This panel deals with Japanese foreign relations from the medieval to the early modern period, focusing on passes issued by state authorities to control traders. Through multilateral examinations, the panel tries to bridge the divides between studies based on Chinese and European sources.
This panel aims to propose a new perspective on from medieval to early modern Japanese, and by implication pre-modern East Asian foreign relations, focusing on passes issued by state authorities to control traders. In the 16th -17th centuries, wako [piracy], silver for silk traders and Christian missionaries led to a new phase of governmental control, which early-modern authorities tried to establish on diplomatic traditions in East Asia. Former studies explained the involvement of central governments only in relation with kango [tallies issued by Ming China] or choko [tributary] trade of the Muromachi authorities, and the so-called sakoku [national seclusion] or kaikin [maritime restriction] of the Tokugawa government. Avoiding such specialized terminology, this panel looks at practices and compares various actors irrespective of presumed world orders, whether they might have been Sinocentric or Japanocentric. In East/Southeast Asia, monarchs did not conduct their foreign relations by permanent ambassadors but periodic embassies carrying kokusho, or letters exchanged between heads of state via envoys. Under such conditions, some kings emitted passes in order to control the number of merchant vessels or to wipe out piracy on trading routes. European powers, as newcomers, attempted to incorporate themselves in the existing diplomatic networks. A panel of scholars from European and Japanese academic backgrounds will address essential questions on the dynamics described above: Who issued the passes to whom? How did the passes function? Did they promote trade or distress it? How did the Europeans corporate themselves in the practices? Okamoto Makoto will point out that the tally or pass system for restricting Sino-Japanese trade in the 15th-16th centuries actually kept flexibility within practices. Birgit Tremml-Werner will examine Hispano-Japanese relations between 1590 and the 1620s and describe mutual understanding and misunderstanding of letters and passes. Peng Hao will outline shinpai or passes the Tokugawa shogunate issued to control Sino-Japanese trade in the 18th century. Through these multilateral examinations, the panel tries to bridge the divides between studies based on Chinese and European sources, and moreover to provide an arena where people from European and Japanese academia could come across.