The son of former Konishi clan retainer Masuda Jinbei (益田 甚兵衛?) (according to some sources, Shirō may have been the illegitimate son of Toyotomi Hideyori), Shirō was born in modern-day Kami-Amakusa, Kumamoto in a Catholic family. The charismatic 15-year-old was known to his followers as "heaven's messenger." Miraculous powers were attributed to him.
Shiro led the defence of Hara Castle and defeated the strongest of the Shogunate attackers in a series of coordinated defensive surges. But, because the rebel force had no logistical support, their morale was seriously weakened in the following days. Shiro displayed posters in the castle in an attempt to enhance the morale of rebel force, saying "Now, those who accompany me in being besieged in this castle, will be my friends unto the next world." But a rebel soldier, Yamada Uemonsaku, betrayed Shiro and notified the Shogunate of the truth that rebel food supplies were becoming strained. The Shogunate forces performed a final assault, taking Hara Castle in the process. The Shogunate forces massacred almost 40,000 rebels, including women and children. Yamada, who previously betrayed his fellow rebels, was the only recorded survivor.
Shiro was executed in the aftermath of the fall, his head being displayed on a pike in Nagasaki for an extended period of time afterward as a warning to any other potential Christian rebels. His final words were: "I shall return after 100 years and take my revenge." Even now, many Japanese Christians consider Shiro as a saint, but the Roman Catholic Church has not officially listed him as such.
In Popular Culture
- Shiro is featured as a character in Fate/Apocrypha under the name Shiro Kotomine.
- He is the central antagonist in the Japanese manga XBlade by Satoshi Shiki.
- He is featured as a mitama in the PlayStation Vita role-playing video game, Toukiden: The Age of Demons.
- In the manga Amakusa 1637, Shiro is never executed but is instead made into the slave of the mentally unstable time traveler Naozumi "Kotaka" Yatsuka, who sees him as a stand-in for his unrequited love Natsuki (who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Shirou). Despite Naozumi's physical and sexual abuse of him, Shirou treats him kindly and tries to reason with him instead, in hopes to make him an ally of the oppressed Christians and help him be redeemed. But when Naozumi realises how Shirou is getting under his skin, he react with fright and strangles him to death.
- Ivan Morris. The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan. London: Secker and Warburg (1975)
This article incorporates text from OpenHistory.