26 Edo period time line
The circle indicates where we are discussing in this chapter.


Between the Sengoku period (戦国時代) and the Edo period (江戸時代), there is a time called the Azuchi Momoyama period (安土桃山) that is from around 1573 to 1614.  See the above timeline on the third line.  This was the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(豊臣秀吉) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) played an active part in politic.  After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won the battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) against Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi was deceased by this time)Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the shogun (将軍) in 1603.  This is the start of the Edo Period (江戸).

At the end of the Sengoku period and during the Azuchi Momoyama period, the economy improved a lot and a new culture flourished.  The gorgeous and spectacular art objects were created, such as paintings, architecture, interior decoration, and handicraft items.  Tea ceremony started by Sen No Rikyu (千の利休), also Kabuki started around his time.  This is somewhat similar to the European Renaissance ——- strange enough, this new art emergence happened at the same time in Japan and Europe.  Around this time, many Europeans came to Japan.  This was the time of the Exploration to the East by Europeans.  They were from England, Spain, Holland, and Portugal.  The novel “Shogun” by James Clavell was staged around this time.  This novel is based on the real person, William Adams, and Jan Joosten Van Londersteyn*¹.   You can see Jan Joosten’s statue in Tokyo station today.  On my yearly visit to Japan, I stay at the hotel near Tokyo station.  I often pass in front of Yan Yoosten’s statue.   It is located inside the Tokyo station, underground in the middle of the extremely busy shopping area.  It is very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another statue of him outside of the Tokyo station.  The Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his entire name) as his advisers and acquired information on Europe from them.  They were well treated by the Shogun Iyeyasu.  The area where Jan Joosten lived is now called Yaesu (八重洲) after his name, Jan Joosten.  And William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in the Miura area that is the south of Tokyo approximately one hour and a half by a train today.  The record of those two people is well kept.  If you are interested, you can find it easily.  Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Christianity became popular and widely spread.  But later, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it.  After the Meiji Era (1868), there is no religious restriction.

The Edo period begins after Tokugawa Iyeyasu became Shogun (1603), it last until the Meiji (明治) Restoration of 1868.  During the Edo period, Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) is the only entity that had political power.  The emperors existed but the political power was shifted to the Tokugawa Bakufu.   Gradually, ports for the European ships were limited, eventually, Spaniards were not allowed to come to Japan, then Portuguese were not allowed.  Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad.  By around 1640, the place called Dejima which is at Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture (平戸、長崎) was the only place opened for foreigners to do business with Japan and only the Dutch were allowed.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until the Meiji Restoration (1868).

During the Azuchi Momoyama period and the very early part of the Edo period, many European ships visited Japan.  Strange enough, many of them shipwrecked near the shore around Japan.  One of the reasons is that Japan is a volcanic island.  Even if the surface of the sea does not show anything sticking up from the water, there are lots of obstacles underneath such as underwater mountains, huge hidden reefs.  The Europeans did not have the waterway information that is common to the Japanese seaman.

Below are fun things to read.  But don’t quote me on the information below here.

The second reason why many ships were wrecked was that those ships were looking for gold.  When Marco Polo went to China, he heard from Chinese people that there is a small island further East.  This country is very wealthy and the emperors’ palace is made of gold and silver.  After Marco Polo went back to Italy, he wrote a book (late 1300) about his journey and published it.  In his book, he mentioned what he heard from the Chinese people about Japan.  Marco Polo never visited Japan himself.  This book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible for Europeans, they came to Japan to look for gold.  Yes, Japan mined a large amount of gold.  But it was too late for the Europeans.  By this time, the majority of the gold was mined by the Fujiwara family in the Oushu area (奥州 Northern part of Japan).   This is today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi area.  This is the area where we had the big Tsunami a few years back.  Also, Toyotomi Hideyoshi owned gold mines and already mined as much as he could mine with the skill they had then.  Japan used to have many gold mine here and there all over the country.  We already mined the majority of gold from there.  We still mine in a few places now.

Throughout history, we have several rumors and real facts about “Maizo Kin: 埋蔵金”, that is a buried (or hidden) gold by people like Tokugawa Shogun, Hideyoshi, and wealthy Daimyos and merchants.  Without having the banks vault we have now, burying the gold is the only way of storing.  Several of them were found, even from the center of Tokyo, Ginza area.  Several big ones not found yet: Hideyoshi Maizo Kin, Tokugawa Bakufu Maizo Kin, and a few more big onesWe have several maps on how to find the location, it is a fake of course.  Whenever the ground is dug to build a big building, people start talking about finding maizo Kin.

Gold flowed out to outside Japan little by little over the centuries.  Because the exchange rate between gold and silver was much cheaper in Japan compare to the rest of the world.  Today, we still mine gold but not much because of the cost to mine since it needs to go very deep.

It is said that the country name Japan comes from Marco Polo’s book.  He called our country “Chipangu” in his book, that means gold country. *² “Chipangu”, “Zipang”, “Jipang” eventually evolved to “Japan”.  Japanese don’t call ourselves Japan.  “Nihon or Nippon”(日本) is the country name.

ヤン ヨーステン Jan Joosten van Lodenstijnhttps://www.weblio.jp

*²  Wikipedia Names of Japan: Check (Click)right to go to the link  Jipangu


26 map of Cipangu1492

Cipangu described on the 1492  Martin Beham glove   From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository (Names of Japan)

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