If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Arrival of a Portuguese ship

Enlarge this image. Arrival of a Portuguese ship, one of a pair (Nanban screens), Six panel folding screen, 1620–1640. Japan. Ink, colors, and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D77+.
In 1543, three Portuguese travelers aboard a Chinese ship drifted ashore on Tanegashima, a small island near Kyushu. They were the first Europeans to visit Japan. In 1548, Francis Xavier, a Jesuit, arrived from Goa to introduce Christianity to the Japanese. Thereafter a stream of Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries came to Japan. The Japanese called them nanban (southern barbarians) because they sailed to Japan from the south. Portuguese merchants brought tin, lead, gold, silk, and wool and cotton textiles, among other goods, to Japan, which exported swords, lacquer ware, silk, and silver.
Portuguese trade with Japan prospered until 1641, when Christianity was banned by the Japanese government, and Portuguese traders were replaced by the Dutch, who did not engage in missionary work. The Dutch and Chinese had exclusive trade rights with Japan until 1859, when five nations-the United States, England, France, Russia, and Netherlands began commercial relations with Japan.
The Japanese were fascinated by the Portuguese because of their ships, exotic appearance, costumes, language, and merchandise. They depicted these foreigners in great detail in paintings and screens. This work portrays the arrival of a Portuguese ship at the port of Nagasaki. On the left are the captain and his crew, who have just landed; some cargo is still being unloaded. On the right, they are proceeding to a Christian church. At its entrance, Jesuit priests welcome the party. Some Japanese townsfolk are observing them curiously.

Want to join the conversation?

  • leafers tree style avatar for user Evren Sasmazer
    How did the Japanese first respond to the Portuguese trying to teach them about Christianity?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      The first known appearance of organized Christianity in Japan was the arrival of the Portuguese Catholics in 1549. Francis Xavier arrived in Japan with three Japanese Catholic converts intending to start a church in the Nagasaki area. The local Japanese people initially assumed that the foreigners were from India and that Christianity was a new "Indian faith". These mistaken impressions were due to already existing ties between the Portuguese and India; the Indian city of Goa was a central base for Portuguese India at the time, and a significant portion of the crew on board their ships were Indian Christians.[28] Later on, the Roman Catholic missionary activities were exclusively performed by Portuguese-sponsored Jesuits and Spanish-sponsored mendicant orders, such as the Franciscans and Dominicans. Francisco Xavier (a Catholic Saint),[29] Cosme de Torres (a Jesuit priest), and John Fernandez were the first who arrived in Kagoshima with hopes to bring Christianity to Japan. Xavier and the Jesuit order was held in good esteem and his efforts seemed to have been rewarded with a thriving community of converts.[30] At baptism, these converts were given Portuguese "Christian names" and encouraged to adopt Western culture. This practice contributed to suspicions that the converts were in reality foreign agents working to subvert social order.[note 1][30] Under Oda Nobunaga, the Jesuits enjoyed the favor of the shogunate, but the situation began to change once Toyotomi Hideyoshi's suspicions were aroused against Christianity.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_Japan#Missions_to_Japan
      (2 votes)
  • winston baby style avatar for user Maxmrad
    How did the Europeans affect the Japanese Economy when they first came?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user francescagardell
    how were the daimyo's life affected by the arrival of the Europeans?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • female robot ada style avatar for user daki.
      The Daimyo was obviously okay with this at first until the missionaries started spreading their religion to the others, this would cause the daimyo to create the exclusion laws so that he could maintain his power as well as keep the main religion of Japan Shintoism.
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user apark25
    how did the Portugese effected the Marchent of Peasant Japanese??
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user Alisha Callahan
    Who was the leader of the military
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      the senior officer or non-commissioned military officer from the ship was the leader. For the non-military side, the captain of the ship was the leader. For the commercial side, the chief of the trading mission was the leader. These three may have all been the same person, wearing three separate "metaphorical" hats.
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user doylem
    What was the response to the Portuguese travellers from the Tanegashima people
    (0 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user Zach Kasper
    Who wrote this and is there a link to the original text?
    (0 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user