A Province? A Province.

The password for the April 15th counterattack against Amakusa Shiro's rebel-led forces holding siege to the Tokugawa clan -was a password whose only variance lay in the tone in which it was stated.

The password was meant to be given - to coordinate forces against a massive army that had laid siege to the Tokogawas.

Amakusa Shiro - a 16 year old general - led this large army - under the banner of Christianity.

The Tokugawa had before, succeeded in capturing some of the advancing Christians and cutting open their bellies - found only seaweed and barley.

The first rule of logistics is - if you can't supply it, it dies. They had to move while the Christians were starving. An Army of 40,000 men would never have been so easy to defeat would this were not the case. The password was designed to be given at just the right moment.

The password was - however, triggered by signal fire. Those responsible for the initial signal were actually lighting a fire to test the signal and not to give the actual signal. Samurai, in black armor - climbed like armadilloes over the wall and there they encountered the famished rebels - who threw rocks, and stones at them.

Even though Shiro had led an army against the Tokugawa as part of an economic uprising - he and his supporters consistently held the banner of Christianity in their effort. Despite raising a massive army, their inability to supply the forward line resulted in his death.

When the young general had been beheaded, his mother was called to inspect the heads - she never identified him. She would go along the line - making no expression. Finally she came to one head, picked it up and said "why have you gotten so thin?". Nothing more needed to be said.

The head was then carried to major cities. To the Tokugawa, the army and its defeat signified a final suppression of Christianity in Japan.

It was not until the late 16th century, that the systematic destruction of any faith - had been undertaken by the landed aristocracy. Confucianism, Shintoism, Buddhism in various and competing sects all coexisted peacefully, as did Christianity. However, any and all references to the religion, or those who practiced it - were systematically attacked by the landed aristocracy and all traces of the religion were scattered. The nobility of Japan saw Christianity as a threat to the social fabric of the country - Shiro's attack was the final stand.

Shiro's death was in many ways the death of Christianity in Japan - and the concept that the Japanese are a people of religious tolerance. Conservatives within the government used the rebellion as a way to illustrate the danger of allowing outside social influence - and worked hard to lock down Japan to foreign trade. They succeeded.