Shiro Nakagawa comes from a family of recent converts living near Hitoyoshi castle on the island of Kyushu. A young man of the samurai class, Shiro studies to be a healer, but has also heard the call to become a Catholic priest. His plans for the future, however, are disrupted when the Shogun in Kyoto orders all churches closed throughout Japan. All gaijin priests are to be expelled from the country. All Christian practices and images are summarily banned. This order leads to widespread persecution, abuse and even slaughter of Christians throughout the islands. When the small church of Saint Michael in Hitoyoshi is closed, its priest Fr. Olivera arrested, and his friend Kumiko brutally attacked, Shiro knows he must take action. Along with his boyhood friend, Tomi, Shiro embarks on a mission to rescue Fr. Olivera and defend the helpless Kirishitans of southern Kyushu. Along with an army of ronin and outraged villagers, Shiro captures the castle at Yatsushiro, sheltering tens of thousands of Christian refugees. But even as the spark of justified resistance begins to burn, Shiro and his comrades know that it's only a matter of time before the Shogun’s army descends upon Yatsushiro in full force deploying new and terrifying European weapons.
Masaru is an historical novel which paints the travails of the first Japanese Christians in brilliant colors. Author Michael T. Cibenko utilizes his expert knowledge of Japanese culture and language to create a memorable and authentic epic of early Christian Japan which entertains the reader while effortlessly conveying a lesson on this fascinating and complex period of history.
A graduate of the University of Montana, Michael T. Cibenko spent his early 20s teaching English in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. During that time, he became enthralled with the local culture and the devotion of the close-knit community of Japanese Catholics. It was here that his own Catholic faith revived and also where he met his wife, a native of Yatsushiro. A student of history, Michael became interested in the Shimabara Rellion of 1637—an ultimately unsuccessful uprising of Japanese Christians led by Catholic samurai Shiro Amakusa. It was this research that would flower into the historical novel, Masaru.