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Thursday, January 27, 2011

English Factory Hirado


The English factory operated by the East India Company in Hirado, an island off the west coast of Kyushu, was short-lived, lasting only for ten years from 1613-1623.

English Factory Hirado Sign

Competition and eventual conflict with the Dutch, who had also set up a rival trading station on Hirado, lead to the English giving up on Japan and concentrating on their colonies in India and Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka).

Established in 1613 with the help of William Adams (1564-1620), Richard Cocks was appointed as the factory's first chief merchant what would now be the CEO.

The idea behind the venture was to sell woolen cloth from England in Japan and to trade Japanese products with Siam (present-day Thailand).


The first English ship to arrive in Japan was The Clove in 1613 and English merchants visited Nagasaki, Edo, Osaka, and Tsushima in an effort to promote their East Asian trade.

Adams and Cocks failed to get on, as Cocks criticized Adams for his adoption of a Japanese lifestyle, including wearing Japanese clothes and taking a Japanese wife.

English Factory Sign, Hirado
The English Factory, Hirado

The factory was eventually closed in 1623. The English made further attempts to resurrect their position after the Dutch had successfully established themselves on Dejima in Nagasaki.

One account tells of an English ship arriving from Ceylon with an elephant as a present for the shogun. The request was rejected by the Tokugawa regime and one wonders what became of the poor elephant. Was it thrown overboard, killed and eaten by the crew or taken on the long journey back to Colombo?

Other things to see on or near Hirado Island include Tabira Church, and the Matsuura Historical Museum.

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History of the English factory at Hirado, 1613-1622: With an introductory chapter on the origin of English enterprise in the Far East
Yahoo Japan Auction Service
Tokyo Apartment Lease
Japan Jobs
Rough Guide To Japan
William Adams
Japan Trade
Japanese History

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