Aug 4, 2016

Author Susan Spann, the Hiro Hattori Mysteries: Guest Post

Swords & Crosses: Jesuit Missionaries in Japan

by Susan Spann 

Many people became aware of the Jesuits (the Society of Jesus) in 2013, when Pope Francis became the very first Jesuit Pope. However, the Jesuit order was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola (along with six other university students) in 1534, and since the 16th century, the Jesuits have among the most active Christian religious and missionary groups.
The Jesuits first arrived in Japan on August 15,1549, when Saint Francis Xavier (then Father Francis Xavier) landed at Kagoshima. By the end of September, Xavier had obtained official permission to share the Christian religion in Japan—an astonishing feat, considering that Japan was almost completely closed to foreigners at that time.
Father Xavier traveled extensively in Japan, meeting with various daimyō (Samurai lords) and attempting to teach Christianity despite the significant language barrier. He is also responsible for the first translation of the Catholic catechism into Japanese.
Unlike many missionaries, who tried to covert native populations without respecting (or trying to learn) the local language and customs, Jesuit priests attempted to learn local languages and often lived according to local customs (at least to the extent the customs did not directly conflict with their vows or the Christian faith). For example, many Jesuits dressed in Japanese clothing and learned to appreciate Japanese food, art, and culture. Understandably, this flexibility had a positive impact on their ability to obtain permission to travel throughout Japan and share the gospel with Japanese people.
During the 16th century, Japan was nominally ruled by an emperor, but day-to-day power resided in the hands of the shogun and the daimyō who ruled the provinces. (The country would not be officially unified until Tokugawa Ieyasu conquered the other daimyō and seized the Shogunate in 1603.) Foreigners could not travel freely in Japan, and foreign trade was severely limited. The Jesuits’ greater freedom of movement allowed them to act as brokers for the Portuguese traders who hoped to expand their markets into Japan, and in return these merchants financed some of the Jesuits’ missionary activities.
As it happens, the 16th century was also the height of ninja activity in Japan, with the strongest ninja (shinobi) clans operating in the mountainous provinces of Iga and Koga.

When I decided to write a mystery series featuring a ninja detective, I wanted to give my protagonist a Western sidekick, to act as the reader’s “cultural filter” and to offer a different perspective on medieval Japan. Historically speaking, a Jesuit was the perfect choice to fill this role.

Although I originally planned for Father Mateo to act as a “Watson” to my primary detective, master ninja Hiro Hattori, the characters quickly developed a life—and a relationship—of their own. By the end of the first Hiro Hattori (Shinobi) Mystery, Claws of the Cat, the men had become true partners in crime-solving, using their complementary skills to find and identify the killer. Their developing friendship, and good-natured banter, makes the Hiro Hattori mysteries fun to write and hopefully, fun to read as well!

Thanks to the author for this guest post 

Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses. 

Today is release day for the fourth in the mystery series.
The Ninja's Daughter:
 A Hiro Hattori Mystery


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me Harvee!

  2. The setting of this series and a ninja detective and a Jesuit detective appeal to me.


I appreciate your comments and thoughts...

Travel Can Be Fun or Not: Sunday Salon

Books read and to-be-read The Trip by Phoebe Morgan, May 25, 2024; HQ, NetGalley Genre: mystery, adventure, travel fiction, adult fiction B...