Luis Frois (ルイス・フロイス)

Luis Frois (1532 – July 8, 1597) was a Portuguese born in Lisbon. He was a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest and missionary. He wrote "Frois' History of Japan."


Frois was born in 1532. In 1548, at 16 years of age, Frois entered the Society of Jesus. That same year he traveled to the Province of Goa, the capital of the Portuguese Indian colonies, and received training. Goa was where he met Francis Xavier, who was just about leaving for a mission to Japan, and his Japanese collaborator Yajiro. This event was to establish his life's course. He was ordained in 1561 in Goa, and he served by dealing with the communications from each missionary location thanks to his language and writing skills, which were well recognized.

In 1563, at the age of 31, Frois landed at Yokose-ura (a port what is now northern Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture) and started his long-sought missionary work in Japan. After studying the Japanese language, he headed to Kyoto from Hirado in 1564. On January 31, 1565, he entered Kyoto. However, he was disappointed to learn of the vulnerability of the Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA--upon whom he relied as his protector--and his government authority. He strove as the missionary in charge of the Kyoto district even under difficult circumstances such as it being war-torn by warring groups such as the Miyoshi clique.

In 1569, for the first time, Frois met the new conqueror Nobunaga ODA, who entered Kyoto at the construction site of Nijo Castle. Nobunaga was weary of the prevailing Buddhist society, and because Frois was able to earn the trust of Nobunaga he was allowed to carry out his missionary work in the Kinai area. He propagated the faith along with people such as Gnecci-Soldo Organtino, and as a result he obtained many followers. In his book, Nobunaga, despite being a pagan, is always portrayed as an amiable person.
(Frois' literary works contain many remarks that cannot be found in other books such as "Shincho Koki (Account of lord Nobunaga)," and therefore it is recognized as one of the important references for the study of Japanese history.)

After that time, though Frois was working actively in Kyushu he accompanied the Jesuit Visitor Allessandro Valignano as a translator during his visit to Japan in 1580, and he had an audience with Nobunaga at Azuchi Castle. In 1583, his superior ordered him to leave the front line of missionary work in order to concentrate on recording the activities of the Society of Jesus in Japan. From then on, Frois put every effort into this work as he traveled throughout Japan and collected data. These reports later became "Frois' History of Japan."

Initially, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI inherited Nobunaga's Society of Jesus policy, but soon he became alarmed by its growing influence; consequently, on June 19, 1587, he issued an edict expelling Christians. Frois had left Kinai and settled in Nagasaki by way of Kazusa.

In 1590, when Valignano revisited Japan with the recently returned Tensho Ken-o Shisetsu (the Tensho Embassy to Europe), Frois accompanied him in order to meet Hideyoshi at Jurakudai. In 1592, he sailed to Macao with Valignano for a while, but he returned to Nagasaki in 1595 and died on July 8, 1597 after leaving his last literary work, "The Martyrdom Records of the Twenty-Six Saints." Frois was 65 at the time of his death. Frois had witnessed the Christian missionaries' glory and tragedy through the development and decline in Japan, and he left a crucial record of his journey.

His Literary Works

From early on, Frois was noted for his literary talent, and he left many works including the annual "Jesuit Reports on Japan," "A Comparison of Japanese and European Cultures" and "Frois' History of Japan," the last of which is particularly famous. This book commenced with Xavier's 1549 arrival in Japan and was completed in 1593.

The "History of Japan" records the Jesuits' missionary works in Japan, having been written for publication with the goal of cultivating a European audience. However, it is valuable as an historical work because it offers insights into the Japanese Sengoku period (the Warring States period of Japan) from the perspective of Kyoto, Sakai City and various cities in Kyushu as viewed by the author, and for its objective and detailed descriptions of many Sengoku military commanders such as Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. Moreover, because the names of people and places are written in Roman characters, their pronunciations were identified on that basis.

The existence of "History of Japan" was known for a long time, but the literature itself had been missing for many, many years. Subsequent investigation found the original manuscript at the archive at the site of St. Paul's Cathedral, which had been copied in the eighteenth century, but the copies had been lost in various places in Spain and Portugal; moreover, the original was destroyed in a fire at the cathedral in the nineteenth century. Copies of the book were gradually rediscovered between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and this epic was reproduced even though it had been missing.

Context of "History of Japan"

The "History of Japan" consists of the volumes listed below:

An Account of the Sixty-Six Provinces of Japan - Undiscovered
A General Survey of Japan (only the table of contents survives)
Part 1 - Chronicle of the years 1549 - 1578
Part 2 - Chronicle of the years 1578 - 1589
Part 3 - Chronicle of the years 1590 - 1593

[Original Japanese]