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Alessandro Valignano

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Padre (Father) Alessando Valignano was visitor (chief supervisor) overseeing all Society of Jesus (Jesuit) operations in South, Southeast, and East Asia beginning in 1573.

After being appointed Visitor of "India Province" (i.e. the entire South, Southeast, and East Asia region) by Rome in 1573, Valignano arrived in Japan in July 1579. He arranged to make shore first in the territory of Arima Harunobu, granting Arima food and supplies, and winning him over to convert to Christianity the following year. Ômura Sumitada transferred the port of Nagasaki into Jesuit control that same year (1580), and Valignano took a chief role in overseeing the development of the Jesuit base there, including its defenses.

Valignano is known to have written positively of the Japanese, describing them as "white, courteous, and highly civilized," and writing otherwise of their dignity, cleanliness, rationality, and a host of other positive traits.[1] While he did not support any sort of compromise between Christian ideals and Japanese religious practice, which he saw as heretical and idolatrous, Valignano did advocate for Jesuits in Japan to adopt Japanese customs and lifeways otherwise, from food, drink, and clothing to behavior and etiquette, in order to better obtain the support of Japanese patrons.

He departed Japan in February 1582, leaving Gaspar Coelho in charge of Japan operations, and the following year while in India composed a "Summary of Japanese Matters" (Sumario de las cosas de Japón) to submit to Rome. Valignano then returned to Japan in July 1590 for a brief time.

References

  • William Theodore de Bary, Carol Gluck, and Arthur Tiedemann (eds.), Sources of Japanese Tradition, Second Edition, vol 2, Columbia University Press (2005), 147-148, 155.
  1. Conrad Schirokauer, David Lurie, and Suzanne Gay, A Brief History of Japanese Civilization, Wadsworth Cengage (2013), 123.
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