Kirishitan-ban (Jesuit Mission Press) (キリシタン版)

Kirishitan-ban (Christian editions) refers to a common name of printing in Roman characters, kanji (Chinese characters) or kana (the Japanese syllabary) which was published by the Society of Jesus mainly in Japan in the early modern period (from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century).

Alessandoro Valignano who was a priest that came to Japan to propagate Christianity, made a plan as part of an education project for a religious community. The plan did not exactly succeed. However, Kirishitan-ban for which at least 50 publications were printed and published by the western printing art for the first time in East Asia, was an important paper publication in the history of books and printing, and was valuable material also in the linguistic history because Japanese colloquial expressions at that time were described in Roman characters.

A group of books called Kirishitan-ban (キリシタン版) was also called as The Jesuit Mission Press in Japan, Nihon Yasokai-ban (Yasokai refers to the Society of Jesus in Chinese) or Kirishitan-ban (吉利支丹版 in Chinese characters) depending on advocates. Although there was a discrepancy in the details, they were almost consistent in terms of focusing on the catalogue of books published by the Society of Jesus in Japan.


At the time of his first visit to Japan to speculate starting from 1579, Alessandoro Valignano who was a missionary of the Society of Jesus recognized through meetings with Japanese missionaries that it was essential to provide education to domestic and foreign people toward further expansion or propagation, and made it a policy to expand an education project. Improvements in the books necessary for education had already been started, but he reported on the necessity to publish textbooks in Japan because of the heavy task of transcribing the textbooks by hand. At that time, as a result of close examination of western books, he also mentioned that Japanese believers should not have touched heterodoxy. Valignano made a plan to print and publish textbooks for Gakurin (Learners' Forest) in Roman characters, and then to print and publish books for the general people using katakana (one of the Japanese syllabaries). He determined that printing and publishing in Japanese letters were impossible because there were too many letters.

Since it was decided to enforce the plan, Valignano caused Monk Jorge De Loyola, Constantino Durado, Augustino and so on to learn a technique in Lisbon with envoys from Tensho Keno Shonen Shisetsu (the Tensho Boy Mission to Europe), and succeeded in bringing back a letterpress printing machine from there. In the middle of carrying it, an envoy who happened to meet Valignano in Goa gave an address of thanks, and a book commonly called "HARA Martino no Enzetsu" (The original address of Thanks by Martino HARA [Oratio habita a Fara D. Martino Iaponio]) (1588) was printed and published by Constantino Durado. The party headed to Japan again, but, could not return to Japan because Bateren Tsuihorei (an edict expelling the European missionaries) (1587) had been already issued by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. For that reason, the party stayed in Macau, and printed and published "Kirisutokyo Shitei no Kyoiku" (The Education of Christian Children [Christiani Pueri Institutio]) (1588) and "Keno Shisetsu Taiwaroku" (The Record of Dialogues of the Mission of Europe [De Missione Legatorum Iaponensium]) (1590) while staying there. Although Monk Loyola died in Macau, Valignano who became qualified as an envoy to be sent by the vice King of India, reached Japan in July 1590. The printing machine was installed at collegio (college established by the Jesuits) in Kazusa Town.

Heyday and ending

Collegio at that time was located in Shimabara (Kazusa), and then relocated to Amakusa, Nagasaki. Therefore, publications in each period were called 'Kazusa-ban' (Kazusa editions), 'Amakusa-ban' (Amakusa editions) and 'Nagasaki-ban' (Nagasaki editions), respectively, using the name of place of printing. "Kontemutsusu Munji" (Contempt of the World [Contemptus Mundi]) printed and published in Kyoto was called 'Harada-ban' (Harada editions) because the name of the publisher was adopted. The Japanese version of Jesuit Mission Press printed in Nagasaki was printed by a believer by the name of Goto whose printing shop was entrusted by the Society of Jesus, and three publications were identified.

Compared to the time when the introduction of a printing machine was decided, a political crackdown on Christians was stepped up. Facilities of the Society of Jesus in various places were destroyed, and firstly the printing machine installed at collegio in Kazusa was immediately used to print books in Japanese and Latin, and grammar books of Japanese language, dictionaries and so on were prepared for printing. For the publishing, the contents were studied and examined closely, and only the authorized contents were published, and used in the religious community in a unified manner thereafter. A request was made for an independent authorization to be given in Japan upon obtaining an imperial decree from Pope. After that, the Society of Jesus moved the printing machine to Gakurin in Amakusa, and then to Nagasaki, and left the printing machine to the care of Goto Nobuaki shuin (printing shop); poverty caused him to print the Japanese version of Jesuit Mission Press, and entrusted Antonio HARADA with the printing in Kyoto.

After a sweeping edict expelling Christians was issued in 1614, and the printing machine was moved to Macau, "Nihon Sho Bunten" (The Small Grammar Book of Japanese Language [Arte Breve da Lingua Japoa]) (1620) and others were printed and published, but only a small number of books were printed. And, books remaining in Japan were also destroyed by fire in 1627.


In this publishing project, not only books used for the first purpose of training clergymen, but those on the Japanese versions of Jesuit Mission Press in katakana, and also the Japanese version of Jesuit Mission Press in sosho-tai (cursive style writing) kanji and kana were published. Although there were no concrete records, 1,000 to 2,000 copies were published. Kirishitan-ban ended along with the expulsion of Christians, and the copper type of Yi Dynasty brought in the same period became an origin of the old edition and also an origin of the subsequent woodcut printing culture. On the other hand, a mainstream opinion was that Kirishitan-ban had no subsequent influence on Japan, but, following an examination of the printing technique, it was pointed out that the old edition was due to an influence of Kirishitan-ban.

Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike) which had a phrase on its title page saying 'this is a tale of the Heike [the Taira clan] to ease people who want to learn Japanese language and Historia,' and was a book that could be used to learn Japanese language along with Isoho Monogatari (Aesop's Fables [Esopo no Fabulas]) and Kinkushu (collection of good sayings). Oraimono (primary textbooks in the style of the exchange of letters) ('Zappitsu sho' [Miscellaneous]) included in "Wakan Roeishu" (Japanese and Chinese poems to sing) was for samurai family, while "Kirishitan orai" (Christian's correspondences) was a textbook also used for children. Meanwhile, the purpose of the books printed and published in Macau was for education in Latin, and in addition, many books including books of creeds such as 'Dochiriina Kirishitan' (Christian Doctrine [Doctrina Christan]), and so on were published. As it is shown that "Kontemutsusu Mundi" was printed and published in Kyoto for it to be sold, Goto-ban (Goto editions) was also published for the purpose of earning profits, and more reader-friendly books were made; it is known that the main emphasis was placed on the broad propagation and education for Japanese people, and education of practical Japanese language for missionaries coming to Japan. For that purpose, the Roman script version of the Jesuit Mission Press referred to books as a tool for learning a language for missionaries coming to Japan, and the Japanese script versions of Jesuit Mission Press were published for Japanese. Therefore, such difference was found in the editing, and a special edited version for general believers was given to Goto-ban.

The contents were examined from both aspects of literature and language based on the issue.

In terms of language, in addition to Kirishitan-ban that was published, manuscripts were also included in the target of study. The Roman script version of Jesuit Mission Press, which was written in Roman characters along with the pronunciation marks, and was considered to strictly follow phonographic writing, was mainly used to conduct the analyses as data on colloquial expressions. Especially in terms of phoneme, the Roman script version of Jesuit Mission Press and various kinds of materials had many distinctive characteristics such as detailed descriptions of unvoiced and voiced consonants, and open and closed prolonged sounds. The big and small grammar books of Japanese languages which described not only phoneme and vocabularies but also dialects and grammar gained recognition. From the viewpoint of differences from the Roman script version of Jesuit Mission Press, a study was also conducted based on the Japanese script versions of Jesuit Mission Press. Printed books of Japanese letters version of Jesuit Mission Press especially gave detailed descriptions and were very canonical so as for speakers of other languages to learn and write Japanese language more efficiently.

Printing art

Kirishitan-ban was the first publication by typographical printing in Japan, and at the same time, the number of printing machines brought from Europe which was one at the beginning increased to three by the year of the relocation to Macau. The printing machine bought could only type Roman characters (which had 'three types' for each big and small character, but no italics). Most calligraphic styles were not the most recent, and some of them were not even used in the same period in Western Europe, which showed that the art of printing was not sophisticated. However, it showed good proficiency to have also achieved the manufacturing of Japanese types in a short period.

The printing machine that was bought was similar to an Andonbuta (covered light) type which was common in old times, and such printing machines were considered to be large enough to print and publish Mino-ban (Mino editions). For Western types, Canon (approx. 48 American points) and Assendonika, or Double Pica (approx. 22 points) and Paragon (approx. 11 points) which were brought through the use at Goa and Macau were used from the beginning. As a result of subsequent additions or reminting, eight sizes were used in total. Since they were never brought, italic characters were manufactured from punches in Japan. They had three sizes equivalent to Paragon (approx. 20 points), 18 points, and Pica (approx. 11 points).

It is identified that Japanese scripts were printed and published in two sizes including big and small kanji (Chinese characters) and hiragana (Japanese syllabary characters), and in kanji and katakana. It is identified that matters printed and published in kanji and hiragana, and were made in order of size. A theory that katakana was used for printing and publication at first is accepted by the majority, and this is based on a letter written by Valignano in 1584 in which he requested Mekisuta (メキスタ) for katakana matrices. Although it was sometimes considered that katakana and large-sized prints were based on woodcut printing or wooden characters, a thesis written by Toshi ARAI concluded that all were based on metal characters. However, wooden characters came to be used as supplement to the small-sized characters. The only exceptional case was Kyoto-ban (Kyoto editions) where a theory of woodcut printing was advocated and supported by a theory on printing and publishing using wooden characters.

Many authorities did not doubt that for the manufacturing of characters, the western characters were manufactured from punching. There was no special statement about Japanese types because they were considered to have been manufactured in the same manner as the western types. Although some support a theory that they were also manufactured from punching, a theory that original letters were engraved on wooden pieces has been adopted. Close examination of that theory showed that a matrix was made through processes of engraving letters on wooden pieces, and pressing them on clay materials. A vertical size is fixed for the western types, but when applying those to Japanese types, they were turned around to fix the horizontal size. This made it easy to reproduce scribal types of which the vertical size changed more drastically than the horizontal size. It is known that wooden characters were used as supplements in books printed using small-sized characters such as "Taiheiki" (The Record of the Great Peace).

With regard to printing paper, washi (Japanese paper) was used for the Japanese script version of Jesuit Mission Press, and paper produced outside Japan was used for the Roman script version of Jesuit Mission Press.

Catalogue of books

Some publications of Kirishitan-ban were destroyed, and as stated above, the definition differed according to an advocate, and the number of books discovered also differed. 21 books were listed in the first bibliography by M. Léon Pagès, and Satow identified seven of them, and added seven books. Based on a proclamation by Tominaga and others that only the books printed and published in Japan were called Kirishitan-ban, there are 32 books which are called Kirishitan-ban at present. The catalogue of books is organized in order of year of publication (however, names of some books are common names). A list of printed books of "Kirishitan Bunko" by Laures is often referred to.


It is possible to find various problems over the establishment of the transcription and published books. Some examples of the conceivable problems are how the books were published from the transcription data left by Christians, from which data were the books published, and which contents took precedence or how they differed in the Japanese script version and the Roman script version of Jesuit Mission Press that were published based on the same original book.

Translations were conducted by Japanese individuals. The copyright page and a letter written by the Jesuit suggested that "Santosu no Gosagyo no uchi Nukigaki" (Excerpts from the Acts of the Saints [Sanctos no gosagveono vchinvqigaqi]) had been translated by Paulo YOHOKEN and his son, Vicente. Although one of the episodes mentioned that there were transcripts described in Japanese script and in Roman script, a lack of materials makes it difficult to make researches on the issue of the process of establishing each transcript. Yoshio YAMADA and Izuru SHINMURA regarded "Taiheiki Nukigaki" (Excerpts from Taiheiki) as a mere excerpt from the group of popular editions of Taiheiki, and a study to specify that it was part of Keicho-ban (Keicho editions) kokatsuji-bon (old movable type imprints) as the original text was conducted. However, Ichiro MIYAJIMA pointed out the changes of the anti-Christian expressions, and insisted that the editor of the "Nukigaki" (Excerpts) still exists.

History of the study

"Japanese Bibliography" (Bibliographie Japonaise ou catalogue des ouvrages relatifs au Japon. Paris Benjamin Duprat, 1859) by M. Léon Pagès took up the prehistory of the study on Kirishitan-ban. After Pagès and Petitjean introduced the literatures, the basis for the study was laid out by the thesis written by Ernest Mason Satow and "The Jesuit Mission Press in Japan, 1591-1610" (London privately printed, 1888). Although Basil Hall Chamberlain implemented a pioneering introduction as materials for the history of Japanese language, a full-fledged study started after Izuru SHINMURA appeared.

Linguistic study

Shinmura who officially traveled to Western Europe introduced various kinds of materials, and also pioneered various studies such as the creation of bibliographical matters. Shinmura enforced Satow's theory that these were the printed editions, treated Christian literature as materials for the history of the Japanese language, and showed that these Christian literature materials were useful. Although the study focused on printed books, studies by Tadao DOI and Kunimichi FUKUSHIMA made a significant contribution to the discovery of a unique problem also in the transcripts. In addition, a comparison with a transcript clarified that the Japanese-based Roman script version of Jesuit Mission Press of Kirishitan-ban was described in an organized and prescriptive manner, and that it departed from the actual phenomenon. For details, refer to Christian materials.

Bibliographical study

After Shinmura, a bibliographical study on Kirishitan-ban was conducted as part of creating materials for Christian and linguistic studies. Genichi HIIRAGI, Arimichi EBISAWA and Tadao DOI are working on it. "Kirishitan Bunko" (A Manual of Books and Documents on the Early Christian Mission in Japan) (1940, and 1957 [the third edition]) by Johannes Laures, was the most comprehensive bibliography. These described observations about problems of Kirishitan-ban as part of the Christian study or linguistic study.

Under such circumstances, in the Tenri Central Library which came to possess many books of Kirishitan-ban due to collection by the second Shinbashira (the head of the Tenrikyo Church) Shozen NAKAYAMA, bibliographical studies were implemented by Makita TOMINAGA, Director of the library, and library staff, including Toshi ARAI and Sadao OUCHIDA, and significant results were achieved especially in studies on printing technique and publishing projects. Many of the results were announced in the TCL journal, "Biblia," and were compiled in "Kirishitan-ban no kenkyu" (studies of books printed by the Jesuit Mission Press in Japan) (1973) and "Kirishitan Ban Monjiko" (1977) by Makita TOMINAGA.

Based on an indication of a relationship between an old edition and the Kirishitan-ban given by Ouchida, as well as researches on printing techniques by Osamu MORIGAMI and Tadao YAMAGUCHI, many research papers on the Japanese script version of Jesuit Mission Press have been published.