On 10 August 1584 Four Japanese emissaries arrived in Lisbon. Strictly speaking, they were not the first Japanese to arrive in Europe, but they were the first official delegates sent by Japanese feudal lords. And they were the first to return to Japan after a European sojourn.’ Some historians have argued that “no Japanese emissaries, before or since, aroused comparable interest or enthusiasm” among Europeans.
Much has been written about this visit, both in the sixteenth century and closer to our own, but while there is no doubt about the warmth of the welcome, judgments about its meaning and importance have differed sharply. In the late nineteenth century, Guglielmo Berchet reluctantly concluded that despite European enthusiasm and the triumph of the travelers over enormous obstacles during the journey, the embassy was of no consequence because by the time it returned to Japan in 1587, it encountered a hardening of attitudes against Europeans.