The birth of Dejima and Nanman trade

A Portuguese ship arrives in Japan

After guns were introduced through Tanega-shima (an island in Kagoshima Prefecture) in 1543 and 5 years later Christianity was introduced, the local loads in Japan welcomed the arrivals of Portuguese ships for trade and Christianity. Trade with Portugal during the Age of Discovery was based in Goa India and ships left for Southeast Asia such as Malacca, Macao and Nagasaki to come back to Goa in three years.

Imported goods through trade with Portuguese to Japan were raw silk, silk fabric, woolen cloth, ivory, coral, and sugar. Japan exported mainly platinum but also iron, screen pictures and swords. Animals such as tigers and peacocks were included as unusual gifts, for example in one of the incidents where in a Luzon commander offered Shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi an elephant.

 

Nagasaki Port Opens

A Portuguese ship arrived in Hirado in 1550. This was the first trade ship from Europe to arrive in Nagasaki Prefecture and 5 other Portuguese ships were to follow in 1561. Later that, Yokoseura in the province of  Omura (present day-Saikai-machi) became a new port for trade and the Portuguese moved their base to Fukuda (present day- Fukuda-honmachi) from Yokoseura.

Because the port of Fukuda, which had opened in 1565, had the demerit of facing the open sea directly, the base of trade moved to the port of Kuchinotsu on the Shimabara Peninsula. However, the Portuguese hoped to trade within the Omura dominion and the research for the establishment of the port of Nagasaki begun. The Portuguese ships and the Chinese ships charted by Portugal sailed to the port of Nagasaki, which marked the opening of the port of Nagasaki. Since then, Portuguese ships visited every year and Nagasaki grew rapidly into an important trade port.

 

Persecution of Christians in Japan

Japanese Christian feudal lord Sumitada Omura ceded his territory; the town of Nagasaki to the Society of Jesus. Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who heard this, enacted the expulsion missionaries from Japan and confiscated Nagasaki to be ruled by him directly. Hideyoshi sent missionaries and Christians, who were captured in Kyoto and Osaka to Nagasaki, and executed them at the hill of Nishizaka in Nagasaki City in 1579.

The Twenty – Six Martyr is very well-known. After Ieyasu Tokugawa took over the rule at Edo Shogunate, he was tolerant to Christianity so as to promote trade. Christianity was embraced widely and deeply. It is said that the number of the converts to Christianity reached about 760,000 people between 1549 and 1630 in Japan.

However, before long the Edo Shogunate begun to restrict Christianity and finally announced the Persecution of Christians in 1614. Many Christians including Ukon Takayama were expelled to Manila and Macao. Later that Shogunate tightened the restriction on Christianity, and the persecution of Christians became crueler through forced conversion by torture, promoting betrayal and cruel executions.

Construction of Dejima

The Shogunate constructed an artificial island for Portuguese living around Nagasaki City to be interned or so as to prevent the spread of Christianity. Dejima was a man-made island and completed in 1636 by the investment of “Dejima Chounin” comprising of 25 wealthy merchants.

Dejima was also named “Tsuki-shima” because the island was reclaimed (Chinese character “Tsuki” means constructing) and named “Ogi-jima” because of its shape of Dejima. (“Ogi” means fan-shape) However, the idea for building a man-made island, the architect, the supervisor of the construction and the construction technology still remains mysteries today.