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Hasekura Tsunenaga

Hasekura Tsunenaga

It was the 17th century when the Daimyo Date Masamune sent a delegation to Europe. He appointed Hasekura Tsunenaga to be the leader for this group of Japanese people who settled in Spain. Hasekura Tsunenaga was both a samurai and retainer. The expedition was referred to as Keicho Embassy. He was considered as the first Japanese Ambassador to Spain and the America

Hasekura Tsunenaga Early Life

Hasekura Tsunenaga’s life as a child was not really known. One thing is clear though, that he was a descendant of the Imperial elite connected to Emperor Kanmu or sometimes known as Emperor Kammu. He served as a samurai during the time when Korea was invaded under the leadership of Taiko Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

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Regaining Honor

Hasekura’s father was judged for his corruption practices and as a result, was put to death. Even if his lands or fief were confiscated, and even if he was also subject to death, Date Masamune let Hasekura live and was allowed to redeem is honor. He was instead, tasked to lead the Embassy to Europe. Later on, he was given his territory back.

Hidden Christians

Japan was, at that time, persecuting Japanese Christians. Even if Hasekura Takayama’s embassy was officially received in Spain and Rome, trade agreements were not approved by the King of Spain. The expedition did not make matters better for Japan. In fact, Japan isolated itself from the rest of the world even as expeditions such as this were permitted to reach out towards other nations.

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Japon Descendants

Instead of going back to Japan, six of the samurai that were with Hasekura Tsunenaga decided to remain in Spain. This was the reason why Spain has a town known as Coria del Rio where about 700 people share the same surname Japon. Back then, these descendants were referred to as Hasekura de Japon. These were Hasekura Tsunenaga’s descendants from the Spanish expedition of the 17th century. A trivia states that babies born in Coria displayed the Mongolian spot. This was something common for those who lived in Asia.

Journey Ended

Hasekura Tsunenaga’s crew intermarried with the local people in Spain. However, he died a year after his return to Japan. His wife and sons did not experience a better fate since they were killed during the anti-Christian extermination in the 1630s through the 1640s. The Shogunate severed its diplomatic ties with Europe mostly with the Dutch. It took two years before Japan established its ties with Italy and Spain.

Mysterious Death

Hasekura Tsunenaga’s death was shrouded in mystery. Some rumors say that he has abandoned his faith. Others did say that he was actually martyred because of his faith, while others theorized that he remained a Christian in secret.

However, all of these speculations look untrue. There were evidences that despite facing execution as a Christian, he remained strong in his faith. He was able to pass on this faith to the members of his family. Hasekura was not forgotten since a statue of himself can be found in Acapulco, Mexico which stands in the entrance to the Havana Bay in Cuba. Some films that have been shown were loosely based on his life and his adventures from Japan to Spain.