Naitō Joan

Naitō Joan

Naitō Joan (c.1549-1626) was a Kirishitan samurai during the Sengoku Jidai and is famous for his role in the failed peace negotiations between the Japanese and the Chinese during the Imjin Wars (1592-1598). Little is known about Joan, for his sister, Julia, is more famous. He is also known by many different names, including Naitō Tadatoshi, Naitō Tokuan, Naitō Yukiyasu, and interestingly, Don Juan.(1)

Naitō Joan was the son of Matsunaga Nagayori, who was the brother of Matsunaga Hisahide.(2) It is unclear as to why or when, but he ended up taking on his mother’s clan name, for she was the daughter of Naitō Sadafusa, an arranged marriage set up by the Miyoshi clan.(3) It is known that his father did die while Joan was a child, leaving his position at Yagi Castle in Tanba on uncertain ground.

Little is known about him until his baptism in 1565. When he was about sixteen years of age, he learned about Christianity from a woman known as Constance of Tanba and not long after meeting her, left for Kyōto and was baptized there, taking on the name of Joan.(4) In 1573, he came to serve Ashikaga Yoshiaki and left Tanba Province behind.(5)

By 1588, Joan came to serve another famous Kirishitan samurai, Konishi Yukinaga, and both would go on to play major roles within the Imjin War.(6) While Yukinaga served as one of the commanders, Joan does not come into the picture until 1593. Toyotomi Hideyoshi had given Yukinaga a document of his demands to the Ming Chinese, which he forged and then passed onto Naitō Joan, who was to go to mainland China for peace negotiations. The reason for this was because Joan could read and write Chinese, obviously a skill that was needed for communicating with the negotiators in Beijing.(7) Unfortunately, negotiations took a while, for Joan was held up in Liaodong Province, China, unable to go any further by the Chinese government, unsure if they really wanted to go through with peace talks with the Japanese. It was only towards the end of 1594 that they decided to go through with the negotiations, and he was able to continue to Beijing. His trek to the Chinese capital from Pusan, Korea took a year and a half.(8)

Finally, on December 17, 1594, Naitō Joan appeared before the emperor of China and was given a list of demands for peace, which he agreed to on Hideyoshi’s behalf. When Hideyoshi learned about the terms for peace, he was furious and threw Japan into another war with Koera in 1597, for unfortunately, once Joan returned to Japan in May 1595, the peace talks continued for almost another two years.(9)

It is unknown if Naitō Joan physically participated in the Sekigahara conflict, but he was affected by it. Konishi Yukinaga was executed not long after the Battle at Sekigahara and his lands were given to his rival, Katō Kiyomasa, a devout Buddhist who despised Christianity.(10) Initially, many of Yukinaga’s retainers accepted Kiyomasa’s offer to stay in Higo Province and serve him, yet that changed in 1602, when he began to force the Kirishitans to convert to the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. While some agreed to go to the sermons, others, like Joan, stood their ground in their faith. This led to them living in exile in the province, for Kiyomasa would not let them leave and they were driven out of their homes and lived in the mountains.(11) Eventually, Kiyomasa received pressure from others outside of Higo to let them leave his province, and a year after this decision, Joan was invited to live in Kaga under the Maeda clan, who were most likely influenced by another famous Kirishitan, Bl. Takayama Ukon.(12) They knew peace for only a short while.

In 1613, the Tokugawa shogunate moved to eliminate Christianity from Japan, which resulted in both Bl. Takayama Ukon and Naitō Joan being arrested in Kaga and sent to Kyōto the following year.(13) Then, along with Naitō’s sister, Julia, were sent to Nagasaki where they would leave Japan on November 8, 1614.(14) While Bl. Takayama Ukon would pass away not long after they landed in Manila, Joan went on translating Christian and medical books from Chinese to Japanese. He died in 1626, his sister died the following year, and his wife followed him a few years later. According to records, some of his family remained in the Philippines, however, one of his sons did return to Japan and renounced his faith.(15) Today, Naitō Joan’s armor is preserved at the Royal Armories in Leeds, England.(16)


  1. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  2. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  3. “The Naito clan”, Japanese Wiki Corpus., last visited 6/9/2022
  4. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  5. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  6. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  7. Hawley, Samuel. The Imjin War: Japan’s Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China (2014), p. 369
  8. Hawley, Samuel. The Imjin War: Japan’s Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China (2014), pp. 380, 388
  9. “The Imjin War, 1592-98”,, last visited 6/9/2022
  10. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  11. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  12. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  13. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  14. Laures, Johannes. Two Japanese Christian Heroes (1959), p. 59
  15. “Naito Joan”, Samurai, last visited 6/9/2022
  16. Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai Sourcebook (2000), p. 66

Only could find one picture for Naitō Joan on a Google search. Link for that site is here.