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Speaking to the Future Series: The World and Japan

  • Image of "Handscroll of Minister Kibi's Trip to China (Copy), Copied by Yamana Shigetaro, Meiji Period, 19th century"

    Handscroll of Minister Kibi's Trip to China (Copy), Copied by Yamana Shigetaro, Meiji Period, 19th century

    Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 16
    August 18, 2009 (Tue) - October 12, 2009 (Mon)

    Throughout history, Japan has developed through close relationships with China, Korea, and other East Asian countries. Even after official missions to Tang-dynasty China ended in the 9th century at the proposal of scholar-courtier Sugawara no Michizane, economic and cultural exchange with Song and Ming-dynasty China, as well as Korea, continued mainly through trade.

    From the 16th century, academic knowledge from the West was introduced to Japan with the arrival of Europeans. In the 17th century, the country closed its gates to other countries for political, economical and ideological reasons, initiating a ban on Christianity and seeking to strengthen the feudal system of government. Despite its policy of closure, however, the Tokugawa shogunate established a diplomatic trade management system between China and the Netherlands, specifying Nagasaki as the permitted port. In addition, relations continued with two "communicating" countries that sent delegations regularly to the Tokugawa shogunate: Korea, with the mediation of the So clan of Tsushima domain, and the kingdom of Ryukyu (present-day Okinawa), a tributary state of China. Information from abroad entered Japan through these relationships.

    The Tokugawa shogunate's diplomatic policies are essential to the understanding of Japan's network with the Netherlands and East Asian countries at the time. The policies had a considerable effect not only politically and economically, but also in terms of culture. This exhibition introduces historical materials including paintings and diplomatic documents which provide an overview of Japan's international relations in and around the Edo period.

 Major works in this exhibition

* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Letter from Korean King to the Tokugawa Shogunate, Edo period, 17th-18th century
Caricature of Arms and Armor Imported from the US, Edo period, 19th century
Diary of Priest Sonkai's Overseas Travel, By Sonkai, Muromachi period, dated 1539 (Important Cultural Property, Lent by Daiganji, Hiroshima)
 Related Events

Gallery Talk "The World and Japan"
Room 16, Honkan
September 8, 2009, 14:00
Speaker: Takahashi Yuji, Senior Curator of Historical Documents (In Japanese)