Japan from the inside out

17th century Japanese village found in Cambodia

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, February 14, 2008

IT’S A SHAME this report is so short, because it would be fascinating to hear more details.

Here’s how the two-paragraph story on the Indian news site Kerala begins:

A site of a Japanese village dating back to the 17th century has been found in the outskirts of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, a Japanese archaeologist said Wednesday.

They add:

Based on on-site research, excavations and historical documents, Japanese people came to Cambodia aboard ships between 1601 and 1635, he said. “There were about 100 Japanese living in the village during that period of time, and most of them were engaged in religious affairs and trading…”

And that’s about it. But that raises the inevitable questions: Who were they? Why did they leave Japan? How did they wind up in Cambodia? What religious affairs did they conduct? Who did they trade with? What happened to them?

Alas, that’s all I could find.

The report is based on an address in Cambodia by Sugiyama Hiroshi, the chief research fellow at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. I couldn’t find a report on their website, either in English or Japanese.

Let’s hope someone releases more information soon.

8 Responses to “17th century Japanese village found in Cambodia”

  1. Overthinker said

    No surprise here at all: Japan had a substantial presence in SE Asia in the 1600s, to the extent of a large settlement in the then capital of Siam, Ayutthaya. See “アユタヤ日本人町” in WikiJapan for more details (in Japanese).

  2. Aki said

    There are grafitii in Angkor that Japanese did in the early 17th century. The most famous one is Morimoto Ukon-dayu’s grafitii written in 1632. He wrote his name, the date and why/how he visited there. It seems that Japanese people believed that Angkor was “祇園精舎 (Gion Syojya)” where Buddha had lived. Japanese Wikipedia has some descriptions.

  3. yasuyasu said

    I was weak in the history, but think that probably the following becomes the hint.

  4. Laff said

    There was always trade all around Asia from way back when, way before the 17th century.
    Monks were known to have travelled across from Japan all the way to India and the Tibet region to study Buddhism beginning around the 1100’s.

    But are these sort of settlements due to the Japanese venturing out on their own? I don’t think so – I think many Japanese went to not necessarily settle, but returned with Europeans (Portugeuse and Spanish), followed them back along the same route that the Conquistadors came, and some of these Japanese may have landed and stayed.

  5. camphortree said

    Why did the Japanese set out to Cambodia or other part of Indochina in the 1600s? Call of the blood! Cambodians and Japanese are long lost cousins!

    According to the ancient Chinese historical records(漢書地理誌、論衡、魏志倭人伝etc…) Japanese people were Wa-tribes among the 100 Wo-tribes(倭人、百越)that lived along the Yangtze River. Wa and Wo were the same people, but somehow Wa got mentioned more specifically among the 100 Wo-people in the records.
    Before northern Han Chinese swallowed much of northern Hmong people and made the Hmong as part of Han Chinese, Hmong people were one of the largest land holders between the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers.
    Throughout the expansion of the northern Han Chinese many Hmong people fled south deeper and deeper, ravaging little kingdoms of Wa-people and Wo-people on the way along the Yangtze River. The Yangtze Civilization collapsed as a consequence of the northern Han expansion. At the same time when the Yangtze River civilization completely collapsed 3000 years ago, Japan started a new era called the Yayoi Period with mysterious new commers called the Yayoi(弥生人)who showed up at the shore of the archipelago.
    Many historians such as Kensaburou Torigoe and Yoshinori Yasuda(鳥越憲三郎、安田喜憲)say that some Wa and Wo sailed out to the sea during that turmoil. The Kuroshio sea current took the boat people to Kyuushuu, Japan where they later built the pre-Yamato kingdom called Yamatai-koku.
    Many other Wa and Wo ran south by feet and disappeared into the jungle, thus became modern highland tribes throughout Indochina. More ambitious refugees participated in building states such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thai.

    Japanese still share the essential part of architectual style of Shinto shrines such as 神明造り、大社造り with the mountain tribes throughout Indochina。Up until today only some Yangtze folks and Japanese still practice leash-on cormorant fishing on Earth.

    See below

  6. Ampontan: It’s the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties where Mr. Sugiyama is doing his work in Cambodia. It’s the second item on the project list. According to the information on the FY2003 page (no FY2006-07 pages), it’s a five-year project (FY2003-2007), so Mr. Sugiyama must be finishing up now. The website doesn’t have anything about the latest findings (actually, very short on substance overall), but people in this line of work will talk a mile about it if you give them half a chance, they’re so wrapped up in it, as you probably know from experience. Good luck.

  7. Aki said

    You can read reports on researches by Monkasyo grants in KAKEN, a databese for Monkasyo grants. The page of the Sugiyama’s project is here in KAKEN. Click “カンボディアにおける中世遺跡と日本人町の研究” on the page. You can find links to “実績報告”. The reports are also short but have additional information. It seems they were paying attention to the remains of a Christian Church that possibly relate to a Japanese town.

  8. ampontan said

    CT, YY, OJ, and Aki: Thanks for your links! That ought to get me up to speed.

    OJ: I know what you mean about experts getting to talk about their specialty. When I did the Takeshima translation for Shimane, it was vetted by a man at some government institute or library (I now forget). We talked for two hours on the phone (or mostly he talked and I listened). He was a literal fount of knowledge.

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