As described, the small island port of Hirado off the north-western coast of Kyushu (present-day Nagasaki Prefecture) was one of the first sites of missionary activity undertaken by Xavier and successors and was also one of the first harbors frequented by the Portuguese prior to their establishment in Nagasaki. But, from 1609 until 1641 or prior to the construction of Deshima, the Dutch maintained a factory or trading post on the small island, as did the English for an even shorter time (from 1613 to 1623). From a world history perspective, or at least in the framework of the Asian world-economy, it is clear that the favors bestowed upon the Dutch and the English at Hirado by Matsura daimyo, as much their various abilities to muscle in on trade opportunities in Japan and on the China coast, reflected par excellence the thesis of hegemonic sequence. In this maritime version of the great game, the Dutch and the Portuguese were locked into a zero-sum conflict to capture bullion, slaves, and territory across the hemispheres and, especially in East Asia, to win access to the lucrative China trade. Hirado also fitted into this design. Dutch dominance in the East Asia trading zone would be further empowered in 1624 with their establishment on Taiwan of Fort Zeelandia including Keelung in the north, at least until overwhelmed by the legendary anti-Qing fighter, Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) in 1662. By way of explanation, this chapter first discusses the Dutch trading post and operation at Hirado (1609–41). A second section turns to the Dutch contest for Taiwan and the eventual establishment of a fortified trading base on the island (1604–61). A third section explains the rise of the Zheng family dynasty and consequences for the Japan trade. Then, the Dutch trade at Hirado is explained. Finally, the chapter summarizes the even shorter and less consequential experience of the English East India Company at Hirado.
The Dutch Establishment at Hirado (1609–41)
While Dutch fleets had been sailing to the East Indies since 1595, impetus developed towards the forced amalgamation of all the various East India Companies of Holland into a single body known as the Dutch East India Company (
Within several years of the establishment in 1603 of a trading post on the north-west coast of Java at Banten and, prior to setting up local
The story of the Liefde, the Dutch ship which foundered in 1600 on the east coast of Kyushu near modern-day Oita after a pioneering journey across the Pacific, should not detain us here. The first direct Dutch contacts with the Shogunate arose out of the passage to Nagasaki and Hirado on July 1, 1609 of two ships of the United East India Company, De Griffioen and De Rode Leeuw met Pijlon (the Red Lion), under the command of Abraham van den Broeck, in turn part of a fleet of thirteen vessels which left Holland on December 22, 1607 under Admiral Pieter Willemsz Verhoeven. Specifically, van den Broeck was ordered to intercept and capture the annual Macau carrack, the Madre de Dios under Captain-Major André Pessoa. Sailing from Patani on May 4, 1609 via Ryukyu, the Dutch vessels arrived in Nagasaki harbor much chagrined to find that, having taken elaborate evasive action, the richly laden Madre de Dios had arrived two days earlier. Small solace for the Portuguese of Macau or the Dutch that Pessoa would—as mentioned in the previous chapter—go down with his ship on January 9, the following year at the hands of an aggrieved Arima (Boxer 1928–29: 41–42).
According to Verhoeven (1702–06: 141), soon after the arrival of the Red Lion off Hirado on the night of July 1, 1609 the ship became the object of attention by a large number of people, albeit more out of curiosity than hostility. Starting on July 27, three of the crew, chief merchants, van den Broeck and Nicolaas Puyck, and under-merchant Jacques Specx, accompanied by Melchior van Santvoort, a former crewman of the Liefde who had established himself in Nagasaki, set off for the Shogunal Court, then at Shizuoka. In the event, Shogun Ieyasu duly granted the Dutch a coveted “red seal” license or shuinjo (朱印状) sanctioning “safe conduct” and free access to ports of their choosing. Accordingly, the Ship’s Council decided to open a trading post on Hirado. In 1617, Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada further restricted Dutch trade to either Hirado or Nagasaki, although the Dutch also gained a new act of “safe conduct” that year. The Dutch position in Hirado was again confirmed in a letter in 1620 from Edo to Matsura daimyo, the Lord of Hirado, offering a grant of free trade for the Dutch in Japan, provided they abstained from missionary activity (Roessingh 1964: 2–3; The Chinese Repository, Vol. vi, No. 12, 1838: 554).
As Matsura family history records, even though invited by Tokugawa Ieyasu to establish a trading post in Uraga close to Edo, the Dutch were swayed by the kindness of Matsura Shigenobu who had proven his worth by assisting in the construction of a ship for the survivors of the Liefde. But it is also clear, as Matsura concedes, that the Dutch were more welcome guests than their Portuguese or Spanish predecessors. No less, the Dutch bought their protection from the Matsura through offering lavish gifts and favors (Matsura 1990: 23). Indeed, as Verhoeven (1702–06: 141) records, on August 8, 1609 during the absence of the commissioners to the court, the Dutch received the daimyo of Hirado on board the Dutch vessel with an artillery salute. Three weeks later, the Nagasaki bugyo was also accorded a similar reception. The point is that the Dutch had secured all important endorsements from the local authorities even before the commissioners returned from Suruga (today a ward of Shizuoka City) with news of the safe conduct grant. When he sailed for Banten on October 3, leaving behind Specx as head of the Dutch “factory” or trading post, Admiral Verhoeven would no doubt have been pleased with his success (though he would be killed in an ambush on Banda on May 22, 1609).
As Dutch historian Arnaldus Montanus (1670: 36) explained, the
As also experienced by Portuguese seafarers, Hirado offered difficult access for large ships because of strong tides and narrow entrance. According to Montanus (1670: 35–36), being of great burden and draft, the Dutch ships faced a dangerous passage through the narrow straits but within “they lie safe, being landlocked round about, which breaks off all kinds of winds.” Even so, many Dutch ships were obliged to anchor outside the harbor at Kochi (Kawauchi). In any case, the Dutch at Hirado were always in close communication with Nagasaki to where they sent their merchandise in small vessels via their agent van Santvoort.
From the outset, it is clear that the Dutch were ill-prepared to provide Japan with the coveted silks such as supplied by the Portuguese and the Spanish, especially as they had no trade foothold in China notwithstanding three failed naval campaigns to capture Macau from the Portuguese. In fact, it was only in 1625 with the occupation of southern Taiwan and the establishment of the Zeelandia fort that the Dutch were finally permitted to access Chinese trade goods at the source. Even so, two years passed before the Dutch could even send a small vessel to Hirado, leaving the impression among some that they depended for their cargoes upon plunder. However, as the
Just as the Dutch found in Nagasaki a lucrative supply of silver bullion, so they were also tempted to intercept the bullion trade in the Western hemisphere coinciding with a state of war between Spain and England. But this was also at a time when the bakufu sought to stem the bullion drain from Japan. The effort was made in the early 1740s by the newly appointed governor-general of the Dutch East Indies, Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff who, without the knowledge of the
The Dutch and the Contest for Taiwan (1604–61)
While never as important as the Ryukyu islands in the Japan-Asian trade, indeed largely bypassed by the Portuguese who nevertheless bequeathed its name, Formosa (Ilha Hermosa in Spanish), the island subsequently known as Taiwan lying across the straits from China’s Fujian province became the object of fierce contention between, respectively, the Dutch and Japanese, the Dutch and Spanish and, finally, Ming pretenders who triumphed over the Dutch. Beginning in 1609, Tokugawa Ieyasu sought to expand his control over trade passing through Taiwan. Arima was chosen as a catspaw in this operation. Using the pretext that no tribute had been sent from the island, Arima launched the first of two expeditions to Taiwan. No attempt was made to capture the island, dubbed Takasago by the Japanese, until 1616 when Murayama Toan, the imperial envoy in Nagasaki, sent an expedition of 13 vessels, albeit lost to storms and shipwrecks (Sadler 1937: 248). Neither were the first arriving Japanese welcomed by the indigenous population.
The Dutch and the China Captain of Hirado, Li Dan
Dating from 1624 the Dutch established a headquarters at Tayouan (Anping) on the southwest coast of Taiwan. From Anping protected by Fort Zeelandia (present-day Tainan), the Dutch would endeavor to tap the market in Chinese raw silk. Dutch interest in a base on Taiwan came several years after an attempt was made to settle in the Pescadores (Pengu), first visited by Dutch Admiral Wybrand van Warwyk in June 1604. This is a reference to activities of the fleet of Dutch Commander Cornelis Reijersen who retreated to the Pescadores on July 5, 1622 after the abortive and costly attack on Macau. Having constructed a fort in the Pescadores with a view to checking Chinese junk trade with Manila, Reijersen aroused the ire of the authorities in Xiamen who strongly urged the Dutch to back off to Taiwan. In this standoff, the Dutch made contact with Andrea Dittis (Li Dan), the de facto China Captain at Hirado, whose annual trading ventures to the islands trading silk for silver made him, in the Dutch view, not only leading “pirate” but simply the most influential man on Taiwan. In effect Li Dan was engaged for the purposes of dealing with Xiamen, especially when the situation turned threatening. Served an ultimatum in June 1623, the Dutch only agreed to Xiamen’s terms the following year, namely permission to tenant Taiwan provided they destroy the fortification on the Pescadores. Having run up large debts with Li Dan, the Dutch were miffed that he died on August 12, 1625 back in Hirado having received a Dutch trade license (Groeneveldt 1898; Iwao 1958: 51–53; Andrade 2004).
In fact, it is somewhat arbitrary to separate out junk traffic from Nagasaki with that of Hirado during this period when the Chinese were not restricted to any one port on Kyushu. According to Iwao (1958: 44–45), between 1614 and 1623, eighteen junks belonging to Li Dan and five belonging to his younger brother, Whowe (Hua Yu), sailed from either Nagasaki or Hirado bound for Tonkin, Cochinchina, Luzon, Taiwan, and also possibly Batavia. Above all, Taiwan, or at least the Pescadores, figured as the major destination for the Li Dan family fleet, earning the brothers the sobriquet the “greatest smugglers” in Taiwan or, more accurately, part of a “merchant-pirate” network that interfered in Dutch attempts to trade directly with China (see Andrade 2004). Li Dan sometimes even personally participated in these voyages to Taiwan where he sought to monopolize trade through acquisition of Shogunal licenses.
Altogether, 43 Chinese ships received shuinjo between 1604 and 1624. According to Tang (1995: 43), during the time that Ieyusu set up his shogunal court at Sunpo castle in Shizuoka, numerous Chinese merchants made the journey to meet him. One who made the visit on August 15, 1612 was a member of the Zheng family of traders, going on to become a powerful political dynasty dominating the Chinese junk trade with Nagasaki as discussed in a following chapter.
From the account of François Valentyn (1726) cited in The Chinese Repository (1838: 584–85), the Dutch establishment on Taiwan was not only achieved by means of high bluster, but also out of a pragmatic accommodation with the mandarins in Xiamen. In any case, whether achieved by conquest or cession, with the construction of the Zeelandia (1630) and Providence forts (1653), along with the nearby Chinese settlement at Tayouan, the Dutch fortress on Taiwan served as a vital halfway house and port of call on the lucrative Batavia-Japan trade. It also served as a naval base to intercept Portuguese and Spanish shipping from, respectively, Macau and Manila, especially as, in 1626, the Spanish had also constructed forts at Keelung and Tamsui in the north. From Zeelandia, the Dutch gathered raw silk and other items from China, along with trade items from Siam, while importing mainly European textiles along with other trade items from Asia. On an average year, the Dutch Company achieved a 100 percent profit for their efforts. No less important, the Dutch on Taiwan encouraged a fixed settlement of Chinese refugees fleeing the Qing invaders, enabling not only the exaction of tax but the creation in embryo of a colonial export economy, especially in sugar. With the capture in 1642 of the two Spanish fortified settlements, the Dutch further consolidated their power on the island (Campbell 1903; Boxer 1935b: lxxxvi; Borao 2001–02).
The Nuyts Affair of 1631–66
According to Jas. W. Davidson (1896: 114–15), besides a dominant but tribalized aboriginal population and some Chinese settlements, small colonies of Japanese also established themselves on the island as a result of wako activity. These and other arriving Japanese came into conflict with the Dutch when they took control of the island. Notwithstanding the Dutch occupation, the Japanese authorities would continue to ignore Dutch claims of overlordship over Taiwan (Campbell 1903: 36).
As Davidson (1986: 116) relates, trouble began for the Dutch when, in 1627, Japanese war junks arrived demanding compensation for loss of large sums in trade also demanding restitution of confiscated property. Under Nagasaki trader Hamada Yahei, these visitors returned to Japan with a party of aborigines inviting Japanese intervention. Alarmed, the Dutch dispatched
The Zheng Family Dynasty
We should also be mindful in the discussion of regional history or, in particular, the making of an Asian world-economy, as to the 61-year long transition from Ming to Qing. Not only did the change of dynasty redound upon Japan’s commercial links with China, but it also spelled economic crisis as with the shutting down of the lucrative ceramic trade out of Zhengdezhen. More than that, it also called up an reinvention of the political and trade dynamics on the China coast. As developed in Chapters 6 and 7, because Hirado and Nagasaki served as important centers of commercial power for overseas Chinese trading communities on the China coast, both the Ming, Ming pretenders, and the Qing were bound to be concerned as to Japanese attitudes in a situation of great political turmoil and flux. This was all the more so as the various parties looked to the maritime trade for a source of funds and arms.
As summarized by Tang (1995: 57), from 1623 to 1683, the major players in the Japan-China trade were the Zheng dynasty with their roots in Quanzhou, the historic maritime city astride the Taiwan Straits. Counting from Zheng Shaozu, practically, five generations controlled the trade for this period. Of special interest is the rise to power from obscure background of Zheng Zhilong, also known as Nicholas Iquan in European literature. As Hang Xing (2015: 38–41) elaborates in his focused study of the Zheng networks, through the 1620–1720 period, Zheng Zhilong and his descendants, especially his son Chengkong (alias Koxinga), would come to occupy center stage in the Japan junk trade. Importantly, his fleets commanded the Taiwan Straits area and with the Fujian coast emerging again as an “intermediary” zone whether or not viewed as an autonomous part of maritime China or as an integral part of the mainland.
According to Hang (2015: 265), born to obscure origins in Quanzhou (1592 or 95), Zheng Zhilong gravitated to Macau c. 1610, became a Catholic convert and, most likely, learned the essentials of the Portuguese comprador trade. Founder of his family fortunes based upon control of maritime trade on the coast of China, Zhilong was a dominating figure until at least 1644 when he defected to the Qing. Through his career, he had maintained close ties with Macau and trading links reaching to the “Western Ocean,” but this is poorly understood.
Zheng Zhilong, in turn, would be replaced in influence by his son Chenggong, known to Japanese as Teiseiko, and latinized as Koxinga in European languages. Famously, the Seaborne Lord Chenggong and his fleet dislodged the Dutch from their fortress and commercial center at Fort Zeelandia on February 1 ending thirty-eight years of Dutch rule on Taiwan. As richly described by Hang (2015: 74–75), and as celebrated in museums and monuments in Hirado and on Taiwan today, Chenggong was born in Hirado in 1624 to a Japanese mother from the Tagawa family. From his base in Xiamen, he repeatedly checkmated the Qing forces. Finally achieving military supremacy along the Fujian coast, Chenggong also gained Ming recognition in their struggle against the advancing Qing (see Yamawaki 1976).
According to Blussé (1981: 99), until it got out of control it was the
With the Dutch surrender of their fortress and commercial center at Fort Zeelandia on February 1, 1662, Chenggong not only ended decades of Dutch rule on Taiwan, but with himself and successors holding the island until overwhelmed by Qing forces in 1683. In that year, Chenggong’s grandson Zheng Keshuang surrendered to the Qing. The following year the Qing emperor removed the maritime ban. Meantime, the Dutch entered into an anti-Zheng alliance with the Qing. As Wills (1974: 15–17, 52) reveals, repercussions of a major defection on the part of Zheng family forces in the Xiamen-Taiwan Straits area were felt as far away as Nagasaki. Much of the Zheng family wealth which had been kept in Nagasaki was subject to suits and counter suits over its deposition continuing until 1675. As discussed in Chapter 7, the Zheng dynasty would come to rival and even eclipse the
The Dutch Trade at Hirado
From their base at Hirado, the Dutch entered the silk-for-silver trade in a big way. This we have seen in Chapter 3 with the actions of Nicholas Koeckebacker in scouting out direct trade with northern Vietnam. The trade is well documented in the dagregisters, the official diaries kept by the heads of the Dutch East India Company at their various trading posts, Hirado and Nagasaki included.2 Although comprehensive data only exists for the years between 1624 and 1635, as Kato (1976: 54) confirms, the absolute quantity of silk traded by the Dutch at Hirado before the Nuyts incident was relatively small and the buyers were principally limited to a few rich Sakai and Kyoto-based merchants, along with Matsura daimyo. But, from 1628–33, the Dutch at Hirado were placed under virtual confinement and, with the exception of some small sales of warehouse silk in June 1630 by command of Matsura, all their activities were suspended. Only with the return of agent Janssen from Edo in January 1633 was the five year hiatus in trade ended.
According to Kato (1976: 43), at the time when the Dutch opened their new base at Anping on Taiwan, Japanese ships virtually ceased sailing to the island in line with the bakufu’s first embargo on overseas voyages by the Japanese. The effect on Dutch trade was dramatic. Imports doubled in amount from 64,530 catties of white raw silk in 1634 to 132,039 catties in 1635, indicating that the Dutch captured the market share such as formally imported on Japanese “red seal” ships. Dutch imports by volume reached a zenith between 1635 to 1640, rising from 1 million guilders to a peak of 6.29 million guilders in 1640. Of the nine Dutch ships which arrived in Hirado in 1636, Kato found that 80.4 percent of total imports comprised silk and silk fabrics of which raw silk comprised the largest element. Next in importance was leather, woolen fabrics, dyestuffs, medicines, spices, and sugar, all amounting to small percentages of the total. Silver ingots accounted for 85.8 percent of exports, comparable with the ratio of silk imports. This is an important finding and taken up in the concluding chapter.
While we reserve a discussion of the Siam-Japan trade relationship to another chapter, it is worthwhile considering the way that the Dutch also sought to insinuate themselves into the traditional royal or crown-controlled Asian trade, even behind the backs of their erstwhile patrons. The perfidy of this strategy is revealed in the order sent by Batavia to Koeckebacker at Hirado. Noting the breach in relations between the King of Siam and the Shogunate following the forcible expulsion of Japanese from Ayutthaya in 1629, as the order instructed:
… the Governor General and councilors have decided—in order to still further hinder the granting of passes from Japan, and so to retain unto ourselves that profitable trade which we have had hitherto to share with the Japanese—in order the aforesaid Couckebacker to inflame the Japanese against the Siamese as much as possible, and opportunely to inform the Lord of Hirado and other influential nobles of the bad will and disposition of the Siamese against the Japanese people, whom they not only drove most injuriously out of their country, but still plague the remainder daily with unheard-of and insufferable imposts.Caron 1935: 134–35
According to Kato (1976: 60), in the early years of Dutch silk trade the main customers were a limited number of merchants of Sakai and Kyoto, the so-called 21 “regular customers.” From 1628 to early 1633 the bakufu and the lord of Hirado started intervening in the commercial activities of the trading post. Hirado residents also began to participate in the Dutch trade. But, by 1635, big merchants formerly engaged in the red seal trade also began to trade with the Dutch as “regular customers.” Among the Nagasaki purchasers were the bugyo, Suetsugu Heizo, elders of the city, Gorosaku, an innkeeper, Gorobe, innkeeper, Gompe, Hakataya Kinshiro, Miyazaki and also, in 1636, Dutch merchant Vincent Romein, and van Santvoort who handled
François Caron who, in February 1639, succeeded Koeckebacker as head of the
Montanus (1670: 36) offers in another version of this affair. As he states, by constructing with stone the Dutch aroused the suspicion of the authorities that they were covertly constructing a fortress. But prior to vacating Hirado for Deshima in 1641, the Dutch were already in the practice of sending their merchandise to Nagasaki in small vessels (and with the business handled by van Santvoort). In this matter we should not ignore the entreaties of the itowappu merchants, the citizens of Nagasaki, and the Portuguese who saw no reason for the Dutch to evade the pancada and who, from 1640, petitioned the bakufu to have the Dutch removed (Kato 1976: 60).
One by-product of the Dutch interlude on Hirado that should not escape attention is the question of the transfer of military technology. While we have referenced the Portuguese introduction of the arquebus, the Dutch introduced certain practical casting techniques required in the production of cannon. As Boxer (1936: 25) alludes, with the regular opening of Hirado in 1609 and the appearance of the English four years later, the importation of guns and firearms assumed increasing importance. Although the Japanese preferred cannon cast in Europe, both the Dutch and the English cast ordinance in Hirado. Notably, in 1615, Specx cast a metal gun at Hirado of 600 pounds (272 kg) weight. Damaged cannon were also brought by the Dutch to Hirado for repair, in addition to casting cannon for themselves and the Japanese. When, in 1619, the Dutch set up a cannon casting operation in Batavia, they used imported Japanese copper. With mixed success the Dutch also mounted displays of cannonry in Edo. As mentioned in the following chapter, Dutch cannons would be employed in the suppression of a major rebellion in Shimabara.
Documents examined in the National Archives of the Netherlands in The Hague by a joint Japanese-Dutch group in 2016 reveal that the head of the Hirado trading house pledged to provide Ieyasu with a type of iron cannon called saker, gunpowder, and canister rounds to assist in his 1614–15 siege of Osaka castle (resolutions issued October 28, 1615). Reportedly among the documents examined was a letter dated June 11, 1615 penned by a
The English at Hirado (1613–23)
Not far behind the Portuguese and Dutch in entering into the Japan trade stood the English. Setting up their trading post at Hirado in 1613 in close proximity to the
It is of interest to replay one of Adam’s letters which reached Company headquarters in Java and eventually London, succinctly setting down the importance of silk in the silver trade and offering important, if unheeded, advice on trade dynamics in Japan. Writing on October 22, 1611 and addressed to friends, fellow countrymen in his hometown in Kent (and with a view to reaching the ear of his wife and children), he stated: “You should understand, that the Hollanders have here an Indies of money; for they need not bring silver out of Holland to the East Indies; for in Japan there is much silver and gold to serve their turn in other places, where need requireth in the East Indies; but the merchandise which is here vendable for ready money is raw silk, damask, black taffaties, black and red cloth of the best, lead and such like goods” (Adams cited in Harris, Navigation, Vol. 1, 1745: 860).
As popular historian John Keay (1991: 52–53) explains, aside from such motives as expected profits from the spice trade, another reason for the establishment of the East India company was the need to find markets for England’s staple export of woolen cloth. Although the East India Company was determinably import-oriented, national expectations about woolen exports obliged the directors to seek early diversification. Even though the prospects for sales were bleak in tropical latitudes, in a 1606 report drafted by John Saris from Banten, Japan was singled out as the only possible market for English broadcloth.
In fact, Saris cannot have read Adam’s letter of January 12, 1613 from Hirado to his friend Agustin Spalding of the English Company in which he stated, “I fear that here will be no profit which is principal for the commodities of our country are here too cheap, that is cloth.” Matters would be otherwise, he continued, if the English merchants could access the Chinese trade “then shall our country make such great profit here, and your worshipful Indian Company of London shall not have to send money out of England, for in Japan is gold and silver in abundance, for with the traffic here they shall have money to serve their need, I mean in the Indies etc” (anon., Letters … 1896: 209–10). According to historian of the English venture in Japan, Anthony Farrington (2000), “The whole episode, indeed, can be seen as the first stage in a long effort to establish direct contact with China, a goal which was not fully realized until the early eighteenth century.” More generally, knowledge gained of the Chinese junk trade at Banten had given the Company a clear picture of the Macau-Nagasaki trade conducted by the Portuguese.
Prior to departing Banten on January 15, 1613 in the ship Clove, Saris arranged a translation of his letter from the Lord of Hirado (Matsura-daimyo) from Japanese into Malay and then English, a version of which remains. Although Saris was full of praise for Linschoten’s precise sailing directions which he used when leaving Hirado (such as elaborated in Chapter 1), on June 12, 1613 when the Clove arrived off Nagasaki, he engaged fishermen as pilots for the journey to Hirado following a case of mistaken identity by visiting “new Christians.” The following day the Clove came to anchor off Hirado where, waiting the change of tide, Saris was visited by Matsura-Hoin (the daimyo who died within the year), and his nephew, Takanobu. In the course of an on-board banquet, the English King’s letters were duly delivered, along with the caveat that they were not be opened until the arrival of Adams, then in Edo. The same night Henrick Brouwer, Captain of the Dutch trading post (February 1613 to September 1614), also visited. Although pestered by various lesser lords and petitioners, as Saris wrote in a telling historical snapshot, “I gave leave to diverse women of the better sort to come to my cabin, where the picture of Venus, with her son Cupid did hang somewhat wantonly, set out in a large frame; they thinking it to be our Lady and her son, fell down and worshiped it with shows of great devotion. Telling me in whispering manner … that they were Christians …” (Saris 1941).
Saris’ first business in Hirado was to rent premises for the trading post and his second was to make the obligatory journey to the court of Ieyasu in Edo. The question of housing in Hirado was solved by renting premises belonging to the China Captain Li Dan, later described by Richard Cocks (and with language modernized by the author), as “chief commander of all the China’s in Japan, both in Nagasaki, Hirado, and elsewhere.” As explained below, the relationship between the English and the Captain China and his brother Hua Yu in Nagasaki was not only close, but seen as crucial in the endeavor to gain access to the China trade at the source. Years later, the house would be purchased and improved at a cost of 600 pounds. The house-factory was stocked with woolen and cotton pieces, pepper, gunpowder, lead, tin, etc., although the inappropriateness of the English broadcloth for the silk-loving Japanese market was soon grasped (Riess 1898: 38; Murakami 1899: xi, 309).
In any case, the journey to the court at Edo (from 1605, seat of the real Shogun Hidetada) awaited the delayed arrival of Adams in Hirado on July 29. Assisted by Adams, Saris duly made the arduous journey and presented his credentials. Well received, he gained full permission for the English to trade freely. One proviso, however, stipulated that in no way would the English be privileged to seize Chinese junks. Although Saris was initially attracted to set up headquarters in Uraga, closer to Edo and the major centers of commerce, Hirado was nevertheless chosen. Undoubtedly the decision was swayed by the friendly reception granted by the Matsura, geographic location, and the distant prospect of connecting with the China and Korea trade.
Returning to Hirado in November 1613, Saris departed the following month for England leaving Cocks in charge of the English Company at Hirado where he remained until the establishment was given up in 1623. Adams was also taken into the Company as second-in-command. Cocks, one of the Company’s original shareholders, answered directly to the East India Company House at Leaderhall Street in London and not to the older English factory at Banten. In this respect, as Riess (1898: 38) pointed out, the English trading post at Hirado enjoyed some degree of extraterritoriality. As head of the “factory,” Cocks was also responsible for administering justice over his countrymen. He also acted as custodian of property left behind, and was even executor of Adam’s will upon his death on 16 May 1620.5
Branches of the English operation in Hirado were also established in Osaka and Kyoto (William Eaton), Edo (Richard Wickam), as well as in Sakai and Nagasaki. Edward Sayers was sent to Tsushima in the straits that bears that name, but failed to gain permission to engage with Korea. At first, the English depot in Nagasaki was handled by a Japanese Christian called Andrea. But having forfeited Cocks’ confidence, this role was assumed by foreign merchants. The first to perform this role was the Spaniard, John de Lievana, then the Italian, Damian Marina, followed by the Portuguese, Geirge (Jorge) Duris, and with the Dutchman, van Santvoort, occasionally stepping in. It is of interest that the medium of communication was Portuguese, with many local admixtures, including Malay, a role served by the jurubassa (lit. language specialist), appointed to each branch (Riess 1898: 39).
While never giving up the hope of using Hirado’s strategic location to break into the China trade, Cocks and Adams quickly grasped the opportunities afforded by entering the junk trade with Southeast Asia (Siam, Cambodia and Vietnam) on their own terms. As detailed below, seven voyages were made or attempted to mainland Southeast Asian ports and with each of them assigned a shuinjo issued for specific voyages and stated destinations. In fact, in June 1613, Saris had observed the arrival from Siam of a Dutch junk at Nagasaki carrying sappanwood and deerskins (Saris 1941: 157), suggesting that the potential of the Japan trade with Southeast Asian ports was well understood.
In December 1613, accompanied by Adams and Sayers, Cocks visited Nagasaki to purchase a junk. However, finding all vessels there engaged, they were obliged to rent space on a junk bound for Cochinchina. In the event, the first English venture from Hirado to Hoi An departing March 1614 proved tragic, leading to the deaths of Tempest Peacock and Walter Carwarden. With the purchase and fitting out of the junk Sea Adventurer, four more voyages ensued; Wickam and Eaton to Siam, Adams to Quang Nam on the Gift of God, sailing in March 1617, and a final voyage in March 1619 to Tonkin. Other voyages were aborted in the Ryukyus and the Goto Islands near Nagasaki, altogether leaving a fairly checkered balance sheet. Cocks also invested money on junk voyages belonging to the China Captain or his brother Hua Yu, such as in 1618 when he invested 600 taels of silver in a junk for importing silk from Taiwan, a mission which brought no gain (Auber 1834: 392; Murakami 1899: xix; Purnell, 1916; Iwao 1958a: 39–40).
As Riess (1898: 72) explains, unlike the Portuguese, the English were at liberty to trade with whomever they desired and without restriction to season, although it is also true that the Hirado operation never received any backup from Banten, Ayutthaya, or Patani, the major English trading posts in Asia. In any case, over time Hirado became more and more isolated from Banten. While Hirado was visited in 1614 by the Hosiander and, in 1615, by the Thomas and the Advice, four years would pass before another English sail put into this port. Cocks was obliged to withdraw his agents from Osaka and Edo as trade ground to a halt. This squeeze on shipping and trade, Keay (1991: 65) explains, has to be seen as part of a concerted Dutch effort to drive out the English from the East Asian trade altogether.
But if relations between the Dutch and the English at Hirado were testy, at sea they were at war. As Riess (1898: 82) points out, a major source of hostility between the two northern European powers was Dutch presumptions over monopoly of the spice trade in the Moluccas. At one point, such acts led the Dutch to bring a captured English ship to Hirado. Cocks was even prompted to write to the Nagasaki Chinese to assist in making a joint petition to Edo against the Dutch. As explained below, such acts inflamed tensions between English and Dutch on Hirado.
No question vexed Cocks and the English trading post so much as the need to open a trade link with China. As Peter Auber (1834: 329) explained in his Company history, in August 1613, the Company sought to take advantage of Hirado’s location to open up trade with China. To this end they employed the services of the Captain China of Hirado and a leading Chinese merchant in Nagasaki. It is worth quoting Cocks’ diary on this matter for March 10, 1619 “Truly to my hearts grief I am every day more then other out of hope of any good to be done in Japan, except trade be procured into China, which I am not yet out of hope of.” Noting the death of Hua Yu, upon whom he had relied to obtain trading privileges with China, Cocks mentions being informed by the latter’s brother, Li Dan, that negotiations with China were “concluded upon.” Moreover, that Li Dan “expects a kinsman of his to come out of China with the emperor’s pass, promising to go himself with me in person, when we have any shipping come to go in; for in Japan shipping we cannot go for China” (Murakami 1899: 309).6 But, as Auber (1834: 392) summarizes, while the negotiations continued up until the factory was withdrawn from Hirado, and while various intermediaries were plied with cash in order to win the approval of the Chinese court, the prospect of success “was becoming evanescent.”
Tapping the Korea trade was another idea mooted by the indefatigable Cocks although, as he lamented in a letter of 10 December 1614, “We cannot yet by any means get trade from Tushma [Tsushima] into Korea, neither have they of Tsushima any other privilege, but to enter into one little Town (or Fortress) and in pain of death not to go without the walls thereof, to the Landwards, and yet the King of Tsushima is no subject of the Emperor of Japan” (Cocks cited in Purchas 1905, Vol. iii: 553).
Cocks’ Journey to Edo
In August 1616, following Ieyasu’s death two months earlier, Cocks journeyed to Edo to confirm trading privileges with the new shogun Hidetada, also bringing with him the mandatory presents. As explained in more detail in Chapter 8, this was a highly ritualized and onerous journey also carried out by the Dutch and, before them, the Portuguese. After a long stay in the capital Cocks received a license but, to his dismay, learned that the English trading operation was confined to Hirado also obliging his upcountry agents to be withdrawn. Later writing of his meeting with the “emperor’s council,” he was informed that China was even more restrictive in its control of foreign merchants “allowing the Spaniards and the Portugals no port to enter into, but only Amacau; yet being a little point or rock of no importance.” As Cocks contradicted, “their privileges were far better than ours, in respect they pay no duties but only a certain sum of money for anchorage of their ships, neither were (they) bound to go to the Emperor’s court with any present(s) yearly, as we do [in Japan] spending more money in going up and down than the [commerce realized by the] anchorage of the ships …” Moreover, “the Portugals of Macau have license to go yearly to the great city of Canton both to buy and sell such commodities as they have, and had boats provided by the King of China to carry them up an down with their goods.” As Cocks concluded, and so “I wished the Emperor of Japan would make our privileges equal with the Portugals in Macau. Until they answered little, but in smiling sort [of] passed it over” (India Office paper cited in Murakami 1899: xxiii). For his impudence, Cocks may have been lucky to make his exit with just a smile. If we can decode this naïve exchange between the English merchant and the Shogunate, then the latter were extremely confident in the way that they had extricated themselves from the China-centered tributary system, where foreign states sit in a hierarchy below and relative to China, and supplanted it with their own scaled-down version, at least for visiting nanban-jin, Koreans and other supplicants.
As Cocks also learned, the tolerant policies of Ieyasu hardly survived his death in June 1616. Under the new anti-Christian edicts, both the Dutch and the English came under pressure. The anti-Christian policies were not just academic. Notably, as Cocks wrote to the Company in 1619, he had received an imperial order to deliver up Sayer (presumably singled out for his religious views) to the authorities in Nagasaki: “telling me that if I did not forthwith send him to Nangasaqu (Nagasaki), he would give orders to kill him the first time he went out of doors into the street.” Contrary to this injunction, Cocks purchased a fifty tonne junk to carry out of the country some dozen Englishmen otherwise idle in the factory, including the wanted Sayer (Murakami 1899: 308–09). That the junk dubbed Godspeed succeeded in reaching the English trading post in Banten seems certain and we owe the preservation of Cocks’ correspondence on Nagasaki to this mission.
In 1617 news reached Hirado of Dutch outrages against English ships at Pulau Way (an island off northern Sumatra). Needless to say, this news cooled relations between the two parties considerably. Cocks was also concerned at frequent Dutch plundering of Chinese junks, some acts of which were falsely attributed to the English. Indeed, as Saris observed with distaste, owing to Dutch misinformation at Nagasaki and Hirado, the English were lampooned in song as “pirates” and even bogeymen (Saris 1941: 157). On August 8, 1618, a Dutch ship arrived in Hirado bringing as prize the English ship Attendance captured in the Moluccas. But when Cocks remonstrated the matter, he was told that the Court would not meddle in affairs committed in other places. At this time the English were further isolated in Japan by Dutch attacks on English shipping (Murakami 1899: xxxv).
Matters changed in 1619 when the English sued the Dutch for a “Treaty of Defense” whereupon the English and Dutch Companies were to conduct business in the Moluccas as partners. Additionally, a “Fleet of Defense” was formed designed to coordinate attacks against Portuguese and Spanish trading interests in the East, including Chinese junk traffic to the Philippines, Hirado, and Batavia. As Muto (1977: 33–35) explains, the Treaty became the basis upon which which the Dutch and English allies sallied forth. Even so, the relationship was unequal, and news of this accord only reached Hirado with the arrival of an English ship in late 1620 (Keay 1991: 64). In any case, a planned joint attack on Macau, which Cocks endorsed, never came off and, in 1622, the Dutch were obliged to attack the Portuguese base in China single-handedly with no result.
In 1621, the Dutch and English came to blows in the streets of Hirado obliging Matsura daimyo to intervene, an act which assisted the beleaguered English. Even so, a number of Dutch and English received summary Japanese punishment for their unruly behavior. Matsura daimyo also obliged Captain Specx and Cocks to offer written guarantees that their men would not assault each other on the streets. The Dutch were forbidden to pass by the English house (Riess 1898: 82). In any case, in 1622, Richard Fursland of the English East India Company at Batavia, to where the Presidency was removed from 1620 to 1626, ordered the recall of the five English ships then in Hirado and the withdrawal of Cocks, Eaton and Sayer. This order was received in August of that year (Auber 1834: 392).
Cocks, however, ignored orders to wrap up affairs. Falsely believing that he was on the verge of a breakthrough in his China negotiations, he lingered on (Keay 1991: 66). In the interim, the Council at Batavia dispatched the ship Bull to Hirado to winkle him out. As Captain Joseph Cockram of the Bull made it known to Cocks, he had wasted “great sums” advanced for the China trade. Moreover, “The China Nachoda (Captain) hath too long deluded you, through your simplicity, to give credit unto him. You have lived long enough in those parts to be better experienced of the fraudulent practices of those peoples” (Murakami 1899: xl). The Bull sailed from Hirado on December 14, 1623, leaving 12,821 taels in bad debts, including 6,636 to Andrea Dittis (Li Dan) (Muto 1977: 33–35) and, additionally, “much loved wives and mystified children” (Keay 1991: 66).
In the event, it was resolved that power to recover outstanding debts owing the English company be transferred to Dutch Captain Cornelius Newrode. The Council also agreed to transfer to Matsura Takanobu, custody of all houses and godowns, pending the contingency of a British return (Auber 1834: 392). But the closure of the Hirado trading post was also part of a general drawdown by the Company. In 1623 the factory at Ayutthaya was also closed. In the same year the English were literally massacred at Ambon by the Dutch (see Gunn 2011: 231–32).
According to the authors of a 1793 report presented to the British parliament on the prospects of resuming trade with Japan, the failure of the original venture stemmed from three interconnected reasons or explanations. First, that more suitable trade articles for Japan would have been silks and raw silks, spices, drugs, sandalwood, etc., with only a small proportion of European wares, second; the one great (and unfulfilled) objective of the Company in Japan all along was to connect up the India, Japan and China trade and, third; owing to heavy losses occurred in the Japan trade, and failure to form connections with China, the trade was abandoned (anon., Three Reports 1793: 108).
All said and done, in the dismissive words of one historian, the chief service rendered by the English factory appears to have been the introduction of the common potato which Cocks cultivated in Hirado from samples collected in the Ryukyu islands (Murdoch 1925: 592). In any case, the unjustly maligned Cocks, who died on the home voyage, seemed to have got it right in his estimation of the Company’s original choice of Hirado calling it a “fisher town and a very small and bad harbor” (Murakami 1899: 314). The English interregnum in Hirado, as it were, also coincided with the era of persecutions against the Catholics and, by inference, the Portuguese and Spanish. Willy-nilly, such anti-Christian persecutions redounded upon the English although not directly.
Having relinquished their footing in Japan in 1623, the English were not welcomed back. The next recorded visit by the English to Japan was that made by Lord Weddell in 1637. Weddell was refused access to English prisoners. Deshima had already been constructed when that visit took place. The next attempt to reopen trade was that made by the ship Return sent by the East India Company in 1673. This was during the reign of Charles ii. Japanese suspicion that the marriage of the King of England to a Portuguese queen tainted this venture fatally (Muto 1977: 56–57). After a three month sojourn (June-August), the Return made a final exit. Suspicions of Dutch machinations in this matter seem highly credible (The Chinese Repository, 1838, Vol. vii, No. iv: 217–22). While the same mission had more success in obtaining a grant from Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga’s) son, Zheng Jing, to establish a factory in Taiwan, even so, according to a British parliamentary report, “after struggling with great difficulties, sustaining heavy losses, and being totally disappointed in their expectations of communicating with Japan,” the order was given to close the factory in 1682, one year before the Qing conquest (anon., Three Reports 1793: 110).
There is no question that in the Japan trade the English lost out absolutely to the Dutch. To degrees, Dutch supremacy in the Japan trade was matched by its increasing political and economic hegemony in the East Indies, backed by its choice of strategic fortress and trading post on Taiwan. Cock’s pioneering and buccaneering methods aside, the English failed to gain access to silk at the source, either directly or indirectly, at least when it mattered most. Notwithstanding the trade hiatus stemming from the Nuyts incident, Dutch economic diplomacy on Hirado must be reckoned as a success, at least if measured by volume of trade and their ability to play the Shogunate’s game even against would-be allies and co-religionists (a point to which we shall revisit with respect to the Shimabara rebellion as discussed in the following chapter). Yet the Hirado period was important as it demonstrated to the Japanese that they could trade with outsiders without the kind of risks incurred in dealing with the Iberian merchants and missionaries. Looking back at Hirado, it is easy to see that the concept of a foreign enclave could be tolerated by the empire. But even when the behavior of foreigners breached etiquette, the benefits outweighed the opprobrium. Looking ahead to the Deshima period then, we can say of the Hirado interlude that it provided a model for the future under the sakoku restrictions, namely that foreign trade could be tolerated albeit under the strictest invigilation. This is another way of saying that the transition from Hirado to Deshima may not have been a clean break, but just a refinement upon a system long in place that kept foreigners at arms distance within the shell at least of the bakufu version of an alternative central tributary international order. It is also of interest that, even after the Dutch removal to Deshima in June 1641, relations with Hirado were kept up. Reading through the Dagregisters for the period spanning the next fifty of so years, one in struck by the frequent visits of the Lord of Hirado to the Dutch in Deshima, either to pay mutual respects or to solicit more trade his way. In any case, such exchanges always led to the exchange of gifts.
Certain of these texts consulted by the author can be found in the Muto Chozu collection of the Faculty of Economics library, Nagasaki University. It is not clear, but many works in this collection may indeed have “migrated” from Dutch collections in Deshima. In turn, shielded by Nishi Yama, the Muto Chozu collection survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki intact (though not necessarily in optimum state of preservation).
According to Cynthia Viallé (2013), the instruction to keep dagregisters dates back as far as 1621, when the Heren Zeventien (the Gentlemen Seventeen, the
See Kono Michitaka, “Disloyal deputies met grisly end after incurring Hideyori’s wrath” (The Asahi Shimbun, September 22, 2016) reporting on research by the Kyoto-based International Research Center for Japanese Studies along with researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands. Dutch researcher Frederik Cryns is named.
According to Farrington (2000), the surviving East India Company archive on Hirado is remarkably extant with over 400 items not including the 450 folios of Cocks’ diary. By contrast, Specx did not keep a formal ledger until August 1620. The result is that both British and Japanese scholars have mined the English material relating to Will Adams and the English factory at Hirado dating back at least a century. See Farrington (1991). On the side of the British, see Thompson (1883). On the side of the Japanese, see Murakami (1899), and with the same author a prolific researcher on this subject through until the 1940s, joined by a number of other Japanese scholars active during the interwar period. He was joined in the 1930s by such authors as Muto Chozu, a close correspondent with Charles Boxer.
According to Muto Chozu (1977: 11), Riess’ reference to the English East India Company should correctly be “Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading to the East Indies” or simply “The London East India Company” which was granted a charter on 31 December 1600.
There are various sources for the diaries. See “Diary of Richard Cocks,” Thompson (1883); Murakami & Murakawa (1900).