How did the sakoku policy apply to the Ryukyu Kingdom?

Sep 2018
52
transitory
#1
In 1846, the missionary Bernard Bettelheim arrived in Okinawa on a British ship. Obviously the conditions of his stay there were very complicated and unwelcome, but the fact that he arrived there on a western ship almost a decade before Commodore Perry opened Japan to the west made me wonder, how open was the Ryukyu Kingdom to western maritime traffic during the sakoku era?

I know it was not formally part of Japan at this time, but I also know the Satsuma domain had significant influence over its affairs. I've heard they used the Ryukyu kingdom for trade with China, but I don't know if western trade or maritime provisioning was conducted there before Perrys arrival in Japan. Can someone here provide some answers?
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
2,189
Australia
#2
Up until around 1800 I believe it was just the Chinese and Japanese visiting and trading - I have heard that at times the Okinawans would have the Chinese secreted in a back room, while they did business with the Japanese 'officially' . Most other visitors seem to have been exploratory or accidental, there does not seem to have been trade or provisioning from the earlier western ships .

1797 British survey ship HMS Providence (Captain William Robert Broughton), Shipwrecked off the coast of the Miyako- Tarama Islands. In the same year the ship headed into Naha Harbor. "A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean" by William Robert Broughton, 1804

1803 British ship HMS Frederick made landfall at Naha Harbor.

1816 British ships Lyra and Alceste arrive in the Ryukyus and stay 42 days. "Account of a Voyage of Discovery to the West Coast of Corea, and the Great Loo-choo Island" London, 1818

1827 British ship HMS Blossom (Captain Frederick Beechey) arrived in the Ryukyus. "Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Beering's Strait" Published 1831

1832 British ship HMS Rodomasuto drifts ashore in the Ryukyus.

1843 British Navy Vessel HMS Samarang makes a land survey of Miyako and Yaeyama Islands. "Narrative Voyage of the HMS Samarang, Published in 1848

1844 French Navy ship Alcmene sails into Naha Harbor seeking friendly relations and trade. Entrusting that a reply to request for trade will be issued to the following ship to call in the Ryukyus, the ship sails on to China leaving behind the missionary Theodore Augustine Focade.

1846 British ship HMS Starling made landfall at Naha Harbor. The English missionary Barnard Bettelheim arrives in the Ryukyus for an 8-year stay. French ship Sabine lands in Naha with Pierre-Julien Le Turdu, successor to Focade. Later the French ships Cleopatoru and Victorious arrive at Unten Harbor seeking reply to the request made in 1844 for friendship and trade relations. They were refused by the Ryukyuans. Visit to Naha of three British fleet vessels. Consent was granted for the start of trade between the Satsuma Han and France.

1847 Ships from western nations visit the Kume-jima, Miyako, Yaeyama and Yonaguni Islands.

1849 British ships arrive requesting commercial relations. . Ships from foreign counties arrive in the Kume-jima and Miyako Islands.

1850 British ship HMS Renard arrives.

1851 John Manjiro, one of the first Japanese travelers to America arrives. Foreign vessels visit shore in the Ryukyus.

1852 American ship USS Robert Bonn is cast ashore with Chinese laborers.

1853 United States Commodore M.C. Perry arrives in Naha on the Susquehanna and three other ships. Requests are made for free trade with the Ryukyus

Okinawa's History
 
Last edited:
Sep 2018
52
transitory
#3
Thank you for the reply. I'm surprised to see so many western visits to the islands prior to the 1850s. Do you know what sort of regulations were in place in the Ryukyus regarding interactions between locals with these foreigners? It seems, from some examples listed there, that western nations did not yet have official trade relations with the Ryukyu Kingdom, was this due to official prohibitions by the local authorities? Also what about provisioning? Were there regulations in place preventing the sale of supplies by locals to foreign ships?
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
2,189
Australia
#4
Nope, sorry. I know they where often in a tight spot between Chinese and Japanese but little about local regulations regarding foreigners .
 

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