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Seeking Spirit

The New Human Revolution, “Seeking Spirit” Chapter, Installment 28

Volume 27, Chapter 4

By Daisaku Ikeda

In October 1611, an earthquake hit Sendai and other parts of northern Japan. Damage was minor, but a massive tsunami followed. Waves as high as 20 meters [65 feet] struck the Sanriku Coast,[1] and in an instant seawater inundated the Sendai Plain. According to the historical record Sunpu-ki (Sunpu Chronicle), as many as 5,000 drowned in the Date domain, and crops suffered devastating salt damage.

Five years later, in July 1616, another major earthquake struck, causing the collapse of Aoba Castle’s stone walls. Then, too, a tsunami followed.

After the 1611 earthquake and tsunami, Date Masamune had a large Western-style ship built with assistance from Spanish people who were in Japan at that time. Using that ship, he would later dispatch Hasekura Tsunenaga (1571–1622) and others on a diplomatic mission to Europe with the aim of opening the way for foreign trade. It seems he looked to initiate international trade as a means to recover from the disaster-caused predicament.

Masamune’s desperation to rebuild Sendai must have prompted him to turn his attention to the outside world and take decisive action. But due to the Tokugawa military government’s ban on Christianity and other factors, his envoys’ trade negotiations in Europe did not succeed.

Another theory holds that Masamune wanted to forge a military alliance with Spain to topple the Tokugawa regime.

Incidentally, Hasekura Tsunenaga was not from a well-known samurai family. Masamune must have selected him for his ability. While Masamune’s diplomatic mission to Europe failed for various reasons, his choice in sending such a capable individual exemplifies his superior judgment.

In personnel decisions, it is crucial to take a sincere and honest look at someone’s ability rather than be blinded by their family background or title.

No organization or society can overcome turbulent times unless it earnestly strives to find and promote people of genuine ability. Capable people are the foundation for success.

Masamune also displayed a talent for poetry and was proficient in both Noh drama and the culinary arts. In addition, he is said to have enjoyed the Tanabata (Star) Festival, which has become a cherished tradition in Sendai. Masamune’s refinement became the basis for the development of Sendai, a city rich in culture.


  1. Sanriku Coast: Coastal region on the Pacific Ocean, extending from southern Aomori Prefecture through Iwate Prefecture and northern Miyagi Prefecture.

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