'Nifon catange or Japon fation' : a study of cultural interaction in the English factory in Japan, 1613-1623
This thesis examines perceptions of the Japanese and cultural interaction between East India Company merchants and "local people, recorded in the pr.ivate documents of the trading factory in Hirado, Japan between 1613-1623. In contrast to the more frequently studied missionary sources for early modem Japan, the East India Company records shed light on a number of issues of cultural interest to the historian. Questions addressed in this study include the image of the Japanese in the Hirado sources, the attempts of British merchants to learn the Japanese language, relations with local servants, the type of food consumed and clothes worn in the factory, sexual relations with local consorts, perceptions of law and order in Japan and impressions of both Buddhism and Japanese Christian converts. Where appropriate, the themes covered in the Hirado letters are studied in the light of recent scholarship on domestic issues in England. This thesis challenges the assumption that overseas Europeans made little cultural adaptation to their new home, and points out the danger of judging Jacobean attitudes towards nonEuropeans based on a small number of literary texts. Historians of the European presence in Japan during this period have continually noted the cultural-anthropological potential of the Hirado documents, yet until now they have only been the subject of narrative works. The historiography exammmg European contacts with non-European peoples in this period concentrates overwhelmingly on colonial encounters in North America, in which Europeans lived segregated lives, and characteristically viewed the natives as barbarians. The situation in much of Asia was very different. Not only was Japan militarily powerful, it was clearly civilized according to the canons of contemporary geographical literature. Hence, the letters of transient merchants within a powerful Asian society reveal a far greater extent of cultural interaction than reports of European settlers in colonial societies.