Episode 416 – The Forgotten Past, Part 1

This week, we’re beginning a two-part history on the pre-modern slave trade in Japan. Slavery existed in Japan before the written record, so what did it look like? How did the slave system operate? And what changed when European merchants came to Japan in the mid-1500s?


De Sousa, Lucio. The Portuguese Slave Trade in Early Modern Japan: Merchants, Jesuits, and Japanese, Chinese and Korean Slaves.

Nelson, Thomas. “Slavery in Medieval Japan.” Monumenta Nipponica 59, No 4 (Winter, 2004).


Note: given the fragmented records of the period there’s not a lot to use here image-wise.

Detail of a painting of “Nanban” (Southern barbarians) from the Sengoku period, including an African servant (or possibly a slave).