01 Japanese History

#27 Four Contact Points

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Throughout the Edo period, Japan was in a state of “sakoku”, or seclusion, with its doors mostly closed to foreign countries. However, Japan had four windows to the outside world.

They were Nagasaki, Satsuma, Tsushima, and Ezo, which is present-day Hokkaido.

Nagasaki was the most important of these. The Shogunate built an artificial island called “Dejima” in Nagasaki and established a Dutch trading post there.

The Netherlands was the only Western country that was allowed to trade with Japan. This was because the Dutch promised not to proselytize Christianity.

Access to Dejima was severely restricted, however, many scholars from various parts of the country came to Nagasaki to learn about Western knowledge and technology such as medicine, natural science, and other subjects.

Japan also actively traded with the Qing. Chinese merchant ships visited Nagasaki, and Chinese residences were built there. Throughout the Edo period, Nagasaki was an international city with a large storehouse of foreign information and culture.

Tokugawa Ieyasu restored relations with Korea, which had been severed since the invasion by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Trade with Korea was conducted through the Sou clan of Tsushima. From Joseon, an envoys of representatives were dispatched to Edo each time there was a change of shoguns.

The Ryukyu Kingdom, which is present-day Okinawa, was conquered by the Satsuma in the early 17th century and developed its own culture. Shuri Castle was destroyed by war in 1945 and again by fire in 2019. Reconstruction is currently underway.

In Ezo, the Matsumae monopolized trade with the Ainu people, a northern indigenous tribe. Trading goods such as salmon and kelp brought significant profits to the Matsumae clan.

The Ainu people rose up in protest due to unfavorable trade practices. The Matsumae suppressed their rebellion and subsequently continued to oppress them till the end of the Edo period.

Thank you for reading.

Let's learn about wonderful history and culture of Japan together!  全国通訳案内士(英語) 英検1級

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