUKE: I don't want to be like you.

HIRATA: Everyone feels that way in his youth. But it's not so easy. It's not so easy.

He pauses.

HIRATA: But to change the subject, I believe Inoue has been urging you to find yourself a wife.

GENNOSUKE: Yes, he's been so kind as to suggest this.

Yes, of course. He's very solicitous, even for the young.

BOOK: The Golden Country
3.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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