chapter  3
Japanese Castaways and British Interpreters
Pages 13

COMMUNICATING with Japan in the middle of the nineteenth century was difficult in a number of ways for Europeans and Americans who wanted to establish relations with that country. For two hundred years foreign trade had been banned in Japan, except for that carried out by the Dutch and Chinese at Nagasaki, or through continuing connections with Korea and Ryukyu. These outlets were limited in scale and kept under close official supervision. Nor was it easy to find pilots or interpreters through whom to make an approach. Korea and Ryukyu were not open or easy of access. The Dutch and Chinese merchants already engaged in the trade were reluctant to assist potential competitors. The Japanese themselves were forbidden to travel or live overseas; and although there was a handful of shipwrecked Japanese seamen who had found their way to ports on the China coast, they were not always competent to help, even when they were willing to do so.