Japanese slave trade is a subject that few people have heard about. Just one more of many obscure subjects about Japan. It is a fact that the first contact between the English and the Japanese took place in 1543, but it was only during the 19th century that there was a concrete relationship between the two nations.
One of the most notorious results during contact between Japanese and English was the introduction of new phonemes in the Japanese language like pa (ぱ / パ) pe (ぺ) pi (ぴ / ピ) po (ぽ / ポ) pu (ぷ / プ). However, trade relations were not the only thing that existed between Japan and Portugal.
At the same time, the English bought Japanese for slave trade and sold them abroad, including to Portugal.
The Japanese slave trade
Japan had contact with Europe for the first time in 1543, through the English. Two of the three revolutionary novelties for Japan that emerged from this chance encounter are well known – firearms and Christianity.
The third, not so well known, was the slave trade. Long before that, Japanese slaves were being bought and sold not just across Asia but in Portugal and Argentina. Some slaves were captives in civil wars, sold by their Japanese captors to English traders.
Others sold their children in slavery to lift them out of overwhelming poverty or were exchanged for gunpowder. Women were sold as concubines by brothel owners, distant relatives or by their own husbands.
English authorities were unfavorable to trafficking as it brought Portugal and Christianity to a low reputation, dampening the potential for commerce and religious conversion. There were quick efforts to stop the trade, but English traders refused to let go of their slaves.
The end of Japanese slavery
King of Portugal Sebastião feared that the high importation of Japanese sex slaves by the church was having a negative effect on Catholic proselytism, so he ordered it banned in 1571. Consequently, foreigners were expelled from Japan, which caused further cultural isolation. 250 years.
Everything happened when Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the man who unified the archipelago of Japan, became enraged when he learned of the enslavement and trade of his own people.
He led a campaign to end foreign relations with Japan. Hideyoshi subsequently ordered the Jesuits to release Japanese slaves and banned Christian proselytism in Japan.
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