At one point, later into this remarkably nuanced and complex film, the Japanese Inquisitor (Issey Ogata) - the official responsible for finding and tearing the roots out of Christianity in mid-17th C. Japan - tells a story to the captured Jesuit Priest, Rodrigues, who was in Japan as a missionary and on a search mission as well. The Inquisitor says: A man has four beautiful concubines, all ravishing but given to fighting amongst themselves and creating great disharmony in his home. He throws them all out and peace returns to his surroundings and his life. Rodrigues, when asked what meaning he takes from the story, offers that he must have been a wise man.
The Inquisitor continues. He remarks that Spain, Portugal, Britain and Holland are the four concubines endangering the equanimity and the future of his homeland. At the time, there were more than 300,000 Christians in Japan (a country of 20 million people), converted by Jesuit missionaries from Europe. To the Japanese, Europe was indistinguishable from Christianity (and seen by some in power as its first entry before later potential invasion): It was Christianity’s tentacles through the spread of religion that threatened the house of Japan. Christianity had to be rooted out to preserve the rulers and very culture of Japan.