The historical Tensho and Keicho Embassies

For many centuries Japan was a country that had no relationship or contact with Europe, except for sporadic encounters with adventurous traders on the Silk Road, according to Marco Polo’s account.

The first documented direct contact between Cipango (Japan) and Europe finally occurs in 1542, when a shipwreck leads to three Portuguese sailors landing on the Japanese islands.

From then on, bilateral meetings took place, mainly with Spanish and Portuguese Jesuits, until 1582, when the Tensho Embassy, led by the Japanese nobleman Mancio Ito and composed of a small group of people, travelled to Europe to make contact with the Pope and the main European kings.

Encouraged by the positive results of the Tensho embassy, a galleon under the command of the Samurai nobleman Hasekura Tsunenaga left Japan for Europe in 1613. This was the powerful Keicho Embassy, composed of dozens of Japanese merchants and 22 authentic Samurai, whose aim was to establish trade relations with Spain and a religious agreement with the Vatican. It was the first major official meeting between Japanese and Western culture.

In 1614 the galleon landed in the port of Seville and they settled in the nearby town of Coria del Río. After three years of meetings and negotiations in Seville, Madrid and Barcelona, the embassy did not succeed in sealing its trade agreements with King Philip III, but it left a deep impression. Most of the Samurai decided not to return to their country, remaining in Coria, and their fruitful legacy is their hundreds of descendants who share the same surname: “Japan”.

A fascinating story that came to light at the beginning of the 90s and in which we would like to highlight the work carried out by the Hasekura Association of Coria del Río and the Wa Rei Ryû Association of Barcelona, who have been studying and documenting these historical facts for many years in order to make them known to the general public.

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INFORMATION FROM TENSHO AND KEICHO EMBASSIES

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