Saturday, June 15, 2013

(OT) Descendants of a Japanese Diplomatic Delegation from 400 Years Ago Greet Japan's Crown Prince on His Visit to Spain

There are about 700 people in the town of Coria del Río in Seville, Spain whose surname is "Japón" (originally "Hasekura de Japón", according to Wiki). They are considered to be the descendants of a Japanese diplomatic mission headed by Tsunenaga Hasekura from 1613 through 1620. Hasekura was sent on a global mission by his lord Masamune Date of Sendai-han (that includes today's Miyagi Prefecture).

It is known that 7 or so of his delegates decided to remain in Coria del Río, and their descendants started to use the surname of "Japón".

Japan's Crown Prince is on an official visit to Spain, and met with the "Japóns" in Coria del Río, proud descendants of the Hasekura delegation, as Asahi Shinbun reports (6/15/2013):


It's been 400 years since Spain and Japan first made contact. There are people with the surname "Japón", meaning Japan, in Spain. There are 1,500 of them. They are considered to be the descendants of "Keicho Delegation" led by Tsunenaga Hasekura, who went to Spain 400 years ago. In the evening of June 14, "Japón" people got together in the city of Seville in southern Spain and met with Crown Prince of Japan.


The delegation stayed in Coria del Río, near Seville, in 1614. It is known that seven or so of the delegation didn't go back to Japan. Local historians believe the descendants of these people started to use the name of their home country Japan as their surname.


"Japón" people are keenly aware of their connection to Japan. Nearly 10,000 residents including "Japón" people greeted Crown Prince in Coria del Río on June 14 afternoon, chanting "Japón!" Juan Francisco Japón (age 44), chairman of "Hasekura Tsunenaga Association", said, "We are all proud of our surname Japón. Some of us have the Mongolian spots like Japanese."


According to Juan, after the March 11, 2011 disaster in Japan, "Japón" people did all they could to help Japan. They called for silent prayers in front of the statue of Hasekura, they did fund raising and charity auctions. The town of Coria del Río called to people in Japan on their website, offering citizenship to anyone who wants to escape Japan and come to the town.


Victor Valencia Japón (age 48) visited Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture in 1991. He said, "I looked at the images of Ishinomaki after the disaster, and it was very shocking to me, thinking our distant relatives may have been affected."


In the evening of June 14, 30 "Japón" people gathered at a hotel in Sevilla. They said to Crown Prince, "I'm proud to be the descendant with Samurai spirit", "I want to help in deepening the relationship between Japan and Spain." Crown Prince smiled, and said "I am very happy to meet so many of you with the name Japan."


Fernando Japón Sevillia (age 49) said, "For us, with the surname Japón with 400 years of history, this is a very honorable (proud) day."

I didn't know anything about these people in Spain with the "Japón" surname until I read the Asahi article. How wonderful to know there are people in the world proud to be of Japanese lineage (alleged or not proven, it doesn't matter) who continue to care about their very distant "home" country from 400 years ago.


Maju said...

It is a historical curiosity, a sympathetic story, that AFAIK, only recently has reached some media limelight also in Spain, although obviously the locals were well aware of their own origins, as were surely some historians as well.

Recently someone mentioned at my anthropology blog his/her surprise at finding some occasional Y-DNA lineage O3 (typical of East Asians) in Spain. I told him about this story, although of course it may also have other origins, like the Philippines, which was a Spanish colony until 105 years ago.

As a side note, not long ago I read Pigafetta's narration of the first circunnavigation of Earth (lead by Basque captain Juan Sebastián Elcano, even if the Italian chronicler almost does not mention him by name for some grudge they had) and he mentions (from references) Japan as a land without interest for the Empire because it is poor in natural resources and its inhabitants are a very martial race, reason why it would take long to conquer and would bring pitiful profits.

Darth 3.11 said...

I've recently been studying this early 1600s period of history and the early interactions between Europeans and Japanese. Those were brave people on sailing galleons! Very nice to see the Japon Spanish story coming into public light.

wren said...

I often wonder how much Dutch and Portuguese DNA is floating around in Japan.

It would be interesting to find out.

Maju said...

Probably not much. I have not yet seen any study that reports anything looking like Western admixture in Japan, even at the tiniest levels.

Even in places much more transited like Philippines or Indonesia there is only very residual presence of Western lineages. It's probably detectable (thinking of Indonesia right now) but sometimes not easy to discern from Indian lineages (Y-DNA R1a is widespread in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Pakistan and North India, and you have to look at it in some detail and with very up-to-date-to-2013 knowledge to discern the Indian and European sub-lineages).

Anonymous said...

Certain percent of people in Tohoku region share the same mutated gene with certain Europeans. My uncles and aunts look like people I've seen in the western-most China, who looked half Russian half Uigur.

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