Edo Castle 1604

Shōgun gathered his foreign policy advisors in Edo Castle to discuss the Portuguese monopoly on silk.

Image via Wikipedia

The Chinese had long banned any direct trade with Japan in retaliation for sponsoring pirates around the waters of Taiwan, leaving Japan to rely on the annual Portuguese Black Ship plying between Macau and Nagasaki.

Shōgun studied each of his advisors carefully.

“Admiral Mukai, when will our first ship be ready?”

Shōgun was eager to open new trade routes with the newly designed Red Seal ship incorporating Western-style square and lateen sails, rudder and aft designs.

The English pilot that had landed in Japan some four years earlier had proved adept at shipbuilding.

“By the end of the year we will be ready to sail,” replied Admiral Mukai. He had wanted the ship decked with the canons found aboard a Spanish wreck but Shōgun refused saying he wanted a show of peace, for now.

General Matsura shifted forward uneasily, not sure whether anyone else knew of the Dutch prisoner being held captive in the castle. “Sir, we have new intelligence,” he announced. “Lieutenant Kintaro of internal security has discovered the Dutch developing a new missile.”

Admiral Mukai tensed. The only Dutch in Japan were at work in his shipyard in Ito. What was he up too? Mukai didn’t trust Matsura who’s son had supported the losing side at Sekigahara and later forced to commit seppuku. The only reason his family was still in Shōgun’s favour was because Hirado Castle was near Nagasaki and vital for the country’s defense.

After hearing Matsura’s report on missiles being fired from the Dutch ship in Ito harbor, Shōgun spoke carefully, “General Matsura, once the Red Seal ship is seaworthy, send an envoy to the Low Countries to tell Maurice of Nassau we are open for trade. Give them permission to set up a base in your province of Hirado. Gather intelligence on their weaponry. And not a word of this to our Jesuit friends, if we can call them that!”

Shōgun knew Admiral Mukai’s feathers would be ruffled but he couldn’t risk sending his war-mongering Admiral on such a delicate mission.

General Matsura smiled to himself, he hated Mukai almost as much as he hated the Portuguese.

Back in his suit of offices, General Matsura summoned Kintaro.

Image via Wikipedia

“At the end of the year you are to lead a mission to the Low Countries. This foreign devil you have locked up, take him with you. Find out as much as you can about their weaponry. Bring back the biggest canons you can find. Understood?”

“Yes sir!” Kintaro’s heart leapt. A chance to serve Shōgun, and play golf on a real course!

-> Chapter 6