Jyoutounohana beacon

The days Firando, Capital of the West

A short distance from the Bus Terminal in the harbour of Hirado towards the coast, one can find a beacon of light on the coast levee.
This beacon dates back from the times that Hirado, or Firando, flourished as a foreign trading port when the raised Dutch flag waved and welcomed the foreign ships to the harbour. Before it lays the peaceful sea across which the beacon of light guides the incoming ships safely home into the port.

History of Overseas Trade

It is no exaggeration to say that the history of Hirado is one of overseas trade. As Hirado is located on the west tip of Japan,
its connections with China and the Korean peninsula date back over 1000 years. In the Nara and Heian era (710-1191) it served as a calling port for the ships that were used by the Japanese envoys to China and was a port where many young people with hopes and dreams in their hearts waited for the wind to come. In the Kamakura and Muromachi era (1192-1573) the local rulers of the Matsura clan held the rights to trade with overseas Asian countries.

Hirado`s most successful period as a flourishing trading port started in 1550 with the arrival of the first Portuguese ship. During the 90 year period until 1641, when the Tokugawa Shogunate limited foreign trade locations to Dejima in Nagasaki, it established close ties with various European countries such as Portugal, England and the Netherlands. Through trade, Lord Matsura Takanobu, whose clan had not been very powerful before, gained strength and became known as a strong warring lord. In this period Hirado was known as Firando among the Western visitors. Reminders of the trade with European countries can still be found throughout the city and create a special atmosphere.

The Road of History

In 2000 and 2001, as part of the commemorations of 400 year relations between Japan and the Netherlands, bronze statues of historical people have been placed along the route from the Kôryû-hiroba Square in the harbour of Hirado to the Matsura Historical Museum.

This road has been named `Rekishi no Michi` or `Road of History`. The people whose bronze likenesses have been placed on its roadside are: Richard Cocks, the first head of the English Trading Post; Jacques Specx, the first head of the Dutch Trading Post; William Adams, the navigating officer of the Dutch ship `De Liefde`; Francisco Xavier, the Portuguese missionary priest; Wang Zhi (Ôchoku in Japanese), the Chinese trading merchant who led the Portuguese ships to Hirado and the 25th lord of the Matsura clan, Takanobu Matsura.

This road, with statues of prominent figures in the overseas trade and exchange of Hirado is one of Hirado`s heritage attractions connected to the trade port Firando..

Click here for more information on the road of history and its statues

Road of history
Christian History

The Christian faith was brought to Hirado in 1550 by Francisco Xavier and gathered many followers. However, in 1587 Hideyoshi Toyotomi issued an interdict against the Christian faith in fear of a decline in political power and started a severe suppression of the Christian community. In addition to this, Christianity was prohibited in the Edo Period and torture such as gthe treading of holy paintingsh occurred regularly. Many Christians were executed in the first half of the 17th century, but the people kept true to the Christian faith. In the midst of the suppression, the Christian congregations in Hirado appeared outwardly to be Buddhists, but the Nandogami God they believed in was in fact the Christian God, hence they were named the Hidden Christians.

With the Meiji Restoration (1868) freedom of religion was restored and many Christians in the Nagasaki area joined the Catholic Church. In the following period many churches were built and nowadays there are about 130 churches in the prefecture of Nagasaki, the main area for Christians in Japan. Many of these beautiful churches can be found here in Hirado.

Himosashi Church
First seen in Hirado - paint

Original Imports from Hirado

Many foreign products were introduced to Japan via Hirado as it was one of the main trading ports for foreign trade. Click below to discover some of the products that are thought to be first seen and used in Hirado before they were introduced to the rest of Japan.

Click here for a shortlist of Hirado's original imports