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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Enjoyed special indulgences from the Bakufu


It is easy to see that an English factory in Yedo and English ships at Uraga would have strengthened the Tokugawa ruler's hand instead of supplying engines of war to his political foes; and it must further be noted that the question of locality had another injurious outcome. For alike at Hirado and at Nagasaki, the foreign traders "were exposed to a crippling competition at the hands of rich Osaka monopolists, who, as representing an Imperial city and therefore being pledged to the Tokugawa interests, enjoyed special indulgences from the Bakufu. These shrewd traders who were then, as they are now, the merchant-princes of Japan, not only drew a ring around Hirado, but also sent vessels on their own account to Cochin China, Siam, Tonkin, Cambodia, and other foreign lands with which the English and the Dutch carried on trade." One can scarcely be surprised that Cocks, the successor of Saris, wrote, in 1620, "which maketh me altogether aweary of Japan."

It is, however, certain that the closure of the English factory at Hirado was voluntary; from the beginning to the end no serious friction had occurred between the English and the Japanese. When, the former withdrew from the Japanese trade, their houses and stores at Hirado were not sold, but were left in the safe-keeping of the local feudatory, who promised to restore them to their original owners should the English company desire to re-open business in Japan. The company did think of doing so on more than one occasion, but the idea did not mature until the year 1673, when a merchantman, the Return, was sent to obtain permission. "The Japanese authorities, after mature reflection, made answer that as the king of England was married to a Portuguese princess, British subjects could not be permitted to visit Japan. That this reply was suggested by the Dutch is very probable; that it truly reflected the feeling of the Japanese Government towards Roman Catholics is certain."*

*Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th Edition)'; article "Japan," by Brinkley.


In the year 1624, the expulsion of the Spaniards from Japan took place, and in 1638 the Portuguese met the same fate. Two years prior to the latter event, the Yedo Bakufu adopted a measure which effectually terminated foreign intercourse. They ruled that to leave the country, or to attempt to do so, should constitute a capital crime; that any Japanese subject residing abroad should be executed if he returned; that the entire kith and kin of the Spaniards in Japan should be expelled, and that no ships of ocean-going dimensions should be built in Japan. This meant not only the driving out of all professing Christians, but also the imprisonment of the entire nation within the limits of the Japanese islands, as well as an effectual veto on the growth of the mercantile marine. It is worth noting that no act of spoliation was practised against these tabooed people. Thus, when those indicated by the edict--to the number of 287--left the country for Macao, they were allowed to carry away with them their whole fortunes.

The expulsion of the Spaniards did not leave the Portuguese in an improved condition. Humiliating restrictions continued to be imposed upon them. If a foreign priest were found upon any galleon bound for Japan, such priest and the whole of the crew of the galleon were liable to be executed, and many other irksome conditions were instituted for the control of the trade. Nor had the aliens even the satisfaction of an open market, for all the goods carried in their galleons had to be sold at a fixed price to a ring of licensed Japanese merchants from Osaka. In spite of all these deterrents, however, the Portuguese continued to send galleons to Nagasaki until the year 1637, when their alleged connexion with the Shimabara rebellion induced the Japanese to issue the final edict that henceforth any Portuguese ship coming to Japan should be burned, together with her cargo, and everyone on board should be executed.

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