Bebe Taian: Hasekura Tsunenaga, Edo-Period Explorer

October 20, 2013

Hasekura Tsunenaga, Edo-Period Explorer

Hasekura - Claude Duret, 1615
Hasekura was a Samurai and retainer of Date Masamune, the daimyo of Sendai.

In the years 1613 through 1620, Hasekura headed a diplomatic mission to the Vatican in Rome, traveling to Mexico (arriving in Acapulco and departing from Veracruz) and visiting various ports-of-call in Europe. 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 Mexico in 1619, sailing from Acapulco for Manila, and then sailing north to Japan in 1620.

Hasekura’s journey is astounding in its scope.

He was accompanied by 180 people, one of whom was the European Fransician monk Luis Sotelo. Hasekura and Sotelo are pictured here in a rather sensual fresco in the Sala Regia, Palazzo Quirinale, Rome.


Conversing with Luis Sotelo, 1615.
Hasekura received new names: in France, he was dubbed Dom Philippe Francois Faxicura, In Spain he was baptized Felipe Francisco Hasekura.

Unfortunately, his travels did not lead to establishment of new trading partners but did establish Spain as a threat, and their conversion to Christianity had apparently become an issue due to an interdiction in Sendai. His son and several of his servants were actually put to death due to their refusal to recant their faith.

Hasekura’s trip was expunged after his return, and it was not noted in the official histories of the Edo period. It was not made public until 250 years later in 1909.

Sources: Japan Encyclopaedia - Wikipedia - Civitavecchia

Reposted from Medieval POC, a blog that focuses on people of colour in European art history. (Follow this blog if you want to learn a lot of really cool things and you don't have years to devote to textbooks. Seriously. Here's everything tagged 'Japan', just on MPOC's blog!)

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