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The Road Francis Xavier Walked

Photography/TAKEUCHI Yasunori

a Gateway to Culture

 Behind Beppu Bay’s north shore and Toyooka in Hiji are a mountain range made of fault scarp. In the center is the main peak, Mount Nanatsuishi at an altitude of 623 meters, with Mount Kyouzuka to the west and Mount Shiro and Mount Yurino to the east. This is called the Kanagoe Mountain Range. This is because there are two passes, East Kanagoe Pass between Mount Yurino and Mount Shiro, and West Kanagoe Pass between Mount Nanatsuishi and Mount Kyouzuka.
 This was once the Buzen Road. Until National Route 10 Akamatsu Pass was opened, this was the main road leading from central Bungo to Kenpoku and Buzen.
 A large number of travelers came over this pass. People coming from the north would look down on Beppu Bay for the first time at the top of the pass, while people climbing from the south would bid farewell to the shore. This mountain pass was filled with joy and sorrow. But above all, this pass played an important role as a cultural and logistical gateway.
 One of these bearers of new culture was Francis Xavier and his entry to Bungo. During his stay in Yamaguchi, he received an invitation from Yoshishige Otomo (Sourin) and headed for Oita. Yoshishige was very appealing to Xavier, who wished to act as missionary for a powerful lord.
 Xavier came down the west pass to Hiji in August, 1551, then landed at Oki-no-Hama beach in Oita and visited the Hall of Otomo. Yoshishige heard the teachings of Christianity for the first time and permitted proselytizing. While Xavier only stayed in Bungo for less than two months, this is where aggressive Jesuit missionary work began. Along with these teachings, Western medicine entered Bungo, and its people saw Western theater and music. Foreign ships also passed through here.
 This was later banned. There was even a martyr in the foothills of Kanagoe Pass: Chief Retainer of the Hiji Clan, Hanzaemon Kagayama and his son Diego. This happened in 1619. Now, they are among the blessed at the Vatican. Also, the “Xavier Road” has been established in the Town of Hiji, which includes West Kanagoe Pass and the places of martyrdom, where walking competitions are held.

A mountain pass that played an important role as a cultural and logistical gateway.