There are many accounts of Europeans who travelled to the Far East, as they called it. There were some Chinese people who made the opposite journey, did anyone from Japan do it? If they returned to Japan, what did they report about these faraway countries?

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The most famous example is an embassy to Rome sent by several Christian daimyo from Western Japan. Consisting of four teenage envoys and a number of attachés, the group departed from Nagasaki on 20 February 1582 and reached Lisbon on 10 August 1584. In addition to meeting Pope Gregory XIII, the Japanese toured Spain and visited several Northern Italian city states including Tuscany, Florence, Milan, Venice and Verona.

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(Path taken by the Tenshō Embassy during their time in Europe)

During their return trip however, Toyotomi Hideyoshi - now master of Japan - issued the Bateren Expulsion Edict which effectively banned Christianity. This stranded the embassy in Goa for several years until they were allowed into Nagasaki on 29 July 1590. Upon their return, the embassy introduced Gutenberg's press to Japan, and later performed Western music to Hideyoshi.

This seems to be the earliest instance of Japanese visiting Europe in recorded history, though several similar expeditions followed in the succeeding decades. However, the edict of Sakoku was issued soon thereafter, putting an end to such projects. The last such expedition until the Meiji Restoration was another embassy sent by the Date clan of Sendai.

In this case, the Japanese went east and reached Europe by crossing the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This was the first recorded instance of a Japanese reaching the Americas. Notably, the envoy Hasekura Tsunenaga compiled a collection of documents on his experience. These have now been designated a national treasure, and included on the UNESCO Memory of the World registrar.

  • Very interesting! What did they report about Europe when they got home?
    – Ne Mo
    Aug 18, 2015 at 16:34
  • @NeMo It's mainly technical things. They introduced European technological advancements to Japan, the most important of which being the printing press. Note that Japan had already had extensive contact with Europe by their time, so it wasn't a blank slate they are reporting on.
    – Semaphore
    Aug 18, 2015 at 19:08
  • Yup, you can watch the video here link (in English subtitle is available. ) But my first wonder is Who does really know who --came to Europe from Japan, before this, through China and Silk road???????????. We can not exclude such an exception, I think.......
    – user12387
    Aug 29, 2015 at 2:08

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