Amakusa Shirō

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Amakusa Shirō

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. His head was displayed on a pike near Nagasaki as a warning to Christians. Since the late 20th century, he has been featured in popular culture as a character in numerous manga, anime, and video games.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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.[1]


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. Shirō 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."[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed]


A statue of Amakusa Shirō was installed at Shimabara Castle.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Hoffman, "The Christian Century" Archived 2009-08-31 at the Wayback Machine, Japan Times, Dec. 2007


  • 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)

External links[edit]

This article incorporates text from OpenHistory.