In the early years of the Edo period, Japan had a flourishing trade network driven by demand for various goods. This led to more foreigners coming in and out of the country to exchange items and ideas. Japan had ongoing ties with China and other Southeast Asian countries at this time. Portuguese and Spanish ships were some of the first Europeans to set foot in the country, followed by the English, Dutch, and Italians. Popular imports included crafting materials such as tin, lead, and gold, as well as textiles like silk and wool.
Beginning in 1633, shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu enforced an isolationist foreign policy. Sakoku, meaning “chained country”, limited trade and relations with other countries. Now, Japan’s ports were tightly regulated. These restrictions were further increased in the following years. Japanese people were forbidden from traveling abroad and no priests were allowed to enter the country. As early as 1612, Japan banned Christianity from its borders.
The main driving force behind this decision was to mitigate the perceived expansion of colonial and religious influence throughout Japan. Many foreign countries had been sending missionaries on their ships, leading to an increase in Christian converts and a spread of foreign beliefs. Iemitsu saw this as a threat to Japanese culture, society, and government. The general opinion of foreigners in Japan at the time varied, with most suspicions stemming from their intimidating appearances, military power, and strong desire to spread their religion.
Bounties were placed on the heads of Christian priests and their followers. This led to Christian man-hunts. The remaining foreigners of faith were tracked down, arrested, or killed if they refused to renounce their religion and become apostates. The only other foreigners within Japan were mostly non-religious Chinese and Dutch merchants who were still allowed to trade through specific ports during a set time of the year. Tale of Ronin takes place only a few years after Japan officially went into seclusion. Players will have the chance to encounter foreigners and hear different perspectives and opinions related to isolationist policies… and Christian hunts.