"Closed Country Edict of 1635" and
"Exclusion of the Portuguese, 1639"
by Ieyasu Tokugawa

About the Document
Ieyasu Tokugawa was granted the title of shogun in 1603 after defeating his rivals by using guns brought into Japan by the Europeans. His successors, however, began to fear that the growing trade with the West and influence of Christianity would directly challenge the Japanese value system. Below are two major shogun edicts intended to force foreign trade and missionaries out of Japan. Japan remained an isolated country for the next two hundred years, until the Americans tried to open relations with Japan in 1853.


The Document

CLOSED COUNTRY EDICT OF 1635

1. Japanese ships are strictly forbidden to leave for foreign countries.
2. No Japanese is permitted to go abroad. If there is anyone who attempts to do so secretly, he must be executed. The ship so involved must be impounded and its owner arrested, and the matter must be reported to the higher authority.
3. If any Japanese returns from overseas after residing there, he must be put to death.
4. If there is any place where the teachings of padres is practiced, the two of you must order a thorough investigation.
5. Any informer revealing the whereabouts of the followers of padres must be rewarded accordingly. If anyone reveals the whereabouts of a high ranking padre, he must be given one hundred pieces of silver. For those of lower ranks, depending on the deed, the reward must be set accordingly.
6. If a foreign ship has an objection [to the measures adopted] and it becomes necessary to report the matter to Edo, you may ask the Omura domain to provide ships to guard the foreign ship. . . .
7. If there are any Southern Barbarians who propagate the teachings of padres, or otherwise commit crimes, they may be incarcerated in the prison. . . .
8. All incoming ships must be carefully searched for the followers of padres.
9. No single trading city shall be permitted to purchase all the merchandise brought by foreign ships.
10. Samurai are not permitted to purchase any goods originating from foreign ships directly from Chinese merchants in Nagasaki.
11. After a list of merchandise brought by foreign ships is sent to Edo, as before you may order that commercial dealings may take place without waiting for a reply from Edo.
12. After settling the price, all white yarns brought by foreign ships shall be allocated to the five trading cities and other quarters as stipulated.
13. After settling the price of white yarns, other merchandise [brought by foreign ships] may be traded freely between the [licensed] dealers. However, in view of the fact that Chinese ships are small and cannot bring large consignments, you may issue orders of sale at your discretion. Additionally, payment for goods purchased must be made within twenty days after the price is set.
14. The date of departure homeward of foreign ships shall not be later than the twentieth day of the ninth month. Any ships arriving in Japan later than usual shall depart within fifty days of their arrival. As to the departure of Chinese ships, you may use your discretion to order their departure after the departure of the Portuguese galeota.
15. The goods brought by foreign ships which remained unsold may not be deposited or accepted for deposit.
16. The arrival in Nagasaki of representatives of the five trading cities shall not be later than the fifth day of the seventh month. Anyone arriving later than that date shall lose the quota assigned to his city.
17. Ships arriving in Hirado must sell their raw silk at the price set in Nagasaki, and are not permitted to engage in business transactions until after the price is established in Nagasaki.

You are hereby required to act in accordance with the provisions set above. It is so ordered.

EXCLUSION OF THE PORTUGUESE, 1639

1. The matter relating to the proscription of Christianity is known [to the Portuguese]. However, heretofore they have secretly transported those who are going to propagate that religion.
2. If those who believe in that religion band together in an attempt to do evil things, they must be subjected to punishment.
3. While those who believe in the preaching of padres are in hiding, there are incidents in which that country [Portugal] has sent gifts to them for their sustenance.

In view of the above, hereafter entry by the Portuguese galeota is forbidden. If they insist on coming [to Japan], the ships must be destroyed and anyone aboard those ships must be beheaded. We have received the above order and are thus transmitting it to you accordingly.

The above concerns our disposition with regard to the galeota.

Memorandum

With regard to those who believe in Christianity, you are aware that there is a proscription, and thus knowing, you are not permitted to let padres and those who believe in their preaching to come aboard your ships. If there is any violation, all of you who are aboard will be considered culpable. If there is anyone who hides the fact that he is a Christian and boards your ship, you may report it to us. A substantial reward will be given to you for this information.

This memorandum is to be given to those who come on Chinese ships. [A similar note to the Dutch ships.]


Source: Japan: A Documentary History, trans. and ed. David John Lu (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1997).


Glossary

Edo

Old name for what today is Tokyo, before Meiji Reform of 1868.

Five Trading Cities
The Tokugawa government designated five major cities in which foreigners could conduct trade business: Kyoto, Edo/Tokyo, Osaka, Sakai, and Nagasaki.

Galeota
Portuguese ship.

Hirado
A small island southwest of Nagasaki.

Omura
The area around Nagasaki.

Padres
Fathers (priests) in the Catholic church.

Southern Barbarians
Westerners.


Analysis Questions

  1. How would these two edicts affect Japan’s relations with the outside world?
  2. What was the argument behind the shogun’s decision of 1639 to expel the Christians?
  3. What was the primary purpose of the 1635 Edict?
  4. What were the major restrictions imposed upon the Japanese?
  5. What were the major restrictions on foreign traders?






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