Sakoku: That time when Japan cut itself off from the world for over 200 years
Japan has a long history of isolating itself from the rest of the world. Most notably: Between the 17th and 19th century, when the country adopted a policy to confine itself from the rest of the world. Set up by the Tokugawa Shonugate, the government enforced strict guidelines — going insofar as of imposing death penalty to those who had contact with the outside world.
In Japanese Sakoku means “chained country.” It was an order that spanned for almost two millennia. Only a few foreign nationals were given permission to trade or visit the country, and the policy was strictly enforced. They worked to expel the various religious and colonial influences of Portugal and Spain that threatened the shonugate power.
Tokugawa Iemitsu, the founder
The Tokugawa shonugate was the last feudal military government in Japan. Their rule is known as the Edo period, where Japan experienced political stability, internal peace, and economic growth brought by the strict Sakoku guidelines.
Tokugawa Iemitsu is known as the authority behind the Sakoku mandate. He ruled from 1623 until 1651, and strictly enforced the edicts and guidelines behind the isolation policy. It was during his rule that Japan crucified Christians, expelled Europeans from the country, and closed the borders of the country to the outside world.
Limited entities allowed to trade with Japan
During the Tokugawa shogunate, trade was limited to four gateways. The Matsumae Domain was allowed to trade with the Ainu people, the indigenous people of Japan and Russian islands of Sakhalin, Kuril Islands, and Kamchatka Peninsula.
Tsushima Island’s clan was allowed to trade with the Joseon Dysnasty in Korea. The Dutch East India Company was given permission to trade with Chinese merchants, and the independent Japanese kingdom of Ryukyu was also granted permission to trade with mainland Japan.
The ruling was only overturned when the shogunate under Tokugawa Iemochi underwent internal turmoil that forced him to establish relations with the United States. Sakoku officially ended on March 31, 1854, when he signed the Treaty of Peace and Amity with Commodore Matthew Perry from the United States.