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However, many Japanese citizens of this period distrusted the European foreigners and saw them as detrimental to the proper order of society. The Christian concept of a church must have struck the Japanese as alien, as in Shinto there is no formal gathering place of worshippers. Shrines are established, but they are meant primarily to serve the kami. Many Japanese were also baffled by Christianity's demand for them to turn their backs on the millions of different spirits of the natural world in favor of a single, distant god. In 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Nobunaga's successor, abruptly ordered all Christian missionaries to leave the country. He did not strictly enforce the decree, though, so as to maintain ties with European traders.
Though Japan's ruling class did eventually adopt several European traditions, most notably fashion, anti-Western sentiment refused to die down among the Japanese. While there were certainly Christians in Japan who believed they were saving souls, many Japanese saw them as a foreign culture undermining their way of life. Christian priests and missionaries became associated with dark claims that were much more concerning to Japan than the priests' Devil. Fears of Christians subverting the Japanese government came to a head in 1596, when, in a twist that would feel right at home in a Square Enix game, claims emerged of Japan-based Franciscan monks being used as spies by the Spanish government. This led to six Franciscan missionaries and twenty of their Japanese converts being rounded up and crucified outside of Nagasaki in 1597.
These numerous conflicts with Christianity shed some light on the trend of many Japanese-developed games - Grandia II, Alundra and Final Fantasy X just to name a few - ending with the destruction of an evil religion or deity. After these entities are destroyed, the world is returned to its natural order and humans are free to live their lives as they see fit. It is worth bringing up again here that Shinto has no centralized dogma that instructs its followers.
Hideyoshi died in 1598, and Tokugawa Ieyasu succeeded him as Japan's leader. It was under Tokugawa that Christianity was formally banned from Japan, allegedly under information that Christian missionaries were involved in slavery, forced conversion of Japanese citizens and other activities that "undermined the empire." Tokugawa's rule led to a mass purging of Christianity from Japan, taking the lives of about five to six thousand Christians in the country. This persecution ended in 1640, by which time Japan had begun instituting isolationist policies and passing laws forbidding Japanese from leaving the country. The ban on Christianity was repelled in 1873 during the Meiji Restoration, a time when Japan was opening itself back up to the world.
Good against evil makes for a compelling story and a compelling game. The demons of early Japanese games were a result of the limited resources available to developers, but their modern games, starring lone heroes battling corrupt religions, reflect the unique history the country has with Christianity. Conflict is what makes a game, and conflict, like the Devil himself, can come in many, many forms.
Robert Stoneback is a freelance writer working out of the Philadelphia area. He is also a writer for the Web site www.PlayerAffinity.com.