Hasekura Tsunenaga

Hasekura Tsunenaga
Dipinto presso il palazzo Borghese a Roma raffigurante il Samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga
primo ambasciatore ufficiale giapponese alle Americhe e Europa nel 1615.
Lo scultore Nobuyuki Okumura e l'Ing. Novello Cavazza
discendente di Papa Paolo V, nato Camillo Borghese,
che ricevette la prima ambasciata giapponese nel 1615.

Hasekura Tsunenaga Papa Paolo V
Papa Paolo V nato Camillo Borghese

Tratto da Wikipedia
L'ambasciata giapponese arrivò in Italia, dove riuscirono ad ottenere udienza da Papa Paolo V a Roma, nel novembre 1615. Hasekura consegnò al Papa una preziosa lettera decorata d'oro, contenente una formale richiesta di un trattato commerciale tra Giappone e Messico, oltre che l'invio di missionari cristiani in Giappone.
Il Papa accettò senza indugio di disporre l'invio di missionari, ma lasciò la decisione di un trattato commerciale al Re di Spagna. Il Papa scrisse poi una lettera per Date Masamune, della quale una copia è a tutt'oggi conservata in Vaticano.
Il Senato di Roma conferì a Hasekura il titolo onorifico di Cittadino Romano, in un documento ch'egli successivamente portò in Giappone e che oggi è ancora visibile e conservato a Sendai.
Lo scrittore italiano Scipione Amati, che accompagnò l'ambasceria nel 1615 e nel 1616, pubblicò a Roma un libro intitolato "Storia del regno di Voxu".
Nel 1616, l'editore francese Abraham Savgrain pubblicò un resoconto della visita di Hasekura a Roma: "Récit de l'entrée solemnelle et remarquable faite á Rome, par Dom Philippe Francois Faxicura" ("Racconto della solenne e notevole entrata fatta a Roma da Don Filippo Francesco Faxicura").

Hasekura Tsunenaga
dettaglio del dipinto presso Palazzo Borghese

Hasekura Tsunenaga,
first official Japanese mission to Europe

On my way back to Rome's Fiumicino Airport Civitavecchia, I detected from the car window a statue of a Japanese samurai standing by the road in a small village we were passing through. I asked the driver to stop, and discovered what was unmistakably a statue of samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga, who was sent to Europe as the Head of the Japanese mission, some 400 years ago. I knew that Hasekura Tsunenaga had visited Rome but I was not aware exactly where he had arrived in Italy. I need to investigate further but my sense of judgement at the time of writing this blog (during my return flight to London) is that he might have landed at the exact place where his statue is raised.

Readers of my blog will know that I am very interested in maritime heritage and maritime history - I blogged about the story of John Manjiro on 29 January this year - and I am encouraging my colleagues to bring good maritime histories to the attention of people and the general public, in order to attract their attention to our wonderful maritime history and maritime heritage. I believe that this is a good and effective way to highlight the importance of shipping and international trade in our life today, and that public awareness of IMO's activities can also be enhanced by understanding this historical context. I am personally very interested in this way of seeking and promoting our outreach activities.

In 1600, the Englishman William Adams landed on the western island of Japan because his ship, the Dutch vessel De Liefde, had run aground and been wrecked. He survived, and passed on his knowledge of western shipbuilding technology to Japan. He served Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and himself became a samurai, Miura Anjin - the first and last Englishman to be a samurai. He built two western-style sailing ships with Japanese shipbuilders. One of them, the San Buena Ventura, was given to the then Spanish General Governor of the Philippines, Rodrigo de Vivero, to enable him and his own ships' crew - who had also been shipwrecked on the coast of Japan - to return to the Spanish territory in America which is now known as Mexico.

Tokugawa Ieyasu was interested to promote trade with Spain and attempted to contract a treaty, but it never came to fruition. Another warrior chief, daimyo Date Masamune, shared the ambition of Ieyasu and also built a galleon-style ship, the San Juan Bautista, using the technology passed to the Japanese by William Adams. He sent this ship on a formal mission to Spain, in 1614 - 400 years ago. There is a replica of this ship in Ishinomaki, in the northern part of Japan. The replica was caught up in the tsunami of 2011 but survived and is now on display to the general public in a maritime museum in Ishinomaki.

The head of that mission was Hasekura Tsunenaga and, as his mission navigated eastbound through the Pacific Ocean from Japan, he called at Acapulco in Mexico. The mission then travelled further eastwards and, on arrival in Spain, he met King Filipe III. The mission continued eastbound and eventually arrived at Rome where Hasekura Tsunenaga met the Pope, Paulus V, and received the honorary title of Roman Citizen.

Eventually he turned back to Japan via the present-day Mexico and through the Pacific Ocean; but when he arrived home, Christianity had been already prohibited in Japan and the country was eventually closed against foreign countries, except for a window in Nagasaki for the Dutch people. Thus the objective of Hasekura Tsunenaga's mission, to open trade with Spain, was not realised.

Today, in 2014, I saw, by chance, the statue of Hasekura Tsunenaga near Civitavecchia. Standing in front of the statue, I really felt the power of our remarkable maritime history; and it helped me to see the crucial work carried out by IMO for the maritime community in the 21st century in its true historical perspective.


Mr. Koji Sekimizu
IMO International Maritime Organization