Kurofune: The Black Ships

I invite you to a history lesson since you probably don’t know well enough this fact.

The kurofune or the black ships [as they were called] were the names given to Western vessels that arrived on Japanese territory in the 16th and 19th century.

The carrack [picture left] was a battle and exploring vessel created in the 15th century for the use in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This was the kind of ship that Columbus used in his first trip to America in 1492. “Santa Maria” became the most popular carrack in the history of America.

The Spanish and Portuguese sailors used them to explore and map the world. As an effect, in the 1543 was established a trading route with Nagasaki. It was the first direct link with the Japanese culture. But in 1639, after a period of time in which the Christian influence grew larger and larger in Japan, the Tokugawa shogunate decided that the Japanese people should enter into an isolated-status and reject all outside influences.

Contact with Japan was restricted. I mean this wasn’t the best thing to happen. This period of isolation lasted more than two hundred years. The shogunate thought that Western influence could harm the national values of the Japanese culture.

The isolation started because of the spead of Christian elements into this country. Over 300.000 peasants and warlords embraced the new religion. The Western missionaries and traders faced restrictions and they were expelled from Japanese territory.

But because the power and wealth of Japan was considered a benefit if trading could continue, the European leaders acted in order to re-create the link with this country.

Of course that in here were involved other things that only having a relationship with another culture. And I mean there were interests and probably the shogunate noticed that.

The name of black ships was given to the vessels that arrived in 1853 and stopped the isolation period. They are now considered a symbol of the opening of Japan to the outside world.

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