Tanegashima

On this day in 1543 a group of Portuguese travelling on a Chinese Junk were blown off course and became the first Europeans to land in Japan.  They anchored at the island of Tanegashima.  While on the island they demonstrated their firearms to the local lord Tanegashima Tokitata who was clearly an astute and entrepreneurial individual.

Tokitata immediately purchased two matchlock  arquebuses from the Portuguese and had his smith break them down and reverse engineer them.  The smith was able to replicate all the parts except for the helical drill to create the hollow barrel.  The technology did not exist in Japan and the Portuguese travellers did not bring that technology with them.

Tokitata arranged for a return visit and next time the Portuguese brought their own smith who demonstrated the technique to the Japanese.  As a result the musket was introuced to Japan.  It quickly revolutionised the Japanese battlefield.  Tanegashima prospered on the manufacture and sale of muskets.  Sales averaged 30,000 per year over the following 10 years.

The Japanese went on to customise and develop firearms on a track independent from other nations, and introduced innovations not found elsewhere.  For instance a lacquer rain cover on the firing lock to allow firing in the rain.

The arrival of firearms changed Japanese society.  A farmer could be trained to become a soldier in a few weeks, whereas traditional Samurai spent decades learning the craft of sword, bow and staff.  The Sengoku period saw 35 years of internecine chaos fuelled in part by the arrival of firearms.  This was brought to a conclusion in 1600 by the Battle of Sekigahara when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu emerged as the dominant shogun and established the 250 years of stable peace of the Edo period of Japan.

The other great technology introduced by the Portuguese to Japan was fried food.  The technique was unknown in Japan before the Europeans arrived.  To this day Tempura is known in Japan as the “Portuguese Method”.  As with the firearms the Japanese experimented using local ingredients and created something quite different from the original introduction.

Image result for beautiful tempura morsels

 

Mid-Point

July 2nd is an interesting day in the calendar.  In a normal (non leap) year it is the midpoint of the calendar year.  There are 182 days before and 182 days after July 2nd.

It was on this mid-point day in the year 1494 that Castille signed the treaty of Tordesillas.  The treaty was designed by the pope to avert military conflict between Castille and Portugal over newly discovered lands.  Only two years after Columbus discovered the new world it looked like the new lands would spark a global war between the two superpowers of the Christian world.  In effect the treaty divided the “New World” in half, giving half to each kingdom.

It is because of this treaty that the Brazilians speak Portuguese while the other South Americans mostly speak Castilian Spanish.

A subsequent treaty, the treaty of Zaragoza in 1529, set down the anti-meridian in the pacific ocean and had the effect of making the Philippines Spanish while East Timor and Japan fell under Portuguese influence.

500 years later these events continue to have ramifications for the people in these countries.

In Japan deep fried food, tempura, is known as the Portuguese method!

Prawn Tempura

Prawn Tempura