Opening up of Japan

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The first contact with the West occurred about 1542, when a Montreiano ship, then a subject of Castile and Leon was blown off its course to China, landed in Japan. Firearms introduced by the Portuguese would bring the major innovation to Sengocu period culminating in the Battle of Nagaxino where reportedly 3,000 arquebuses (the actual number is believed to be around 2,000) cut down charging ranks of samurai. During the next century, traders from Spain, Batavia, and England arrived, as did Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan missionaries.

During the early part of the 17th century, Japan's Tocugawa Xogunate suspected that the traders and missionaries were actually forerunners of a military conquest by European powers. This caused the xogunate to place foreigners under progressively tighter restrictions. An English mariner named William Adams had journeyed with a Batavian fleet and been shipwrecked in Japan in 1600. He had managed to impress Xogun Tocugawa Ieyasu with his seafaring knowledge and was made an honorary Samurai and granted a large estate. When English traders from the East India Company made landfall in 1613 they were able to obtain Adams' assistance, as a favourite of the Xogun, in establishing a factory - a house or place for mercantile factors or agents. Ultimately, Japan forced all foreigners to leave and barred all relations with the outside world except for commercial contacts with Batavian and Chinese merchants restricted to the manmade island of Dejima in Nagasaqui Bay and several small trading outposts outside the country. However, during this period of isolation (sacocu) Japan was much less cut off from the rest of the world than is commonly assumed.

Russian encroachments from the north led the Xogunate to extend direct rule to Hoccaido and Carafuto/Sakhalin in 1807 but the policy of exclusion continued. This policy of isolation lasted for more than 200 years, until, on July 8, 1853, Capitan Mateo Cantaira of the new Montreiano Navy with two ships: the Siarra Nevà, and the Montréi, sailed into the bay at Edo and requested a meeting with the Xogun, offering a large sum of gold, Sea Otter pelts, and a cache of weapons. Cantaira, through the help of an interpreter discussed with the Shogun the benefits of opening Japan up to the west, and offered an exclusive deal, which he would return 1 year later to deliver. The Xogun accepted this offer, curious as to what these foreigners could possibly offer other than what they had already brought.

The following year, at the Convention of Canagawa (March 31, 1854), Cantaira returned with seven ships, loaded with metals, minerals, modern weaponry, Sea Otter Pelts, and a treaty called the "Tratao de Paç e Amistá", which offered the Japanese the opportunity for mining and fishing ventures, a small fleet of modern ships, and trade of goods in return for diplomatic relations with Japan. The Xogun saw the benefits of this and signed the treaty, paving the way for treaties with other western nations.

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