The history of interactions of Japan with the west reflects the history of globalization and the compelling exhibition of the Portugal, Jesuits and Japan reflect on the cultural exchanges in the period between mid 16th century and the mid 17th century. This was through the movements of goods ferried on Portuguese ships where Portuguese freighters moved from Portugal to Japan making various extended stopovers in China and India. Cultural exchange was central in the narrative of this trade depicting the exchanges of the Japanese with southern barbarians who were commonly Jesuit missionaries and Portuguese sailors. The interactions are commonly depicted in the Japanese objects such as decorations in the Japanese furnitures, military equipments and paintings of Japanese Jesuits trained by the Jesuits.
Although globalization has improved the lives of people all around the globe, it has had some disastrous effects on communities as well as individuals. The increase in the fluidity of trade makes increases the market for goods, making everything seem the same. For example, the Japanese has adopted isolationist policies in regard to globalization lurching back and forth due to sense of threats. However, during this trade not only did the Japanese imports the goods from the Portuguese, but also introduced and brought Jesuits, who were members of the catholic order, which was formed in 1534. The intention of the order was the conversion of Asians into Christianity. For example, the co-founder of Jesuit missionaries arrived in Kyushu in 1549, alongside other Jesuit missionaries ferrying various rare items of trade, where their faith spread spread through the islands of Japan.
The trade played an imperative role in the transformation and evolution of Japanese political, cultural, linguistics, technological and artistic spheres. The arrival of St. Francis Xavier and the introduction of Christianity marked the evolution of Japanese culture under a new religion. The period of openness for the trade began in the 16th century when a Portuguese ship wrecked on the Japanese coast and three Portuguese sailors came ashore carrying muskets on Kyushu island. The hosts Oda Nobunanga was curious and wanted to know how guns worked ordering his craftsmen to replicate the guns. This enabled the warlord to wage war, which enabled him to regain control of the country vanquishing his rivals. The Japanese cherished the foreign arrivals as they brought marvelous things, which varied from exotic animals, ceramics and guns. The exhibition also illustrates Portuguese sailors performing circus-like acrobatics, which were astounding and humorous to Japanese reflection how strange the Japanese perceived the ships.
There were some items which were made particularly for religious purposes or trading in Europe. For example, a portrait of a child with folding doors decorated elaborately with Japanese lacquer, mother-of-pearl and gold powder and oratories holding virgin. The trade between the Japanese and the Portuguese had flourished and in the mid 1570’s Jesuits had organized and learnt Japanese. For example, this is illustrated in the exhibition by the Japanese-Portuguese dictionary, which was compiled by the Jesuits. The shared knowledge led to new discoveries, which were valuable and played an instrumental role in shaping the world. For example, there were maps, which were made by both Japanese and Portuguese since the voyage took a long period of four years passing through Goa, Mozambique, Mallaca and Macao prior to arriving in Japan. These maps expanded the thrills of the world expanding, which was instrumental in the development of globalization.
Jesuits started learning Japanese language as they struggled to make the Japanese understand them. Xavier dedicated to learning Dainichi worshiped by the Monks in Japan and realized that it was irreconcilable with the Christian God. Therefore, he instructed the Jesuit missionaries to instruct the people not to worship Dainichi purporting it was not it was not God, but an evil product. This created enmity with Buddhist priesthoods and the monks stopped talking with the Jesuits. This developed the attitude of cultural superiority among the Jesuits and their outspokenness seemed pervasive according to the monks. The approach adopted by the Jesuit missionaries disgusted the Japanese ways where the Jesuits argued and expressed their own ways. The combination of martial pride, stern discipline and religious piety among the Jesuits fitted well with the Ethos of Japan in the 16th century.
The economic exploits of the Jesuits and Portuguese were of great consequence in their establishment, in Japan. The missionaries adopted a top-down method of converting people into Christianity where they started with significant leaders such as Daimyo. This was a strategy adopted by the Jesuits with the hope of inspiring their subjects to convert into Christianity. However, the conversion was inspired by the leader's desire to conduct business with the Jesuits and the Portuguese rather than the securing of personal salvation. The flourishing trade brought guns, which was also instrumental in bringing military aid to fight rebellious clans such as Ryuzoji.
The exhibitions present an opportunity of viewing the range of sacred and secular Japanese objects, which are of high quality. Additionally, it provides a reflection of the emergence of the world from the initial circumnavigations of the world and the development of the modern civilized world map from the late 17th centuries. During the period as the Jesuits and Portuguese intermingled with the Japanese hey developed complex interactions becoming more connected. The presentation of religious hostilities and power struggles in Japan is reflected when Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582, but his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi was as friendly as his mentor. However, he began perceiving Christianity as a threat and issued an edict forbidding Japanese elites from converting to Christianity. When he began invading China and Korea he became preoccupied laxing the enforcement of the edict. When he was defeated, he attracted Christians of different orders, which was move to perceived to counter the spread of Jesuits. When he died many Japanese approximated at more 300,000 had converted into Christianity and although his successor was not apprehensive to Christians initially, he changed and imposed strict edicts against Christianity. This strangled the European relationship with Japan after the expulsion of the Portuguese from Japan in 1639.
In conclusion, the Portugal, Jesuits and Japan interactions in the mid 15th century to the mid 16th century provided the basis of globalization. The Portuguese and the Jesuits travelled to Japan where they did not only trade goods, but also influenced the cultural values of the Japanese. Their introduction of religion shaped the social, economic and political life of the Japanese as they converted into Christianity. Although trade had flourished the leaders started viewing Christianity as a threat and started executing Christians. This strangled the relationship between Japan and Europe, which came to an end when the Portuguese were expelled from Japan in 1639.
Weston, V. (2013). Portugal, Jesuits, and Japan: Spiritual Beliefs and Earthly Goods. Boston: McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College.