The 48th GJS SeminarJapan’s Pacific Overtures, 1600-1625: Rethinking Tokugawa-Habsburg Relations

Date and time: February 5, 2018 (Mon.), 3:00-4:00PM
Venue: First Conference Room (3F), Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo
Speaker: Joshua Batts (JSPS Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Historiographical Institute, The University of Tokyo)
Language: English

Abstract:Research into the early-modern world has transitioned from grand narratives of assured expansion and interconnection driven by western powers to accounts highlighting competing agendas, dynamic exchange, and contested encounters. While East Asia has provided examples of exploration, commercial dynamism, and the limits of European excursions and incursions, the relationship between Japanese and broader regional and global histories remains underdeveloped. As one effort to bridge the gap, this talk introduces Tokugawa Japan’s concerted efforts to explore trans-Pacific trade with the Habsburg Spanish colony of New Spain (present-day Mexico) in the early seventeenth century. Japanese leaders built galleons, penned missives, and dispatched envoys to Mexico City, Madrid and Rome, but the Spanish crown rejected these repeated overtures in order to maintain control over its Pacific commerce, “global” in scale yet a decidedly domestic project. These little-known events flip a familiar script of Iberian expansion and Japanese withdraw, often framed primarily by the archipelago’s collision with Christianity. The episode also raises questions about the friction inherent to encounter across distance and culture, the struggles inherent to diplomacy among self-consciously pinnacle authorities, and the inherent tension between our globalizing histories and the subjects populating them.

Organizer: The Global Japan Studies Network (GJS)
Co-organizer: Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA)
Contact: gjs[at]