400 years ago: The English mission to Japan and its legacy – Timon Screech

Monday 17 June 2013                                                    6.45pm

The Swedenborg Society
20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St)
London WC1A 2TH

Free – booking recommended

Nearest underground station: Holborn
Light refreshments will be provided

This illustrated lecture will outline the historical facts, but also bring to life the gripping story of human interaction, bravery and mutual attempts at comprehension, that surround the first trade interactions between Britain and Japan in 1613, 400 years ago this September.

The Clove left England together with two other vessels of the East India Company in spring 1611. The Company, in existence for already over a decade, had sent many sailings East, but this was the first intended for as far away as Japan. The Clove left its fellows at Java and proceeded to Japan alone, where is arrived in June 1613. On board were letters from King James and presents for the Shogun and his father, Tokugawa Ieyasu, as well as letters of friendship from the King and a request to trade. The presents included  a telescope and a burning glass – the latest piece of scientific equipment for the time – and the telescope (invented only in 1608) was the first ever sent from Europe to Asia. These gifts were reciprocated with armour and paintings and permission to reside and trade in one of Ieyasu’s famous ‘vermillion seal letters’ (shûinjo) which were duly received back in London on late 1614. Both King James’s and Ieyasu’s letters are extant, as are some of the presents exchanged.

This history has long been known only to specialists, but this being the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the English in Japan, the tale deserves to be made more widely known.

Timon Screech received his BA from Oxford and his PhD from Harvard, and since 1991 has taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London, since 2006 as professor and since 2012 as head of the School of Arts. He is author of some dozen books on Edo visual culture, including The Lens Within the Heart (CUP 1996, 2nd ed, Curzon, 2000) and Sex and the Floating World (Reaktion, & Hawaii UP, 1999, 2nd ed, 2009). His major work, Obtaining Images: Art, Production and Display in Edo-Period Japan, was published by Reaktion and Hawaii UP in early 2012.

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 7828 6330 or email events@japansociety.org.uk or submit the online booking form.

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Sake kindly provided by the Sake Samurai Association and International Wine Challenge

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