Japan (Japanese: 日本国, "Nihon-koku" or "Nippon-koku") is a large island nation located in East Asia and the only regular location Gulliver visits during his travels.
During the setting of the books, Japan was governed by the Tokugawa Shogunate, whose founder Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan and instituted a policy of isolation from the rest of the world. Nonetheless, he permitted the Dutch (who operated at Dejima, Nagasaki, on western Kyushu), the Chinese, the Koreans, the Ainus of Hokkaido and the Ryukyuans (who were later conquered) to trade with Japan.
The people of Japan, during the rule of the Shogunate, were required to follow a strict stratified social system.
Under the Shogunate, Christianity is banned, as the shoguns viewed Christianity as a threat to the Shogunate's stability, mainly due to the Jesuit missionaries attempting to influence powerful officials to convert Japan to the Christian faith. On the other hand, Shinto and Confucianism were promoted and were officially endorsed by the Shogunate's rulers, while Buddhism was placed under strict state control. The practice of fumi-e, mentioned as "trampling the crucifix" in Jonathan Swift's books, was used to expose suspected Christians within Japan, who were afterwards tortured and killed at Nagasaki for failing that test. The practice of executing Christians was unofficially abandoned in 1805.
Over a century after Gulliver's visit to Japan, the Shogunate was abolished after its defeat in 1867, with events such as Commodore Matthew C. Perry's arrival and the wars between its supporters and opponents contributing to its downfall. At the meantime, the declining Shogunate also attempted to establish relations with other countries, such as Britain, France, and America. Japan was afterwards modernized and Westernized under the Meiji government.
The shogun who governed Japan during the time of Gulliver's visit (21 March to 6 April 1710) was Tokugawa Ienobu, the sixth shogun of his dynasty. He and the other shoguns were the functional rulers of the government, while the revered emperors who were above them were relegated to ceremonial and religious roles.
Role in the books EditWeary of his disappointing time in Luggnagg, Gulliver is finally able to secure passage on a boat bound for Japan, and he arrived at the port of Xamoschi on 21 March 1710. His stay in the island country is brief, however, as he finds himself in trouble once again. It seems the custom for Dutchmen in Japan is to trample the crucifix, and none have ever refused to do so. The Japanese emperor excuses Gulliver from this tradition, but later, a Dutchman again tries to force Gulliver into trampling the cross, a sacrilegious act in his eyes. Gulliver flees Japan on a ship called the Amboyna, bound for Amsterdam, and there he boards a ship for England, finally returning home on 6 April 1710 to his wife and family in Redriff.
The Japanese traded with the people of Luggnagg on the port of Glanguenstald on the southwestern part of the island.
The names of the locations reflect the contemporary pronunciation of the Japanese language, such as the usage of "ye" (え, now pronounced as "e").
- Yedo (Edo (江戸), now Tokyo (東京)), the capital of Japan on eastern Honshu.
- Xamoschi (*Samoshi or *Shamoshi, possibly Shimosa (下総)), a port located at the western shore of Yedo's bay where Gulliver arrived in Japan. The actual Shimosa was a province that was located north of Yedo and its bay.
- Nangasac (Nagasaki (長崎)), the port on western Kyushu with the only port available to Europeans, and only to the Dutch. This port was where Gulliver fled on the Amboyna out of Japan.
Other locations mentioned in a map (right, where Japan is situated to the west) are:
- Yesso (Ezo (蝦夷), now Hokkaido (北海道) since 1869), the home of the Ainu people.
- Nivato (*Niwato, or Nagato (長門)), a province at western Honshu to the north of Kyushu.
- Meaco (Miyako (都), now Kyoto), an ancient city that was one of three great cities of Japan, other than Yedo and Osacca.
- Inaba (因幡), a province at western Honshu.
- Osacca (Osaka (大阪)), another of the three greatest cities of Japan, other than Yedo and Meaco. It was a merchant city and a center of rice trade.
- A mythical island known as Mount Penglai (Chinese: 蓬莱仙岛, Pénglái xiāndǎo; Japanese: 蓬莱, Hōrai) exists in Chinese and Japanese mythology, with four other islands located near Mount Penglai. While the Chinese consider it to be the fantastic realm of the Eight Immortals, the Japanese considered it to be a less pleasant realm inhabited by a sky of ancient souls and tiny innocent fairies. The Japanese also considered Mount Penglai to be more of a fantasy.
- A Japanese film director, Hayao Miyazaki, produced an award-winning animated film in 1986 known as "Castle in the Sky", which is about two young children who try to keep a magical crystal away from military agents, while searching for the flying castle of Laputa. In Spain, the flying castle was renamed "Lapuntu", as "Laputa" resembles a vulgar phrase in the Spanish language.
- The Amboyna, the ship which Gulliver boarded to escape Japan, was named after an island in eastern Indonesia where Dutch agents tortured and killed Englishmen and other traders, accusing them of treason.
- On October 14 1854, the Japanese Shogunate signed a treaty that established diplomatic relations with Britain, after many years of hostility since the Amboyna massacre of 1623. That treaty allowed the British to visit Nagasaki and Hakodate (in Ezo), and granted Britain as the "most favored nation" with other Western powers.
- Gulliver's Travels (novel)
- The depiction of Japan in Gulliver's Travels
- Wikipedia article on Gulliver's Travels
- Project Gutenburg