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Why did Japan ban everyone except for the Dutch? (Short Animated Documentary)

3 minutes 26 seconds

Speaker 1

00:00:00 - 00:00:20

Japan was, prior to an American fleet turning up, a famously closed country. 1 in which trade with the outside world was severely limited and an illegally setting foot in the country was met with a death penalty. Yet, despite this hostility to all things foreign, the Dutch were still permitted to trade there. This raises the obvious question, why? Why were all foreign traders banned except for the Dutch?

Speaker 1

00:00:21 - 00:00:47

Japan was first visited by Europeans in the mid-16th century when some Portuguese traders turned up from China. It was fortunate for them because shortly after this Japan and China weren't trading anymore due to a falling out. And so the Portuguese realised that they could make a lot of money as intermediaries. They also realised that this brand new land was suffering from a distinct lack of Jesus. Despite it having a single emperor, Japan was decentralised at this point, with numerous regional lords trying to out-compete their neighbours for power.

Speaker 1

00:00:47 - 00:01:17

And for them, Christianity, or at least good relations with Christians, brought 1 major advantage – guns. The Portuguese sold firearms to the Japanese and they were keen to make sure that they went to the Christians first. And thus, to other noble Japanese houses, Christianity was the threat to Japanese culture, tradition and their power. And so, in the early 17th century, after a civil war ended in the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate, the shoguns decided that Christianity needed to be dealt with. The first way that they did this was to restrict trade with Christians to Nagasaki, thus making it easier to keep an eye on them.

Speaker 1

00:01:17 - 00:01:39

However, the Portuguese continued to smuggle missionaries into Japan, and after a Christian rebellion the government outlawed the religion entirely. During this rebellion the Dutch had provided guns and support to the central government and earned their gratitude. Now, you may think that it was weird for the Christian Dutch to aid a heathen government against Christians, but 1. Those were Catholics and thus to the Protestant Dutch they were the wrong Christians and 2. Money.

Speaker 1

00:01:40 - 00:02:00

After the rebellion, the Shogunate thanked the Dutch East India Company for its support and so gave them exclusive rights to trade via Nagasaki. This was done on 3 conditions. The first was that the Dutch had to support and comply with government rules without question. The second was that they agreed to never try to convert the Japanese to Christianity. And the third was that the Dutch had to send a delegation to Edo every year.

Speaker 1

00:02:00 - 00:02:35

This was to renew their pledge and also give the government an update on what was going on in places like Korea and China Just in case it was something that they needed to know. Other nations tried to open up trade But the Japanese either didn't know them and so had to rely on what the Dutch had to say about them or in the case of The English they knew of their alliance with the Portuguese and so quickly told them to go elsewhere. Now, whilst the Dutch were given a monopoly on trade, that doesn't mean that the 2 liked each other. The Japanese were happy to trade with the Dutch East India Company, but they wanted nothing to do with the Dutch Republic and refused any diplomatic relations with them. And when the Dutch East India company was replaced by the Dutch East Indies colony, the Japanese were still keen to limit the relationship to just trade.

Speaker 1

00:02:35 - 00:03:08

Much to their own detriment, since in 1853 the Dutch at Nagasaki warned the shogunate of an American armada which was coming to force Japan to open trade. The shogun believed that this was a lie made up to sell military equipment to Japan that it didn't need and so, this warning was promptly ignored. Until Matthew Perry turned up that was and ended Japanese isolation and forced the Edo government to trade with everyone thereafter. I hope you enjoyed this episode with a special thanks to my Patreon supporters. James Bizonette, Kelly Moneymaker, Sky Chappell, Korsho Wolf, Katujtska, Adam Stalter, Jerry Lambton, Alex Schwin, Jordan Longley, Marcus Arsner, Rod D.

Speaker 1

00:03:08 - 00:03:08

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