Six Years Before the Mayflower
In Western annals, the most celebrated voyage of people fleeing religious persecution is that of the Mayflower Pilgrims in September-November, 1620. The Mayflower has occupied a prominent spot in American tradition as a symbol of the indomitable English settlers’ quest to build “a beacon for Christians around the world” in a New World.
Yet Lord Takayama Ukon’s exile voyage to Manila in November-December 1614 antedated the Mayflower — by six years. Though half-a-world apart, the two voyages shared many uncanny similarities and parallels.
- Takayama’s exile ship – actually a Portuguese-captained Chinese junk — left Japan with the consent of the Tokugawa Shogunate to bring Japanese Christians “too prominent to crucify” (and their families) to exile – and religious liberty — in Manila. Likewise, the “Mayflower” left England, with the permission of King James I, with Protestant refugees and migrants seeking to worship in freedom in a settlement they were going to build.
- Takayama’s exile ship left Nagasaki, Japan with “300” Christian exiles – suffering one death (Fr. Antonio Francisco Critana, SJ) on board. The Mayflower left Plymouth, England with 102 passengers — suffering one death (William Butten) on board.
- Takayama’s exile ship managed the Nagasaki-to-Manila voyage, which normally took 20 days — in 43 days, double the usual duration. The Mayflower navigated the Plymouth-to-Cape Cod voyage, which should have lasted 33 to 40-days – in 66 days, also double the duration.
- Takayama’s exile ship suffered a broken main mast, disabling the ship (which was then already in Bataan waters, some “39 to 52 nautical miles” from Manila) from sailing further. Spanish Governor-General Juan de Silva had to send a Spanish man-of-war, partially propelled by sails, but powered mainly by rowers, to tow Takayama’s stricken ship to the Governor’s Landing (now the Postigo Gate) in Manila. The Mayflower similarly suffered a broken main beam amidships – which was repaired with metal braces and tools brought to build the Pilgrims’ new settlement.
- In brief: Takayama’s exile ship left Nagasaki on Nov. 8, 1614 and arrived in Manila on Dec. 21, 1614. The Mayflower left Plymouth, England on Sept. 6, 1620 and anchored in Plymouth Rock on Nov. 11, 1620.
By Ernesto A. de Pedro
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation