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Amakusa Shirō (天草 四郎, c. 1621? – 28 February 1638 (aged 17)), also known as Amakusa Shirō Tokisada (天草四郎時貞), often romanized as Shirou, led the Shimabara Rebellion, an uprising of Japanese Roman Catholics against the Shogunate. They were defeated, and Shirō was executed at the age of 17, and his head was displayed on a pike near Nagasaki. Since the late 20th century, he has been featured in popular culture as a character in numerous manga, anime, and video games.
Shirō was born in 1621 in modern-day Kami-Amakusa, Kumamoto as the son of Catholic parents, Masuda Jinbei (益田 甚兵衛), a former Konishi clan retainer, and his wife. Urban legend speculates that Shirō could have been the illegitimate son of Toyotomi Hideyori, but these claims have little credibility.
Portuguese Jesuit missionaries had been active in Japan since the late 16th century. By the age of 15, the charismatic youth was known to his Japanese Catholic followers as "heaven's messenger". Miraculous powers were attributed to him.
Shirō was among Japanese Catholics who took over Hara Castle in a rebellion against the Shogunate. They mounted a coordinated defense that held off attackers, but the rebel force had no logistical support, and their resolve was weakened. Shiro was said to display posters in the castle to raise morale and said:
"Now, those who accompany me in being besieged in this castle, will be my friends unto the next world."
One of the rebel soldiers, Yamada Uemonsaku, betrayed Shirō. He got a message to the Shogunate that rebel food supplies were becoming strained. The Shogunate forces made a final assault, taking Hara Castle in the process. The Shogunate forces massacred almost 40,000 rebels, including women and children. Yamada, who betrayed his fellow rebels, was the only recorded survivor.
Shirō was taken captive and executed after the castle was overtaken. His head was displayed on a pike in Nagasaki for an extended period of time as a warning to potential Christian rebels. Many Japanese Catholics consider Shirō as a folk saint.
A statue of Amakusa Shirō was installed at Shimabara Castle.
In popular culture
- He is the main character of the 1962 movie Amakusa Shirō Tokisada.
- He was popularized as the main antagonist in the 1967 Futaro Yamada novel Makai Tensho, in which he is resurrected from the dead and is hunted down by Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi. It was adapted as a motion picture, Samurai Reincarnation (1981), an anime, Ninja Resurrection, and a film, Samurai Resurrection (2003).
- Shirō is featured as a character in the light novel Fate/Apocrypha and its adaptions, serving as a Heroic Spirit in his 17-year-old form.
- 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, Shirō is not executed but is enslaved by the mentally unstable time traveler Naozumi "Kotaka" Yatsuka, who sees him as a stand-in for his unrequited love Natsuki (who bears a strong physical resemblance to Shirō).
- In the videogame saga Samurai Shodown, Amakusa is one of the main antagonists. Having lost his faith in the Christian God, Shirō fell in despair and made a deal with the demon Ambrosia.
- In the videogame Live A Live he appears as a spirit and is one of the enemies of the Secret Orders chapter.
- The character Amakusa Shougo from the anime Rurouni Kenshin was based on Amakusa Shirō. He and his followers are rescued from the Hara Castle siege by the protagonist and a Dutch ambassador and exiled to Holland.
- He is a demon known as Tokisada in the MMORPG Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine and the Nintendo 3DS role-playing video game Shin Megami Tensei IV.
- The Gundam manga Crossbone Gundam: Skull Heart and its sequels feature a Mobile Suit powered by a clone of original Mobile Suit Gundam protagonist Amuro Ray's brain known as the Amakusa, referring to Amuro's Japanese heritage; he is martyred at the end of Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack.
- In the anime series The Kindaichi Case Files, Hajime Kindaichi went to the fictional Amakusa Island, where Amakusa Shirō rumoured to have hidden gold in a treasure cave.
- One of the antagonists in La Blue Girl is a character called Kyoshirō, who bears a strong resemblance to Amakusa Shirō.
- Amakusa Shirō is also featured as one of the antagonists in the anime Ken'yū Densetsu Yaiba.
- Amakusa Shirõ was featured in the videogame Monster Strike.
- Jonathan Clements. Christ's Samurai: The True Story of the Shimabara Rebellion. London: Robinson (2016)
- Ivan Morris. The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan. London: Secker and Warburg (1975)
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This article incorporates text from OpenHistory.