Hasekura's portrait during his mission in Rome in 1615 by Claude Deruet
Yamaguchi Yoichi (山口与市)
Sendai Domain, Northeastern Japan
|Died||7 August 1622 (aged 50–51)|
Ōsato, Miyagi, Japan
|Other names||Don Felipe Francisco Hasekura (Christianized name)|
|Children||Hasekura Yoritomo (d. 1640), Hasekura Yorimichi (?-?)|
Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga (or Philip Francis Faxicura, baptized as Francisco Felipe Faxicura, in Spain, also spelled Faxecura Rocuyemon in period European sources, reflecting the contemporary pronunciation of Japanese; : 支倉六右衛門常長; 1571–1622) was a Japanese samurai and retainer of Date Masamune, the daimyō of Sendai of Japanese imperial descent with ancestral ties to Emperor Kanmu.Japanese
In the years 1613 through 1620, Hasekura headed a diplomatic mission to Pope Paul V. Crossing the Pacific aboard the San Juan Bautista, a ship built for the purpose by Masamune, Hasekura transited New Spain (arriving in Acapulco and departing from Veracruz) and visited Spain and various other ports-of-call in Europe on the way. This historic mission is called the Keichō Embassy (慶長使節), and follows the Tenshō embassy (天正使節) of 1582. On the return trip, Hasekura and his companions re-traced their route across New Spain in 1619, sailing from Acapulco for Manila, and then sailing north to Japan in 1620. He is conventionally considered the first Japanese ambassador in the Americas and in Spain.
Although Hasekura's embassy was cordially received in Spain and the Vatican, it happened at a time when Japan was moving toward the suppression of Christianity. European monarchs such as the King of Spain thus refused the trade agreements Hasekura had been seeking. Hasekura returned to Japan in 1620 and died of illness a year later, his embassy seemingly ending with few results in an increasingly isolationist Japan.
Japan's next embassy to Europe would only occur more than 200 years later, following two centuries of isolation, with the "First Japanese Embassy to Europe" in 1862.
Little is known of the early life of Hasekura Tsunenaga. According to Date Sejin Kafu (伊達世臣家譜), he was of Japanese imperial descent, the child of Yamaguchi Tsuneshige (山口常成) who had ancestral ties with Emperor Kanmu. He was a mid-level noble samurai in the Sendai Domain in northern Japan, who had the opportunity to directly serve the daimyō Date Masamune. He spent his young adulthood at the scenic Kamitate Castle (上楯城) that was constructed in Hasekura Ward, Kawasaki City (ex-Hasekura Village), Miyagi Prefecture, by his grandfather Hasekura Tsunemasa (常正). The place of origin of the family name Hasekura was Hasekura Village (支倉村), now Hasekura Ward (支倉) in Kawasaki City. Hasekura and Date Masamune were of roughly the same age, and it is recorded that several important missions were given to Tsunenaga as his representative.
It is also recorded that Hasekura served as a samurai during the Japanese invasion of Korea under the Taikō Toyotomi Hideyoshi, for six months in 1597.
In 1612, Hasekura's father, Hasekura Tsunenari (支倉 常成), was indicted for corruption, and he was put to death in 1613. His fief was confiscated, and his son should normally have been executed as well. Date, however, gave him the opportunity to redeem his honour by placing him in charge of the Embassy to Europe, and soon gave him back his territories as well.
The Spanish started trans-Pacific voyages between New Spain (present-day Mexico and the U.S. state of California) and the Philippines in 1565. The famous Manila galleons carried silver from Mexican mines westward to the entrepôt of Manila in the Spanish possession of the Philippines. There, the silver was used to purchase spices and trade goods gathered from throughout Asia, including (until 1638) goods from Japan. The return route of the Manila galleons, first charted by the Spanish navigator Andrés de Urdaneta, took the ships northeast into the Kuroshio Current (also known as the Japan Current) off the coast of Japan, and then across the Pacific to the west coast of Mexico, landing eventually in Acapulco.
Spanish ships were occasionally shipwrecked on the coasts of Japan due to bad weather, initiating contacts with the country. The Spanish wished to expand the Christian faith in Japan. Efforts to expand influence in Japan were met by stiff resistance from the Jesuits, who had started the evangelizing of the country in 1549, as well as by the opposition of the Portuguese and Dutch who did not wish to see Spain participate in Japanese trade. However, some Japanese, such as Christopher and Cosmas, are known to have crossed the Pacific onboard Spanish galleons as early as 1587. It is known that gifts were exchanged between the governor of the Philippines and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who thanks him in a 1597 letter, writing "The black elephant in particular I found most unusual."
In 1609, the Spanish Manila galleon San Francisco encountered bad weather on its way from Manila to Acapulco, and was wrecked on the Japanese coast in Chiba, near Tokyo. The sailors were rescued and welcomed, and the ship's captain, Rodrigo de Vivero, former interim governor of the Philippines, met with the retired shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Rodrigo de Vivero drafted a treaty, signed on 29 November 1609, whereby the Spaniards could establish a factory in eastern Japan, mining specialists would be imported from New Spain, Spanish ships would be allowed to visit Japan in case of necessity, and a Japanese embassy would be sent to the Spanish court.
A Franciscan friar named Luis Sotelo, who was proselytizing in the area of what is now modern Tokyo, convinced Tokugawa Ieyasu and his son Tokugawa Hidetada to send him as a representative to New Spain (Mexico) on one of their ships, in order to advance the trade treaty. Rodrigo de Vivero offered to sail on the Japanese ship in order to guarantee the safety of their reception in New Spain, but insisted that another Franciscan, named Alonso Muños, be sent instead as the shōgun's representative. In 1610, Rodrigo de Vivero, several Spanish sailors, the Franciscan father, and 22 Japanese representatives led by the trader Tanaka Shōsuke sailed to Mexico aboard the San Buena Ventura, a ship built by the English adventurer William Adams for the shōgun. Once in New Spain, Alonso Muños met with the Viceroy Luis de Velasco, who agreed to send an ambassador to Japan in the person of the famous explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno with the added mission of exploring the "Gold and silver islands" ("Isla de Plata") that were thought to be east of the Japanese isles.
Vizcaíno arrived in Japan in 1611 and had many meetings with the shōgun and feudal lords. These encounters were tainted by his poor respect for Japanese customs, the mounting resistance of the Japanese towards Catholic proselytism, and the intrigues of the Dutch against Spanish ambitions. Vizcaíno finally left to search for the "Silver island", during which search he encountered bad weather, forcing him to return to Japan with heavy damage.
Without waiting for Vizcaíno, another ship – built in Izu by the Tokugawa shogunate under the minister of the Navy Mukai Shōgen, and named San Sebastian – left for Mexico on 9 September 1612 with Luis Sotelo onboard as well as two representatives of Date Masamune, with the objective of advancing the trade agreement with New Spain. However, the ship foundered a few miles from Uraga, and the expedition had to be abandoned.
The shōgun had a new galleon built in Japan to bring Vizcaíno back to New Spain, together with a Japanese embassy accompanied by Luis Sotelo. The galleon, named Date Maru by the Japanese and later San Juan Bautista by the Spanish, took 45 days work in building, with the participation of technical experts from the Bakufu (the Minister of the Navy Mukai Shōgen, an acquaintance of William Adams with whom he built several ships, dispatched his Chief Carpenter), 800 shipwrights, 700 smiths, and 3,000 carpenters. The daimyō of Sendai, Date Masamune, was put in charge of the project. He named one of his retainers, Hasekura Tsunenaga (his fief was rated at around 600 koku ), to lead the mission:
The objective of the Japanese embassy was both to discuss trade agreements with the Spanish crown in Madrid, and to meet with the Pope in Rome. Date Masamune displayed a great will to welcome the Catholic religion in his domain: he invited Luis Sotelo and authorized the propagation of Christianity in 1611. In his letter to the Pope, brought by Hasekura, he wrote: "I'll offer my land for a base of your missionary work. Send us as many padres as possible."
Sotelo, in his own account of the travels, emphasizes the religious dimension of the mission, claiming that the main objective was to spread the Christian faith in northern Japan:
The embassy was probably, at that time, part of a plan to diversify and increase trade with foreign countries, before the participation of Christians in the Osaka rebellion triggered a radical reaction from the shogunate, with the interdiction of Christianity in the territories it directly controlled, in 1614.
Upon completion, the ship left on 28 October 1613 for Acapulco with around 180 people on board, including 10 samurai of the shōgun (provided by the Minister of the Navy Mukai Shōgen Tadakatsu), 12 samurai from Sendai, 120 Japanese merchants, sailors, and servants, and around 40 Spaniards and Portuguese, including Sebastián Vizcaíno who, in his own words, only had the quality of a passenger.
The ship first reached Cape Mendocino in today's California, and then continued along the coast to arrive in Acapulco on 25 January 1614 after three months at sea. The Japanese were received with great ceremony, but had to wait in Acapulco until orders were received regarding how to organize the rest of their travels.
Fights erupted between the Japanese and the Spaniards, especially Vizcaíno, apparently due to some disputes on the handling of presents from the Japanese ruler. A contemporary journal, written by the historian Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, a noble Aztec born in Amecameca (ancient Chalco province) in 1579, whose formal name was Domingo Francisco de San Anton Muñon, relates Vizcaíno was seriously wounded in the fight:
Following these fights, orders were promulgated on 4 and 5 March to bring peace back. The orders explained that:
The embassy remained two months in Acapulco and entered Mexico City on 24 March,where it was received with great ceremony. The ultimate mission for the embassy was to go on to Europe. The embassy spent some time in Mexico, and then went to Veracruz to board the fleet of Don Antonio Oquendo.
Chimalpahin gives some account of the visit of Hasekura.
Hasekura was settled in a house next to the Church of San Francisco, and met with the Viceroy. He explained to him that he was also planning to meet King Philip III to offer him peace and to obtain that the Japanese could come to Mexico for trade. On Wednesday 9 April, 20 Japanese were baptized, and 22 more on 20 April by the archbishop in Mexico, don Juan Pérez de la Serna, at the Church of San Francisco.Altogether 63 of them received confirmation on 25 April. Hasekura waited for his travel to Europe to be baptized there:
Chimalpahin explains that Hasekura left some of his compatriots behind before leaving for Europe:
The fleet left for Europe on the San Jose on 10 June. Hasekura had to leave the largest parts of the Japanese group behind, who were to wait in Acapulco for the return of the embassy.
Some of them, as well as those from the previous travel of Tanaka Shōsuke, returned to Japan the same year, sailing back with the San Juan Bautista:
The embassy stopped and changed ships in Havana in Cuba in July 1614. The embassy stayed in Havana for six days. A bronze statue was erected on 26 April 2001 at the head of Havana Bay.
The fleet arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on 5 October 1614.
The Japanese embassy met with King Philip III in Madrid on 30 January 1615. Hasekura remitted to the King a letter from Date Masamune, as well as offer for a treaty. The King responded that he would do what he could to accommodate these requests.
Hasekura was baptized on 17 February by the king's personal chaplain, and renamed Felipe Francisco Hasekura. The baptism ceremony was to have been conducted by the Archbishop of Toledo, Bernardo de Sandoval y Rojas, though he was too ill to actually carry this out, and the Duke of Lerma – the main administrator of Phillip III's rule and the de facto ruler of Spain – was designated as Hasekura's godfather.
The embassy stayed eight months in Spain before leaving the country for Italy.
After traveling across Spain, the embassy sailed on the Mediterranean aboard three Spanish frigates towards Italy. Due to bad weather, they had to stay for a few days in the French harbour of Saint-Tropez, where they were received by the local nobility, and made quite a sensation on the populace.
The visit of the Japanese Embassy is recorded in the city's chronicles as led by "Philip Francis Faxicura, Ambassador to the Pope, from Date Masamunni, King of Woxu in Japan".
Many picturesque details of their movements were recorded:
The visit of Hasekura Tsunenaga to Saint-Tropez in 1615 is the first recorded instance of France–Japan relations.
The Japanese Embassy went on to Italy where they were able to meet with Pope Paul V in Rome in November 1615, the same year Galileo Galilei was first confronted by the Roman Inquisition regarding his findings against geocentricism. Hasekura remitted to the Pope two gilded letters, one in Japanese and one in Latin, containing a request for a trade treaty between Japan and Mexico and the dispatch of Christian missionaries to Japan. These letters are still visible in the Vatican archives. The Latin letter, probably written by Luis Sotelo for Date Masamune, reads, in part:
The Pope agreed to the dispatch of missionaries, but left the decision for trade to the King of Spain.
The Roman Senate also gave to Hasekura the honorary title of Roman Noble and Roman Citizen, in a document he brought back to Japan, and which is preserved today in Sendai.
Sotelo also described the visit to the Pope, book De ecclesiae Iaponicae statu relatio (published posthumously in 1634):
Besides the official description of Hasekura's visit to Rome, some contemporary communications tend to indicate that political matters were also discussed, and that an alliance with Date Masamune was suggested as a way to establish Christian influence in the whole of Japan:
For the second time in Spain, in April 1616 Hasekura met again with the King, who declined to sign a trade agreement, on the ground that the Japanese Embassy did not appear to be an official embassy from the ruler of Japan Tokugawa Ieyasu, who, on the contrary, had promulgated an edict in January 1614 ordering the expulsion of all missionaries from Japan, and started the persecution of the Christian faith in Japan.
Two years later, after their trip around Europe, the mission left Seville for New Spain (Mexico) in June 1616. Certain registration documents indicate that some Japanese could have stayed in Spain, which is possible given that they made their last stop in villages near Seville (Espartinasand Coria del Río ). Curiously, to this day, Spaniards with "Japón" as a last name are found not only in this region, but all over Spain.
The embassy of Hasekura Tsunenaga was the subject of numerous publications throughout Europe. The Italian writer Scipione Amati, who accompanied the embassy in 1615 and 1616, published in 1615 in Rome a book titled History of the Kingdom of Woxu. This book was also translated into German in 1617. In 1616, the French publisher Abraham Savgrain published an account of Hasekura's visit to Rome: "Récit de l'entrée solemnelle et remarquable faite à Rome, par Dom Philippe Francois Faxicura" ("Account of the solemn and remarkable entrance in Rome of Dom Philippe Francois Faxicura").
Hasekura stayed in Mexico for 5 months on his way back to Japan. The San Juan Bautista had been waiting in Acapulco since 1616, after a second trip across the Pacific from Japan to Mexico. Captained by Yokozawa Shōgen, she was laden with fine pepper and lacquerware from Kyoto, which were sold on the Mexican market. To avoid too much silver leaving Mexico for Japan, the Spanish king requested that the Viceroy ask for the proceeds to be spent on Mexican goods, except for an amount of 12,000 pesos and 8,000 pesos in silver, which Hasekura and Yokozawa respectively were allowed to bring back with them.
In April 1618, the San Juan Bautista arrived in the Philippines from Mexico, with Hasekura and Luis Sotelo on board. The ship was acquired by the Spanish government there, with the objective of building up defenses against the attacks of the Dutch and the English. In Manila, the archbishop described the deal to the king of Spain in a missive dated 28 July 1619:
During his stay in the Philippines, Hasekura purchased numerous goods for Date Masamune, and built a ship, as he explained in a letter he wrote to his son. He finally returned to Japan in August 1620, reaching the harbour of Nagasaki.
By the time Hasekura came back, Japan had changed quite drastically: an effort to eradicate Christianity had been under way since 1614, Tokugawa Ieyasu had died in 1616 and been replaced by his more xenophobic son Tokugawa Hidetada, and Japan was moving towards the "Sakoku" policy of isolation. Because news of these persecutions arrived in Europe during Hasekura's embassy, European rulers – especially the King of Spain – became very reluctant to respond favorably to Hasekura's trade and missionary proposals.
Hasekura reported his travels to Date Masamune upon his arrival in Sendai. It is recorded that he remitted a portrait of Pope Paul V, a portrait of himself in prayer (shown above), and a set of Ceylonese and Indonesian daggers acquired in the Philippines, all preserved today in the Sendai City Museum. The "Records of the House of Masamune" describe his report in a rather succinct manner, ending with a rather cryptic expression of surprise bordering on the outrage ("奇怪最多シ") at Hasekura's discourse:
The direct effect of Hasekura's return to Sendai was the interdiction of Christianity in the Sendai fief two days later:
What Hasekura said or did to bring about such a result is unknown. As later events tend to indicate that he and his descendants remained faithful Christians, Hasekura may have made an enthusiastic – and to a certain extent, disturbing – account of the greatness and might of Western countries and the Christian religion. He may also have encouraged an alliance between the Church and Date Masamune to take over the country (an idea advertised by the Franciscans while in Rome), which, in 1620 Japan, would have been a totally unrealistic proposition. Lastly, hopes of trade with Spain evaporated when Hasekura communicated that the Spanish King would not enter an agreement as long as persecutions were occurring in the rest of the country.
Date Masamune suddenly chose to distance himself from the Western faith. The first executions of Christians started 40 days later. The anti-Christian measures taken by Date Masumune were, however, comparatively mild, and Japanese and Western Christians repeatedly claimed that he only took them to appease the shōgun :
One month after Hasekura's return, Date Masamune wrote a letter to the shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada, in which he makes a very clear effort to evade responsibility for the embassy, explaining in detail how it was organized with the approval, and even the collaboration, of the shōgun:
Spain, with a colony and an army in the nearby Philippines, was a source of concern for Japan at that time. Hasekura's eyewitness accounts of Spanish power and colonial methods in New Spain (Mexico) may have precipitated the shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada's decision to sever trade relations with Spain in 1623, and diplomatic relations in 1624, although other events such as the smuggling of Spanish priests into Japan and a failed Spanish embassy also contributed to the decision.
What became of Hasekura is unknown and accounts of his last years are numerous. Contemporary Christian commentators could rely only on hearsay, with some rumours stating that he abandoned Christianity, others that he was martyred for his faith, and others that he practised Christianity in secret. The fate of his descendants and servants, who were later executed for being Christians, suggests that Hasekura remained strongly Christian and transmitted his faith to the members of his family.
Sotelo, who returned to Japan but was caught and finally burnt at the stake in 1624, gave before his execution an account of Hasekura returning to Japan as a hero who propagated the Christian faith:
Hasekura also brought back to Japan several Catholic artifacts, but he did not give them to his ruler, and instead kept them on his own estate.
Hasekura Tsunenaga died of illness (according to Japanese as well as Christian sources) in 1622, but the location of his grave is not known for certain. Three graves are claimed as Hasekura's in Miyagi. The most likely is in the outskirts of Ōsato town (大郷町) in the temple of Saikō-ji (西光寺). Another is visible in the Buddhist temple of Enfuku-ji (円福寺) in Kawasaki town. Another is clearly marked (along with a memorial to Sotelo) in the cemetery of the temple of Kōmyō-ji (光明寺) in Kitayama Aoba-ku (Sendai).
Hasekura had a son, named Rokuemon Tsuneyori. Two of his son's servants, Yogoemon (与五右衛門) and his wife, were convicted of being Christian but refused to recant their faith under torture (reverse hanging, called "Tsurushi", 釣殺し) and as a result died in August 1637 (as the lives of Christians were spared if they recanted, these executions indicate that they were steadfast and refused to deny their faith). In 1637, Rokuemon Tsuneyori himself also came under suspicion of Christianity after being denounced by someone from Edo, but escaped questioning because he was the master of the Zen temple of Komyoji (光明寺). In 1640, two other servants of Tsuneyori, Tarōzaemon (太郎左衛門, 71), who had followed Hasekura to Rome, and his wife (59), were convicted of being Christians, and, also refusing to recant their faith under torture, died. Tsuneyori was held responsible this time and decapitated the same day, at the age of 42, for having failed to denounce Christians under his roof, although it remained unconfirmed whether he was himself Christian or not. Also, two Christian priests, the Dominican Pedro Vazquez and Joan Bautista Paulo, had given his name under torture. Tsuneyori's younger brother, Tsunemichi, was convicted as a Christian, but managed to flee and disappear.
The privileges of the Hasekura family were abolished at this point by the Sendai fief, and their property and belongings seized. It is at this time, in 1640, that Hasekura's Christian artifacts were confiscated, and they were kept in custody in Sendai until they were rediscovered at the end of the 19th century.
Altogether, around fifty Christian artifacts were found in Hasekura's estate in 1640, such as crosses, rosaries, religious gowns, and religious paintings. The artifacts were seized and stored by the Date fief. An inventory was made again in 1840 describing the items as belonging to Hasekura Tsunenaga. Nineteen books were also mentioned in the inventory, but they have been lost since. The artifacts are today preserved in the Sendai City Museum and other museums in Sendai.
Tsuneyori's son, Tsunenobu (常信), grandson of Tsunenaga Hasekura, survived. He founded a Hasekura family line that continues to the present day. The first to 10th heads of the Hasekura Family lived in Osato-city, Miyagi Prefecture.The 11th head moved to Wakabayashi Ward, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture where the present 13th head, Tsunetaka Hasekura, resides. The 13th head actively works in both Miyagi and Akita Prefectures.
The very existence of the travels of Hasekura was forgotten in Japan until the reopening of the country after the Sakoku policy of isolation. In 1873, a Japanese embassy to Europe (the Iwakura mission) headed by Iwakura Tomomi heard for the first time of the travels of Hasekura when shown documents during their visit to Venice in Italy.
Today, there are statues of Hasekura Tsunenaga in the outskirts of Acapulco in Mexico, at the entrance of Havana Bay in Cuba,in Coria del Río in Spain, in the Church of Civitavecchia in Italy, in Tsukinoura, near Ishinomaki, and two in Osato town in Miyagi.
Approximately 700 inhabitants of Coria del Río bear the surname Japón (originally Hasekura de Japón), identifying them as descendants of the members of Hasekura Tsunenaga's delegation.
A theme park describing the embassy and displaying a replica of the San Juan Bautista was established in the harbour of Ishinomaki, from which Hasekura initially departed on his voyage.
Today there stands a statue of Hasekura in a park in Manila, the Philippines.
Shūsaku Endō wrote a 1980 novel, titled The Samurai, a fictitious account relating the travels of Hasekura.
The 1991 film Journey of Honor (aka Kabuto, aka Shogun Mayeda) starring Sho Kosugi was loosely based on Hasekura's expedition and recounts the adventures of a samurai journey from Japan to Spain.
A 2005 animation film produced in Spain and titled Gisaku relates the adventures of a young Japanese samurai named Yohei who visited Spain in the 17th century, in a story loosely taking its inspiration from the travels of Hasekura. Yohei survived in hiding to the present day due to magical powers ("After centuries of lethargy, he awakes in a World he does not know"), and accomplishes many adventures in modern Europe as a superhero.
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