Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Background Notes--Samurai of Ayutthaya

Notes from various sources for My Upcoming Novel set in 17th Century Siam.

Notes from Samurai of Ayutthaya, Yamada Nagamasa, Japanese Warrior and Merchant in Early Seventeenth-Century Siam, Cesare Polenghi.

• Thus, 1603 marks the beginning of international trade managed by the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1604 Ieyasu began to issue shuin (vermillion seal certificates). These were certificates allocated to merchants willing to conduct official international trade under the seal of approval of the newborn shogunate. Such “passports,” valid for a voyage from Nagasaki to ports in the Southeast Asia region and back, were issued in 1604 to merchants such as Ibarakiya Matazaemon (going to Cochinchina); the Hirano and Takaseya families (to Luzon); and to other merchants going to Tonkin (in today’s Northern Vietnam), Patani (in today’s Southern Thailand), Cambodia and Siam. To the latter place… four permits were issued, one of them to a merchant called Yoemon. This is the first substantiation of commercial relations between Japan and Ayutthaya, even when official relations had to wait for another two years.
• The Portuguese and the other westerners who made it to Japan in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were labeled as nanban, barbarians from the South, since they came to China and Japan from that direction.
• Shuinsen (vermillionseal ships) were initially built in Nagasaki, but some Japanese merchants began to order their vessels from Ayutthaya, where the Chinese community specialized in the construction of high-quality and relatively cheap junks. For example, when, in March 1613, four Japanese-owned vessels left Ayutthaya, two were brand new ships made in Ayutthaya. The tonnage changed according to the different models, but was usually between 500 and 750 tons—still less than the Portuguese ships, capable of carrying 1,000 tons of merchandise.
• … Nagamasa and approximately another 100,000 Japanese sailed to Southeast Asia between 1600 and 1635. The junks to Siam and other destinations in the South left Japan in January or February with the southern winds, and returned from the Southeast Asian entrepots in June or July. The direct voyage from Nagasaki to Ayutthaya took an average of forty-seven days.
• … their ships headed north for one hundred and forty kilometers of fluvial waters, zigzagging up for a river trek that took about nine days… Their ship, in fact, would have anchored in the large basin just south of the island that formed the walled core of Ayutthaya. On the east side of the Menam lay the Nihonmachi, the Japanese enclave.
• [Being a city in the hinterland and at the same time a coastal city]… gave Ayutthaya a level of safety from maritime attacks that other ports in the region (Malacca, for example) did not have.
• Manufactured goods were rare, but few places could compete with Ayutthaya’s low prices of raw materials that were in high demand in other parts of Asia. The Ming used to keep lists of the products that could have been purchased in Asian ports, and Ayutthaya led the chart with the longest list of all: forty-four different products. Thus, the Siamese capital was the ideal distribution center for products from the hinterland that could be stored and delivered to the merchants arriving on ships from faraway harbors such as Hormuz, Goa, and of course Nagasaki. An image representing Yamada Nagamasa's volunteer army. It was rescued by Sakae Miki in 1939. The original was allegedly painted in the 17th century on the walls of Wat Yom, an Ayuttayan temple that was later destroyed. (Samurai of Ayutthaya, Cesare Polenghi).

• … it was necessary for Ayutthaya to keep welcoming a steady flow of people and goods, including not only weapons and military technologies, but also every sort of intelligence—and, of course, currency. The city depended on commerce, and in order to accommodate people from many places, Ayutthaya had to maintain a policy of internationalism and tolerance. The early multiculturalism of Ayutthaya, its communion of different people, goods, and ideas, and the way such synthesis generated wealth surely represents a remarkable case study of early globalization.
• … once the Siamese had witnessed the Portuguese superiority in warfare, in 1516 they promptly signed a treaty with them regarding firearms. This was only five years after the Portuguese had taken Malacca! … in 1534, King Chairacha hired one hundred and twenty Portuguese. After the Portuguese it was the turn of the Japanese, who were in charge of the bodyguards also during Nagamasa’s days in Siam. Over the following decades, foreign body guards were a constant presence in Siam, and they, in return, were followed by Chams and Malays. Besides the bodyguards, the Siamese army featured squadrons of asa, auxiliary troops formed by foreigners residing in Ayutthaya who fought alongside the local military. (The Japanese asa were involved in a great battle in 1593...). Dutch and Portuguese also provided soldiers to Ayutthaya in the seventeenth century, both to protect their business interests there and as mercenaries.
• Foreigners could also be granted military and aristocratic titles. Besides those conferred to the Japanese, there was, for example, a Persian Okpra; and some Dutch merchants were known to have had titles. In the second half of the seventeenth century Constantine Phaulkon, and adventurer of Greek origins, became so powerful at King Narai’s court that he could afford to appoint Europeans in government positions as he liked… Besides the Japanese and the Europeans, other influential groups in seventeenth century Ayutthaya were the Chinese and the Moors (Indian and Persian Muslims) who were involved in trades but also in the Ayutthayan bureaucracy.
• At the beginning of the seventeenth century, most of these foreigners lived in villages built on land assigned by the Siamese kings, and located outside the city walls… not there because of lack of space within Ayutthaya proper… it was practical for the arriving foreign ships to dock at the village they “belonged” to, where they could immediately be taken care of by their countrymen. But more than that, from a Siamese viewpoint, to have the foreigners outside the main walls diminished the risk of rebellion and also created a buffer zone between potential invaders and the city.
• There were four hundred Japanese Christians in the Japanese enclave in 1624 and six hundred soldiers in 1628… The Christian refugees came mainly from peasant families, thus it is unlikely that this category overlapped too much with the warriors…. There were specialized Japanese employees who, in turn, may have had families. Thus, a number between 2,000 and 3,000, including non-Japanese residents, seems more realistic. According to such an estimate, Ayutthaya featured one of the biggest Nihonmachi in Southeast Asia, probably second in population only Manila (which featured two Japanese settlements, in Dilao and San Miguel). At the same time it was larger than Faifo and Tourane (both in Cochinchina, today Da Nang and Hoi An in central Vietnam) and Ponhealu and Phnom Pehn (in Cambodia).
• The Christian men were in all probability the only Japanese who brought their Japanese wives with them to Siam. For the rest, it can be assumed that intermarriage between Japanese men and local women (Siamese, Mon or Laotian) was likely, since Ayutthaya was cosmopolitan enough to accept unions between members of different communities.
• The Christians, whenever possible, probably sent their children (both males and females) to receive their teaching in the Portuguese enclave, which faced the Nihonmachi on the western side of the Menam.
• … there probably would have been a whole generation of young “Japanese-Thai” adults. The males among them were educated in the Japanese martial way but born and raised many thousands of miles away from Edo… “it might be inferred that through constant intermarriage with the women of the county, they have become absorbed in the mass of the population.”
• Most of the Japan who began reaching Ayutthaya around the turn of the seventeenth century fell into two groups: merchants and warriors… a third group, that of Japanese workers, who have been for the most part ignored by historians.
• The shogunate prohibited the recruiting of Japanese by foreign countries in 1621, though it is unlikely that such a prohibition was extended to the cities of Southeast Asia.
• Regarding more picturesque occupations, there is a source that mentions how a certain Kinoshita Rokuemon managed a small Japanese-style hotel at the mouth of the Menam. Furthermore, among the inhabitants of the Nihonmachi in the early 1630s there was an actor by the name of Hayami Matasaburo, a fact that shows how the Japanese brought over some of their traditions, including popular entertainment. There are no records indicating that the Japanese living in Ayutthaya engaged in agricultural activities.
• In the seventeenth century, as is true today, the great majority of the Japanese followed simultaneously their animist tradition (Shinto) and Mahayana Buddhism. There are limited but concrete indications that these traditions were transplanted to the Japanese enclave in Ayutthaya; for example, the ema that Nagamasa sent to Sumpu, and a Japanese-style Buddha’s head unearthed from the grounds of the Nihonmachi in 1933.
• However, the Japanese religious group that stands out in Ayutthaya, as in the other Nihonmachi, was the Christian community. During the late sengoku and unification periods (approximately 1647 to 1600), Catholicism in Japan had for the most part followed the fortunes of the military leaders who supported it. In particular the overlord Oda Nobunaga, who abhorred the organized Buddhist militias and was willing to compromise with the Portuguese, tolerated Christianity in order to obtain muskets, gunpowder, and armor for his campaigns. After the death of Nobunaga, however, the policy towards Christians began to change, and ultimately, under the Tokugawa, they were subjected to a government-sponsored persecution.
• Anti-Christian measures in Japan date back to 1587, when Hideyoshi tried to get rid of the bateren (Jesuit missionaries) as soon as he had conquered the island of Kyushu… Still under Hideyoshi, in 1597, twenty-six of them were the first in a long series of martyrs. In 1614, Suden drafted the “Statement on the Expulsion of the bateren.” In 1622, fifty-one Christians were executed at Nagasaki, and in 1624 fifty more were burned alive in Edo. In total, more than 3,000 Christians were martyred. Those Japanese who fled their country, tried to reach the Spanish-occupied Manila region, in the Philippines, yet, some of them arrived in Ayutthaya…
• In 1662 a French father, Lambert, counted an astonishing number of 1,500 Japanese Christians, a figure essentially confirmed by his colleague, father Deydier, one year later.
• Two Japanese Jesuits were “spreading the Gospel” in Ayutthaya during the second half of the 1620s, where some four hundred Japanese Christians dwelled there. Their names were Roman Nishi (Nixi) and Petoro (Petro) Kibe… For now it suffices to say that they and their flocks were free to practice their religion, as no opposition came from the Siamese authorities nor from their non-Christian countrymen.
• [Choisy, French co-ambassador of Louis XIV] was rather surprised to find “cleanliness itself” and furniture such as “Japanese chests” and “folding screens to partition the room”. Eventually, Japanese furniture and ornaments were fairly common in Siam, and, as Choisy discovered, not only among the higher classes. Thus, we may confidently assume that such furniture was used also inside the Nihonmachi dwellings.
• There is in fact evidence that a squadron of Japanese asa joined the Siamese army, and was already fighting alongside King Naresuan and his brother Ekathotsarot in the crucial battle of Nong Sarai in 1593. The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya describe in detail how an army of 100,000 ready to take on the Burmese included: “Phra Sena Phimuk (the Siamese title given to the Japanese military leader in Siam) mounted on a bull elephant Phop Trai and in command of a corps of five hundred asa jipuun.”
• … in seventeenth century Ayutthaya, the Japanese more than any other foreign group were involved not only as trade partners, but also politically and militarily. The ultimate evidence comes from the fact that the Japanese, over a span of little more than fifty years, were involved to some extent in the three thorny royal successions that were characterized by coups and violence in 1612, 1628-30, and 1656.
• … [Prasat Thong’s] killing of Nagamasa and many other Japanese residents in Siam was never forgiven by the shogunate… Thus, the Nihonmachi of Ayutthaya gradually vanished… We know very little of a few other Japanese headmen, some of whom were involved in the coup that brought King Narai to power in 1656. One of them (Antonio Zenzaemon) was in all probability a Christian, who may have lived in part of the Japanese community alongside the Portuguese… among the few names that emerge from the late seventeenth century’s scant sources… one… of particular interest: that of a woman called Ursula Yamada (Yamada was and is a very common family name in Japan.) The last mention of a Japanese in Ayutthaya is dated 5 June 1688. On that day Phaulkon was executed, and some of his relatives, including his half-Japanese wife, took refuge in whatever was left of the Nihonmachi.
• A few decades later the Japanese quarter was no more. During the Spanish embassy led by Butamante to Siam in 1718… the concession of a piece of land “that before was called the ‘Japanese camp’ and is now called Nuestra SeƱora del Soto y S. Buenaventura (facing the Portuguese camp and separated from the Dutch camp by a small canal).”
• The Spanish were not there for long, since… around the middle of the eighteenth century the plot of land that was once commanded by Nagamasa was occupied by the Cochinchinese. Then, in 1767, Ayutthaya was conquered and sacked by the Burmese. After they left with booty and captives, the city was reduced to ashes and transformed into a ghost town.
• There is one last interesting piece of information regarding the Japanese in Siam before the normalization of relations between Japan and Thailand in 1887… a collection of Thai documents contains a memorandum with the instructions of King Rama III for arranging the audience. This memorandum shows that a special unit of guards called “Japanese auxiliaries” (asa yipun) still existed at the time, consisting of 100 soldiers and two officers. We do not know whether among these guards, there were any of the descendants of Nagamasa and his men. However, it is clear that the tradition or perhaps the ideal, of hiring Japanese auxiliaries in the royal army lived on until at least the mid-nineteenth century.

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