Julia Ota (ジュリアおたあ)

Julia Ota (years of birth and death unknown) was a Korean woman who had been forced to come to Japan from the suburbs of Pyongyang on the Korean Peninsula during the Bunroku-Keicho War (1592-1653).

Although there are theories about her being a daughter of Korean parents who were killed in the war or killed themselves in the maelstrom of the war or a daughter of aristocrats of Yi Dynasty Korea who were captured as hostages in the war, nothing about her birth date, real name and family lineage is known. Ota' was her Japanese name and 'Julia' was her Christian name.

After captured and taken to Japan by the Japanese army, she was transferred to Yukinaga KONISHI, a Christian daimyo (Christian feudal lord) and brought up by him and his wife. Educated by Mrs. KONISHI, she is said to have had a detailed knowledge of medicinal plants, which was the original family business of the Konishi family. She was already extremely well known as a woman of great beauty in those days and after her lord, Yukinaga KONISHI was defeated in the Battle of Sekigahara and decapitated together with Mitsunari ISHIDA at Rokujo-gawara, Kyoto City, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, who had instantly liked her incomparable beauty and intelligence, took her to the O-oku of Sunpu-jo Castle, and since then, she directly served Ieyasu as a waiting woman and was much loved by him. It is said that after work, she prayed, read the Bible and missionized her colleague maids and other vassals at night.

Since she refused to forsake her faith in Christianity and showed reluctance to become an officially-acknowledged concubine of Ieyasu's, she was ousted from Sunpu-jo Castle for violation of the Ban on Christianity, and was exiled first to Izu-oshima Island in 1612, then to Hachijo-jima Island or Nii-jima Island, and finally to Kozu-shima Island. It is said that wherever she went, she kept strongly adhering to her faith and devoted herself to helping the abandoned weak people, nursing sick people, and encouraging desperate young exiles.
(Although Ota is said to have made some people Christian by her edification, it has not been confirmed.)
The reasons why she was exiled to the islands three times was because she refused to show obedience to Ieyasu in exchange for a pardon, and because she was living in a nun-like manner together with Lucia and Clara, who had been her colleague maids of Sunpu-jo Castle, after she reunited with them on Nii-jima Island.

Although Ota's death is not known in detail, a local historian named Hikoichiro YAMASHITA, living in Kozu-shima Island, claimed in the 1950's that a tower erected for the repose of dead people's souls in Kozu-shima Island, the history of which had not been known, was actually Ota's tomb.

At some time or other, it became an accepted theory that Ota died on Kozu-shima Island, and the memorial service for Ota has since then been annually held in May by Christians, many of them coming from Korea as well as from Japan, which contributes to the island's tourist industry. However, there is a letter dated February 15, 1622 written and 'sent from Japan' by Father Francisco Pacheco, which describes that he was supporting Julia Ota who had left Kozu-shima island to live in Osaka. She is said to have subsequently moved to Nagasaki and, thus the fact that she died on Kozu-shima Island is being denied.

In 1972, the chief and members of the village council of Kozu-shima Village buried the soil of the then-believed Ota's tomb of Kozu-shima Island, in Mt. Jeoldusan in Korea, a place of martyrdom for the Catholic, and erected a stone monument there. After the document evidencing that Ota died somewhere other than Kozu-shima Island was discovered, the stone monument was removed and kept with the Martyrs' Memorial Museum on the mountain until the true facts are uncovered.

She is said to have had a lantern prepared for her when she was in Sunpu-ho Castle and have had meditated beside it.

The 'Kirishitan lantern' is currently kept in Hodai-in Temple.

[Original Japanese]