The Similarities and Differences of 17th Century
Japan and Europe (1500 to 1700)
Japan, from 1500 to almost 1700, was undergoing a major transformation. The Society of Jesus was founded by Ignatius Loyola and approved by Pope Paul III as a religious order within the Catholic Church in 1540. Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit sent to preach religion outside of Europe. Three Portuguese traders whose ship was blown to Japan in 1542 or 1543 are the first Europeans known to have set foot there. Only a few years after their arrival, Francis Xavier made it to Japan in 1549; however, he died in 1552. Alessandro Valignano was another prominent European figure in Asia and especially in Japan and was a member of the Jesuits (Society of Jesus). In 1614 the persecution of Christians in Japan began. Yamaga (1622-1885), a man with vast intellect and a believer of independence of thought, initiated the bushido (the way of the warrior) creed. Yamaga was worried about the immobilization of the Samurai under the peaceful rule of Tokugawa. The bushido creed derives from the ethics of Confucianism and the Japanese feudal tradition. During the Tokugawa rule Christianity was proscribed, Japan had no contact with the outside world, and a centralized feudal state was established. Once, Japanese women enjoyed a fair amount of status because they could own land, although they were not allowed to participate in politics and had no real voice in anything. However, by the 17th century, women had become oppressed because of feudalism, the teachings of Confucianism and Buddhism ensued, and thus began a developing military society. Japanese women eventually came into a very low status because Confucianism, Buddhism, and the military society degraded women.
With Europe’s early modern era (1500-1789) new developments were brought about which changed many Europeans way of thinking. Reformation, the Renaissance, and expansion all played major roles in this massive change that was taking place. The Reformation was brought by a professor of theology and an Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, who dared to academically challenge the Catholic Church and some of its teachings. This brought about the adoption of the Jesuits offerings to aid the Church in fighting against Protestantism and spreading Catholicism by Pope Paul III. In the early 1600’s a civil war between nobility and royal versus parliament began. James I, who became the King of England in 1603 upon the death of Queen Elizabeth, believed that kings everywhere should be exalted like gods. Parliament, on the other hand, believed that all papal authority should be distributed throughout the Church with the Pope as head authority. With the protestant reformation people began to think differently about the human condition which eventually led to other reformations such as the Scientific reformation and the Enlightenment. During the reformation, women’s status did not really change. Women were only recognized for their duties within the household and to the children and not for their intellect. They were thought of as fragile and immature. These two cultures have many differences as well as many similarities. In contrast, the Japanese was building stronger military forces, cutting themselves off from the world, teaching the Samurai how to become government bureaucrats, and incorporating feudalism, while the Europeans were expanding into new territories, building alliances in commerce, evolving and splitting apart from the reformation, and entertaining new ideas and new ways of thinking about the world and the human condition. In comparison, the Japanese were making changes in its beliefs, beginning to trade with the west, and implementing a new way of life, as such, the Europeans were adopting new beliefs, opening up trade from the east, and implementing a new way of life.
In 1542 or 1543 the first Europeans to set foot on Japanese soil was due to a ship...
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