Kiku's Prayer: A Novel (Weatherhead Books on Asia)
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Kiku's Prayer is told through the eyes of Kiku, a self-assured young woman from a rural Japanese village who falls in love with Seikichi, a devoted Catholic man. Practicing a faith still banned by the government, Seikichi is imprisoned but refuses to recant under torture. Kiku's efforts to reconcile her feelings for Seikichi's religion with the sacrifices she makes to free him mirror the painful, conflicting choices Japan faced as a result of exposure to modernity and the West. Seikichi's persecution exemplifies Japan's insecurities, and Kiku's tortured yet determined spirit represents the nation's resilient soul.
Set in the turbulent years of the transition from the shogunate to the Meiji Restoration, Kiku's Prayer embodies themes central to Endo Shusaku's work, including religion, modernization, and the endurance of the human spirit. Yet this novel is much more than a historical allegory. It acutely renders one woman's troubled encounter with passion and spirituality at a transitional time in her life and in the history of her people. A renowned twentieth-century Japanese author, Endo wrote from the perspective of being both Japanese and Catholic. His work is often compared with that of Graham Greene, who himself considered Endo one of the century's finest writers.
at it, Kiku is an insufferable tomboy. And Mitsu is a pampered child. That’s why I think that going to Nagasaki and working for about a year would prepare them to be good brides,” was the assessment of the chief priest. Shōtokuji was the temple among the many in the region where the citizens of Magome were required to register their religious affiliation and where all their weddings and funerals were conducted. Every birth and death had to be reported to this temple. That made the chief priest of
gathered from Seikichi— With no priests to teach them and no church to provide them a spiritual foundation, the people of Nakano and Ieno and Motohara Villages had no recourse but to transmit the teachings of their parents orally to their children and grandchildren. But everything had to be done in secret. They must not ever let people from any other village know that they were Kirishitan. Under orders from the magistrate, every household became Buddhist. Once each year the fumie was set out, and
careless move. “Lord Itō, you did well to be patient. Rather than making the situation worse through a hasty decision, I think it’s best to watch and wait for a time. If this becomes known publicly, the Nagasaki magistrate might well be accused by the shogunal authorities of turning a blind eye to the outlawed Kirishitans. . . . That would be awkward.” Hondō deliberately repeated the word “awkward” in a low voice while pretending to slit his own throat with his hand. “I think the best plan would
and then have to return to them with a broken body. You’d better give that some thought.” “Thank you for those words. But no matter how much pain I have to suffer in the flesh, it’s nothing compared to losing my soul. Those are my feelings.” Hondō Shuntarō was moved by what Sen’emon said. He was impressed that this humble man would not abandon his resolve. Did faith really make a person that strong . . . ? When Shuntarō related this experience with Sen’emon to Oyō, rather than being impressed by
to occupy Nagasaki, blowing pipes and beating drums. The citizens bolted their doors, fearing random violence; the foreigners, preparing for any exigency, summoned aid from the warships anchored at sea while sailors were brought to land and positioned to defend the mouth of the harbor leading to Ōura. I hear the magistrate has fled the city! The rumor spread like a flash throughout the city. The magistrate, Kawazu Sukekuni,1 had disappeared. Several young men of promise from Satsuma and Chōshū