Ito 1604

With the Red Seal Ship fully loaded, Kintaro bowed before Admiral Mukai who was seething that he hadn’t been chosen to lead the mission.

Admiral Mukai reluctantly handed Kintaro a letter from the Shogun, dying to know its contents but dare not break the seal, and expressed Shogun’s wish to have the letter read out in front of Maurice of Nassau, leader of the Low Countries, when they finally reached Amsterdam.

First stop would be Ayutthay, the legendary capital of Siam, said to be the biggest city in the world. The Chinese wouldn’t dare attack in Siamese waters, and the Portuguese would do little but watch.

Then on to the Spice Islands! Dougal had been an apprentice pilot on the first Dutch venture to the lucrative Spice Islands led by Captain Houtman who brought back little cargo and lost 4 ships, but found a way to avoid Malacca Strait and the Portuguese carracks.

Dougal knew the waters well enough. He would pilot the Red Seal Ship through Sunda Strait and around the Cape of Good Hope.

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After 18 months at sea, and a hull full of silk, nutmeg, cloves, pepper and silver, the Red Seal Ship sailed into the Port of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam 1605

As Dougal piloted the ship through a maize of vessels, Kintaro and Hiina looked out the cabin window astounded by the size and beauty of Amsterdam which had become Netherlands’ busiest port since the sacking of Antwerp by mutinous Spanish troops some 30 years before.

Amsterdam was a haven for refugees seeking to escape Spanish persecutions. Leader and master siege tactician Maurice of Nassau had stitched up the Dutch frontier, leaving the republic’s interior to prosper.

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A pinnace pulled alongside the Red Seal ship.

“Request to board!” hollered a uniformed officer.

“Granted!” Dougal was keen to hear progress on the war of independence against Spain. He would also be the first to bring news of the fleet of 5 ships that had sailed for Japan some 6 years earlier.

Once on board, the officer soon recognised Dougal as a decorated sailor who had survived Netherlands’ first voyage to the Spice Islands with Captain Houtman. Not only that, Dougal was a renown golfer!

“What’s in the hull?” asked the officer.

Dougal looked stern. “Is not mine to disclose. ‘Tiss the property of Japan of which Captain Kintaro is the chief emissary. Follow me.”

Dougal led the officer to the captain’s cabin where Kintaro was waiting in full samurai regalia.

Kintaro bowed. “I am Kintaro, Ambassador of Japan.”

Kintaro’s sister Hiina translated into Dutch.

“On behalf of the Shōgun of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, I request an embassy with Maurice of Nassau.”

The officer saluted, dazzled by the exotic splendour, and vowed to convey the message to the leader of the Dutch rebellion. “You have freedom of the city. Enjoy Amsterdam!”

–> Chapter 8