chapter  15
19 Pages

Women Apostles in Early Modern Japan, 1549–1650

ByHaruko Nawata Ward

During the Christian Century in Japan (1549-1650), Japanese women cultivated various forms of ministry, drawing on both Buddhist and Christian monastic traditions. Early modern missionary documents not only describe these women as pious and devout but also note their genuine religious vocation. In various languages, they are referred to as bicuni (nuns), jennhonin (female lay preachers), virgens (women who took the vow of perpetual sexual renunciation), superioras (abbesses), mardomas (heads of confraternities), caseras (women who provided shelters for refugee priests), beatas (holy women), and pinzochere (tertiary women), as well as in more general terms as confessoras (survivors of torture), martyrs, and saints.1 I have discussed elsewhere the diverse types of these women apostles who contributed to the steady growth of the nascent Christian church and sustained their communities during persecution.2 This essay further examines several examples of devout women in whom missionaries recognized an apostolic vocation.