Record of ‘Japanese slave’ found in Spain
The will of a Japanese man who went overseas as a slave on the same boat as the 16th-century Tensho Embassy to Europe has been found in Spain.
Lucio de Sousa, a specially appointed associate professor of Age of Discovery history at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, found the document at the Library of the Royal Academy of History (La Real Academia de la Historia) in Madrid. This is the first historical source suggesting that a Japanese slave was aboard the same ship as the embassy. This valuable document also details the man’s life after the voyage.
The will is dated Oct. 25, 1642, and is a handwritten copy of a document created in Portuguese by a person calling himself Damian de Lima. There are three pages.
“I come from the kingdom of Japan. When I was young, in the 1580s, I was taken by Mr. Ignacio de Lima and I served him,” part of the document reads. This indicates that Damian was purchased as a slave in Japan by Ignacio, the Portuguese captain of the ship that the embassy traveled on.
No Japanese name is given for Damian. At the time, many slaves took the surnames of their masters.
The embassy left Ignacio’s ship at Kochi (Cochin) in India, and Damian and Ignacio sailed onto Portugal. Damian wrote that he “served [Ignacio] until the Lord summoned him.”
Perhaps because Ignacio had no relatives, he left his estate to a charitable organization in Lisbon that administered estates and remitted money internationally.
From that estate, Damian was willed “90,000 reis each year as a pension.” At the time in Portugal, 90,000 reis could purchase about 500 grams of gold or about 30 tons of flour.
The will states that Damian left Lisbon in 1618 and moved to Macao. At the time, many Japanese Christians were living in Macao, having been exiled from Japan by the Edo Shogunate’s 1612-13 edicts against Christianity.
In his will, Damian ordered his estate to be “distributed among these poor people.”
In addition, he left 20 patacas (about 6,400 reis) to Catarina Japoa, the wife of Camache Sanzaymon Bertolomeu. The first two names of the latter may be variant spellings of “Kamachi Sanzaemon,” while “Japoa” means “Japanese person.”
Souza said this confirms that Damian sympathized with Japanese Christians in Macao and formed tight bonds with them.
Damian’s name also appears on a residents ledger created in Macao by the Portuguese authorities in 1625, according to Mihoko Oka, an associate professor at the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo who is an expert on the history of slavery and Christianity.
“It’s a fascinating historical record that shows how an unknown Japanese slave was caught up in major events — the Tensho Embassy and the migration of exiled Japanese Christians. The ups and downs of his life are like a long-running TV saga,” Oka said.
This embassy to the pope was dispatched in 1582 by Otomo Sorin and other Christian daimyo lords. The embassy’s four members were Mancio Ito, Miguel Chijiwa, Juliao Nakaura and Martinho Hara. Among the goals of the voyage was obtaining support from the pope for propagating Christianity in Japan. The embassy arrived in Lisbon in 1584 and the next year was granted an audience with the pope in Rome. When they returned to Japan in 1590, the order expelling the Jesuit missionaries had already been issued, leading to their persecution.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.