Nichisei Kankeishi (日西関係史)

Nichisei Kankeishi (or Nissei Kankeishi) refers to the history of relations between Spain and Japan.


The Spanish Empire and its people that advanced to the Pacific Ocean via an east-to-west route, developed Manila Galleon and made a colonial period in the history of the Philippines, as well as Portugal and its people that advanced to the history of Macao via a west-to-east route, were the first European country and people Japanese people met in the middle of the 16th century (the Sengoku period [period of warring states]). From then till the first half of the 17th century (the early Edo period), people frequently came and went between Japan and Spain through propagation of Christianity (Christian) and trade (with Spain and Portugal), which had an impact on Japanese culture including housing, food and clothing, and its world view. However, such relations were cut off due to the tightening of the ban on Christianity and the completion of the national isolation system, and the situation continued till the end of the Tokugawa shogunate.

After the opening of the country to the world at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan resumed diplomatic relations with Spain in the first year of the Meiji period. Since then, there have been few political or diplomatic concerns between Japan and Spain and the two countries have had little interest in each other (except during the period of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War) to date. In modern times, Spain and Japan are mainly related to each other concerning interest, influence and exchange in the fields of culture, art and sports.

In the following sentences, when necessary, we may refer to some events that occurred in the areas which used to be Spanish territories or in the sphere of their influence (Latin American countries, the Philippines etc.) in each time period.

Relations in the early days

People came and went between Japan and Spain in the 16th century before the state-to-state relations went into full swing. In the middle of the 16th century, while Portugal created footholds in the Goa State, Malacca, Macao and other places, the Society of Jesus actively promulgated their mission in Asia under state protection, and in the same period, Japanese people coming and going among cities in the East and Southeast Asia had the opportunities to meet Spanish missionaries engaged in missionary work of the Society of Jesus. The most important person who met Spanish people outside of Japan at that period was Yajiro who was christened and helped Francis XAVIER (from the Kingdom of Navarrethe) and party visit Japan in 1549.

Among the members of the Society of Jesus who attended XAVIER on his visit to Japan, Father Cosme de TORRES was from Valencia and (missionary) Monk Juan FERNANDEZ was from Cordoba, therefore, the introduction of Christianity was an event which also marked the visit of Spanish people to Japan. Xavier left Japan in 1551, but Fernandez died in Hirado City in 1567 and Torres died in Shiki of Amakusa (Reihoku-cho, Kumamoto Prefecture) in 1570.

A young man from Satsuma whose Christian name was Bernardo of Kagoshima accompanied Xavier when he left Japan, and stopped at several places in Spain on the way from Portugal to Rome (he returned to Portugal and died in Coimbra in about 1557). Since the King of Spain also served as the King of Portugal from 1580 to 1640 (see the History of Portugal), the Tensho era mission to Europe, which was closely related to the Society of Jesus, entered Spain by land from Portugal and visited various places, and was presented to Felipe the Second in Madrid in November 1584.

From the period of active relations to the period of interrupted relations

In 1609, Don Rodorigo, the Viceroy of the Philippines, a previous Spanish territory, had an accident at sea on his way back to his post in Nueva Espana and drifted down to Iwada Village, Kazusa Province (presently, Onjuku-machi), and in 1611, Sebastian VIZCAINO paid a visit to Japan as toreishi (errand to return a call or visit). The mission including Shosuke TANAKA took the ship for the return of Don Rodorigo, paid a visit to Nueva Espana and returned to Japan with Sebastian VIZCAINO.

In 1613, with the help of Sebastian VIZCAINO, the Sendai clan built a ship named San Juan Bautista and dispatched the Keicho era mission to Europe including Luis SOTELO and Tsunenaga HASEKURA to Spain via Nueva Espana, and Tsunenaga and others were presented to Felipe the Third (King of Spain) in Madrid in January of 1615 and in November of the same year, they were presented to the Pope Paulus the Fifth at the Vatican in Rome.

However, the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) tightened the ban on Christianity later, and in 1624, Spanish ships were prohibited from visiting Japan.

[Original Japanese]