The historical Tensho and Keicho Embassies

For many centuries Japan was a country that had no relationship or contact with Europe, except for a few sporadic encounters with adventurous merchants of the Silk Road according to Marco Polo.

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

From that moment, bilateral encounters began to take place especially involving Spanish and Portuguese Jesuits, until 1582 when the Tensho Embassy, headed by the Japanese nobleman Mancio Ito and composed of a small group of people, travelled to Europe to contact the Pope and the main European kings.

Encouraged by the positive results of the Tensho Embassy, in 1613 a galleon commanded by the noble Samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga departed Japan for Europe. It was the powerful Keicho Embassy, composed of dozens of Japanese merchants and 22 authentic Samurai, whose objective was to establish commercial relations with Spain and a religious agreement with the Vatican. This was the first great official meeting between the Japanese and Western culture.

In 1614 the galleon landed in the port of Seville and settled in the nearby town of Coria del Río. After three years of meetings and negotiations in Seville, Madrid and Barcelona, the embassy failed to seal its commercial agreements with King Philip III, but left a deep mark. Most of the Samurai decided not to return to their country, instead choosing to stay in Coria which resulted in their hundreds of descendants who share the same surname: “Japón”.

This is a fascinating history that comes to light at the beginning of the 90s and of which we want to highlight the work developed by the Hasekura Association of Coria del Río and the Association WA REI RYÛ of Barcelona, who have been studying and documenting these historical facts for many years so as to promote awareness to the general public


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