200 Escudos

Tanegashima, Portugal


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Europe Meets Japan – 450th Anniversary of Relations between Portugal and Japan
200 escudos 1993
The reverse features a 16th-century Portuguese sailing vessel and a map of part of the island of Tanega Shima in the extreme south of the Japanese archipelago, as depicted on a screen of the Namban period. The vessel represents the commercial and other relations between Portugal and Japan. These began in 1543, when the Portuguese traveler Fernão Mendes Pinto (1509-1583) and two other Portuguese merchants sailing on a junk bound for China were blown by a typhoon to the island of Tanega Shima, thus becoming the first Europeans to visit Japan. Pinto, a soldier and sailor, merchant and missionary, traveled, fought and traded in India, China and neighboring countries for 21 years. During these years he was captured 13 times, and 17 times he was sold into slavery. The musket that the Portuguese brought with them was copied by the Japanese. The name of the island of Tanega Shima came to mean “firearms” to the Japanese. In later years Pinto was a travel companion of Francisco Xavier. He joined the Jesuit order and worked as a missionary in Japan. After a number of years he was dispensed of his vows but he really may have been expelled from the order because he was found to be a marrano, i.e. to possess Jewish blood. After his return to Portugal, Pinto wrote a book on his travels, The Peregrination, which was published posthumously. The arrival of the Portuguese, whom the inhabitants of Tanega Shima called Namban-jin (barbarians from the Southern Seas), is the beginning of the Namban century (1543-1639) during which Japan maintained commercial relations with Europe and introduced Western technology, Christianity, medicine, cuisine, music, art and culture, until it was decided to close the country to foreigners. (The obverse depicts a compass rose and two outline maps of parts of the island of Tanega Shima.)

This coin and the next one are part of the fourth series in Portugal’s “Coins of Discovery” program, which is titled “Europe Meets Japan.” The coins of this series are the first European coins with a legend in Japanese.